Part 1 - Introduction
My grandmother Alice Krumm was born in the (now extinct) village of Idaho, Hardin county, Iowa, on February 10, 1879. She died in Mabel, Minnesota, on December 19, 1987, at the age of 108 years, 10 months, and 9 days. At the time of her death she was one of the oldest people in the Midwest, and probably among the very oldest in the entire nation.
Alice kept a scrapbook in which she kept a collection of random memories and various quotations from authors and philosophers. Mixed among these were some scraps she had culled from various sources having to do with composition skills. Apparently she was planning to write the story of her life.
She apparently failed to finish her project, however, and the scrapbook remained a disjointed collection of miscellaneous memories. I have attempted to organize these by subject matter, and have also included some letters and newspaper articles that she had written throughout the years.
Alice Krumm, born Alice Slack, grew up in the town of Hubbard, Iowa, in the 1880's. She was the third of five children born to Dr. Philip Slack, a medical doctor in Hubbard. The Slacks were Quakers. In about 1889 Dr. Slack gave up his medical practice and became a Quaker preacher in the backwoods community of Valton, Wisconsin. A few years later the family moved to Hesper, Winneshiek county, Iowa, where they made their permanent home. Most of the material in these memoirs pertain to her childhood days in Hardin county, Iowa, and Sauk county, Wisconsin.
THE GLEANINGS OF A LIFETIME
by Alice Krumm
compiled and edited by Bill Price
The children in our family, at least three out of five of us, have dreamed of writing the story of our lives. But art is long and time is fleeting! My older brother passed away at age 70 without making his dream come true. The next dreamer about writing the book was Mamie, the younger daughter of the family. She really started work on the book, bought a typewriter, and asked me to send all my treasured memories to her. She said that they would be invaluable in writing the book. But her dream has fizzled out. If I speak to her about it she looks uncomprehending and doesn't know what I'm talking about.
Alice Slack Krumm, age 21
Phil, Annie, and I were born at Idaho, Iowa near Hubbard, in the same house with the Clancy family. Their youngest daughter Lillie and I were born in the same house at about the same time. She became the mother of Paul Bucy, Brain Surgeon of Chicago who travels and lectures in Europe and has several doctors and interns under him in the Wesley Memorial Hospital of Chicago. When Lillie and I were babies, the people of Idaho put their houses on rollers and rolled them into Hubbard because a railroad had come through there. After this the Clancy family and our family lived side by side on lots facing the Jefferson Highway.
At the time the two communities joined my father became weary of teaching school and decided to study medicine at the State University of Iowa. My mother, whether weary of teaching school or not, was obliged to continue teaching and took the two older children with her where she taught school. I was placed on a farm near Radcliffe, Iowa with my father's younger sister Lydia and her husband, Sam Shintaffer. I was scarcely one year old and my earliest memory is of hearing the Boom! Boom! Boom! of prairie chickens far to the east and south over the prairie as I stood in my aunt's kitchen door. I grew very weary of prairie chicken music but the thrill of a lifetime came years later when I was visiting a Wildlife Refuge in Missouri and heard a prairie chicken booming at daybreak. I lived on my Aunt's and Uncle's farm until I was three years older. In those days the social life of the farmers consisted of going out to Sunday dinner to a neighbor's house. Those were big dinners! At one home, the daughter of the house was soon to be married and she made a luscious raspberry shortcake. Every minute she had to spare she would run and sit on her fiance's lap with her arms around his neck. I was not too young to enjoy a huge piece of this shortcake and realize that her fiance was a lucky young man.
At another farm house dinner they had worked long and hard on Saturday to chase out all the flies to get ready for company dinner on Sunday. But their retarded daughter had gone upstairs Saturday eve, opened all the windows and let the flies back in. She said, "So we can chase them out again!" When we arrived for the big Sunday dinner the lady of the house with a troubled face apologized. The flies were so thick that every square inch in the room was full of them.
Between the ages of three and four I was taken back to Hubbard to be again united with my family. Now began two new eras for me. The era of "speaking pieces." I was taken to the Eldora Reform School for boys several Sunday mornings to "speak pieces" before services in the chapel for the boys. The boys were marched into the chapel about nine at a time, each group in charge of an officer who lived in a cottage with them and supervised them. One Sunday morning I laid my hat on the platform with my handkerchief underneath it which I was to need when I "cried" during the recitation and forgot it until the middle of the recitation. I stopped speaking, retrieved the handkerchief, whispered to Mrs. Cliff, one of the ladies who had taken me there, and explained matters. Then I resumed my place on the platform and continued to "speak." I was worried as to what my audience would think. But I saw one boy look at another and laugh so I felt better. We were invited to the Superintendent's home for dinner that day, my mother, Mrs. Cliff, and I, and after dinner a male quartet of tall good-looking Negro boys was called in to sing for us. Their singing made one feel very insignificant indeed. As entertainment it far exceeded my performance of the morning. The first era of my life of "speaking pieces" ended at Zearing, Iowa where I had been taken to "speak a piece" on their Children's Day program. I could see no place on the platform to stand so I stuck my head between two churns in a row of churns filled with flowers at the front of the platform. The audience could not find me at first, and looked everywhere but between the two churns. At seven years of age my first era ended.
