Best of Living in Iowa 138

Best of Living in Iowa 138


Narrator: The best of living in
Iowa is funded in part by the Gilchrist foundation. Founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist, furthering the philanthropic
interests of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation,
the arts and public broadcasting and disaster relief. Narrator: Funding for this
program was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation. Generations of families and
friends who feel passionate about the
programs they watch on Iowa Public Television. Hello. This is Morgan Halgren. For 16 seasons, Living in Iowa
told the tale of what it means
to be uniquely Iowan. Tonight, we honour that spirit
by bringing you another glimpse into our rich heritage
with a few stories from our archives. In this episode of The Best of
Living in Iowa, we’ll reminisce about Iowa’s
one room school houses, listen to the energy-filled
family music of Justin Roberts and watch jugglers defy gravity
at Jugglefest in Davenport. The phrase, “Days of youth”
brings back fond memories and evokes a feeling of
nostalgia for a simpler and more carefree
time in our lives. In our program tonight, we’ll take a look at those days
of youth through the eyes
of three different generations. We’ll cruise to a drive-in
restaurant in Des Moines and hang out with some
baby boomers reliving their days of youth and we’ll visit a ’90s version
of summer camp where today’s youths are
creating their future memories. But first, we’ll go back to an
earlier time when Iowa’s landscape was dotted
with one room school houses and we’ll see that those days
were more than just readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. [singing] ♪ And on his farm he had a
cow… ♪ Morgan: More than 50 years ago, Gladys Downing began her
teaching career. At age 18, she taught five
students in a one room schoolhouse
named Pennington School. ♪ E-I-E-I-O… ♪ Gladys: It was just a big happy
family. We had a full curriculum
when I had a small school. We cooked and we sewed and we had lots of outside
activities and we built the timber,
you know, and studied the wildflowers. Morgan: Gladys is one of many
Iowans with pleasant memories
of one room schools. Near the turn-of-the-century,
Iowans had built a schoolhouse every two to three miles. The building numbered nearly
12,000. One room school houses
were commonly used in Iowa as late as 1950 and a few
were still being used just 25 years ago. Gladys’s memories reflect
Depression-era Iowa. Gladys: Some little guy would
bring in half a gallon of milk and somebody else would bring
some potatoes and we’d have potato soup one
day. We had to do our own janitor
work and we had the little house
out back and I had to be sure we
had lots of catalogue. [laughs] Toilet paper was unheard of. Morgan: Gladys Downing’s
teaching certification was typical. Graduation from high school and one additional summer
of normal or teacher training. With her certificate, she was qualified to teach all
eight grades in such subjects as reading,
writing, geography, arithmetic and even hygiene. To teach such a diversity of
subjects at so many grade levels took a great deal of scheduling
with lessons often changing each
ten to fifteen minutes. And there were occasional
discipline problems the young teacher would have to
confront. How did she handle these? Gladys: With an iron rod. [laughs] One experience I had the third
year I taught, I had about eight or ten big
boys, about as large as I was. See, I was only 19. And I found their tobacco in the
coal house and so, I confronted them
and they did own up to it but I lined ’em all up
and I had one get a stick and we used the rod or the stick
and all but one and he was too
big. I couldn’t get him so I didn’t
even try. But that night, I had a car and I took every one of them
home and I explained
to their parents why. Morgan: You have taught
in a public school and you’ve taught
in a one room schoolhouse. What are the advantages of a one room schoolhouse
situation? Gladys: Well, I think really the
children learning from the other children
is a big thing, and more responsibilities. Morgan: This sentiment is echoed
by Sam Wiley of Des Moines who also taught in a one room
school. Sam: I had seven grades
among the 15 students and the recitation would be – there would be several questions
asked and it usually was that the
children behind the real alert ones were getting
just about as much out of it as
the class was reciting. So, they got an awful lot of
crossover in grades and grade material. Morgan: Were you an art and
music teacher as well as just the regular
reading, writing and arithmetic? Well, that was an area that I was just a little bit shy
on. But I was really fortunate. I had a seventh-grade girl that
