Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ralph Happekotte- the Iowa Years

Ralph, Irene, Clarence
In 1935, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Grandpa moved to Waterloo, IA in 1935. This picture, to the right, is probably close to that time. In the picture are siblings Ralph and Clarence Happekotte and their sister, Irene Schutte. Grandma and mom followed him in January, 1936.  He had worked for the Illinois Tire & Battery in Quincy, but a job in Waterloo was better. He worked for Bennett Tire & Battery at the corner of Park Ave. and Jefferson. They lived in a couple of places near downtown, including the Elmer Hotel before moving to Sherwood Park. Art Stitz owned several “cottages” in the Park and the Happekottes moved into #4. No running water, hand pump in the kitchen, kerosene stove, and an outhouse- not quite luxury living! This has to be where Grandpa got into the pump side business because it wasn’t too long before he had installed a shallow well pump for running water, he put a toilet and crude shower in the basement. I would be willing to bet that Grandma had a lot to do with that decision! What did they do for a shower before that? They took the bus downtown and went to the YWCA where they could take a bath for 25 cents. So, I guess running water, indoor toilet, and a shower were really luxuries to them.
Ralph started an emigration from Quincy. His brother Clarence lived with them for a time while he was working at Chamberlain’s before he moved to California. His sister, Mary, who had married Bob Foust in Quincy moved to Waterloo in 1952. Bob also worked at Chamberlain’s. Mary and Bob actually had lived in the Sherwood Park home that became our longest Sherwood Park residence at 109 Greenview Dr. 
While working for Bennett Tire & Battery, Grandpa was working on a car owned by Earl Manning. Earl owned Manning Pattern Co. This led to a new job for Grandpa; one that lasted from 1936 to his retirement in 1962. He had a long and good retirement. Working on the pumps and wells down in Sherwood Park kept him busy. They always enjoyed making trips to visit the many relatives in Quincy and I was fortunate enough to get to go along on several. I had not grown up in Quincy even though I was born there, but I always enjoyed the visits. There were so many relatives back in the 1960s and 1970s on both mom and dad’s sides of the family; so there wasn’t a shortage of people to see.

Grandpa and Grandma had a good life in Waterloo, but Grandpa’s heart was always in Quincy. We can remember that he always referred to Quincy as “God’s Country”. Grandma passed away on June 1, 1981; that was the only time I had ever seen Grandpa cry. Even if they were like the Bickersons, we knew how they felt about each other. So, when we lost Grandma, he took her back to Quincy to be buried. We lost Grandpa on August 25, 1983. Now, they are both back there in the Happekotte family plot in Calvary Cemetery in “God’s Country”.

Note: We really don't have a lot of pictures of Grandpa from the Iowa years. We lost most of any pictures we had of him in the house fire that I told about in the March 3rd post.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ralph Herman Happekotte- the Quincy Years

First, let me say there was never a kinder, more gentler soul than he was. I never ever heard him raise his voice for anything, even when Grandma was on his case about this or that! And we all believe he knew which strings to pull to get Grandma going! It could have been about that limburger cheese that he liked and Grandma hated- mostly because of the smell. They were kind of like that old radio show named the Bickersons. It was all pretty harmless but always present! Grandpa did a lot of pump work and sinking sandpoints in the houses down in Sherwood Park. He didn’t charge people very much because he knew many down there didn’t have much. But Grandma was his bookkeeper and she would get after him if he dragged his feet about collecting the small fee he charged. I truly believe he would have been perfectly happy doing much of the work for free. That was just his nature. I really believe he came by that disposition naturally-- his brothers and sisters were all the same way. They would do anything for you.

This little momento was indicative of how others thought of him. The wording says “Hap the Flood Angel- March 16, 1945 Flood”. On the back it says, “Presented to Ralph Happekotte by the Residents of Sherwood Park”. The spring floods, which were a usual spring happening back then, was when Grandpa really shined. He became the Sherwood Park ferry service when the water came up. Many residents did not have a boat, so he would ferry them to the water’s edge so they could either go stay with others or get groceries and wait it out. Most people, by the way, waited it out. 

