|Rolfe Alumni Essay|
Jane Hunter Dow
Rolfe High School Class of 1938
I still think of Rolfe as "home" and always will. It was the perfect place for an only child to be raised. I missed having brothers and sisters but felt the whole town was my family. I don’t think there was ever a dull moment there that I remember.
In the Roaring 20's, Rolfe was just coming alive. World War I was over, and everyone was ready to start enjoying the life they’d fought for. Main Street was the center of attention and the gathering place for all generations. Even Sinclair Lewis was aware of the importance of the focal point of a small town in writing a book by that name "Main Street" - a bestseller in those days. In Rolfe, plans were laid for future generations including such activities as "Greater Rolfe Days" as it was later called.
In the summers of the 1920's, an educational group called Chautauqua was formed and became very active. In New York where it was originally formed, it was called an educational and recreational assembly. One of the highlights of this activity in Rolfe was a parade down Main Street featuring mothers and children in colorfully decorated baby buggies and older children on highly decorated bicycles, some pulling a wagon with a pet gaily dressed in its best. Many carnivals and circuses paraded down Main Street, and the local musicians of the town gave a band concert once a week during the summer on a band stand placed in an empty lot a block north of the main business stores. A well-received activity as indicated by the enthusiastic applause of cars honking.
Rolfe's population increased annually, and in a few years the town added a 9-hole golf course, ice-skating rink, ball field and public library. Social clubs also thrived during the 20's and 30's. The ladies formed bridge clubs, book clubs, golf club and others such as PEO, Sorosis, Tuesday Club and Eastern Star. The men joined the Masonic Order, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, and the bridge and golf clubs. A couples club, calling themselves "The Pheasant Fans" enjoyed lively dinner parties during hunting season.
In this pre-TV era most everyone had a radio and/or a Victrola. Amos and Andy, Rudy Vallee, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Edward R. Murrow were a few popular radio shows.
The average income during the 20's was around $1200. A new Ford cost about $795, a loaf of bread 11 cents, and a half gallon of milk was 33 cents. Farm land was less than $300 per acre, and a nice house around $1000.
"Saturday Night Live" took place on Main Street, not on TV. Everything went into high gear on Saturday night! The business places stayed open for the farmers who came to town to buy groceries, sell their produce, line up at the barber shop for hair cuts and perhaps just to park along Main Street to watch the passing parade of young and old, or attend the Obrecht movie theater on the corner across from Symes Hardware Store.
This era in history celebrates the progress of the motion picture industry from black and white, silent pictures to "Talkies" with the introduction of the "Gold Diggers" series in full color. I’d almost forgotten the silent movies I used to attend in Rolfe at a young age and couldn’t read well enough to know what was going on - although most of the shows were Wild West ones which were mostly action films of Tom Mix.
Another popular stop on Saturday night was Webb’s Drug Store for socializing over an ice cream soda. Rolfe weathered the Depression, but it was tough going for many. After the banks closed, the barter system became the only alternative for a few years. Some businessmen were forced to accept livestock and jewelry if they wanted to make a sale.
As Rolfe moved into the thirties, the high school started to excel in sports and music. In 1937, Coach Art Evans coached an undefeated basketball team to the state tournament at the Drake Field House in Des Moines. They won the consolation prize and were defeated only by Melrose who went on to win the finals. Then in 1938, the team again won its way to state where it played in the final game losing to Diagonal by one basket in the last few seconds. The community of Rolfe was very proud of their home team. Al Budolfson made All State First Team that year.
Not to be out done, the Music Department received honors that year also. The orchestra received an "Excellent" rating at the State level, and was eligible to compete at the national contest in Madison, Wisconsin. The girls glee club and the string ensemble received superior ratings in the district contest. Miss Irene Petersen won a superior rating at the state level in mezzo-soprano solo, which was the only superior rating awarded at the state level in that division.
In the late 30's, things started to look up again with the banks opening with insured savings and business moving ahead. Then WWII started to have an effect. Many commodities were now in short supply, and rationing was put into effect. Many manufactured products were no longer available as factories were put into war production. After the war ended, it didn't take long for full production of goods, and customers were lining up to buy the first supplies to become available. With a little money moving through the economy, business was again progressing.
No one could forsee what the future will be for Rolfe, but its past is here to stay, now with the website. We can always say for certain that Rolfe has proved to have an outstanding community spirit, and will always be the best place in the western world to raise corn, soybeans, and children.