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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matter: Iowa Heroes

Monday, December 3, 2007

(Photo)
I'm sure many of you saw the story a few weeks ago in various newspaper supplements about the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, IA. In that article, the author told of Feller interrupting his stellar career by enlisting in the Navy in 1941. That set me to remembering. I started my junior year at the University of Iowa the fall of 1941. My good friend, Evelyn, a fellow junior English major, lived just down the hall with her sister, Marg, who was a freshman that year. As Marg's closest friends were Bertie and Sue, two of her extremely attractive fellow freshmen, I got to know them well. Sue had a brother, a star athlete who roomed with another well-known campus jock (only we didn't call them that in those days.) It annoys me that I no longer remember their names or their sports, but I do recall that the roommate was a good friend of the famed Bob Feller. It caused all sorts of excitement when we learned Feller was to be visiting his buddy one week-end. This recent piece suggests that it may have been the famed ball player's final civilian fling before his Navy enlistment. Their men's dorm dance was scheduled for that particular Saturday evening. As Sue had a steady fellow she was not available, so her brother and his roommate set up a blind date with Bertie for their special guest. She was one of the Scottish Highland Dancers, which said it all in those days. In addition she was witty and charming and a great choice. Soon several of us who weren't going to the dance began trying to figure some way of getting to see Iowa's baseball hero without being too obvious. There was a small area back of the desk in the main lobby of our dormitory which was shielded by† a sort of curtain that was usually closed. I've no clue as to the purpose of that little alcove. One friend came up with the idea that we could hide there and peek through, unobserved, to catch a glimpse of Rapid Robert when he came to call for Bertie. It was a great idea, and we carried it out successfully. Our little group on that late fall evening, got quite a thrill out of seeing Van Meter's famous son.

The next day, Bertie regaled us with the account of her brief evening in the spotlight. As he was heading off for years of service in the Navy, I'm sure nothing further came from that blind date between Bertie and Bob Feller. Speaking of heroes, I'm reminded that two years earlier, we had all walked the campus daily with another famous Iowan, Nile Kinnick. Beyond that, of course, etched in our memories forever, are that young man's incredibly stellar accomplishments on those long-ago, magical Saturday afternoons. Yes, come to think of it, Iowa has, indeed, produced its share of heroes!