News 1957 Iowa State graduates reflect on journeys to Corydon
By Jason W. Selby
Jul 10, 2014, 11:18
1957 Iowa State grads pictured above, from left: John Harman, Roger Winslow, Bill Gode and Harriet Gustafson. Photo by Jason Selby
In 1957, four prominent figures that still live and work in the Corydon area graduated from Iowa State College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts: Bill Gode, Dr. John Harman, Harriet Gustafson and Roger Winslow. They sat down to reminisce last week at Winslow’s office in the Thatcher Implement building.
When students in their time graduated from high school, they could go straight to college—there were no entrance exams.
“As a result, lots of kids landed at Iowa State or Iowa or wherever,” Winslow said. “In freshman year, because they were overcrowded and living in the hallways and lounges—with a vengeance, [college administration] tried to flunk out half the freshman class. And they were pretty successful at it.”
“Back in those days, the Iowa State College was funded by the state primarily,” Harman said. “The tuition didn’t amount to nothing, so they didn’t mind flunking you out. Nowadays, tuition brings in over half of the income for the university—that is my opinion, that might not be factual, but I think it’s right—so they have to be careful about flunking students out. Funding has changed the attitude. Universities are the only sector of the group funded by Iowa that doesn’t have to live on what the state gives them. They have another group they stick it to, and that’s the students. That’s the reason the cost of college has gone up.”
Tuition was 35 dollars a credit hour in their time.
“I paid around 75 dollars [a quarter],” Gode said. “I was on 110 dollars from the Army. I was making money.”
When they graduated, there were almost 12,000 students enrolled in Ames. That figure stands at over 33,000 today.
“At least in my case, I was very fortunate,” Winslow said. “Because we were on the quarter system, I could take a lot of different courses in one quarter, which allowed me to get some knowledge of this subject, and this subject—I was no expert in any of it. But later on, in the job that I had, knowing just a little bit really made a big difference in my career.”
Winslow worked various jobs while he was at Iowa State, and combined with low tuition, he said he graduated with money in the bank.
“It was always assumed in our family that I was going to go to college,” Winslow said. “[My dad] said he would give me 100 dollars, and that was 100 dollars more than he had when he went to college. I’d go over to Beardshear Hall and borrow money to register for that quarter. By the end of that quarter, I had that loan paid off, turned around and borrowed money for the next quarter.”
“When we came home for Christmas, it was the end of the quarter,” Gustafson added. “When we came home, we didn’t have to worry about studying for finals. We could enjoy it.”
Susanne Grismore, another Corydon graduate, was also a member of the Iowa State class of 1957.
“There was no drinking in campus town,” Gode said. But that was not true of all places, of all people at all times.
Gode studied horticulture at Iowa State. He graduated from Lyons High School in Clinton, and before college, worked for a nursery.
“That’s what got me interested in horticulture. The guys I worked with were great, and they had a nursery in Clinton called the Gateway Nursery. They wanted to open another nursery in Dubuque, and they said that if you want to go to college, we probably would use you. While I was at Iowa State, the son had a heart attack and died, so the thing went to pieces.
“I first went to Iowa State before I was in the service. I don’t know if it was too many trips downtown, but I didn’t make grades, and so I got drafted out of college.”
Gode spent two years in the service before going back to Iowa State.
“I never left [after that], I stayed until I was done. I had the G.I. Bill, so I even stayed for some extra courses in technical journalism.”
Out of college, these extra classes helped him get a job in the Detroit area for Florists Transworld Delivery Association, at first as a field representative calling on florists and inspecting their shops, writing critiques of their stores.
“I ended up in Detroit at their headquarters, working for their advertising department.”
The Gode family saw the race riots of 1967, as well as Denny McClain and the Detroit Tigers beat Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in 1968. Gode’s boss was mugged after the latter. Gode had to go to the morgue to identify a man that worked in his office—not during the race riots, but after the Tigers won the World Series.
“The seventh game was played in Tiger Stadium, which was only about six blocks from where I worked,” Gode said. “A bunch of us from work went over just to hear the Star-Spangled Banner and to see the crowd, and we all got single tickets at face value and saw the game.”
Gode’s father-in-law was a Cardinals fan, so they saw two other contests during that World Series, as well, with Gode rooting for the Tigers.
