Tag Archives: World War I

2014—A Summary of My Year in Facebook Photos


March 24 snow

Swing in back yard near the end of March. Winter month this year.

I’ve seen many Facebook friends post their “year in review,” with a heading that goes something like “2014 was a great year, thanks for being part of it.”

Of course, as part of the Facebook user base, I’ve seen my own year in review that Facebook prepared, but I’ve not posted it for others to see because I didn’t choose those images.

But, still, thanks for being part of 2014 anyway, if you in any way chose to interact with me and shared any good thoughts or energy. However, if I am to sum up 2014 and look ahead to 2015, what would I say?

2014 was a year of transitions. Jon and Nalena finished the Peace Corps and are in the UK even as I write this, on to some time in Portugal. She is in graduate school in Pennsylvania studying human-computer interaction or world domination or something, and he is along for the ride and doing various projects. Nina finished her tenure as a social worker in Omaha, and was off in fall to Baltimore and law school. Ben graduated from Iowa State, but stayed there to pursue a combined master’s and PhD math program.

I wish them all the best in their new adventures. While it didn’t change my life right away, graduate school nonetheless opened to door to the life I live now, and I hope it does the same for all of you.

In professional terms, 2014 was mixed. The newspaper at Mount Mercy, which I guided to a weekly publication some years ago, is again now published every other week. I hope that it can thus become more multi-media and web oriented, but our moves in that direction have been tentative, so far. Well, if more than a decade of college teaching has taught me one thing, it’s that change is usually not easy nor swift.

But this was also the year I coordinated a fall semester World War I remembrance event, which brought lots of communication attention and people to campus. That was nice.

It’s also the year that I’ve branched out, just a bit. Besides starting to learn to play the piano, I’ve also begun writing a media column in a regional weekly newspaper, The Corridor Business Journal. I hope some of you have seen my monthly missive, which began in November and continues in 2015.

Anyway, what were the major events of 2014, tracked partly the trail of images I posted on Facebook?

January—sometime in the previous year, Amelia had discovered scissors. After a cutting incident in February of this year, where she apparently decided her short hair was not short enough, throughout the rest of 2014 a truce prevailed—she agreed not to use scissors to cut her own hair, if her mom agreed to regularly take her to have her hair cut at a salon. (Katy reports this kind of dialogue ensued: Hair cutter at salon attempts small-talk with Amelia. “Do you like princesses?” “No, I like fish.”) The truce has held, so far, but we hide all scissors whenever Amelia is around.

Amelia in January--sporting the short hair she insists upon. And remember. She sin't into princesses. She likes fish.

Amelia in January–sporting the short hair she insists upon. And remember. She is not into princesses. She likes fish.

Nikayla and Amelia are super heroes in January.

Nikayla and Amelia are super heroes in January.

February—winter is cold and snowy, so a lot of indoor play is in order. Hide-and-seek is an ever popular game, but only for the older grandchildren. It seems to be around age 3 or so when the whole idea suddenly becomes attractive and the child has an idea of what the game is about.

Tristan in February

Tristan’s reaction in February to being “found’ during hide-and-seek.

It's hard to believe when playing with the little girl today, but in February Relena was a baby just learning to walk.

It’s hard to believe when playing with the little girl today, but in February Relena was a baby just learning to walk.

March–it was around this time that I began to take piano lessons. Progress has been slow, but I’m an old dog learning lots of new tricks. I can slowly read music now. This was a very cold March, almost a second February, but by the end of the month was finally getting warm enough to play outside and visit parks, which was nice.

By March 30, the cold March was finally giving way to spring. Flying kites at C Avenue Park.

By March 30, the cold March was finally giving way to spring. Flying kites at C Avenue Park.

April—spring semester, as it always does, is getting into chaos. But the weather is turning nice—finally the world in Iowa is greening up and blooming. Audrey and I take some joint bike rides, a nice trend of 2014, although I doubt I’ll ever talk her into RAGBRAI. Well, maybe a day of it, we shall see.

