Glen Kenyon Pierce and Elsie Grubb

(Settlers and migrants, Pierce family)

 * Glen Kenyon PIERCE was born on 4 Jun 1887 in Jacksonville, Chickasaw, IA; died on 2 Nov 1958 in rural Coloma, Berrien, MI; buried on 5 Nov 1958 in Lawton, Van Buren, MI.

He married Elsie GRUBB on 16 Jul 1913 in Grand Junction, Greene, IA. They had the following children: William Glen “Uncle Bill” PIERCE[1] (b. 22 Jun 1914), Jack Pershing PIERCE (b. 11 Aug 1918), ♥ Robert Francis PIERCE (b.1 Oct 1920).

BIRTH: Glen Kenyon Pierce was born to Francis Albert Pierce and Lydia Amanda Sabin 4 Jun 1887 at Jacksonville, Chickasaw, IA.{D4}

“Pictures I have of my parents as young adults show clearly that my mother was a beautiful woman, and that Dad was tall and handsome.”{D6} Glen had a dimple in his chin which was passed on to his sons and grand sons. He stood about 6′ 2″or 3” tall and was a slender, but not thin man.”{D8}

[Photo ca 1896. Glen K. Pierce, about age 9 years standing-leaning against tree, elder brother, Francis, seated on stool.]

“Glen is characterized as being patient, easy-going, clever, industrious, honest, courteous, trustworthy, and understanding. He enjoyed playing Cribbage, Pinochle and Chinese checkers. Some of the family magazine subscriptions included Reader’s Digest and National Geographic.{D7} He was quiet, serious and soft-spoken. The work he did on the farm seemed easy and natural to him; he never seem confused or perplexed by a situation, but accomplished his work with steady and quiet determination, always seeming to do the right thing. I think he almost preferred working by himself. Even when angered at the grandchildren for losing his tools, his complaint would be in a modest not angered voice. He liked watching football games on television as a diversion. He was a gentleman.” {D8}

Glen and Elsie were married by Presbyterian minister, Rev. Elmer Ankerman, in Grand Junction, IA.
At the time, Glen (age 26), was living in Chicago, IL. Elsie (age 23), had graduated from college and was again living at home with her parents.{D1}

[ca 1990 photos: Interior of the one room school that Glen attended in (old) Jacksonville, IA, during the 1890s. The building is now a museum. Photo at right shows his future daughter-in-law, Hazel (Shafer) Pierce walking amongst desks.]

[Photo at right: ca, 1910. Glen Kenyon Pierce, about 23 years old.]

1.   In 1916 Glen received $2000, plus 5-1/2% interest from the sale of his portion of his father’s farm near Jacksonville, Chickasaw Co., IA (The $2000 in 1916 had an equivalent 2011 purchasing power of $41, 631.)

1.  The family lived for a short  while in Chicago where their first son, William, was born in 1914. Then went back to the University of Iowa when Glen taught for 5 or 6 years.{D6}
2.  In Oct 1920, when their last son, Robert, was born, the family was residing at 647 Rundall Street, Iowa City, IA.{D5}
3.  While Glen taught at J. Morton High School the family lived in several different residences, one being on 56th Court right across the street from Goodwin School, Cicero, IL. The home was the downstairs of a two-story flat in a Czechoslovakian neighborhood, where most of the people were first generation Americans and could speak only broken English. They were hard-working, thrifty and peaceful.{D6}
4.  Another flat being “on the 2nd floor over ‘Jake the Barber’. This must have been just north of 26th St., near 56th”, in Cicero, IL.{D6}
5.  In the mid 1930s the family bought a 20 acre “retirement” farm to occupy their summers and earn some extra money during the school vacation. For the next 10-15 years they continually improved the farm and house. Glen retired from teaching in 1942 and moved to the farm. By this time all their sons had left home and were married.
Glen and Elsie supplemented their Social Security checks by selling fruit and raising chickens, hogs and a milk cow. Elsie had several large gardens and canned a great deal of produce, jams and jellies, chicken, pickles, etc. for personal consumption. Glen remodeled the large two-story farm house soon after they moved to the farm. I always remember this farm and that home as one of the great places in the world. There was warmth and love, and all the neat things to see, and places to play. It was a friendly home. The farm was located about 2-3 miles N.W. of Coloma, in the S.W. corner of the intersection of Little Paw Paw Road and Spring Hill Road, Coloma Township, Berrien County, MI (in the 1980-90s it was referred to by the owners as Spring Hill Farm){D8}

[The sons of Glen and Elsie Pierce, 1923, L>R:  Jack, Bob, Bill. William (Bill) was the author of Memories of my Parents text article seen below; my father in center, (Robert) ‘Bob’, is 3 years old)]

Graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in engineering.

