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Your Link to the Past

Your Link to the Past

Mrs. Margaret (Ralph) Crary


Interview with Mrs. Margaret (Ralph) Crary

Place of Interview:  3213 Viking Drive, Sioux City, Iowa
Date of Interview:  October 18, 1979
Interviewer:  Leah Hartman
Edited by:  Fern Garber
Transcriber:  Teresa Crevier


L.H:  Mrs. Crary, would you tell me your full name and your background?                      

CRARY:  My full name is Margaret Coleman Crary.  My maiden name was Coleman.  I have spent all but the first four years of my life in Sioux City.    SC56.1.Crary_Margaret.01

L.H:   I believe you lived in Morningside…


CRARY:  Yes.

LH:  Of course, this interview is of a writer.  What I wanted to know is about Sioux City and how you obtained your material, how you learned the history of Sioux City.  Would you just tell the story?           

 

CRARY:  Well, I think one absorbs quite a little bit growing up in a place, especially going through school and having the courses that we naturally get on local history and so forth.  I really began a serious research of Sioux City history when I was about forty, I think.  I began to think about writing.  There had never been a fiction book for children written about Sioux City and I thought this was too bad, because we have a very exciting early-day history, so I began researching through the old copies of the Sioux City Journal and interviewing old residents and just going through all the sources that I could find about Sioux City history and eventually, although I was at that time planning a book about the Civil War period in Sioux City, what I found out in this process was a basis for about five more books of various periods all based around Sioux City history.

 

LH:  When you were growing up in Morningside and I believe it was in the Whittier School district….

 

CRARY:  Yes, I went to Whittier.

 

LH:  What was the address of your home?
 

CRARY:  2058 S. Clinton.  We lived there all the time of my life.

 

LH:  So, as a school girl, you did have a Sioux City history, perhaps in fourth grade:

 

CRARY:  Yes, we did.  And one of the things that I think really was the kernel that started the Calico Ball was that in that, I  believe it was the fourth grade.  Anyway, one of those grades, the stock thing was to take us all out to Prospect Hill and we got our pad and pencil out and we were told to draw the sand dunes.  Well, if you’ve ever tried to draw a sand dune and make it interesting, you know that it is impossible.  All you would have would become blah circles that are colorless and it was very boring.  I sat there watching the river and thinking about the steamboat days and how the Indians came in the bullboats and the steamboats came up and I thought, “Why can’t we do something more exciting that this?”  So, that’s really what started the Calico Ball.  I knew there was something more exciting than sandbars.

 

LH:  As a youngster, you knew Morningside Avenue and the homes and the personalities that lived in these homes.

 

CRARY:  Oh, yes.          

 

LH:  You told me just before our interview now about the Ward family.

 

CRARY:  Well, they were English people and they came, I think, with many of the other Englishmen that came to LeMars in the 1880’s.  Mr. Ward built this large home that was on the area across from the Morningside Presbyterian Church where it stands now.  Morningside Avenue was not paved.  The street car line ran down the Avenue to the east end, which is where the train depot was.  One of our things we did when we were bored in those days was to take wire hairpins and make eyeglasses out of them and put them on the streetcar track.  The street car would run over them and then we’d have a nice pair of spectacles.

 

LH:  I believe you had a group that you played together with?

 

CRARY:  Yes.

 

LH:  Would you tell about the Ward home:

 

CRARY:  Well, there were about eight of us who all went to Whittier School and the Ward family were kind enough to let us use the back stairway in this big house and use the third floor as our playground.  We had a club and we invented wild games and dressed up in the costumes that they had.  They had a full coat of armor up there.  Why they had dragged that from England, I wouldn’t know, but that was fascinating and they had swords and all sorts of weapons that they brought.  The water system in this big house worked from a reservoir in a back room in the Ward house.  If you climbed a ladder, you could look down into this big tank, which was always sort of an interesting thing, too.  Then, there was a three-story tower that started from the third floor and had a twisting stair that went clear to the top.  That was a very exciting place to play.  So, this was just a part of our growing up.

 

LH:  What did Mr. Ward do in Morningside or in the city?

 

CRARY:  He was a City Councilman.  Aside from that, I really don’t know what he did.  He never seemed to work, but he did own land.  I think he probably lived off the income from his land, but as a child, we just didn’t pay much attention to that.  The boy that was our age, was very much younger than all the rest of the family and there were four other children who were grown and had left home.  This was apparently a child of their old age.  I think they were worn out with child raising and just let Frank go on his own.

 

LH:  The house is no longer there?

 

CRARY:  No.  It was torn down to make room for about – oh, probably half a dozen houses.  It had a stable on the grounds and the stable also had many rooms.  We played in the stable, also, many times.