Audrey and I ready for an April 11 bike ride.

Audrey and I ready for an April 11 bike ride.

April 21--the long winter is now well gone, spring at Mount Mercy campus.

April 21–the long winter is now well gone, spring at Mount Mercy campus.

May—Graduation, a bittersweet time—time to say farewell to some talented students. We had a nice Sheller family picnic and began to enjoy more “normal” warm weather. I still haven’t replaced a dead crab apple tree in a back garden. The Hawthorne tree in front is declared dead and replaced by a new redbud tree. Transitions begin as I think it was near the end of the month where Nina joined us for the time between her job and starting law school.

More MMU flowers, on May 2.

More MMU flowers, on May 2.

Dinos line up at sandbox to celebrate Mother's Day, 2014.

Dinos line up at sandbox to celebrate Mother’s Day, 2014.

Maddy and Tom, two very talented students who graduated in May form MMU. Both were editors on the student newspaper.

Maddy and Tom, two very talented students who graduated in May form MMU. Both were editors on the student newspaper.

May 24 Sheller family picnic , organized by Nichole Ose while her sister Barbara initiates the series of UK visitors we enjoyed in 2014.

May 24 Sheller family picnic , organized by Nichole Ose while her sister Barbara initiates the series of UK visitors we enjoyed in 2014.

June—we take pleasure in a visit by our oldest daughter and her daughters. I don’t recall that we “did” that much, but hanging at home and enjoying their company seemed quite a treat, a highlight of the year. Also in June, Cate and I ride the Raccoon River Ride with Brigid and Eldon—and since Francis was in the shop, I rode that 100-mile, two-day ride on The Beast. Cate saw, and I photographed, a monarch caterpillar, and that prompted a project later this year, where I collected milkweed seed and scattered some in my gardens. We’ll see if any come up in 2015.

Relena, already looking more grown up, ready for her first bike ride on my bike's toddler seat.

Relena, already looking more grown up, ready for her first bike ride on my bike’s toddler seat.

June 115--Raccoon River Ride. Eldon's bike has a custom-made "pod" which holds lots and also improves airflow around the trike.

June 15–Raccoon River Ride. Eldon’s bike has a custom-made “pod” which holds lots and also improves airflow around the trike.

Baby Monarch seen on ride--Cate pointed it out.

Baby Monarch seen on ride–Cate pointed it out.

June 24--visitors from the East. Juliet and Amanda from Norwich, England.

June 24–visitors from the East. Juliet and Amanda from Norwich, England.

June 27--Elizabeth and Juliet enjoy some water play on the back deck.

June 27–Elizabeth and Juliet enjoy some water play on the back deck.

July—early in the month, we bid farewell to the Moscous, who are back to Norwich. Skype is a good tool for touching base several times a month, but there’s no doubt it’s great to see people in person. This is RAGBRAI month, and the ride this year is sometimes a challenge, with one of the worst rainstorms I’ve seen on the ride (fortunately on a morning when I had a driving shift).

July 2--some smiles shortly before return to England.

July 2–some smiles shortly before return to England.

July 20--Team Joe is about to start RAGBRAI.

July 20–Team Joe is about to start RAGBRAI.

July 20--the Roccas on the road during the first afternoon of RAGBRAI.

July 20–the Roccas on the road during the first afternoon of RAGBRAI.

July 22--Cate and I tackle the excess sweet corn problem.

July 22–Cate and I tackle the excess sweet corn problem.

August—Nina is off to Baltimore. Katy and Wyatt kindly volunteer to move her there, which means some extended play time with grandchildren. School starts at MMU, and the WWI series also kicks off and proves, right from the start, to be popular.

Reading on deck Aug. 9.

Reading on deck Aug. 9.

September—Nalena and Jon come home for a quick weekend trip to attend a wedding. She has already started graduate school, and is busy with homework. Well do I remember those days! My life now can get very busy—and in academia, as a professor, I still feel like I’m in that campus rat race at times, but frankly, I don’t miss the stress of being a graduate student.