1.  The following is quoted from an old, ca 1923 news article:
“University Instructor Studies Telephony at Hawthorne — G.K. Pierce, an instructor in the fundamentals of telephony at Iowa State University, has been spending his vacation at Hawthorne and Chicago in the pursuit of information on the latest developments in telephone work. Mr. Pierce has been particularly interested in machine switching apparatus and Long Lines transmission. Previous to his admission to the faculty of Iowa State University, Mr. Pierce was a Western Electric man, having started with our company as a student at Hawthorne in 1913. In 1914 he was assigned to equipment drafting work and entered the Equipment Engineering Department a year later. In 1918 Mr. Pierce left the Western to become an instructor in the Engineering Department of Iowa State University, at Iowa City, IA. He returned to Hawthorne last June and spent four weeks studying machine switching development. This was followed by one week with the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, getting an insight into the practical application of machine switching, and three weeks with the Long Lines Department of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, where he devoted most of his time to the problems of carrier current telephone repeaters, inductive interference, cross talk and general transmission. Mr. Pierce spent the final three weeks of his stay in our Equipment Engineering Department at Hawthorne and returned to Iowa State University the first of September.”
2.  He taught Civil and Electrical Engineering at the University of Iowa, 1918-1923
3.  Glen taught engineering at the J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero, IL for 22 years.
4.  “The Great Depression. from 1929 on hurt my parents, but not as much as some other people. Dad kept his job at Morton High School, but took a pay cut. Times were pretty tough, but Bob, Jack and I never knew it. If anyone ate or dressed better than we did, we sure didn’t notice. With no income at all during summer months, most teachers were forced to try to find temporary summer employment. A couple of summers Dad took a job driving taxis. D6}
5.  After retiring from teaching and moving to the “retirement farm” in MI, Glen took a part-time job
with Auto Specialties, Benton Harbor.

Member of Theta XI fraternity; was a Registered Professional Engineer.

“Glen K. Pierce, 71, was found dead in bed late yesterday afternoon at his home on Route 2, Coloma (MI). He was discovered by neighbors when his wife Elsie, who had been visiting in Lawton (with son Jack’s family) for the past two and a half weeks, attempted to call him and received no answer. Harding Day, acting coroner, said death occurred about 1 a.m. Sunday. Mr. Pierce was born in Lawler, IA, June 4, 1887, and lived in Chicago until 1942 when he located on a farm northwest of Coloma (hobby, retirement farm)…”{D2}
Glen died of a Myocardial infarction.{D3}

Glen K. and wife Elsie are buried together in the Lawton Cemetery, Lawton, MI.

1.  Greene County, IA., Marriage Record Book #8, p.102. Establishes Elsie Grubb parents as George Grubb and Anna F. Anderson.
2.  Obituary from The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, MI, 3 Nov 1958.
3.  Death Certificate listed in Berrien Co., MI., Record Number #58-1064 and dated 5 Nov 1958.
4.  Birth Record of Glen Kenyon Pierce, Chickasaw Co., IA, Birth Records Book #1, p. 56.
5.  See birth record note for son Robert F. Pierce.
6.  From “The Memories Of My Parents” by, William G. Pierce, 1985, a 10 page dialog.
7.  Recollections of son Robert F. Pierce, 1988.
8.  Recollections of grandson, Larry F. Pierce, 1994.
9. Individual source: The Anderson Story, by Mrs. C. J. Davis, Mrs. Cora May Boots and others, printed in 1968. A 67 page genealogical record of the Anderson family from John & Elizabeth Horney Anderson, ca 1800 to 1968.

* Elsie GRUBB was born on 3 Oct 1889 in Maple River Junction, Carroll, IA; died on 27 Dec 1969 in Omaha, Douglas, NE; buried in Lawton Cemetery, Lawton,Van Buren,MI.

____ Grubb, female was born 3 Oct 1889, 3rd child of this mother and G.E. Grubb, telegraph operator at Maple River Junction, IA.{D4}

Elsie was short, as was her mother, Anna Flora, and her grandmother, Margaret Horney. She put on weight in middle life, then lost it, becoming very thin in old age.{D4}

[Photograph left: Elsie Grubb, ca 1893, about 4 years old. Note from 2011:  Elsie’s baby doll has passed down to me, grandson, Larry F. Pierce]

She is characterized as easy to talk to and industrious, but occasionally moody. She was a good manager and conversationalist, sympathetic, understanding, sensitive, easy to anger, had musical ability and was intuitive. She loved to read and work in her gardens. She subscribed to Cosmopolitan and Ladies Home Journal magazines.{D6} Elsie was always very loving, warm and giving to her grandchildren, but when angered by an adult member of the family, or their wives, she was quite free in speaking her mind, much to the discomfort of the offender!{D4}

[Photo right: ca 1909. Elsie Grubb, about 20 years old.]

Elsie graduated from the University of Iowa at Iowa City, it was here that she met Glen K. Pierce, who would become he husband. She had a teaching certificate.{D3}

Many nights while my family lived on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa, I’d see my Grandparents sitting at the kitchen table playing Cribbage.
Elsie loved to play cards. Her favorite card game was “cut throat” Canasta. In her later years Grandma and I played Canasta several days a week for hours at a time. At first we’d play one game to see who’d win, then it would become 2 out of 3, occasionally 3 out of 5. Grandma would often cap a winning streak with statements like, “I guess you know who your master is now!”, spoken in a way as to make you want to play another game, a grudge match for revenge. We had fun.{D4}

During her earlier years, Elsie was a math teacher and for a time the Principal of a school, whereabouts unknown.{D4}

During their retirement years, Elsie worked on  the farm, helping to pick, supervise hired pickers and sorting fruit. She also did the house work: cooking, wash, shopping, etc. When it came to selling their fruit at the Fruit Exchange, Elsie had the better personality for haggling with  the buyers.{D4}