I began to realize that I was living in a doctor's home in a little white house facing the Jefferson Highway. A doorbell was installed on the front door and a sign beside it said, "Dr. Philip Slack, Physician and Surgeon." The Jefferson Highway ran straight past the house south and past the cemetery where Uncle Eli and Aunt Hannah Hoover lie buried, and near where the Quaker Meeting House stood. My parents belonged to the Society of Friends or Quakers, as did three families of Hoovers. The older Quakers were called Uncle and Aunt so that Eli and Hannah Hoover became Uncle and Aunt to all we young ones. One of their three sons was the town butcher, another lived on an acreage north of town and the third son was Jesse who lived at West Branch.
Lillie and Arthur Hoover who lived north of town attended Quaker meetings and public school in Hubbard and were in the same class with Annie and me. We played on the school grounds together and many times I caught Arthur and pounded him on the back, not realizing that he was a first cousin of Herbert Hoover who would some day be President of the U.S.
Uncle Eli had a fruit farm and sorghum mill northeast of Hubbard and paid his doctor bills to my father in grapes and sorghum. He had one son, Jesse Hoover, who lived at West Branch, Iowa. Jesse and family sometimes came to visit Uncle Eli and Aunt Hannah and their children played around their grandfather's sorghum mill. (Herbert had a younger brother whom he helped to get on his feet financially, as soon as he was able to do so. This brother often flew over Grand Meadow, Minnesota to visit his cousin Arthur who lived on a farm near there. The brother had mining interests in South America). When my brother Phil was old enough he picked strawberries on Uncle Eli's fruit farm and helped make sorghum. He earned $12 which he placed in the Hubbard Bank. It remained there for years until it drew compound interest. When he became blind by accident this money bought a set of piano tuning instruments which started him in business.
Hoover's sorghum was on our dining table continually and made wonderful taffy (molasses candy) for Hallowe'en and other occasions. "Pulling" taffy was great fun and the more we pulled it, the whiter it became. By cutting it into short chunks we had candy fit for the gods.
When Herbert Hoover became President of the U.S., my brother who was now blind by accident was made President of the International Association of the Blind. With blind people from other countries the U.S. blind held a convention in Washington D.C. and my brother being president of the Association was given a message to deliver in person to the President of the U.S. who happened to be Herbert Hoover. He delivered his message and then talked about Uncle Eli's old sorghum mill. Hoover slapped him on the back and said, "I well remember the old sorghum mill." Sometimes his mother who was a Quaker Preacher must have preached in the little Quaker Meeting house in Hubbard and we Quaker children played with hers one Sunday afternoon while the oldsters met in the Meeting house. We had a fine time for those were wonderful children and we were sorry when the play ended.
Later after Hoover's administration had come and gone, an item appeared in the Des Moines Register that two men from Grand Meadow, Minnesota had taken Arthur Hoover, cousin of Herbert Hoover, to Des Moines to try to save his farm. That was the same Arthur that sat in class with me at school. So I decided to write a letter to him and let him know that we were again living in the same country although still many miles apart. I was curious to see how being cousin to a President had affected him. Not in the least! He answered my letter at once, drew a map from his door to mine, and invited me up to his home for dinner!! A friend of mine offered to take me in her car. When we drove up to his gate, here came a man hobbling to meet us. Here after all these years was Arthur Hoover - a small man and older grown the same as myself. Their house, large and old, badly needed paint. He took us into the house and introduced us to his wife Ella whom he explained was from Arkansas. A very friendly lady but much overweight.
Arthur had a few photographs ready to show us. One fine, large portrait was of Herbert Hoover's younger brother. His hair looked overly neat and crowned a round, smooth face very much like Herbert's. Arthur also had an old-fashioned photo of his Uncle Allan, the man who came to Iowa and took the little orphan Herbert home with him. (One son of Herbert's is named Allan). It was living with this uncle that was the making of Herbert. Here is where he acquired his education, his wife, and his start in life. Herbert discovered a gold mine in Australia and the rest was easier sailing. As soon as he got on his feet he helped his brother up. This brother often crossed Minnesota on his way to his interests and stopped at Grand Meadow to see Arthur. And no wonder! Arthur's wife Ella could cook and serve a meal fit for a king! The day we were there she served a dinner that we never forgot. By some hook or crook in spite of poverty she had possessed herself of beautiful silverware and her dinner table looked better than such lowly people as my friend and me deserved. Her fried chicken fairly melted in our mouths and her lemon pie was delicious and unforgettable.
One time in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during a large Republican Convention, I stood beside Herbert Hoover at a cash register in a restaurant. I was looking intently at him, seeing the resemblance between him and Uncle Eli when a tall, giant F.B.I. man leaned over me and looked directly in my face. He wanted to see why I was scrutinizing Herbert Hoover.
Read Alice's memoirs on the following links:
Quotes and Notes
Newspaper articles written about Alice Krumm:
Mabel resident recalls the 'tough, old days'
Mrs. Alice Krumm to Note 100th Birthday Feb. 10th
Local Ghost Town
Newspaper article written about Alice's blind brother Phillip C. Slack:
Blind Man Gets Along Very Well, Thanks
Alice Krumm Photo Gallery
An online History of Valton by Gilbert Mortimer has several interesting references to Dr. Philip Slack.
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|Gleanings of a Lifetime, by Alice Krumm (1879-1987)|
|Copyright © 1998 by Bill Price|