 

LH:  About what time do you suppose the home was razed:

 

CRARY:  I think probably around 1930.  Between ’30 and ’40, probably.  I don’t remember exactly.

 

LH:  You might say that could compare with the Garretson home.  Was it the same exterior:

 

CRARY:  No, it was not the same exterior, but it was probably about the same size.  It was very large.

 

LH:  And a frame home:

 

CRARY:  Yes.  The grounds around it had many very large pine trees which were fun to climb.

 

LH:  You have, perhaps, heard of the English – maybe from the Ward family – but you know of the people at LeMars:

 

CRARY:  Yes.

 

LH:  Did you mention some meeting place in LeMars?

 

CRARY:  There was a saloon called the House of Lords.  These young Englishmen sometimes would get quite gay and once I remember of that there was a story that one of the young lords rode his horse into the saloon and right up to the bar to get his drink.  These Englishmen also started polo in this area.  The old polo grounds were over where Crescent Park is now.

 

LH:  That’s very interesting.

 

CRARY:  At one time, at one of the polo matches, there were some of the horses that came clear from England to compete.

 

LH:  This was in the hey-day?

 

CRARY:  This was in the 1880s.

 

LH:  I just wonder where you obtained your material.  I suppose the best source was from the older citizens of Sioux City.  Could you tell me about the people that you interviewed:

 

CRARY:  Margaret Gordon…Oh, her last name is very well known and I can’t think of it right now.

 

LH:  Davis, perhaps?                      

 

CRARY:  No.  She was a descendant of Mr. Davis who had the first newspaper here.  (Ed. Note:  S.T. Davis helped found the Sioux City Journal in August 1864; this was not the first newspaper)  Then, I should have thought this out before.  I can’t get these names out right now.  The men: Mr. Weare started the first bank.  He still had a descendant here.  The Palmers were descendants of one of the early-day people.  Margaret Gordon, I believe, was the granddaughter of Mr. Davis who started the newspaper.  I was particularly interested in him because in my Calico Ball. I used the daughter of the first editor as my main character.  I think rather my most rich source of material was not the interviews, but were the old copies of the Sioux City Journal which, of course, were very rich in first-hand information of what was going on in Sioux City at that time. 

 

LH:  Now, these weren’t on microfilm?                

CRARY:  No.  At that time, I was able to read them in the bound copies, the original newspapers.  However, later they became so brittle that the library decided that they would have to transcribe them and, of course, the transcriptions are much more difficult to read.  Also, they have eliminated all those wonderful advertisements that show you what the people were buying and what they were using.  This is very valuable for a writer in getting local color.

 

LH:  So, you would go down to the main library and, perhaps, spend hours.

 

CRARY:  Oh, yes, I was buried in the tombs for many months.  I researched for several years, because I became so fascinated and, as I say, one thing led to another and Ricky Fireman grew out of my reading about the famous fire horse team, Paddy and Prince.  This I was doing while I was researching for Calico Ball.  Also, the English colony, I had known much about them before.  I didn’t use them in Calico Ball, but, I then used them in two more books.                       

 

LH:  I believe you said that those folk in Sioux City oftentimes were ninety years old.

 

CRARY:  Well, the people that I interviewed who either had been children when the town started in the early days were around that.  The Calico Ball was published in 1961 and I probably started that research around 1955.  Sioux City, of course, was incorporated in ’57.  Between the early Civil War days and the ‘80s were the times that were actually the early times of Sioux City.

 

LH:  When you were at the library, did you work with certain library personnel? I was thinking of a woman that is out at Holy Spirit now, Lillian Ricketts Smith?

 

CRARY:  Oh, well, Lillian Smith, was a fabulous source of material.  Yes,  I know Lillian very well, and, of course, she was curator of the Museum at that time, not the library.  Lillian was a deep source of material.  Of course, she was part of Sioux City history because her father was the manager of the farm at Stone Park for this man who did the cross=breeding of animals.  He came up with some very strange animals out there.  At one time, the people of Sioux City were so incensed, they thought there was something obscene about this and they cut his telephone wires.  He used to hand his hat over his doorknob because he was afraid someone was going to peek though the key hold and see what he was doing.  He was a real Sioux City character which probably should make another book some day.

 

LH:  Was that Mr. Stone:

 

CRARY:  No, it wasn’t.  I should research this a little.  These names escape me right now.  I’d have to look them up.  It wasn’t Mr. Stone.  He was a very wealthy man.

 

LH:  Talbot.

 

CRARY:  Talbot.  That’s who it was.  Talbot.   Talbot’s farm.

 

LH:  That area now is Stone Park?