Grandparents Day at Novak School, where Tristan is in preschool. He shows us how to play with LEGOS

Sept. 9–Grandparents Day at Novak School, where Tristan is in preschool. He shows us how to play with LEGOS

Sept. 19--Nikaya seem to be helping Nalena with some graduate school homework.

Sept. 19–Nikaya seem to be helping Nalena with some graduate school homework.

October—we do a breast cancer walk with a niece, and we attend the wedding of one of Nina’s close friends. Brittany and Steve Hoover have a very nice ceremony at a celebration barn near Solon, and Audrey is treated as a featured guest, escorted in and seated in the front row, as the official stand-in for Nina. During fall break, we visit Ben in Ames and have a lovely bike ride there, too.

Oct. 5, Niece Marina takes selfie with Audrey at start of Especially for You breast cancer walk.

Oct. 5, Niece Marina takes selfie with Audrey at start of Especially for You breast cancer walk.

Oct. 10--Audrey dances with groom at wedding.

Oct. 10–Audrey dances with groom at Steve Hoover at his and Brittany’s wedding.

Oct. 17--fine fall day in Ames--bike ride is followed by dinner with Kate Hunter and Ben Sheller.

Oct. 17–fine fall day in Ames–bike ride is followed by dinner with Kate Hunter and Ben Sheller.

Oct. 25--visited pumpkin farm with Theresa and her kids, here two of Katy's kids make some noise.

Oct. 25–visited pumpkin farm with Theresa and her kids, here two of Katy’s kids make some noise.

November—a nephew, Matt Schultz, gets married near Des Moines, continuing the nuptial theme of the fall. Audrey and I introduce Theresa to Zombie Burgers in Des Moines. Jon and Nalena manage to make it home for Thanksgiving, and we enjoy both a traditional turkey dinner and a spicy, slow-cooked pork dish.

Nov. 23--Ben and Audrey visit Shirley.

Nov. 23–Ben and Audrey visit Shirley.

Nov. 29, wedding near Des Moines.

Nov. 29, wedding near Des Moines.

Nov. 30--Jon and Nalena at mall in Des Moines on morning after wedding.

Nov. 30–Jon and Nalena at mall in Des Moines on morning after wedding.

December—Christmas finds the family celebrating on two continents. Nina travels to England for the season, and Jon and Nalena make a stop there before heading to Portugal. Early in 2015, Audrey will be in England too in January, but it remains to be seen if she can manage to meet Amanda and the girls. Nikayla performs in her First Grade holiday concert. The last surviving brother of my mother died at the end of November, and in early December, we attend his funeral in Illinois. On the last day of the year, we have a big outing to the Children’s Museum, followed by a sleepover party for Katy’s four children.

Dec. 4--Nikayla in Wilkins Elementary School Holiday Concert.

Dec. 4–Nikayla in Wilkins Elementary School Holiday Concert.

Dec. 6--O'Mahoney family picture at Uncle Jim's funeral. My mom is on the right.

Dec. 6–O’Mahoney family picture at Uncle Jim’s funeral. My mom is on the right.

Dec. 13--Chris and Michelle and Audrey visit Shirley.

Dec. 13–Chris and Michelle and Audrey visit Shirley.

Amelia gets the last word. She is at the Children's Museum on Dec. 31, 2014. She knows what she is doing, she ordered me back into a room so she could set up the photo.

Amelia gets the last word. She is at the Children’s Museum on Dec. 31, 2014. She knows what she is doing, she ordered me back into a room so she could set up the photo.

Well, it is fun to look back on 2014. Much happened in our little corner of the world. It took me longer than it should to write this post—I thought I would have it done before the New Year’s Eve party, and here it is Jan. 2 as I wrap it up.

Maybe I should have let the Facebook robots handle it. But it was also nice to actively look back.

What will 2015 bring? Well, we know one thing for sure.

A new season of Downtown Abbey!