His in-laws were Joe and Ruby Keller, who owned the flower shop in Corydon for decades. The Kellers had actually sold the shop, but the deal fell through, before the Gode’s moved to Corydon. His wife had training in flower design, and the fit was perfect for them.
“Funerals were a lot bigger than they are now,” Gode said.
“The problem with that, you don’t have repeat business,” Harman deadpanned. “One trip with one of those guys is all you got.”
“It got better once we decided who was boss—Connie,” Gode said. Connie is Gode’s late wife.
Gode is still a fan of Iowa State athletics, traveling to Ames to attend games. A lot has changed in college sports and on Iowa State’s campus.
“You can’t even compare the difference,” Gode said. “When we were there, we played [basketball] in the old armory, which had temporary, metal seats.”
The basketball court ran north and south, before they added permanent seats and reoriented it to east and west. Gode was there to watch a home game against Wilt Chamberlain and the University of Kansas, when the Roland Rocket, Gary Thompson, and the Cyclones beat Wilt the Stilt for the first time in his career. Winslow was there, too.
“Thompson would get the ball, run down the court, get in front of Chamberlain and stop,” Winslow said. “And Chamberlain would fall over Thompson, and he had three fouls on him in no time at all, and it changed the whole complexion of the game.”
“It was an exciting night after the game, too,” Gode said, as Winslow chuckled. “Chi Omega had an open night, and in those days you had to get a sign-out slip. I went and got Connie and we went up to Dogtown where the excitement was starting—they were building a bonfire in the middle of Lincoln Way.”
One time, for a campus job, Gode got the opportunity to drive Gary Thompson down to WHO News for an interview, during the glory of his college playing days.
DR. JOHN HARMAN
“I was on the SIAC committee, and my boy said, ‘Now Dad, be sure and speak up, don’t be hanging back there,’” Harman said with tongue in cheek.
Harman’s boy, Wade Harman, is a coach for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, after winning two Super Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens.
The veterinary license Dr. Harman earned from Iowa State only gave him the license to learn, according to him—there is a reason the specialists who taught at Iowa State were teachers and not practitioners.
“You don’t just plug in your degree and the money comes out,” Harman said. “You have to learn to be successful other than that. We got good basic knowledge, they were good people and good at what they did, but they were not PR people. They do not want to be paid on how much they produce. They want to be paid on how long they’ve worked there.”
“I don’t necessarily agree with you,” Gode responded. “I think for the job I got after college, I was well-rounded in a lot of science and horticulture.”
“I just don’t think in the veterinary group, that was true,” Harman said. “The cow doesn’t call you, the dog doesn’t call you, the owner calls you, and so you have to be a PR person. Public relations are 90 percent of the practice. The type of medicine the veterinary school does is not the type done in the country. The treatments that they use are not the ones that you use in practice.”
Harman moves from subject to subject seamlessly, interweaving wit with each story he tells.
“Veterinary school, if you were caught in a bar, you were kicked out of college,” Harman said. “True story. Veterans had a rather different view about that. We had Korean [War] veterans in our class, and they were a hard-nosed bunch. They didn’t take a lot of crap from the professors, but the average student was a slave. They had no rights. Those veterans were a little tougher.
“They had a saint over at the ag school—every week, he had an article published in some farm paper. That was the name of the game. He was Mr. Jesus. They had a statue of him 400 feet tall, 80 feet wide with gold on it. They sent us over to his class one day for swine nutrition, and he spent the first 20 minutes telling how good he was. Pretty soon, those veterans started cat-calling him, and he never came back.”
“Why isn’t there a statue to him now?” Gode asked. “I never saw his statue.”
“Well, I think I might have enlarged it just a bit there,” Harman responded.
“That’s a Harman story,” Gode explained.
Harman graduated from Sac City High School, and began college in 1951. After graduation from Iowa State, he went into small animal medicine for two years in Austin, Minn.
When asked how he got to Corydon, Harman quips, “You’re asking me a tough question. I’ve had two strokes, and can’t remember what I did yesterday.
“I was unhappy [in Minnesota]. So the wife said, ‘If you’re unhappy, why in the [heck] don’t you go?’ It was kind of interesting—to me, anyway. There was one veterinarian in Ames by the name of Dr. Frank Ramsey. He turned out to be head of pathology at Iowa State Veterinary School. Whatever problem you had, he wanted to help you. Ramsey never had a category that wasn’t his. He would help you with anything, and consequently, all the practitioners liked him. When he had a research project he wanted funded, it all got funded. So when I was unhappy I called him and said I was looking for a large animal practice in Iowa. He said, ‘I’ve got just the guy for you.’ He told me about Dr. [Leo] Freese down here.”