knew more music than I’ll ever expect to know and when we had our little
programs, our little pie supper that we
had out there that we made $21 on, she took care of getting the
songs ready and I took care of preparing the
recitations that they had for that program. Morgan: What was your role
at recess in that time? Sam: I always went out and played in the games
with the children. How to play handy-over. Sam: Well, it’s the same number
on each side, usually, and you take a nice tennis ball
or softball of some kind and throw it over the building, and if you catch it, you get to
run around the building and throw the ball at somebody and if you hit them then they’re
on your side. Morgan: With the advent
of larger school buildings, handy-over is a game
that may be forgotten soon. As will the long held honour of
ringing the school bell. [bell rings]
Sam: Who got to ring the bell? That was a student that was a
teacher’s pet. Morgan: So, who in your class
got to ring the bell? Sam: Well, that seventh-grade
girl because she taught the
music. [Morgan laughs] [bell tolls] Man: I attended a one room
country school for my first
eight years of schooling and I had a lot of good feelings
about it. Morgan: The Reverend Donald
Gruber of Ames turned his warm sentiments into
a book. ‘The life and times
of one room country schools’. Donald: This was a period
in our history that hasn’t been
told very well or maybe not at all about rural,
really rural America. Not only, you know, the school
was the centre of social activities. Threshing rings were even
associated sometimes within the school district where farmers had to get
together at harvest time. It was hard, hard work and I think children today are
missing hard work and plus, doing it together
with other people. It’s not too bad if you’re out
there working in a field when there are other people
side-by-side with you, sweating and out together, you
know? Morgan: Of course some memories
of sweat are not as sweet. Donald: Some of these children
maybe didn’t even take a Saturday night bath because after sweating and
working at home and coming to school,
they had a bad body odour and one teacher finally was so
upset by it, one family, she sent a note home
with one of the children. That family, said, “Your
children have bad odour. “Please give them a bath.” And the next day, she got a note
back from the parents, says, “Don’t smell ’em. Learn
’em.” [laughs] Morgan: Reverend Gruber
acknowledges that the quality of education depended on the particular
abilities of each teacher. He also notes the lack of
facilities for differently abled
children. Other problems included the
attitude that it was more important to educate the boys than the
girls in spite of the fact that in his
experience, there were more women
than men in teaching jobs. And children had to work
schooling in around their chores, so homework was rarely assigned. While the one room school
education may have had some failings, there were parts of the
curriculum that Reverend Gruber would like to see revived. Donald: I think one thing that
was emphasised quite a bit was penmanship. In fact, you know, I have to say that I think today they must not
teach penmanship because my children, I can’t
read when they write to us. Morgan: One story Reverend
Gruber included in his book was this recollection of rural
puppy love written by Mary Vote. “We got Shep as a lovable ball
of fur when I was six. “When I started going to the
country school, “Shep started
also. “My parents encouraged her to go
with me. “We walked to school “one and a half miles across the
fields. “That was a long way
for a little girl “to walk alone. “How I loved to walk to school
with Shep beside me. “Especially, in the springtime. “When I started high school “and went in a different
direction, “Shep temporarily became
confused “but she soon continued on
to the country school “with my brother.” [dog barks] Morgan: Fond memories
like Mary Vote’s Shep and Little Bo Peep’s sheep continue to tag along with those who found their first home away
from home in a one room schoolhouse. 70 some school buildings
have been preserved as museums in Iowa by county historical societies. Other old buildings are being
used as storage bins or have been converted
into single family homes. Most however are gone
or are quietly crumbling. Their decline parallels
the fading away of a lifestyle. At one time or another, most parents have agreed to take
their children to an event that doesn’t
particularly excite them. From what we hear, that isn’t
the case with parents attending
a Justin Roberts concert. Roberts, who drew up in Des
Moines, is well known for his family
music albums and it seems that moms and dads
are as eager as their children to get a seat for one of his high-energy
performances. [lively guitar] ♪ Yellow bus you’re taking too