 

CRARY:  Yes, it’s all part of Stone Park.

 

LH:  That’s what I was thinking.

 

CRARY:  Lillian Smith’s family, after Mr. Talbot was gone, stayed on out there and part of their living was their fabulous chicken dinners and homemade ice cream and you would call them and make a reservation.  Then, you made the trip to Stone Park, which was quite a little trip in those days. Then, they would serve so many people on reservation.  I can remember driving my two wheeled straw pony cart out there to have dinner.

 

LH:  This is just great to find out about Sioux City from someone with all your interests.  So, Stone Park…I know there are some names of some lookout points up there named after the family.

 

CRARY:  Yes.    

 

LH:  Then, back at the library in the forties and before that, I believe, a Gertrude Henderson was working on history.

 

CRARY:  Yes, I knew Gertrude also.                

 

LH:  I just wondered where she worked and what you recall of her.

 

CRARY:  Well, as a matter of fact, Gertrude was a neighbor of ours in Morningside and she took this job just as sort of a part-time job at night.  I believe, as far as I know, she was the first one who started recording  any of this after Constant Marks, who wrote the first history of Sioux City.  I believe Gertrude was the first one who actually worked at the Museum as far as I know.

 

LH:  So, her work is housed at the Museum, her manuscripts, the finished manuscripts are there.  Then, you mentioned Constant Marks, the lawyer.

 

CRARY:  Yes.  And he did a very find job of recording the early French trappers who started the town.  Really, they settled down along toward where Floyd Monument is.  Almost all of them had Indian wives, because, at that time, there were no white women here and, of course, this was before the town started.  This would be around 1840 to the 1850s.  These are the people that Constant Marks did such a wonderful job of recording.  When I did my mystery, The Secret of Unknown Fifteen, I went to the courthouse and I found the original land plat where I could locate these different Frenchmen.  Then, I made my own map to see where the cabins were so that I could visualize what was going on. Because, in that book, I used a flashback into Sioux City history to solve the mystery of  who the skeletons were.

 

LH:  That’s fine.  It would be kind of nice to see that map sometime.

 

CRARY:  (Inaudible)

 

LH:  I don’t know when Mr. Marks died.

 

CRARY:  Oh, many, many years ago.

 

LH:  Now, someone else that I never knew, Alice Spalding.

 

CRARY:  Alice, I don’t think did very much with recorded history.  She was mostly well known because her father was Sioux City’s war hero from the Civil War and she gave all his things to the Museum.  Maybe he received a Congressional Medal of Honor.  I’m not sure, but he was well decorated.  And, as I remember, this was mostly Alice’s contribution.  Now, I could be wrong.  If she had written history, I have never seen it.  It’s possible.

 

LH:  I know she made notes from some Journal articles and this preceded  the city directory.  Our first city directory is about 1870 or 1871.  So I’m told from Monica McLean that Alice Spalding made up these cards with notes.  And I don’t know if you knew Monica McLean.

 

CRARY:  No, I did not know her.

 

LH:  There might be others that you perhaps saw when you were working on your research.  As you say, you went to the courthouse.

 

CRARY:  Yes.  Early records there are very helpful also.                     

 

LH:  I would think abstracts would be interesting.

 

CRARY:  They are.

 

LH:  You’ve seen some of those.   

 

CRARY:  Yes.  And, once in a while, my husband would bring one home that had a little history in it.

 

LH:  Where we are, really not too far from Jackson Street from the museum, I just wonder who had this very land that your home is on.

 

CRARY:  I don’t really know.  I think it was probably owned by different people.  This is only – not much more than ten years (inaudible)…

And it was just the rolling hills and I can’t remember of farms right in here.  There were some out by Outer Drive that are still there, I just don’t know.  Leif Erikson Park has been here a long time, but from Leif Erikson this way, nothing was built until very recently.

 

LH:  You just wonder of John Peirce owned this or who did originally.

 

CRARY:  I doubt if he owned this over here.  This was really almost like a part of Leeds in the old days.  Of course, Trinity College was right down here not too far from where we are now.  In the time I was growing up that was a very active school.  It was a prep school as well as a college.

 

LH:  It was just boys, young men that attended that school.

 

CRARY:  Yes, yes.

 

LH:  So, from Whittier School you perhaps went to East Junior?

 

CRARY:  Yes, and Central.  There was no East High.  East High was not built until about 1930 and I graduated before that.  Oh, it was probably about 1925 because my sister went to East.  We took the streetcar.  We had to start at seven o’clock in the morning and we took the streetcar downtown and then we had to transfer and get to Central High.  And one of the recreations of the teenage boys in those days was to pull the trolley off the wire and the conductor would simple become infuriated and he’d try to catch which boys had done it and then everything would stop so the conductor would have to get out and pull the trolley back on the line because it was electric, electric street railway.