After Glen’s death, Elsie moved to Lawton, MI to be closer to Jack’s family. The apartment she rented, at the time of her death, was essentially a three room, upstairs dwelling over Rich’s Grocery store on Lawton’s main street. The address was 110 1/2 Main Street, Lawton, MI.{D4}

Elsie’s Will simply divided her estate into 3 equal portions amongst her 3 sons, i.e.; “…I give,
 devise and bequeath my entire estate as follows…3. one third thereof to my son, Robert F. Pierce, if he survives me, in the event he should precede me, then to his widow surviving my death, and if no widow surviving my death then to his children in equal shares and proportions.”… etc.{D2}

Elsie, 80, died of a heart attack during the night while visiting her son Jack Pershing Pierce, at 3007 South 20th St., Omaha, NE, for the Christmas holidays. Jack, his second wife, Alvira and a friend were preparing to watch a football game on the morning of the 27th. When it was noticed that Elsie was sleeping in a little too long Alvira went in to waken her; that’s when they discovered she’d passed away.
The immediate cause of Elsie’s death is listed as Coronary arteriosclerosis.{D3}

[Elsie (Grubb) Pierce and son, Jack Pierce; probably on evening of 26 Dec 1969, Elsie wearing a Christmas gift dress she received. Elsie died during her sleep this night and was buried wearing this dress, from son William, and a sweater from grand-daughter Linda F. (Pierce) Trowbridge.
How little we have of those we love. We mature from childhood to adulthood, raise our own children, they too age, all pass. We who for a time remain, mourn those who we love, as they evaporate, their Being rising like the fog from a woodland meadow. All those joyous and precious moments we had together, lost in time.’ lfp]

Her body was shipped back  to MI where she was buried at the Lawton Cemetery next to her husband, Glen. Elsie was buried in a Christmas dress just given to her by son Jack. A photograph taken the evening before shows her wearing the dress and smiling at the camera. God Bless you Grandma.{4}

1. Birth Certificate, Registrar of Vital Statistics, Carroll County, IA, for the year ending 1 Oct 1890, Number 1201, Date of filing return 5 Oct 1889; establishes that the 3d born child, a female, in her parent’s family was Elsie. See also, George E. Grubb, 1900 census.
2. The Will of Elsie Pierce bequeaths her entire estate to be divided into thirds and given equally to her three sons, William, Jack and Robert Pierce; filed in Van Buren Probate Court, Van Buren County, MI, on 19 January 1970.
3. Death Certificate #154912, filed with the Omaha-Douglas County Health Department, Div. of Vital Statistics, NE. Establishes Elsie Pierce’s father as George Grubb.
4. The recollections of grandson, Larry Francis Pierce, 1994.
5. From “The Memories Of My Parents” by, William G. Pierce, 1985, a 10 page dialog.
6. The recollections of son, Robert F. Pierce, 1988.
7. Individual source: The Anderson Story, by Mrs. C. J. Davis, Mrs. Cora May Boots and others, printed in 1968. A 67 page genealogical record of the Anderson family from John & Elizabeth Horney Anderson, ca 1800 to 1968.

———————————————-  ∞ ————————————————

Memories of my parents
By William G. Pierce, May 1985
(William was an elder brother of my father, Robert F. Pierce, and my ‘Uncle Bill’)

Glen Kenyon Pierce was born on 4 June 1887, at Lawler, Iowa. Elsie (Grubb ) Pierce was born on 3 Oct 1889 in Maple River Junction, Carroll Co, Iowa. They were both in the teaching profession most of their lives. My mother had a teaching certificate, but I don’t rememberwhere she went to school She must have taken some courses at the University of Iowa, because that’s where they first met.

They were married in Iowa City on 16 July 1913. Dad received his bachelors degree in electrical engineering, and subsequently became a registered professional engineer. Pictures I have of my parents as young adults show clearly that my mother was a beautiful woman, and that Dad was tall and handsome.

[Photo right: Clinton Street businesses, Iowa City, Iowa, between 1915 and 1920]

GK took a job briefly in Chicago, where I was born, but then went back to the University of Iowa, where he taught for five or six years. My memories begin with Iowa City.
We lived in a two-story frame house at the end of Rundell Street. The corner of Rundell and an intersecting street was where street cars got their trolley reversed for the return trip uptown. Beyond this corner was a car barn where street cars were stored when not in use. Across Rundell Street from us was a Jewish family named, Yetter, whose son, Bill, was about my age. They owned, ‘Yetter’s Big Store’, a mini-department store. It’s still there I’m told.

[Photos above. ca 1910 about 5 years before Glen began teaching class and working in this electrical laboratory. Students in the Engineering Laboratory, Engineering Building, The University of Iowa, Mar. 5,  1910. Left: Students in the Engineering Laboratory, Engineering Building, The University of Iowa, Mar. 5, 1910., Right: Electrical Laboratory, The University of Iowa, Mar. 4, 1910.]

While I was still a preschooler, I can remember being taken by my parents to a University of Iowa football game; so this shows they attended some college events.