long ♪ ♪ You’re taking too long my
yellow bus ♪ ♪ Yellow bus you’re taking too
long ♪ ♪ You’re taking too long my
yellow bus… ♪ Morgan: On a humid July day at the Central Presbyterian
Church in Des Moines, more than 1,000 people
enjoy the music of Chicago singer-songwriter
Justin Roberts. Roberts, who grew up in
Des Moines, is well known nationally. ‘The New York Times’ called him “a rising star
in children’s music.” Unlike most children’s
musicians, Roberts’s popularity extends to
adults as well as kids. Justin: I like to call it family
music ’cause it’s not written
just for children but for their parents, too, and the songs are written
in a manner that might appeal
especially to the adults because it has elements of
rock ‘n’ roll and country and punk rock and the various types of music
that I enjoy. But the subject matter
is often about the life of a child. ♪ Somewhere way out… ♪ Justin: I just write something
that I would enjoy listening to myself as an adult and,
you know, there’s little bits
of dry humour that I think are funny. I mean, sometimes I think I have
an idea of what might make a kid
laugh but I also know what’s going to
make an adult laugh, I think, too. ♪ There lives a starfish
wants to be a car fish ♪ ♪ But there’s no such thing
he’s always told… ♪ Justin: So, like,
on the new record, there’s a
song called ‘Way Out’ and it’s about all these
different animals that want to
be somewhere else other than where they are, which is maybe kind of more of
an adult idea than it is what you might think
in a kids’ song. But there’s a line about
a starfish wanting to be a car
fish and I was sure when I wrote
that, kids like really absurd
things. It makes them laugh when it
clashes. But there’s also a line about
this woman driving a Datsun car which only an adult’s going to
know about because they’re not
made anymore and it’s like from a certain
time period but, you know, that part always
makes an adult laugh because they’re like,
“A Datsun? Oh, my gosh.” ♪ Well here’s a happy song
you could sing along… ♪ Morgan: Roberts’s music is kid
tested and mother approved. Roberts’s three most recent CDs
have received the prestigious Parents’ Choice
Gold Award. An endorsement that means
high-quality in children’s products. ‘Yellow bus’ and ‘Way out’ were
picked by Amazon.com as among the top ten children’s
records of the year. It all started with the release
of his 1998 album, ‘Great Big
Sun’. Justin: I used to work at a
preschool when I was playing in a band in
Minneapolis as a day job. I started writing songs for the
kids there and found that I could do it pretty well, and that I kept doing it
after I wasn’t working there and I had no reason
to be writing songs, you know, for kid’s cousin didn’t have any
and I wasn’t around any. But after a period of time, I had, like, ten or twelve
children’s songs and I recorded those songs and
sent them as a demo to all my friends, none of whom had kids ’cause we
were all in our 20s at the time, and one of the people I sent it
to was Liam Davis who is my producer now and he just loved them and
thought it’d be a great idea to record these
and get them on CD. And on the first couple of
records, it was just Justin and me and he played his bit
and then I played what I played and sometimes we played together
and then increasingly, as we’ve worked more and more
with a band, the songs are written more with
a live band or a full band in mind and so, we end up tracking with
a group of musicians. ♪ Building a backyard spaceship
to the moon… ♪ Morgan: Just as Roberts’s music
appeals to listeners young and old, his performing venues range
from big festivals to shopping malls, to churches, to small
classrooms. Perhaps his most loyal fans are
his parents, Don and Steve Roberts
of Des Moines. Steve: We’re groupies. Anytime he’s around here, we’ve travelled to Minneapolis
to see him, we go to Chicago to see his – he
has this – the last two summers, he’s
played at Ravinia which he had sold the place out,
had 7,000 people and so, it’s – we’re probably
obnoxious parents at times but we really are awfully proud
of him. ♪ That’s the way it is on
picture day… ♪ Morgan: From a very early age, Justin Roberts found himself
connected to music. As a youngster, he learned the
piano and guitar, sang solos in local area shows and helped start a high school
rock band. In college, he formed an
acoustic folk band and during that time, studied
philosophy of religion but wound up teaching
preschoolers part-time. Though music is now full-time, Roberts often guest teaches
in communities where he is performing. Yeah, OK, but we want picture, number, word, body, music,
self or people. Which smart part is it when you
know how you’re feeling inside? How about in the stripes right
there. Self smart part!