 

LH:  What was the transfer point?

 

CRARY:  Fourth and Pierce, by Davidson’s Store, which is now Younker’s.  Then we took the Pierce-Jackson.

 

LH:  In bad weather, would you just go inside the department store:

 

CRARY:  Bad weather, you just suffered it through.  The stores wouldn’t be open at that hour.        

 

LH:  I want to back to the Morningside area.  One woman that furnished some history of Morningside Avenue was Miss Mame Schuyler.

 

CRARY:  Yes, a very dear friend of mine.                    

 

LH:  She, perhaps, lived not too far from you.

 

CRARY:  She lived on Clinton Street, just a block from us.  She was my father’s secretary.

 

LH:  What was your father’s occupation?

 

CRARY:  He was a lumberman.  He was the auditor for the Superior Lumber Company group.  They had about twenty or thirty yards around this territory and his base was in Sioux City.

 

LH:  Mrs. Crary, about the homes, places that you might have explored as a youngster and about this Morningside area.  Aside from the Ward home, were there other homes or areas that you might have just gone to with your friends?

 

CRARY:  Well, our own particular home was on a square block with four houses.  They were all Victorian houses with towers.  They aren’t nearly as large and as elaborate as the Ward home was, but they were probably fifteen-room houses and, right in the middle of this block, between the four houses, there was a four section back house, outdoor privy and we each had our own room.  Each house in the block had its room with a three-holer.  This was before plumbing.  The interesting part of this back house, what that you could hear what people were saying from the other sections.  Sometimes, it led to some rather raunchy revelations.  However, we were not in our home.  We moved there in 1910 and we were not there more than a few months when my father put in plumbing.  But that remained there and, as the four neighbors got their plumbing, it became unused, but it was there for many years and then each house its own barn and we were well populated with pigeons, and, in a certain time of year, we would have baked squab dinners with stuffing to keep down the pigeon population.

 

LH:  Now, these barns were really for the horses:

 

CRARY:  Relics from the time when everyone kept their teams.  And we did have a Shetland pony and two carts.  So, our barn was used until it was town down.  It was torn down later and a garage built.

 

LH:  So you couldn’t really convert that to a garage:

 

CRARY:  Well, it wasn’t in our case.  I suppose it could have been.

 

LH:  Did the barn have an upstairs:

 

CRARY:  Oh, yes.  A hayloft.

 

LH:  Could you use this, perhaps, for playing?                  

 

CRARY:  Yes, we used that for our theatre.  Most of our plays were in the neighbor’s barn.  We were also very close there.  It was just a square block.  It was just the four families.

 

LH:  Who were some of the other families:

 

CRARY:  Well, next door was the John Dye family.  John was quite a character in Sioux City history.  He was the barber in the Davidson Brothers Store shop and he knew all of the important businessmen in Sioux City and he shaved the Davidson brothers and the Martin Brothers.  He had Martin’s Store and the bankers.  His clientele was very fancy and he would sit at night telling us what was going on with the rich people.  He always had his pockets loaded with silver because he was always paid in silver dollars.  And I always envied his daughter, Honey, because she always had this silver money and in our family we used checks.  We didn’t know what money was.  So, this was something that made a childhood impression, all the silver.  Now there was an Irish family behind us in one of the other houses who had many, many, many children.  Their name was Intravia (sp.?).  This was a mouthful, but it is a name that once never forgets.

 

LH:  You mentioned the Davidson Brothers department store.  This was before your time, but maybe Mr. Dye might have mentioned the Davidson Tea Room:

 

CRARY:  Well, that wasn’t before my time.  The store had the Tea Room, and at that time, the West Hotel was very active and it had a lovely dining room, with white tablecloths and all colored waiters and Mr. Dye would sometimes take Honey and I over there for lunch and I was very impressed to be served by a waiter in uniform.

 

LH:  Of course, you saw the Garretson home.

 

CRARY:  Oh, yes, we knew the Garretson home well.  It was more in my college years that I was in that home, because, at that time, it was the home of the president of Morningside College.  The Garretsons were gone by then.  And that was the prexy house for many years.

 

LH:  I suppose there were many more trees in Peters Park than there are now?               

 

CRARY:  Well, there were lots of pine and evergreen trees there at the time.  And, of course, Peters Park was the gathering point for Morningside.  They had movies there every…..I think it was Friday nights, and if you wanted to see the other kids, you’d go to the Park to the movies.  Everybody came, free movies.  That would be probably toward 1920, between 1915 and 1920.