Harman started working as a veterinarian in Wayne County in 1959, joining Dr. Freese’s practice. The office was once north of the Corydon State Bank, and then moved to the building kitty-corner to Casey’s General Store. He made $500 a month.
“The difference was,” Harman said, “that was not plus hospitalization, plus retirement, plus time off. That was it. It was a whole different structure, a whole different attitude to business now, as Roger could tell you. Now the owner of the business is responsible for the retirement and the health insurance. When we were here, you were independent, it was up to you if you wanted to succeed, nobody else. Nobody looking over your shoulder except the guy that you owed money to.”
Harman agreed with Gustafson, when she described the impact teachers make on students throughout their lives.
“I had a high school English teacher,” Harman said. “We spent one whole week reading 'Ozymandias' [by Percy Shelley]. It’s a poem. It’s about the futility of man. When I was a pre-vet, if you wanted to be in vet school, it was important to get grades. At Iowa State you had two tests, you had the mid-quarter and the final.
“I was washing dishes five hours a day. I came to this class after dinner, it was at one o’clock, and I had sweat running down my chest—depending on how hot it was, that’s how wide the strip was.
“I had girls in that class like Harriet—high-heels, silk hose, girdle, hair up, 25 or 30 dollar cashmere sweater—and they looked good. When they sat down, they’d kind of ease over to the other side of the class, because I smelled like sweat.
“Anyway, this [Iowa State] teacher made a mistake. She threw us 'Ozymandias' for the final or the mid-quarter test, and I aced that sucker like you wouldn’t believe, because I remembered all the stuff [my high school English teacher] had told me.
“So the teacher read my report to the class, and walked back there and laid it on my desk. Three or four of those [large busted], good-looking girls came over and looked over my shoulder and looked at my paper—and no matter how bad I smelled, it was really good.”
“One of the things that is interesting is why I chose Iowa State,” Gustafson said. “I was here in school—I grew up in Corydon. When I was a senior, I had taken all the college prep classes that I needed, and I had electives, and I thought I’d take home ec. Four of us girls were going to be elementary teachers, and probably go to Drake [University]. We loved our teacher—Jean Kenyon. She was wonderful. Because of her, the four of us girls went to Iowa State and took home economics education.
“When I went there as a freshmen, we didn’t have any chemistry in Corydon. We had physics, biology, but no chemistry. I had to take chemistry. It was really hard. I had to knuckle down. I don’t know why a home ec teacher had to take five quarters.”
Gustafson went to summer school after that, when she was forced to take physics.
“All morning long, we had physics,” Gustafson said. “Then in the afternoon, I went to the pool. I was just scared to death of physics.”
She got in the file cabinet at the Chi Omega sorority house and found an old test to study.
“My luck was in there. The test that I got [in class] was the same one. The professor hadn’t changed it. I sat down and felt so good. I got a B in physics. I was tickled to death. Science wasn’t my best subject. I was a little better at English.”
Gustafson pledged and lived in the Chi Omega sorority house, where Gode claims they had all the papers and tests on file. Gode and Winslow’s wives were Chi Omega at Iowa State, as well.
“That was a good experience,” Gustafson said. “It was like a home there.”
Not all experiences were wholesome in 1950s Ames, highlighted by a ‘panty raid’ that made national news.
“Here were all these boys climbing up the fire escape—well, some were let into the dorm rooms,” Gustafson said. “Others just got in. It was a real big deal.”
“I remember that, Harriet,” Harman chimed in. “Some of the girls would pull the drawer open for you. True story.”
Gustafson came back to Corydon because her father wanted her husband, Gus, to work in his lumberyard. She stayed home and led Cub Scouts, along with other domestic activities. She had a friend, Nancy Proctor, a teacher at the grade school in Corydon, who told her they needed substitute teachers.
“I told her that I didn’t think I could teach all those things,” Gustafson said. “She said, ‘You don’t have to teach them, you just have to take care of the classroom and do what the teacher has left.’ I got my teaching certificate, and my dad would’ve been so happy to see me use that money he spent for a college education.”
She has worked as a substitute teacher for 28 years for Seymour, Wayne and Mormon Trail Community School Districts. Last year, she substituted only at Wayne, and has a certificate for four more years.