Excellent answer! Give her a big round
of applause. [applause]
The self smart part. Morgan: Roberts uses his songs
and writing skills to help kids appreciate lyrics,
creativity and music. Justin: And what we’re doing at
the academy is we’re doing a songwriting workshop with fourth to seventh
graders where we’re going to break them
into small groups and get them each to write a
short song. We do a little demonstration about what we call the four S’s
of songwriting, then we walk around
and help them compose a song and at the end, Liam and I will
perform the four or five songs that the different groups have
written. ♪ Where have you been oh
ladybug… ♪ ♪ Really was a bully
and he beat up all the guys… ♪ Morgan: Justin Roberts’s songs
are loved for their enduring
melodies, eclectic and temporary styles
and thought provoking lyrics. He even takes on bullying,
a subject near to the hearts of kids and their parents. And when I started writing the
song, it was very easy to write a song
about what all the bullies did and all the bad things that
happen. But in terms of resolving the
song, I didn’t want to be like,
“Don’t bully.” Because it would just not be
that interesting to a kid or an adult and it’s
such a… It’s not going to change
anything, telling someone not to
do something like that. But instead I made it
a really open-ended ending where, you know, ultimately it’s like all the other kids
in the school are standing up to bullying but I don’t say that that’s
what’s happening in the song. The song ends with this little
girl named Sally McCabe standing on the lunch room table and she puts her finger in the
air to stop bullying. But there’s these two bullies
that are going to beat her up. Like, what would happen if
somebody did that? But then the end of the song is, “Then it started one by one by
one by one.” “It happened one by one by one
by one”, and the idea is that all the
other kids in the lunchroom are standing up to the bullying
and maybe it stops. But I don’t say that. I let people interpret. Morgan: Roberts’s career
is much more than just writing
music. He records his own songs,
sells his own records and interacts with his ageless
fans in energetic performance. ♪ When at 7:31 and I’m feeling
kind of dumb… ♪ Justin: What I love about
playing for children is they don’t understand the
boundaries of a performance or a stage or what you are
supposed to do and what you’re
not supposed to do. Kids just do what they feel like
doing and I think that it’s fun
to see that. You kind of wish adults didn’t
always have those things blocking them
that makes them stop from just standing up and
dancing or, you know, doing something
kind of crazy and silly. You know, the thing that I love about seeing children jump up
and dance at concerts and adults sometimes do the same or a father doing something
silly when he normally wouldn’t, is that you’re alive right now. Take advantage of it. Do whatever you can to feel like
you’re alive. ♪ You still ain’t come now
yellow bus ♪ ♪ You’re taking too long
you’re taking too long my yellow
bus ♪ ♪ Yellow bus you’re taking too
long ♪ ♪ You’re taking too long my
yellow bus ♪ ♪ Well it’s three o’clock
now it’s four o’clock… ♪ Morgan: We’re often amazed
by the hidden talents of ordinary Iowans. But a trip to the Quad Cities’
jugglers convention last year left our heads spinning. The convention tosses together
people of like mind who communicate using jargon
unknown to outsiders. But even though their lingo
was completely new to me, you’ll see how easily I caught
on to the meaning of ‘a drop’. [saxophone plays] Dean: When men turn 40,
they do strange things. They get a new car, a new wife,
a new hairpiece. I didn’t do any of those things. I just learned to juggle. But I still get the really funny
looks. Morgan: The look on my face
was amazement when I entered this room
full of flying objects. The Quad Cities’ Jugglefest
is an unconventional convention where first-time and expert
jugglers come from all around
America to share their ring… ..club… ..and ball tossing talents. I explain it as a family reunion
with spectators. We want to spread the joy, not just keep it all to
ourselves. Morgan: Dusty Galbraith promotes
his joy of juggling as president of the Quad Cities’
Juggling Club which hosts this annual event. His spin on this sport is that
once the balls get flying, they’re hard to stop. And what did you learn about
yourself when you acquired this
skill? That you can do anything. If you just stick with it,
you practise, you’ve got to not
be afraid to look foolish. Bend over and pick ’em up off
the floor. That’s what makes a juggler. You pick ’em up one more time
then you drop them. Morgan: It’s important to stick
with it to learn a new trick
that you can share. These rhythmic movements
are like musical duets in a giant juggling jam session. It’s like a jam session. Musicians get together and play, you can jump in with somebody
and pass a little bit. Just like this. Do you want to
catch one? – Sure.
– Here we go. It’s… There you go.