 

LH:  Silent pictures.  Would there be some music background:

 

CRARY:  I don’t remember about the music...

 

                                    (End Tape 1, Side 1.  Begin Tape 1, Side 2)

 

LH:  This is the Wetmore mansion, as we call it now.

 

CRARY:  Now.  She didn’t buy it until a lot later; well, I mean, the Clarks, the Clark family: it was her family’s home, and after she was married, she and her husband lived there.

 

LH:  Now the Haakinsons.  I wonder if that entered in there:

 

CRARY:  I didn’t know the Haakinsons ever lived there, but they could have.

 

LH:  But it belonged to Mrs. Clark’s family.

 

CRARY:  As far as I can remember, and I can’t think of their name, her maiden name.  But that would be in the Thirties when she lived there.  I don’t know who built that house;  I really don’t..  But, I know the house because I was a friend of Mrs. Clark’s and I would go there when she was living there.  Then, later, I did some work with Rae Wetmore and I was in and out of the house then.  So, I did know the house, but I don’t know too much about the beginnings of it.  I can’t remember.  That should be recorded somewhere.

 

LH:  I just wondered.  I see the outside of a home and I like the grounds and the circular drives near the home, but I just wondered what the inside could be like, like the height of the walls.

 

CRARY:  It was a very lovely home.  I don’t remember the details of that house too well.  Somebody  that might know about that house….do you know Vera Gerkin: Now she lived right in that neighborhood before they moved to the north side. She might know something more about it. She’s a little older than I am.

 

LH:  And she, perhaps, went to Morningside.                   

 

CRARY:  Yes, she did.

 

LH:  She and her husband go to California every year.

 

CRARY:  Yes, I think they might have left.  I’m not sure whether they’ve left or not.  Vera might be able to help you on that house.

 

LH:  So, you have really done a lot of research.  Did you walk around and hike around the hills of Sioux City over the years?

 

CRARY:  Oh yes.  Now, when we were doing the mystery of (inaudible) I was at the Museum at that time and Dr. Stewart from Morningside College was on the board also and we were very good friends.  And when they uncovered these skeletons, I can’t remember whether I called him or he called me.  But, at any rate, he said, “Well, let’s go down.”  So, we raced down there and we were in on some of that digging up.  Then, of course, we called Iowa City, and they said they’d send somebody up.  They took the skeletons with them.  And we’d gotten some of those artifacts.  Of course, the Museum didn’t feel they could store those skeletons or shouldn’t.  Then Iowa City lost them. How they lost them, I don’t know.  I have no idea.  I believe we kept one here or something like that.  Eventually, the university of Kansas sent somebody up and they  used Carbon 14 and dated them.  I don’t know whether Iowa City ever found them or not, but they lost them.  And then, what was my train of thought on that?

 

LH:  Now Mrs. Ootmanns was at the Museum at that time.

 

CRARY:  She was there at that time, yes.  Oh!  Well, what I was going to say was, this Mark Miller was on the Journal at the time.  Well, he wrote this article, claiming they were Spanish people.  Well, Mark and I were friends also, but I argued with his over that all the time.  I said, “Mark, you’re crazy, that couldn’t be.  Spaniards coming up here and carrying their own captives with them:  That doesn’t make sense.  Whoever those people were are not carrying their caskets along”.  See, these caskets were very ornate.  They were walnut and they had carved silver handles and they never were brought on a wagon train because there were so many of them, you see.  So, we had a great time arguing over his article and he always stuck to his guns and I said, “No, that isn’t true.”  So, that’s why I was so interested in these artifacts.  So, I started researching.  Of course, then I found where the Missouri had changed its course. And, at that time, it was running right under this block and then later it changed its course clear over where it is now.  And then I started researching the different steamboats during the cholera epidemic and I still think I’m right.  I think that is a correct solution.  I think those came on the steamboat and I think they made these caskets on the steamboat.  They were building churches at that time.  Father De Smet was working in this territory.  They were building churches and they could very well have brought walnut on the steamboat to build pews and steamboats carried a carpenter, and I think that this is the most logical, because it was exactly the time at the height of the bad cholera epidemic in St. Louis.  And a lot of these steamboats lost almost their whole crew and passengers, where they’d leave St. Louis and develop cholera after they left and die on board. And I think this is the correct solution and the other thing that proved it to me in my mind.  These caskets were tarred inside and, in those days, if anyone died of cholera they would tar the casket to keep the germs in.  And I think this all leads together.  But this was fun, because of the publicity was never the solution that we came up with n our minds.  The publicity was entirely different and the thing that started this Spanish thing was that fringe and the Museum had the fringe.  I don’t know whether it’s…it should be in that box with this other stuff.  The fringe was off the priest’s stole, but they thought it was off of a Spanish costume.  But, you see, if you’re a writer, you have to be a detective, too.