Good luck to all of you, especially family members who have started new adventures—may you find the path that you are on leads you to a good place. For any who mourned a loss in 2014, I hope time heals. For those who in 2014 started a new chapter or a new family, best wishes and good luck in 2015 and beyond.

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The Series Is Over And I’ve Been Shot


Me at Sisters of Mercy University Center, getting a flu shot. I'm not wild about getting shots. No ill effects, not even a sore arm.

Me at Sisters of Mercy University Center, getting a flu shot. I’m not wild about getting shots. No ill effects, not even a sore arm.

Well, like World War I, the World War I series at Mount Mercy University is history.

I’m going to miss it, but I’m glad to have the free time, too. I hope the idea of a fall series can be used in other ways in the future—we’ll see.

Anyway, at least I won’t fall victim to influenza this year as so many did at the end of World War I. I got my flu shot Wednesday—and the nursing students recorded the event for posterity. Apparently, stabbing professors is a service project for one of my wife’s classes, and the students have to do a presentation and wanted to prove that they had indeed jabbed me.

After the shot. Peace out.

After the shot. Peace out.

The same day as I was inoculated against influenza, a temporary cap on one of my teeth lost a chunk. I called my dentist about it—I had an appointment in early December to have the permanent cap installed, but they let me come in today, and glued the permanent one in place.

So now, I’ve been shot and been capped and I should be healthier for both.

But—assuming faculty at Mount Mercy decide that they like the idea of another “big” conversation next year—what should it be on? I don’t think that the 100th anniversary of the second year of year of World War I would work.

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The Quiet of the Library Punctuated By Artillery


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There were some History Channel programs playing on a TV in the atrium and World War I music on a boom box in the corner, but it was a library, so the volumes were not very high. Even the shells being exploded for the History Channel didn’t make too much sound.

The Busse Library held it’s open house for the Mount Mercy World War I series Wednesday night. It was an interesting event, partly because there really wasn’t any “presentation,” just a chance to wander the library exhibits, read, reflect, eat cookies and chat.

The chatting was one of the main attractions. Some Religious Studies professor did some good, because you could tell those students because they were the ones staring hard at displays and dutifully taking notes.

One young lady had a system to circumvent the notes, I think. She was sitting at a nearby library table with her laptop. You’d see her go to the display, look at it for a while, and then return to the laptop. I assume some paper on the event was being crafted, and she was cutting out the middle step of taking written notes by writing her paper directly in the library.

I had a few too many cookies, which I know will shock, shock the blogosphere. But besides me, the cookie consumption rate meant that there must have been a fairly decent crowd. Any student in the library, of course, could wander by and grab a sweet, but it seemed like most of the table traffic in the atrium was from this World War I set of viewers, and most of the cookies were taken. I am not sure of numbers—most events in the series have attracted between 50 and 80 people. I think this event may have been more lightly attended, but I would roughly guess that there were at least between 30 and 40 people. Maybe there were more—they were quiet, the moved around a lot and it was a come-and-go event.

The Wednesday night crowd, too, skewed a bit more to students then some previous events. Last chances for assignments or extra credit, I bet. The series overall has had an interesting mix of community residents, some of them elderly, and students. I wish we had seen more students and many more MMU faculty attending events, but this series has still been popular.

And those students taking notes. Seeing that did a professor’s mood some good.

I had several engaging conversations at the open house. An elderly gentleman had family ties to World War I, stories he recalled from a great uncle, for instance. He wore an Army hat, and I bet he was a veteran of either Korea or World War II, but I didn’t ask. Anyway, he was fascinated by the displays and in a mood to share his family’s World War I lore.

There was also a student who had transferred to MMU from Iowa State, and had been a history major at ISU. I gathered he is studying education, but what kind, I am not sure. He was pretty enthusiastic and holding court with several other MMU students.

Again, it was nice to see such interest in the World War I series. Most people were fairly quiet as they walked through the library, slowly absorbing the many posters and displays there.