Not too bad, Morgan. What is the public perception
about juggling and how far is
that from the truth? Oh, I think people think it’s
very difficult and it’s really
not that bad at all. It’s just a matter of time. I think it gives folks a lot of
self-confidence. It’s so magical when you first
to see it and it’s sort of a way to relax and sort of a meditative groove
you can get into. Morgan: Dean first experienced
juggle mania in parking lots outside of Grateful Dead
concerts in San Francisco. Dean: So, I thought everybody
that juggled was an old hippie from San
Francisco or something, and when I come to these
conventions, it’s just like a
cross section of society. You run into about anything. I can’t believe the level of
talent just walking around the
gym in a place like this. Morgan: Even the best jugglers
were novices at one time, so I tried my hands in the
beginners class. Man: The first thing I want you
to do is take two balls and set ’em down against the
wall behind you. Because we’re going to start
with one ball. Morgan: As with any sport, you
train your mind and body by repeating the basic elements. After mastering the one ball
toss… Man: You are already a juggler. You’re already manipulating an
object for no apparent reason and you are juggling one ball. You’re already a juggler. Congratulations, jugglers. OK. Morgan: That encouragement
may have been a little premature. The trick is to juggle more
balls than you have hands, which is, well, tricky. Man: Morgan, how are you doing
over there? – Well, I’m chasing it actually.
– Chasing is fine too. Morgan: After a half hour crash
course, my future as a juggler
was definitely up in the air. Ben Schoenberg from Portland,
Oregon says he felt the same
frustration when he met the juggling
challenge at age 13. You just train your arms
and muscles to throw them
in the right way, just like you are learning to
play tennis or play piano, and almost anybody can do it. What do you like about it? Well, there’s a real thrill when
a new idea comes into your head and you try to get your hands to
do it and the balls do what they are
supposed to finally. There’s a joy in watching these
shapes be created in the air. What you’re striving for as a
juggler is to perfect something that seems impossible and when it finally does
come along, it’s only hard work that
makes it happen. Morgan: That hard work helped
Ben build up his arm strength enough to last five minutes in the five ball endurance
competition. The winner is the last person
standing. I mean, juggling. [applause] Woman: I guess I’ve learned
to be patient with myself and you can’t give up on
yourself or you’re not going to
learn. Morgan: These ladies are part of
a rich history of juggling in
the Davenport area where a young Betty
Gorham-Willer’s professional career
took a new spin. Betty entertained troops for the
USO during World War II and recently donated
meaningful memorabilia in hopes of inspiring
a new generation of lady jugglers. As a young girl, she saw a
circus, learned to juggle and wound up going around the
world six times. Scott Zusiak dreams
of actually joining the circus and really gets fired up about
juggling. Scott: It’s a great challenge, it’s good exercise and it just
grows on you and you just want to do it more
and more. For me, it’s really inspiring
just to see, like, other great jugglers and it just makes me want to
work harder. Morgan: The convention is a mix
of hobbyists and professionals. Dean has struck a balance
between the two. His day job is as a math
professor at the University of
Northern Iowa. But he spends many weekends
as a travelling performer, showing off his skills
and throwing in a lot of comedy. Here, Dean juggles a funny
combination of a small rubber ball,
a bowling ball and a grape. [applause] There you go! Morgan: On Saturday night
at this weekend long event, several of the conventioneers
are invited to play on stage. Just who will be asked to
perform is a toss-up. Anyway, here are a few of the
highlights of this juggling
jamboree. [applause] [laughter] [applause] [classical music] One, two, three. [applause] [cheering] [jazz music] [laughter] [applause] [drumming] [applause] Morgan: For audiences and
performers alike, juggling is a mesmerising and
magical way to master gravity and for those of you grasping
for a deeper meaning… Man: You’re always going to
drop. You’re going to mess up in life
a little bit too, so you just kind of shake it off
and enjoy the ride, I think. [applause and cheering] Captioned by Ai-Media
ai-media.tv Narrator: The best of living in
Iowa is funded in part by the Gilchrist foundation. Founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist, furthering the philanthropic
interests of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation, the arts and public broadcasting
and disaster relief. Narrator: Funding for this
program was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation. Generations of families and
friends who feel passionate about the
programs they watch on Iowa Public Television.