My only La Foy first cousin, Larrie LaFoy, recently passed away. He was born in 1935 when I was 10 years old and that year was a turning point in my life. The following article will illustrate those events or changes.
My favorite elementary teacher was my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Margaret Mc Elroy. She was also the mother of my good friend, Jim Mc Elroy. I recall she picked me to play Ben Franklin in a play and she also chastised me and John Place for having the worst penmanship in class. John and I realized we could never write like some of the girls in class so I think we raced to see who could have the worst penmanship. I believe I won. Years later, when I had student teachers, I used this situation to demonstrate never to challenge students with a negative goal. After all, I was 10 years old and in fifth grade.
The U.S. was in the grips of the Great Depression and our families had to really scrounge to obtain any purchasing money. It was the height of achievement if boys could secure a paper route. I started to deliver the Sioux City Tribune while in fifth grade. It was a wonderful experience and set me on practices that stayed with me all my life.
Each morning, rain or shine, I set out with my dog Bing to deliver 30 or more papers. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an alarm clock in our home so my grandfather, Ed LaFoy, called me on the telephone each morning at 6:30 a.m. The one phone we had in the house was in another room and I had to get out of bed to answer it. We had a little conversation and I probably never thanked my grandfather that I can remember. Kids!
Another tradition observed in those days was that when boys turned 10 it was time to get a BB gun. It was a birthday present and it replaced my homemade slingshot. The making of a slingshot in those days required a great deal of time. Hours were spent searching for the correct fork in a tree to make a slingshot. After finding the correct fork it had to be cut down, skin off the bark and notch the two forks. We were great procurers of needed objects in those days and the trash piles of gasoline service stations were on our list of places to secure needed raw materials. The inner tubes were very desirable objects to find. With a pair of scissors, we would cut the desired slings for the slingshot. Old shoe tongues made good pouches for the holding of pebbles to sling. Cut a set of holes in each side of the pouch, put the rubber bands through, fold and tie with fishing line and do the same with the notches on the two forks. Wow! I saw some at Walmart last week but I liked my homemade one better.
Another step growing up when I reached 10, was hitchhiking. West Lake Okoboji is only a bit over two miles from Milford. Early on we had to depend upon our parents to transport us to the lake. However, turning 10 in the summer of 1935 we started to hitchhike back and forth to the lake. We wore bathing trunks under our jeans and carried a towel, walked over to the St. Joseph Catholic Church corner on Highway 71 and stuck out our thumb. We usually didn't have to stand very long as somebody would pick us up and drop us off at the road leading to Terrace Park. Many an afternoon was spend swimming and playing around the Casino and then back to the highway and thumbing a ride back home. Can you imagine a 10-year-old doing that today? The world changes but not all changes are for the better … sad.
I recall another incident that occurred when I was that age. My father, Ray LaFoy, was a butcher by trade and he worked at a meat market in Graettinger at that time. He had to be at work at 8 a.m. and the drive there took about 45 minutes over gravel roads. I accompanied him on Saturdays. It was a very long day and I spent most of my time in the backroom trying to shoot rats with my BB gun. Never hit one but it was fun. I walked up and down the main street of town but in general, stayed at the meat market.
Dad and I ate lunch at a café, which was my first experience eating out. It was a custom at that meat market to give out free meat Saturday night and it drew a large crowd. I don't remember how the tickets were secured but they were in a big glass jar and I had the honor of drawing out the tickets. Dad and I left the meat market late and on the drive home I fell asleep.
Growing up in a small town in Iowa had lots of advantages because almost everybody had the same problems in The Depression years. But we were lucky as we always had food on the table, warm house in the winter and a great family. I think today with our family spread out from Minnesota, Montana and Texas and grandchildren in Australia, Seattle, and Kansas City how lucky we were to have both sides of my grandparents to live only a half block from my home. We regret not being able to share in our grandchildren growing up because we were influenced so by our grandparents in our formative years. I guess I thought about being 10 years old and how grown up I felt. We did things in those days that would be unthinkable today but on the other hand, we didn't have smartphones, email, and Skype.