????????????It wasn’t somber, but it was a quiet event. After all, it was in a library. And the Great War was an event in history that, even 100 years later, seems to demand a certain rumination—some quiet thinking. And a response: Oh Dear God—what have we done? And how do we avoid doing it again?

Questions, perhaps, that were not posed enough in the ensuing century. And questions that seem still relevant today.

If you’ve missed the series so far, there are two events left, both evening events in the Chapel of Mercy adjacent to the library. On Nov. 6, the chair of our Nursing Program, Dr. Mary Tarbox, will give us a lesson about the great flu pandemic of 1918-1919. As you probably know, the death toll from that flu makes Ebola seem like a pretty minor event. And the series concludes, on a symbolically important date, on Nov. 11 with a World War I reflection in music and reading. Drama students will perform, the choir will sing, the band will play and hand bells will ring. I am not unbiased, but I think the hand bell rendition of Melita, the Navy Hymn, will be hauntingly beautiful and also powerfully sobering.

Which just seems right, I think.

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How Great Was the Great War In Iowa?


Allison McNeese

MMU history professor Allison McNeese gives an informative presentation about Iowa and World War I as Herbert Hoover looks on. Photo by Steven Worthington of the Mount Mercy Times.

I suppose the answer largely rests on the sense of the word “great.” It wasn’t that fun or fantastic—but World War I loomed large in the Hawkeye State, just as it did in world history.

Allison McNeese, a history professor at Mount Mercy University, spoke this afternoon at MMU about Iowa and World War I. More than 50 people were there, a pretty good turnout for a 3:30 in the afternoon event of this type.

And she noted how “great,” as in “large,” the war was for Iowa. A half million Iowans registered for the draft, and more than 100,000 served in the armed forces—quite a big group for a state with a population then of 2.4 million.

One of 16 large Army camps established in 1917 to train the many new soldiers was Camp Dodge. And African-American officers were trained, for the first time in U.S. history, at Fort Des Moines. The reason black officers were trained in Iowa, McNeese noted, was that the Army considered the whole effort an experiment that might fail, so a “middle of nowhere” state was chosen.

The lecture was fascinating. One of the most chilling points came when McNeese read excerpts from a letter written by a woman in Lowden Iowa about gangs that came to that German-immigrant community and basically attacked prominent citizens. Men with German names were forced to march around holding the American flag, some were roughed up, they were made to kiss the flag and then had to each pay $100 which was donated to the Red Cross.

It was chilling to think how far war fever had driven Iowans, who are usually a fairly placid and tolerant folk.

And that’s not all. Besides the governor ordering Iowans to speak only English during the war, even place names were changed to paper over the fact that Germans are a huge immigrant group in Iowa. The town of Germania was renamed Lakota. A Berlin Township in Clinton County became Grant Township. A Bismarck Street in Muscatine was redubbed Bond Street.

Iowa certainly was caught up in the big world events of The Great War. Those events of a century ago remind us to be mindful today to be careful to avoid hysteria in our public life.

I’m glad that MMU has hosted this series of events, and I look forward to the library open house, a speech on the flu pandemic by Dr. Mary Tarbox and the finale event, all coming up.

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A Weekend The Way It Ought To Be


mv11

Escape from Tomahawk Park! Nate Klein, a new MMU professor who is a bit, well, less grey-haired, bounded over the fence and I followed. Which was not wise. I’m on cleanup duty for Mound View cleanup day Sept. 14. The student at left seems a bit worried, but neither I nor the fence was injured in the making of this photo.

Well, that was a sweet weekend. We had three events at Mount Mercy, and somehow the mix of events was quite nice.

It began Friday with a “diversity dinner” in Betty Cherry. I’m not 100 percent sure why my wife and I were invited—I don’t think the combination of English-German with Irish-Hungarian was exactly what anybody had in mind for “diversity.” Or maybe it was tall and not-so-tall? Left- and right-handed?