 

LH:  That’s why I’m here is to find out some of the Sioux City history that you learned through all those years.

 

CRARY:  But I must admit, that being a fiction writer after the time passes, sometimes my fiction and my fact get a little mixed and it does add color, but if anyone wants to be technical, we’d have to go back and check which was fact and which was fiction.

 

LH:  A friend just last Sunday, we were going down Highway 29 and we looked over at the First Bride’s Grave and there were people going up to see this grave.  And Lillian Mousseau White who I interviewed two or three years ago, mentioned this grave.

 

CRARY:  You see these things all hang together in my life because the Ward farm was in South Ravine and these are the characters in my mystery.  It was there, so the kids….it was logical for them to be exploring.  Well, we spent half our life in South Ravine, this gang of ours.  That’s where we went picnicking, exploring, playing games, so we were always very conscious of First Bride’s Hill and all the things along there and the monument.  We spent hours around the monument.  This was our playground.

 

LH:  Of course, the river would change from time to time.

 

CRARY:  Y, except, of course, it has not changed that much in my lifetime, but it did before.  You see, it’s very flat below the monument for a little ways there and it used to be up to the bluffs.  Now, there’s this flat land over to the river bank.

 

LH:  Then the Big Sioux River is something else.  When you go up to War Eagle’s Grave, you see the rivers there.  And I don’t know if you used to hike around that area.                

 

CRARY:  Oh, yes.  We belonged to the Boat Club and so my teenage life was long the Big Sioux River.  At the dances every Friday night, would be the dances at the Boat Club and at that time there were four.  There was the Riverside, the Council Oak, The Sioux City Boat Club, and Shore Acre Club, which is now the Community Theatre and they all….that was the social life in Sioux City.  Each club had their own canoes.  Our club had ninety canoes and the teenagers…the boy would check a canoe on dance night and take his girl.  And if you were not back at eleven with your  canoe and if it had mud on it, you were suspended, because, sometimes, they would go out into willows for necking purposes.

 

LH:  Then you saw the Council Oak Tree?

 

CRARY:  Oh, yes.  It was standing, of course, until recent years.

 

LH:  Do you remember when Bruguier’s cabin (inaudible).

 

CRARY:  Well, more or less.  I remember when it was where it used to be.  It used to be right at the foot of that old viaduct that’s no longer used, that we used to come to Riverside on.  I believe that’s been shut off as dangerous and it was just at the foot of the viaduct there all the time I was growing up.

 

LH:  Then, Prospect Hill.  Mr. Sass had quite a bit to say about Prospect Hill.    

 

CRARY:  Carl Sass?

 

LH:  Yes, And this really was where a lot of families lived, right in that Prospect Hill area, and then, before that, was the Pearl Street area and you really researched on that street.

 

CRARY:  Well, that’s where the center of Sioux City was during the Civil War days, was Pearl Street.  Then, later, it moved east, until Fourth and Pierce was more the center.  But, the early buildings were all down Pearl Street.

 

LH:  How did you research Groniger’s?

 

CRARY:  Well, those places, I found the positions of them in early day records.  Groniger’s and Tootle and Jackson’s were along there and then the saloon.  I can’t think of the name of it right now.  When I wrote Calico Ball, I also made a map of my own and I figured out where the stores were and then I put them into my map, so that I could visualize this, and then it was at Pearl Street and then along third Street and then the levee, of course, was on First and Second and that’s where the steamboats came in.

 

LH:  I believe the first school is still up.

 

CRARY:  It used to be over toward Wall Street, but then it was moved.  Now, originally, it was down…what was it Sixth and Pearl?  Along in there.  But, the building itself, I think you’re right, I think the building still exists, or it did a few years back.

 

LH:  Are there some interesting stories that you could give away:  I know you’ll be writing more, but are there some things that you’re thinking of?

 

CRARY:  No, as far as this age is concerned, right now, I’m really at a standstill.  One reason is that right now editors are not buying history.  You just can hardly sell anything with a history background.  The youngsters are reading science fiction, contemporary stories, boys’ sports.  They just aren’t interested in history, which is too bad I think.  I do a lot of school talks and I always interview them on their favorites.  Books with historical background are clear at the bottom.

 

LH:  And yet I feel that this interest in history is picking up.

