Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

September 12, 2013

Remembering 1944

By Frances Benell
The Daily Iowegian

---- — September 1944, the year I was 5 and second youngest in my class. Only Larry Pfannebecker was born in September and younger than me. Most kids were growing up fast. WWII made a big difference in our lives. For me though, it was Fall Festival time.

In my kindergarten we wanted to ride the rides, watch the parade and see lots of people. Family, like in most towns, was strong in Moravia, and I looked forward to seeing all my cousins, both Kasters and Coxes. I wanted to talk about Fall Festival in school some more, but I had to hush up because it was someone else’s turn to talk. I was sure I would have had more interesting things to talk about, such as Fall Festival being so slow coming.

Then I saw the big truck carrying the ferris wheel and all the bright colored rides. I wanted to go uptown and help get the rides up but Dad and Mom said no, they don’t let little girls and boys help.

We did go and see the big tent go up and have an ice cream cone. There were so many lights everywhere, they were dancing in my eyes too, Dad said.

People were busy with all kinds of seed corn hats, measuring sticks and fly swatters as prizes for people to stop and buy their products and get the free stuff too. We had to go home, but we knew we’d be back on Saturday to ride the rides and see all the relatives we didn’t get to see often because we didn’t have horses and it was too far to walk.

Uncle Rex and Aunt Marie would have soft ice cream cones for special little girls, or any other person who wanted one, on Saturday. Dad went in the pool hall to play pool with a few strangers. No one who knew how good he was would want to lose their money. Mom and baby sister Dana and I weren’t allowed in of course. We went down through the park seeing relatives, talking to friends and relatives. Dad caught up with us beaming, so I knew the pool games were successful.

We hurried for good seats for the parade and we waved to all the people in it and they waved back. I was prepared with a paper bag for the candy, soon filled up.

“It was good that you brought a small sack, now wasn’t it,” Mom said. “And not long to fill it up.”

“And not long to be eaten either,” I mumbled.

I was scared of the ferris wheel, but rode it anyway, promising God all sorts of good behavior if I only lived through it. I loved the swings because you could go way out in space and then come back really fast. I pretended I was a lightening bug darting here and there. I could see Mom and Dad and my baby sister Dana, who was 17 months old and thought she could get into my stuff and was a big nuisance to me. I tried to go near her to scare her off, but she just pointed at me and laughed. Little kids like her were a real pain for us older kids who know much more than babies. After going around that many times I wobbled all around on the ground. She just laughed some more.

There were shows on the stage and bleachers in front of the Community Building. Many country and western music and bluegrass artists were very popular even if they were sometimes not very good, because people hungered for music and any entertainment during WWII. Radio had stations WHO and Nashville. I can remember when they had shows at the school where we raised funds for the new Fire Department. When Doc Williams entertained at the piano, his wife Mina and others played instruments and sang and told jokes. The shows raised enough to pay for a fire engine and all the equipment they could find. If anyone ever wondered why I am so interested in new good projects for Moravia, you have only to look at my growing up years. Moravia tackled one project, then another and another. No quit in this town.

Many people still did not have electricity in the county, so they had batteries for radios. That must be where the saying, “Go to bed with the chickens” came from.