On the far back of our lot was a small creek, where I used to catch crawdaddies. Just a short ways closer to the house was a cinder driveway leading to a rickety wood barn that served as a garage for their first vehicle, a motorcycle with attached sidecar. I can remember riding in the sidecar with my mother, while Dad straddled the motorcycle and drove. I must have been 3 or 4 years old at the time.

And then there was their first radio, a crystal set that was tuned by moving a metal whisker across a crystal. It must have been an early set, because many neighbors came in to listen.

My mother started me in kindergarten in Iowa City, and I do remember some of my early classes. When I was midway through third grade, Dad took a job in Chicago with Western Electric. We moved from Iowa to a Chicago suburb, Cicero, on 56th Court, right across the street from Goodwin Grade School. Mother was told that I would either have to start third grade over again or skip into fourth grade. She wasn’t one to waste a lot of nonsense time this way, so with her tutorship, I did move up a grade and managed to hang on. Since my birthday is only a short time after school lets out, this accounts for my graduation from grade school at age twelve years and high school at sixteen. My two brothers followed me through both schools.

Our home was in the downstairs of a two-story flat in a Czechoslovakian neighborhood. Most of these people were first generation Americans and could speak only broken English, but they were hard-working, thrifty and peaceful. We three Pierce boys played with their children, who were thoroughly  ‘Americanized’. Not too far south of where we lived was an apartment owned by a well-known hoodlum, Al Capone, his brother, Ralph, and their lieutenant, Roger Toughy.

One episode which occurred at about this time comes from brother Jack. For some reason Mother told all of us boys to be home for dinner on time one night. Bob and I heeded her warning and were seated at the table on time, but Jack was late. When he finally did get home., Mom gave him a chewing out. Jack didn’t act repentant enough, so she became angrier and angrier, until finally she grabbed a plate from the dinner table and hit him over the head with it. The plate broke, and Bob and I burst out laughing. Pretty soon all of us were laughing. Jack considers himself real lucky that we laughed: otherwise he could really have been given a workout.

Fireworks were legal in Illinois at the time, and we always bought a modest amount for excitement. None of us will ever forget that July 4th evening when we set off a skyrocket. Usually we mounted skyrockets in a sturdy V trough aimed at a 45-60 degree angle, but this time we got lazy and set it in an upright milk bottle. This was after dark, of course, so the skyrocket would  leave a fiery trail across the heavens. Only this one never got to the heavens, because our milk bottle tipped over, and the skyrocket was launched parallel to the ground. Everything would have still been Jim Dandy except that there was automobile traffic on the adjoining street. Whether the skyrocket zoomed in front of a car’s windshield, as I believe, or through an open car window and out the other side, as Jack believes, is immaterial. There were screams and pandemonium, as the car ran over a curb, across a lawn and came to rest against a hedge. Our Cicero police came very quickly, but I never found out what happened next, because I wasn’t around.

Another story reflects on our parents opposite approaches to raising a family. Mother believed in punishment as a corrective measure, and her volatile nature caused her to use it a lot. Dad, on the other hand, tried to be pals with his sons and he abhorred spankings. Nevertheless, Mother called on him more than once to paddle us when we did something she perceived as wrong. Dad developed a little ploy, which he used frequently with our help. He would take us into a closed room, often a bedroom and tell us to holler at the right moment. Then he would spank the bed heavily, or us lightly, while we hollered our heads off. I’m surprised Mother never caught on, since we often laughed as loud as we hollered. Jack said he was a little surprised once when dad spanked a little harder than expected, but perhaps there was a good reason for that.

[Photo: ca 1924, Likely visiting relatives at George and Anna Flora Grubb’s  (Elsie’s parents) home in Grand Junction, Iowa. L>R inside the Willys Knight auto: Jack the Fox Terrier dog, Elsie (Grubb) Pierce, Glen K. Pierce. Sitting on dashboard, L>R (several nieces) Margaret (Grubb) Frantz; Dorothy (Grubb) Mount; son Jack P. Pierce; Florence (Grubb)___ and,  son William G. Pierce. Seated on the ground center front, son Robert ‘Bob’ F. Pierce.]

Our parent’s motorcycle had been replaced by a black, Model T Ford Touring car. They also acquired a pet dog, named, Jack, a male Fox Terrier. Jack was a very good pet, but he had two faults that often got him into trouble. He loved to chase motorcycles, and he chased cats as his duty. One weekend we had  motored out to Batavia to visit my Aunt Grace Beem  Pierce, and her two sons, Glen and Harry. We had just pulled up in front of her house when Jack spied Aunt Grace’s cat. Out through the plexiglass side curtains he sailed and disappeared around he far side of the house after the cat. A short while later they came back around that same corner, but this time the cat was chasing Jack.

Still later, inside the house, Jack took out after the cat again, no doubt trying to shine up his tarnished reputation. Aunt Grace had a beautiful upright piano with a spread on top on which  there were pictures, kewpie dolls and other knick knacks. Sure enough, the cat skiddled across the polished piano top, taking everything with him (or her) Jack was ejected from the house (you might say in dis-Grace) and I don’t think my folks were too popular in Batavia from then on.

Each summer an Anderson Reunion was held in one of the small Iowa towns, like Yale, with a park suitable for a big group. There were many Anderson descendants, some like us who drove in from other states. I can remember attending several of these with my parents and brothers. We visited with uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and many other people I didn’t even know. Each family supplied at least one large dish of food for the buffet; and the tables with this feast were beautiful. After eating, adults sat around and became reacquainted, while kids and young adults played softball.