 

CRARY:  I hope you’re right.  But, right now, I have one unsold book and it’s got an historical background and I’ve had this comment over and over, “They aren’t buying history.”  So this is why I really am sort of stymied right now as far as that kind of writing is concerned.  I did, of course, write this mystery.  I managed to handle that one because I used a contemporary scene.  Then, the flashback was historical and that book is very popular with the children.  That’s been very popular.  They like that.  But, that’s what I would call a combination of contemporary and historical.  Now, if I could figure out something like that again, but it’s very difficult.  The market is very difficult right now for juvenile books and a lot of what’s being published and exploited are themes, that to me, are most depressing and I’m not interested in writing that kind of a book.  Serious family problems, drugs, prostitution, teenage pregnancy, all these things.  I know they exist, but I just don’t care to write about that.

 

LH:  Well, I thought maybe Roots sort of stimulated the history and geneology.

 

CRARY:  I think Roots has stimulated especially older people. I don’t  know how much effect it has had on youngsters, but it definitely has made many people think about writing their background, preserving it.  And I think that’s a great thing.

 

LH:  I bring in a little geneology in with the oral history because I like to think maybe some day a grandson or a granddaughter might want to hear the voice of the grandmother or grandfather, telling this first-hand, some of the things that have happened.  For instance: The Crash of ’29, just fifty years ago, must have left an impression. 

 

CRARY:  I think the crash itself was more of a shock.  The aftermath formed a great part of my early married life because we were married just at the time of the crash.  Of course, our lives were drastically changed for a long time, about the next ten years, because there was no money.  And now the thing that its done to us of this age and generation is that we simply can’t grasp the way these young people are about money.  They have no conception of what we could have possibly gone through, and moreover, they don’t want to hear about it.  They’re bored with it and this is something they’ll never understand.  My husband was lucky.  He was never unemployed, but when we were married, we were living on a hundred dollars a month and this was everything, our rent, our food, everything we had to pay out of that hundred dollars a month.  My grocery allowance was five dollars a week and we got by and we usually had a quarter left to pay a girl on Saturday night so that we could go and play cards with friends, and everything was on this level.  So, nowadays, when they start at $12,000 a year, right out of school, and they  think it’s not enough, the people of our generation have trouble understanding and I think if we had another crash, they could probably cope with it.  A lot of it is that during the bad depression, everybody was in the same boat and you weren’t keeping up with the Joneses and we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves; we just made do.

 

LH:  I don’t think the City was employing married women and teachers.

 

CRARY:  Oh no.  Women were not working.  You couldn’t get a job, except cleaning house.  Now if you had a cleaning woman, she would get a dollar a day.

 

LH:  Your husband is Judge Crary?           

 

CRARY:  Yes.

 

LH:  I imagine he was just out of law school and starting a practice?

 

CRARY:  Well, he had been practicing about five or six years when we were married.  He’s older than I.  He was lucky.  He was in a firm and they figured they could make enough to pay him a hundred dollars a month.  Then, after the end of the 1930s, things kept improving, but everything was on the same level.  Your food was very low in price and we didn’t rent.  He bought a little house in Morningside when we were married and I think we paid $3,000 for it, which we thought maybe was really going to bankrupt us and we paid so much a month and we eventually got that paid for.  It was ten years of pretty rough time in those years.

 

LH:  And I suppose World War II sort of changed all this.

 

CRARY:  Oh yes.  Prosperity began picking up in the Thirties.

 

LH:  You have some children?

 

CRARY:  Three.

 

LH:  Did any follow in your footsteps or become a writer?

 

CRARY:  Our daughter has published twelve books.

 

LH:  What is her name?

 

CRARY:  Her name is Nancy Crary Vagland.  She lives in Brookings, South Dakota and she’s a professor of English in South Dakota State University and her husband is the pastor of the First Methodist Church in Brookings. She has two children, a seventeen year old boy and a fourteen year old daughter.

 

LH:  Do you have any other daughters:

 

CRARY:  No, two sons.  They’re both lawyers.

 

LH:  Are they in Sioux City:

 

CRARY:  They’re in the family firm.

 

LH:  That’s really something how they followed right in with their mother and father.

 

CRARY:  The boys and their father have a lot to talk about and so do Nancy and I.  

 

LH:  Now, you might remember when….well, I don’t know if you’d remember about the new courthouse and ever seeing the old courthouse.  They probably tore the other one down right away.

 

CRARY:  I don’t remember the old courthouse too well.  I remember the old City Hall very well.  I think the old courthouse must have been torn down when I was fairly young.  I believe this courthouse was built before 1920, so I would have been rather young when that was town down.

 

LH:  Perhaps you went to the Main Library as a youngster or there might have been a library…..