Anyway, the “diversity” dinner itself was hot dogs and hamburgers. It was, in fact, a very pleasant meal, partly due to a nice veggie mix and good pasta salad to go with the burger. We ate, played some Jenga, but didn’t hang around for a long time. “Diversity” seems partly code for “music played so loud conversation is practically impossible.”

Two students play Jenga. I was in the game, too, and am proud to say I did not make the blocks fall.

Two students play Jenga. I was in the game, too, and am proud to say I did not make the blocks fall.

Saturday, we stayed home. I gave some grandkids a bike ride, mowed the lawn and graded quizzes. Audrey graded papers. She’s way ahead of me there—I have a big wad of grading to do Monday. Oh well.

We managed to squeeze in church Saturday, and it was a good because Sunday was busy.

We took part in the Mound View cleanup project. Mound View is an area of Cedar Rapids that is south of Mount Mercy and north of Coe College. Coe has done a neighborhood cleanup before, and invited MMU to be part of it this year.

Since my wife and I knew we had to leave a bit early—the cleanup was set to go to 3, but we had a concert starting at 2—so we joined group “five,” which was cleaning up blocks right next to MMU.

Trash was picked up and caterpillars rescued, too.

Trash was picked up and caterpillars rescued, too.

I’m not sure we hit all the streets in our “zone,” but we walked quite a few and did a decent cleanup at Tomahawk Park.

Big cookies. That and red punch make you know you're at MMU.

Big cookies. That and red punch make you know you’re at MMU.

Then came event number three—the “All the King’s Horses & All the King’s Men” recital at Mount Mercy, which featured baritone Chris Carr, as well as MMU students doing readings and the Madrigal Singers singing.

The music was a bit beyond what I’m used to—I’m not much into opera—but then again, that’s one reason to go to such an event. Our piano professor, Tony Nickle, provided excellent accompaniment, and Carr briefed us before each set. We heard tunes in English, French and German. I particularly liked the French jazz-inspired tunes.

Chris Carr sings. Nice voice, and it was a very interesting recital.

Chris Carr sings. Nice voice, and it was a very interesting recital.

It was a fine way to spend part of the afternoon, and an excellent addition to our World War I series at MMU. At around 120 or so, it attracted by far the largest crowd in the series so far—and frankly, the 60 to 80 people at the previous events are an excellent turnout, too.

Bravo, Tony and Chris. And happy birthday, Tony.

Tony Nickle plays piano as Madrigal Singers of MMU perform.

Tony Nickle plays piano as Madrigal Singers of MMU perform.

Well, all in all, it was a weekend as it was meant to be. I guess a weekend with fewer events is nice now and then too, but it felt like MMU was a vital, active place this weekend, and I was glad to be a part of it.

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Not All Quiet on the WWI Front


Two of my daughters gave me a very cool birthday gift--a reprint of the "Mad Brute" World War I recruiting poster. In full size, freshly printed, it is both much more colorful and much grimmer than the images you see on line.

Two of my daughters gave me a very cool birthday gift–a reprint of the “Mad Brute” World War I recruiting poster. In full size, freshly printed, it is both much more colorful and much grimmer than the images you see on line.

The best audience for a presentation about World War I is an elderly audience. At least, that was my experience this week.

I already wrote about the excellent presentation Tuesday by two English professor who also teach film studies at Mount Mercy—Dr. Joy Ochs and Dr. Jim Grove. Thursday, Dr. Ochs introduced the movie “All Quiet on the Western Front” to an audience of around 60 in Betty Cherry Heritage Hall.

And then the movie began. It was a bit old-fashioned and clumsy at parts—but I was more impressed at how “modern” it seemed. They didn’t have any CGI, of course, so had to “stage” everything, but they still did well.

It felt pretty grim. You could almost feel yourself slipping in the mud. The acting was a bit 1920s—sometimes lines felt like they were needlessly shouted or a bit overdone. But still, the story was powerful and powerfully told.