[Internet image left: J. Morton High School, Cicero, IL This is the same facade and structure the building had when Glen retired from teaching here in the late 1930s.]

One summer when we were driving toward this reunion, our Model T Touring car took a sudden and sharp turn to the left and overturned. Although I wasn’t hurt, Mother had her eye cut and Dad broke an arm. Everyone recovered, but that was the end of our model T Ford.

I don’t know exactly when Mother first became interested in the occult; but I must have been under ten when she introduced me to her Ouija board. This was a flat varnished board with letters, numbers and other symbols on it. A three-legged planchette would glide over the board and spell out messages. Of course the medium’s hand would have to be on it, so there was always the doubt that these were really spirit messages. At first the Ouija board was interesting, but I learned that it never worked with my hand alone.

Other practices she developed were reading cards and tea leaves and telling fortunes. She became quite good at this, and a few persons claimed that she had told them where they would find lost rings and other articles. Later in life when she was staying with Jack and Elvera in Omaha, jack reported that Mom, now a gray-haired grandmother, was the hit of a party that Elvera held for some 35 women. Grandma told fortunes and was remarkably accurate in recounting events that happened and of which she could have no knowledge. Perhaps she did have a little bit of clairvoyance.

At a little later date, Mother became interested in gambling on the horses. I don’t think she was interested in horses, just gambling. Nor do I recall her going to a track; but she did take me, at least once, to a bookie parlor in Cicero. I was probably twelve years old at the time. I don’t think her gambling affected the family finances much, one way or the other.

 My father left Western Electric and returned to the teaching profession by taking a job at J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero. He taught electrical theory and shop. We then became friends with many high school teachers and their families. Morton used to have some very good basketball teams; and I can remember them winning the National High School Basketball Championship in 1927. Cicero and Morton went crazy for a couple of days. .

The Great Depression from 1929 on, hurt my parents, but not as much as some other people. Dad kept his job at M.H.S. but took a pay cut; and along with other teachers, was paid in paper ‘script’ instead of real money. Script was worth only what merchants were willing to trade for it; and that was sometimes less than 50% of the face value. That’s when they bought a new car, a Willys Knight, because the rate of exchange was quite favorable. Car dealers were having a rough time of it too.

Willys Knight engines had sleeve valves instead of the more common poppet valves. Since Dad did most of his own work on the car, I got to learn quite a bit about automobile engines, even though I must have been quite a nuisance when he was busy. Gasoline in the depression days was quite cheap, sometimes selling for under 10¢/ gal. It wasn’t very good gas, and it seems to carbon up the sleeve valve ports. I think dad had to clean carbon out of the Willys Knight engine every summer.

By this time we had moved again, to a second floor flat in Cicero; and I had to carry my bicycle up the stairway to a landing outside our doorway to keep it from getting stolen. Visitors to our house had to enter this way, too, but the flat was cheap; and this was still the depression.

Even when we were little, our folks would take us on motor car vacations with them, but we didn’t stay in motels or eat at expensive restaurants. Dad bought a tent, and we slept on cots and had meals that were cooked on a Coleman stove. Camping was fun, and it took us all over the country: up into Canada, to the East coast, and out west to Colorado, Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National park. I once was lectured for feeding black bears from my hand. Jack says he almost caused Mother heart failure when they caught him showing off hanging by his knees from a guard railing over Horseshoe falls. A slip would have plunged him hundreds of feet into the water and rocks below.

[Photograph at left, ca. 1934. G.K. Pierce family: L>R: youngest son, Robert Francis (my father), middle son Jack Pershing (with hat), Elsie (Grubb) Pierce, Glen Kenyon Pierce, eldest son, William Glen.]

One Sunday my folks decided they would rather press grapes for wine than attend church. And this is what they y were doing when the minister and his wife decided to find out what kept the Pierces from church.
After trudging up the stairs to the back door, they were led through the grape processing kitchen to our living room. I remember how embarrassed my parents were; and I wonder if they would mind that incident being recorder.

During the 1930s our United States suffered through another crisis called ‘Prohibition’. This encouraged a lot of people. Like my parents to make their own beer and wine, and it also encouraged illegal stills.
One of these was located in a garage only a block or so from our home. Someone must have reported the still, because one day our Cicero police raided it. About fifty f gallon tins were axed and turned over on their sides to drain. Not five seconds after the police departed, a bunch of enterprising citizen, including my parents, were salvaging what they could. This was 200 proof alcohol, so bless their hearts, I don’t blame them. I would have done the same.

Time were pretty tough through the Depression, but Bob, Jack and I never knew it. If anyone ate or dressed better than we did, we sure didn’t notice.
Teachers were poorly paid, although the script days were ended. With no income at all during summer months, most of them were forced to try to find temporary summer employment. A couple of summers dad took a job driving taxis. All I can remember about those days is that he was once held up and robbed by a passenger.

As the Depression was winding down times were getting better, we moved to a nicer neighborhood and home in Berwyn. I attended high school and Morton Junior College while living there. Dad drove to school, and I either rode with him or took the streetcar. Later, I had my own motorcycle.