 

CRARY:  No, the Morningside Branch Library.  It was in a little wooden building on the corner….well right across from Peters Park on the opposite side from where the Library is now.  It’s about where the bank is.  It was just a little wooden building and my family were great readers and I was four when we came to Sioux City and I was reading before I went to school.  Saturday morning, the whole family would go to the Morningside Branch Library and we’d each taken the limit of books.  There were five children, and my parents too, would….and we had this huge stack of books.  The next Saturday, they’d all be read and taken back.  So, we never used the Main Branch Library during those years; it was too far.  It was quite a trip to east Morningside.

 

LH:  Then, later, where was the next Library?

 

CRARY:  I can’t remember where the next Morningside Branch Library was, but I know there was one between the time they went into the Garretson Mansion, but I just don’t remember it. I could be wrong about that, but the Garretson Mansion was used by the College until, oh somewhere in the Thirties at least.

 

LH:  We’re getting some of your history.  I know that you’ve been active in civic affairs and you were president of the Museum boars in the early 1960s:

 

CRARY:  That was about the time I was doing Calico Ball because, when that came out, the Museum had a Calico Ball on the launching of the book up in the ballroom and it was a lot of fun.

 

LH:  What was the Museum like at that time?  Much as it is today?

 

CRARY:  Yes, I don’t think too much different and Mr.DeBusk was the director.  DeBusk was director when I was president.

 

LH:  Do you remember the days before the Museum was at 2901 Jackson:

 

CRARY:  Yes, it was in the Public Library when Lillian Smith was director.

 

LH:  You did visit the Museum quite a bit.

 

CRARY:  Yes, when she was director.  She was rather upset when it moved to the Museum building.  She thought it should have stayed in the Library and she was director there for a short time after they moved where they are now.  Then, I believe up until the time DeBusks came although I’m not sure about that.

 

LH:  Did you know the home as the Martin home?

 

CRARY:  Well, not intimately, no.  I always, of course, knew about it.

 

LH:  I happened to find a clipping of Margaret Crary and I don’t know the year or the exact date, but you were chosen by the Agora Club as the Woman of the Year and maybe I could find that out.

 

CRARY:  Well, there isn’t too much to that.  They just choose somebody each year.  I have it in my scrapbook have, the date, as far as that goes.

 

LH:  I would like the date.  Put it on that clipping.  Some of the others who have made it is Miss Mabel Hoyt and Mrs. Dutton, Miss Wellhausen and Mrs. Freeze and Miss Florence Butler, and others, and I’ve interview (inaudible).

 

CRARY:  Did you happen to interview Winifred Dutton:

 

LH:  The other interviews has interviewed Mr. Dutton.

 

CRARY:  He’s an old-time Morningsider.                     

 

LH:  That was a fine interview.  Then, I know you’ve done other writing, some stories.

 

CRARY:  Yes, I’ve done quite a bit of some shorter things.  I did quite a lot of dramatics for high school performances and sold some plays and some radio plays and this was what we call the pot boilers that you do as you’re going along.

 

LH:  Your children were old enough that you could perhaps go into a study and (inaudible) away.

 

CRARY:  I started writing, really trying to sell, when our last child, which was Nancy, left grade school.  She was gone all day then.  From then on, I was working at it pretty hard.  Now, the last three years, I’ve pretty much fallen by the wayside and the reason partly is the market and the other reason is that we are not here very much of the year and it’s very difficult to find the time.  We have a summer home at Okoboji, which we keep open six months out of the year, and then we go to Mexico in the winter.  So, I’m really not where I have the writing time I did when I stayed home.  It takes time.

 

LH:  Was either your father or your mother a writer?

 

CRARY:  No, my mother was a school teacher.

 

LH:  You had this interest in writing perhaps in high school and college.

 

CRARY:  Well, I just had what you’d call the urge.  My father, I think, could have been a writer.  He always wrote fiction-like letters, very fascinating letters.  And I think he would have had the bent had he ever tried.

 

LH:  How did he come to Sioux City from South Dakota?

 

CRARY:  He grew up in Iowa, but he worked for this chain of lumber yards, and in the beginning, when my father was a young man, this was when South Dakota was first opening up as a sate, they’d send dad in to  build a town before the railroad came, and my poor mother moved eleven time in the first twelve years she was married and we were all born in different places in South Dakota and some of the times were very bad for mother because dad would put up the lumber yard office and maybe she’d have to live there and they wouldn’t be there very long, just until it got built.  So, this is the accident of birth with all of us.  We were all born in different places.  Then, in 1910, dad was made auditor and they came to Sioux City and mother saw this house and she said, “I’m never going to move again.”  And she never did.  She lived there until she died.

 

LH:  I feel so fortunate that we have your story here.  Would you know of someone that I should interview that would help us with the Sioux City story.  (inaudible)?

 

CRARY:  I can’t think right now.

 

                                                            (END OF INTERVIEW) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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