Grandpa was born on November 14, 1904 in Quincy, Illinois. In September of 1905, he won a baby contest at a Labor Day celebration in Quincy. The picture here was taken at that time and all I can say is he definitely had the Happekotte feet! We don’t know much about his growing up years, but I was always amazed at how his parents raised such a large family (10 kids) in such a very small house at 620 N. 18th!  There was one sibling born in 1916 and died the same year. His name was Charles Bernard; I don’t know at this time if he was stillborn or died as an infant.
According to notes mom had written, Grandpa met Edna Louise Shepherd when they were working for Otis Elevator Co. The Shepherd family had moved to Quincy from nearby LaGrange, Mo by 1920 when she was about 15. Ralph had worked as a lifeguard at the Casino Pool in Quincy and both of them rowed racing shells for the Southside Boat Club. The highlight of their rowing career had to be rowing at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Mom always told us that they eloped and honeymooned in Hannibal, MO. They were married by a justice of the peace in Quincy on November 14, 1925. I didn’t realize it until now, but Grandpa got hitched on his 21st birthday! They became parents for the first and only time on November 12, 1926.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pat- the Years at “Walton’s Mountain” on Greenview

In 1957, we were on the move again; this time to 109 Greenview Dr., the house that Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob (Foust) had lived in for a short while.  This house was “home” to most of us. It’s where we really grew up. It wasn’t directly on the river, although at imes it was IN the river! It was more or less in the woods. Lots and lots of great times in those woods! I’m sure this topic will come up on Staci’s blog “My Funny Family” at While there, mom was always active in the Cub Scout chili suppers at Castle Hill School for many years. She would make up little “chili kits” so all that the other mothers had to do was dump everything in the hamburger and cook it! The system worked great. Dad, meanwhile, was always active in the PTA’s Dad’s Night. The PTA dads always put on these hilarious skits that were always a hit. The one that I remember them talking about was a take-off on the “Jack Paar Show” which they called “The Jack Poor Show”. I wish we could get a hold of those films that were taken; they are probably long gone. Mom also did a stint making pizzas at Joe’s 218 Tap (now the east end of Casey’s on University. She must have done a really great job with the pizzas because it became a draw for the bar- a lot of repeat customers. That was back when pizzas, or pizza pies as they were called then, were just getting popular.

And, of course, one thing that mom was really known for was her chauffeur services. I think everyone thought she lived in that car or van. At one point, dad put a big racing stripe right down the middle of the van. By 1967, there were eight of us kids; so somebody was always going somewhere. And she and dad both truly loved to drive- we were known for going to the Old Mill in Independence,
Dale & Gwen Brooks with Mom
Ia for ice cream cones. In the summer we often went to Backbone State Park with our dear friends, the Brooks. If we weren’t going to Backbone, we were picnicking with them at Exchange Park. I can even remember going to Des Moines many times for Poppin’ Fresh pies. We would actually take orders and bring pies back! Obviously, the price of gas was not a deterrence then! And when hockey started in Waterloo about 1962, all of us boys were involved and my sisters were always down at public skating. We practically lived at the rink in the winter months. I don’t know how they ever managed... we all had skates, hockey sticks, clothes on our backs, and food on the table.... and there were eight of us! But they always managed.

Sadly, we lost that house to a fire on December 5, 1985. It was a total loss. It was the same night that the Goodwill burned in downtown Waterloo. They couldn’t spare the pump trucks to save our house. And there aren’t water mains in Sherwood Park. There would have been records and pictures that would have really been great in this genealogical pursuit, but other family have generously shared pictures and information.   At the time of the fire, only Jacki and her daughter Kristin where living at home. It was Jacki who woke up and smelled the smoke. The fire had started in the kitchen and that was one of the exits. The only other exit was the main door that went past the kitchen. So, they were very fortunate to have escaped when they did or they could have been trapped. After the fire, mom lived out in Hudson for many years and really liked it out there. When her health started to slip, she moved into a house next to Jacki’s in Cedar Falls. My sister, Cindy, and her husband, Jim, purchased the house and Jacki’s husband, Brian, did a lot of work making repairs and remodeling it. She had a series of small strokes in 2004 that left her incapacitated. We had her in the Windsor Nursing Home in Cedar Falls for about a year and a half. One of us was always with her from the first thing in the morning until she went to bed. There was no way that we were going to trust a facility to meet all of her needs, especially when she could not communicate them. Finally, we decided to take her back to her home since we were doing most of the work anyway. We got great help from the visiting nurses and Area Agency on Aging. That system worked well until we lost her on December 17, 2007. We all were with her..... sons, daughters, spouses, grandkids.. everyone when she passed. It was hard to lose her, but everyone understood it was for the best by that point. We all miss her very much.

And that, after all, is one of the reasons for this blog. All of these ancestors that I will present to you, deserve to be remembered. They all were more than just a name and a picture on a family tree. They all had real lives and had real contributions. And, of course, these ancestors helped make us who we are today. So, they really do deserve to be remembered.