However, the problems of summer income, or lack of it, persisted, and that’s why my parents bought their first property, a  twenty acre fruit farm near Coloma, Michigan.
The place  was pretty run down, there was no inside toilet, and fruit trees needed replacement, so there was plenty of work to do. When they weren’t spraying fruit trees, planting, picking, or hauling produce to market, they were digging a basement, building an inside toilet, adding two porches, finishing off the upstairs, etc. But they were more secure and happy.

Before they finally pulled up rooted and retired to the farm, our folks spent many arduous weekends and summers working it and marketing the fruit. One weekend they returned to their home in Berwyn with a cash box full of money. Jack was away at school, I was working in Michigan, but brother Bob, was still living at home. The folks had retired to bed with the cash box safely stowed underneath, when Bob returned home late from a date. Mother heard a noise downstairs and awakened Dad.

They called downstairs to learn who it was, but Bob had gone to the kitchen for a piece of pie. He either didn’t hear them or didn’t bother to answer; so Dad grabbed a glass dresser lamp for protection and started downstairs. For some unexplained reason the stairway light went out, so Dad retreated up stairs and told Mother, “They got the fuse box.”

Mother was terrified, so she grabbed the money-box and crawled out through a bedroom window onto the front porch roof,  where she began to scream bloody murder. Neighbors heard her and called the police.

In the meantime, Bob heard all this racket and wondered what was going on. So upstairs he came and tried to open their bedroom door, while Dad was trying to hold it closed from the other side. Finally the tension was broken when Bob asked what the hell was going on. Mother came in off the porch roof in her night grown, still clutching the money-box. Dad was terribly embarrassed, and the police were amused.

Since they owned this farm property for over thirty years, and eventually retired to it, they did make many improvements. This speaks well for their willingness to work hard and improve their lot in life. I’ll mention some of the improvements.
Their apple orchard was a major ground user and income producer, so our parents brought that section into top shape first. Fortunately, most of the trees were healthy, solid producers: Jonathon, McIntosh, Red and Golden Delicious, Northern Spies and several other varieties, planned so that ripening and picking were spread out over the season. Not too much replacement of trees was necessary; however the trees had to be severely pruned at first, and then annually thereafter. Deadwood was hauled to an open area, dried and burned.
[Ca 1940: The remodeled farm house with newly built enclosed porch in front.]

A pear orchard, adjacent to the apples, ran downhill from their house. These pear trees were quite aged and had to be replaced eventually with Bartlett’s, which proved to be a good investment. Adjacent to another side of the apple orchard were peaches, and most of these trees were also replaced by Dad and Mother. I don’t think I ever enjoyed the taste of a peach so much as when it was picked ripe from one of those trees.

A small orchard of Morenci cherries was located just beyond the driveway near the barn. Many of us were drafted to help pick cherries in season. And we learned why you were asked to whistle while you picked.
[Photo above, 1939. Elsie (age 50) and son, Bob (age 19), taking a break while picking cherries. This location is in front of the barn and off the driveway about 15 feet. Seen in the 1989 barn photo below, they were sitting just out of the picture on the extreme right. Ten years later (1949), I was climbing in these trees during harvest season, enjoying the sweet cherries.]
Out back was a single sweet cherry tree, and was that fruit ever large and tasty! Mother credited this to its  proximity to an outhouse, and she was probably right.

No farm would be complete without a large vegetable garden, the Pierce’s was no exception. It contained every vegetable and melon that school teachers could imagine, including sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, and watermelon. There was a smattering of berry bushes; black and red raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry, and currants. There were also several huge lilac bushes.

Completing their fruit farm was a vineyard out near the county road, and vines needed pruning each year after grapes were harvested. All but four vines from each stalk were cut and hauled away. The remaining four vines were tied to horizontal wires, two top and two bottom. A commercial grease called, Tanglefoot, was smeared around each stalk near its base to  entrap crawling insects. One day a hired man told Mother that she should tie bow knots on the cords, and she did!

Way back on the extreme west side of their property was a deep dark ravine. Although visiting children were warned to stay away from this ravine because of its dangers (poison ivy, snakes, boogie men) it nevertheless remained a strong attraction. Some of the trees had long vines that seemed to be securely attached, so it was great fun to swing way out over the ravine, like Tarzan. I always thought those vines could have been more dangerous than poison ivy, but maybe that’s why we enjoyed it so much.

[Drawing above by grandson Larry Pierce: Symbols G1, G2 & G3 on map are grandmother’s gardens; #1 behind barn was a plank foot bridge across the springs wet swale; #2 where I occasionally sat looking down over the sumacs, day dreaming and making ‘Indian hunting weapons’. lfp]

Dad quickly learned to get on Michigan’s Agriculture Dept’s free mailing list. Their regular bulletins told farmers when to spray, for what, and with what. This was a tremendous help in growing healthy marketable fruit.

Among the early purchases were a small tractor, a spray rig, and a truck. This equipment was eventually replaced with better, larger models when they retired to the farm. The sprayer was towed to the tank to be filled, hen to the orchard and up and down the rows of trees. One person could do this, but it was a lot easier with two, one to drive and the other (always Dad) to spray. So Mother drove the tractor, unless one of us was there to take over. Dad walked behind and went between trees with his spray gun, which connected to a tank and pressure pump. He sent a huge plume of noxious chemicals to the highest reaches of all trees. Dad’s face, glasses and clothes were covered with spray by this time, and he looked like a ghost by the time spraying was finished.