“That was a mistake,” Harman said. “You should’ve been fulltime, because you were very good. She doesn’t teach from weakness, she teaches from strength. She runs the place. And it runs smooth. That’s a true story.”
“I go to the high school, I go to the grade school,” Gustafson said. “I do vo ag, shop, band—I’ll do any of them. I like to be around the kids.”
Gode tells a story about coming to the Chi Omega house to take his future wife out for the night. When Gustafson answered the door, Gode thought she was the house mother.
“She was in charge back then too, wasn’t she Bill?” Harman said.
“Somebody has to be,” Gustafson said. “I had to check him out.”
She graduated from Iowa State on a Saturday morning, returned to Corydon for a wedding rehearsal and was married on that Sunday.
The second half of Roger Winslow’s junior year, his family moved to Corydon. Before that, he had lived on Long Island, New York City, and spent summers in Derby, where his father had grown up.
“It took several days to drive,” Winslow said. “There were no interstates. We stopped along the way. We had relatives in Indiana, and we had relatives in the Chicago area. My folks would take two weeks off to make the trip, then they’d leave me here. I either stayed the summer with relatives or whoever would have me.”
“An extra kid in those days was nothing spectacular,” Harman added. “You just kind of threw him in with the rest of them.”
“You just did whatever the family did, whether it was riding the binder…” Winslow started, before Harman interrupted.
“I know what that is!” Harman said. “I never figured you for that.”
“I was a little kid, and didn’t know any better,” Winslow said.
Before the combine, farmers used a binder. Some were pulled by horses, some by tractor. The binder would cut the grain and wrap a cord around it. When enough bundles gathered to make a shock, the worker running the binder dropped the bundles on the ground for the shocking crew to come in later, to stand them up so the stems would be on the ground, and the grain—oats, wheat, rye, timothy, etc.—would be up to dry for harvest. The farmer would then throw the shocks onto a hayrack to pitch in the thrashing machine. Wayne County was once renowned for its timothy.
“The thing I didn’t like about timothy, is those flakes would get all over you and you’d just itch and scratch,” Winslow said.
“It was microscopically barbed,” Harman explained.
Winslow’s grandfather owned a general store in Derby. The high school only went up to ninth grade, so Winslow’s father took the train to Chariton, where he graduated as a classmate of Gustafson’s father, Gary Henderson.
After that, Winslow’s father attended Drake University, transferred and graduated from the University of Chicago.
“He had a few jobs around the Chicago area, before Marshall Field’s sent him to New York. I lived the first 16 years of my life in New York. My dad lost his job from Montgomery Ward at the time for being rather outspoken.”
His father bought a farm south of Allerton, and Winslow went on to graduate from Corydon High School.
“Because I spent all this time in Iowa, I thought I wanted to be a farmer,” Winslow said. “I thought I’d go to Iowa State to learn how to be a farmer.”
Instead, Winslow spent two-and-a-half years in the college of engineering and a year-and-a-half in the college of business. His father-in-law owned Voltmaster Batteries, and hired him right out of college.
Winslow’s wife, Jan, is a 1956 graduate of Iowa State, and was in the same program as Gustafson. At the time, land grant colleges required all incoming freshman male students to take Army training in ROTC. The class of 1957 graduated in the armory. The speaker was Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.
In addition, Winslow’s mother was, at one time, the oldest student at ISU, taking classes while in her 90s. She graduated with a BA and a BS degree.
“But she reigned in the commons, where you’d go to eat,” Harman said. “She’d hold court in there all the time.”
In the ISU alumni magazine, Visions, there was once a photograph of Winslow’s mother strolling with his daughter, Laura, and his son, Mark, on central campus. During Veisha, she demonstrated the art of glass blowing.
“We’re never too old to learn something,” Gustafson said.
“I got the tools,” Winslow said. “I learned the basic information. I’m looking over there at my bookshelf, and I’ve still got accounting and chemistry books over there. It gave me the tools to compete in today’s world. Without those tools, there’s no way that we could have succeeded.”
“Half the education you get going to college is from talking to other people from other places with other backgrounds and other ideas,” Harman concluded. “I think that’s an important part of the college program.”
Despite the changes over the years, that part of university life has not changed. Neither has the fundraising efforts of home economics students at Iowa State. After over 50 years, they still sell cherry pies, just as Gustafson and the Chi Omega gals baked not so long ago.