It has been years since I read the novel, but I still knew what to expect. Still, the movie presented a compelling story about the impact of war. Without knowing the term, it talked about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. There was evidence that starvation makes the best aphrodisiac, and a strong sense of disconnect between what those on the “home front” think about a war, and what the soldiers fighting it actually experience.

The soldiers struggled to understand why a war even goes on. “It’s some kind of fever,” one character suggests.

It’s pretty remarkable that the movie was made in the late 1920s in America. I suppose it had to be 10 years after the war in order for a movie from a German point of view to be created in Hollywood. And its strong anti-war message probably resonated in an isolationist America.

Don’t expect a comedy if you rent this movie. It’s not exactly as powerful as “Schindler’s List,” but it’s a somber, and surprisingly realistic, war film.

The day after watching that movie, I found myself at Meth-Wick, a large assisted living facility in Cedar Rapids. The university sponsors a series of events at the facility; it is sort of a visiting scholar’s set of lectures. I was there once in the spring to ring bells with the Mount Mercy Handbell Ensemble, and today gave a World War I series overview.

More of the poster. I'll have the reprint at the Thursday, Sept. 11 MMU talk that Dr. Klope and I are doing.

More of the poster. I’ll have the reprint at the Thursday, Sept. 11 MMU talk that Dr. Klope and I are doing.

Well, there were more than 70 people in the room at Meth-Wick, pretty much a full house. And they were clearly into the presentation. If I spoke a bit too far from the microphone I was quickly corrected. The nonverbal communication from the audience was what every professor would wish for—they were hanging on my every word.

I felt just a little weird to be enjoying myself so much. After all, recollecting World War I is a slightly somber process. One reason we have the series of events at MMU this fall is ruminate on war and peace and to pose the question of why the “war to end war” started a century of fighting.

But, I admit it, I had a blast. I got through my “talk” in about half an hour. I’ve used the same lecture with students, and it has always taken around an hour, but with university students, it always seems you have to explain so much more. On one slide, I have a photo of the Iowan recognized as the first American casualty of World War I. In an MMU class, you can say “this man’s name was used for a big mall in Des Moines,” and if he’s not named “Jordan Creek,” the students don’t know who that could be.

Today, I pointed a laser at that photo and a strong, clear voice called out from the audience: “That is Meryl Hay.” Yes ma’am, it sure is. And you just short-circuited 10 minutes of vamping. Well done.

Anyway, although there was a bit of a pause when I was done speaking, and I had close to half an hour left for comments or questions, then they started. It’s a bit intimidating to have the great-grandparent generation ask you history questions.

For example, one question began with this preamble: “I taught at the University of Dubuque for 20 years …” And he had visited New Zealand and marched in an ANZAC Day parade and wanted to talk about the ANZAC contribution to World War I. Luckily, I’ve studied enough history to be familiar with the battle of Gallipoli, so instead of tripping me up, the line of questions led to a nice conversation.

There were all kinds of similar interesting, and informed, questions. Several people asked about the new countries formed after World War I, like Czechoslovakia (a Cedar Rapids crowd, right?).

It’s one thing I’ve noticed about this WWI series. Many of the older visitors to campus linger after each talk because they have stories that they want to share. They, of course, are not old enough to have direct World War I memories—but one attendee today told me that not only was he a World War II veteran, but both his father and his mother were World War I veterans.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to let you know that the main characters in “All Quiet on the Western Front” don’t survive the movie. After all, if you recall the novel and know where the title comes from, you get the point. The poignant last image in the movie is the faces of men who have died, superimposed over a vast cemetery.

But it’s also true that the world didn’t die in World War I—some of the real soldiers survived and had families and some of those families attend events 100 years later to recollect this large, sometimes tragic narrative that we are part of.

And I’m glad to meet them and hear their stories. A high point of the whole MMU series so far has been those little personal connections revealed by the sons and daughters of the World War I generation.

Never reach for a butterfly when there are French snipers around ...

Never reach for a butterfly when there are French snipers around …

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Now I Have A Bunch of Movies to Watch


Dr. Joy Ochs and Dr. Jim Grove speak about movies on World War I.