Sorting and grading apples  by hand was a tedious job, so Dad designed and build an electric-powered grader, just like the larger commercial ones. It worked well for as long as I can remember. Lugs of apples were poured in top side and gently moved along a trough by a canvas belt. Mother would remove any bad ones that had escaped previous attention, while all other apples would gravity feed down one or another chute, depending on what size holes they could pass through. Periodically, chutes were opened and apples collected in brand new bushel baskets. Tops were fastened on and stenciled with apple brand name, size and “Pierce Fruit Orchards”. Their truck, loaded with baskets, was driven to market in Benton Harbor for sale to some Chicago fruit buyer.

Despite spraying and other care lavished on growing apples, some, like windfalls, were simply not good enough for sale at market. These were used for making cider. One day Jack drove mother and a load of culls to market in Coloma, where they were weighed and sold. A clerk asked jack to whom the check should be written. “Elsie Pierce, Jack replied, so Mother received a check made out to L.C. Pierce and was very upset However, she endorsed the check “L.C. Pierce” and collected her money at the bank, anyway.

I recall other examples of Dad’s mechanical skills. For a long while the Pierces kept a Jersey cow for its rich milk.. Of course there was also an ice-cream freezer;  and when ever company came, this manually operated freezer was pressed into service. As the cream began to freeze, cranking became harder and harder. So Dad converted it to a homemade electric freezer, the first I had ever seen. There were only about three varieties of ice-cream, but they were the best I ever had.

Besides the cow, there were also a few pigs; and the chickens that Mother took care of. A sack of corn was kept just inside the chicken house door, and that became the source of excitement one day. We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa when our children were little. Grandma took Richard, who was 7, out to show him her chickens. In the process of feeding them, the bag of corn was moved and a family of mice broke out and scurried every which way. Richard still remembers that incident.

In their front yard were two large maple trees, one of which had a low limb suitable for climbing and stunting on. I don’t recall how many times I hung from that limb by my legs and even my heels. It must have been about 7-1/2 feet off the ground.

At first there was a windmill in their back yard, and wind power pumped water into the house. After they moved out to the farm permanently, Dad motorized the pump, which made for a far more dependable water supply. Although the mill was removed, the tower remained. So did a galvanized water tank that was used for filling their sprayer.

Their original front porch was very dilapidated, so with some professional help, Dad rebuilt it into a nice screened in porch that was used frequently,, especially when there was company. One July 4th holiday when Elizabeth and I were visiting,  and most of the others were taking a nap, I decided to have a little fun. I lit a firecracker and placed it in a standing metal ashtray, expecting a little “pop”.
Instead there was  a loud explosion which blew the ash tray cover up to the ceiling, where it stuck in an acoustic tile. Everyone came running out to see who was trying to blow up their house, and I was caught red-handed and red-faced. My folks never replaced that damaged tile.

It was several years before they got rid of one hangover from depression days—rolling their own cigarettes. At first Dad rolled cowboy style, by hand; but Mother wasn’t very good at this. Her cigarettes were loosely packed allowing tobacco to fall out. After several flare-ups and a few burnt
eyebrows, dad bought a cigarette rolling machine. It now became quite simple to roll, so they would make up  several packs at a time.

Eventually they retired from teaching and moved out to the farm, as they had planned. They had both grown up in rural areas of Iowa, and now were returning to rural life, but in Michigan.

[Above, a 1989 photograph of the barn, by grandson, Larry. During the time that Glen and Elsie owned the farm, the barn was painted white. We are standing in Spring Hill Road looking WNW, the farm house is off to our left a couple hundred feet. The area in the foreground was once one of Elsie’s large gardens. The flowering bushes seen here were planted by Elsie and Glen some 50 years earlier and are still thriving. The cherry orchard mentioned by William ‘Bill’ Pierce in this mini biography and the picture above of Elsie and son Robert, working in that orchard, were found to the immediate right of the driveway that leads in toward the barn.
In my autobiography, see post ‘Chapter 1956’, there is a picture of me holding  a cat, that was taken in front of the barn ca 1946. In a later discussion (Chapter 1952) there is mention of a plank bridge we grandchildren built behind the barn…actually in the dark space seen here at the left side of the barn, down in the spring fed gully. lfp]

When I was working at Pontiac, the folks asked if I could get them a low mileage executive car. It just so happened that a friend of ours had a car he was getting ready to sell. We purchased the car and drove it out to the farm. It was a beautiful car, using General Motors large “C” body, which was shared with Olds 98, Buick Limited and Cadillac. Pontiac wasn’t permitted to use this “C” body long, but were instead paired with Chevrolet. However, it was the nicest car that Pontiac ever turned out and certainly the best my folks ever owned. They kept it for many years.

Living on a farm is not all work. Nearby were several fun places. Only three miles to the east was Crystal lake, a popular resort, and on one of its shores was Crystal Palace. This beautiful dance pavilion had big name bands, and crowds got so dense you could only stand and watch. I wonder if Crystal Palace is still there.

