In 1944, Algona had two weekly newspapers: The Algona Upper Des Moines (published on Tuesdays) and the Kossuth (kuh-SOOTH) County Advance (published on Thursdays). Fortunately, these wartime papers were available online, and I used them extensively during my research. They gave me a tangible sense of what it was like to live and work and play and worship in Algona during the war. And, I think they’re just plain fun to read!
Occasionally, I’d find national news on the front pages of these papers, but the vast majority of news and information was local. By glancing across Page One of the May 2, 1944 issue of the Upper Des Moines, readers could learn that a “Former Algona Man Improvises Nail Picker-Upper at Ankeny”; “Nineteen Boys Reach Eighteen and Register”; a “New Steam Plant Installed by Elk Dry Cleaners”; and a “Seneca Woman Breaks Elbow in a Fall”. (Seneca is about 25 miles northwest of Algona; Ankeny is just north of Des Moines.) There were also four obituaries on Page One of that issue—nobody famous—just ordinary folks.
One of the regular Upper Des Moines columns, “Service Men Clip Column,” was almost always printed in the top left corner of the front page. (I did find it inside the paper once or twice, though.) This column, usually between sixty and eighty lines, essentially condensed the previous week’s news (“Kossuth and Algona Doings of Past Week”). “Clip and mail in your next letter to the boys” it said. (I hope the girls got to read it, too.) In the May 16, 1944 issue, I found this in the “Clip Column”: ". . . Nazi prisoners at prisoner of war camp near Algona are maintaining a victory garden . . .” Of course, you knew that because I blogged about it three weeks ago!
As you know, this past Sunday was Mother’s Day, so I thought I’d look for related advertisements from the Algona papers from 1944. I’m always fascinated by the styles and descriptions and especially the prices from those years—dresses at the S&L Store were $2.95 to $8.95; you could find blouses for $2.39; and don’t forget a slip—just $1.79. At the Coast-to-Coast Store, you could buy Mom a 3-piece Bed Room Suite for $89.95; a desk for $39.95; and an All Steel Baby Buggy for $17.50. “Baby can ride in comfort,” it said. Really? All steel?
This was the fourteenth Mother’s Day we celebrated without my mom. She died in Ottumwa on February 1, 2007 after living with Parkinson’s Disease for almost seventeen years. I intend to write more about Mom over the summer. Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary in June and Mom’s birthday in August fall on Wednesdays this year. Good timing for my blogs.
Blessings to all.
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.