Dr. Joy Ochs and Dr. Jim Grove speak about movies on World War I.

I counted about 55 people in Flaherty Community Room before the program started, and a few more streamed in. My wife estimated the crowd at 70, and I don’t think she was too far off.

It was a pretty decent turnout for 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. And the presentation was very interesting. Dr. Jim Grove and Dr. Joy Ochs spoke today about films depicting World War I. Their presentation preceded Thursday afternoon’s showing of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and it make me anxious to see that movie.

Dr. Grove started the presentation with a broad survey of numerous World War I-inspired films. One genre of films was the “airplane” movies, such as “Wings” or “Hell’s Angels.”

As World War II drew closer, World War I movies foreshadowed that great conflict and grew sometimes grimmer (although, to be fair, some earlier movies seem pretty grim, too). One in particular that I would like to see is “Dawn Patrol,” which centers on the difficult position of commanders who order young pilots to their almost certain death.

When World War II actually got underway, there was more of a shift to patriotic World War I movies, such as “Sergeant York,” released in 1941. I’m not going to put that one first on my list, although I probably would watch it if I were slightly tipsy.

Dr. Grove briefly covered several films that I have seen and enjoyed, such as the 1981 film “Gallipoli.” It is an Australian film that partly illustrates how lives were wasted during World War I.

On a lighter note, he also mentioned “African Queen,” possibly the leading chick flick or rom-com about World War I (trust me, yes, I know, it’s an old Humphrey Bogart movie, but I think it really is a rom-com). “My legs, the leeches.”

Dr. Joy Ochs gives insights into the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front." I don't want to spoil it, but it doesn't end well for everyone.

Dr. Joy Ochs gives insights into the movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I don’t want to spoil it, but it doesn’t end well for everyone.

Anyway, the two films I most want to see, and have not yet, are “Paths of Glory,” which Dr. Grove showed an extensive clip from, and “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Dr. Ochs spoke about that movie, and illustrated her points with intriguing slides. I was interested to see how windows were used as symbols in the film, and how that echoed a World War I recruiting poster.

I am glad that I will get to see “All Quiet on the Western Front” Thursday afternoon. It may be some time—the fall semester will keep me very busy—but during Christmas break, I’ll have to find a copy of “Paths of Glory.”

Dr. Jim Grove discusses "African Queen."  A very campy, very entertaining move. As an audience member pointed out, Katheryn Hepburn didn't look exactly like that in the movie. "It's actually Lauren Bacall," Dr. Grove quipped. He was joking.

Dr. Jim Grove discusses “African Queen.”
A very campy, very entertaining move. As an audience member pointed out, Katheryn Hepburn didn’t look exactly like that in the movie. “It’s actually Lauren Bacall,” Dr. Grove quipped. He was joking.

The fascinating film talk could only scratch the surface—there have been a lot of movies made about World War I. The war happened just as the cinema industry was taking off, and I’m sure it had a profound impact on the look and feel of movies.

Beyond the very informative lecture, I also enjoyed the afternoon because it was a chance to see some familiar faces. Jay Shuldiner, a retired history professor; and John Rogers, retired social work professor, both attended. It was good to see and say hello to them.

One of the nice aspects of the series is that it has, so far, had good attendance, and that it has brought many people to the Hill.

Anyway, the presentation today was informative and interesting. I can’t wait to see more. If you missed it, check out the movie Thursday, or come to the next lecture a week from Thursday. I am one of the two presenters then on World War I propaganda.

It is not my clearest photo, but for some reason I like it the best. Anyway, I'll have to ask about the movie Dr. Grove was talking about here--it's about the psychological damage done by war. It sounds very grim, but very interesting.

It is not my clearest photo, but for some reason I like it the best. Anyway, I’ll have to ask about the movie Dr. Grove was talking about here–it’s about the psychological damage done by war. It sounds very grim, but very interesting. Sadly, I don’t recall the title, maybe “Regeneration?”

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