 Lake Michigan beaches were three miles in another direction. Clean sand dunes were wonderful for running and jumping, and they provided good spots for picnics. Lake Michigan water was  initially good for swimming, but it gradually became  polluted with effluent from Benton Harbor and ‘St. Joe’.

Benton Harbor did have an attraction, though—the ‘House of David’. Men of this religious order never shaved, so they were an attraction by themselves. They also operated a narrow gauge steam-powered railroad that carried visitors around their park: to the zoo, domesticated animal farm, refreshments, rest rooms, and picnic area. One time Mother was running to catch a train that was already starting up, when she fell. It scared the dickens out of us, but only her dignity was hurt.

We had lots of company: local friends, Chicago area friends, and relatives. Two of my pals from Berwyn, John Lofgren and  Glen Strand, were frequent visitors. They came mostly for fun, but in weak moments could be talked into helping. I remember, for instance, when Johnny and I drove a load of furniture and appliances out from Berwyn. John’s married sister, Margaret, lived on another fruit farm only 20 miles away.

Often when there was company, a card game would ensue. If there weren’t over four people, the game might be cribbage. Whenever I returned for a visit, out came the cribbage board. Both my parents loved to beat me, and I suppose the same was true of my brothers. However, their favorite game was poker. Dad was a pretty good player, but Mother always preferred the wildest games she could think of. Baseball was one of her favorites. No matter how much she played, she could never remember relative values of hands—“Does a straight beat a pair?” When they were alone, Dad and Mom had a running game of cribbage going. At one point Dad was several hundred dollars in the hole.

In their later years Dad and Mother became interested in Arizona and spent several winter vacations there. A Michigan fruit farm doesn’t offer much in winter, so the warm dry climate of Arizona beckoned. Besides that they had a niece, Dorothy Mount, who lived with her family in Tucson. The Superstition Mountains with the legendary Lost Dutchman gold mine had a particular fascination for Mother. She bought more than one “secret” map showing where the mine and hordes of gold coin could be found. I think she half believed all this.

In 1958 I was living with my family in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, and working for A.O. Smith. On November 2 brother Jack telephoned that Dad had passed away during the night. Mother had gone to spend the night with Jack and family, and Dad was to have followed the next morning. When he didn’t show, they called neighbors, who found him in bed. Brother, Bob flew in from Arizona. We all attended church services and his burial at a quiet little cemetery in Lawton, Michigan.

Mother sold the farm and moved into an upstairs apartment in Lawton.
The outside stairway to her apartment became slippery in winter, so she didn’t stay there too long. While she did, though, she managed to get a job substitute teaching in Lawton and  Matawan. She also generated another interesting story. It may not have been mentioned before, but Mother wasn’t the best driver in the world. In fact she was downright lousy, and we were all afraid to ride with her. One night she was playing poker with Jack, Julie and friends. When it was time for her to leave, she said her,
“Goodnights” and started driving home The other four continued playing, when all of a sudden their lights flickered. Next day they learned that Mother had driven off the road and hit an electric pole.

Since Jack lived close to both parents in their later life, many of these memories are from him, including the following. Mother made arrangements to fly out to Arizona and visit son, Bob and daughter in law, Hazel. Jack drove her to Kalamazoo, where she was to catch a connecting flight to Chicago. Besides her traveling bags, she had two hand-carried sacks which were packed with canned fruits, veggies and meats. Jack warned her that they were too heavy, but she insisted on carrying them on board. Instead of taxiing out to the runway then, the plane’s door opened and a flight attendant escorted Grandma down the steps and into the terminal. She was bringing too much weight on board and had to dispose of most of it.

As Mother grew older, her health began slipping. She went to a couple of nursing homes where she could receive at least a minimum of health care. One of these was associated with a little hospital in Paw Paw, about 7 miles north of Lawton. Although the medical care there was good, she needed someone to talk to. Instead she was left alone most of the time. Elizabeth and I brought her home to live with us in Milwaukee, with the understanding that she would alternate staying with us, and with brother jack in Omaha, and Uncle Bill in Grand Junction, Iowa. She seemed to flourish with this environment. We even permitted her to smoke, proved she went to the kitchen to  do it. This was against doctor’s orders, but we weren’t too happy with her progress under the doctor’s supervision, anyway. I had about 12 prescriptions to fill, when we brought her home, and the cost from our local drug store was over $50.

After about a month with us in Milwaukee, it was decided she night want to spend some time with jack and Elvera in Omaha. Jack showed her prescriptions to his doctor, who advised eliminating some of them as redundant. She was still allowed to smoke in Omaha, but like us they required her to go to the kitchen. This may seem a little strange to an outsider, but Grandma was constantly dropping hot ashes, burning holes in many of her robes and dresses, and sometimes in the carpeting.

At Christmas, 1969, Grandma received many nice presents from her family and friends, including a nice dress from us. Just after Christmas, [on the morning of Dec 27th] Jack and a friend were preparing to watch a  football game on T.V., when Jack noticed that it was late for Grandma to be coming downstairs. So Elvira and their little dog went up to awaken her. The dog jumped on her bed, then gave a scared yelp. She, too, had passed away during the night.

Her body was shipped back to Lawton, and she was buried in her Christmas dress next to dad. She had lived a little over 80 years.

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Filed under My family in history, __2. Settlers and Migrants

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