Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Harlan M. Geyer, Sr., on Wellman and his family

Here is an excerpt from a series of interviews I did with my grandfather at the end of 2005. This particular segment is from November 26, 2005 and included my aunt Cherie Geyer. Harlan passed away on Friday, March 24, 2006. Anything in brackets "[ ]" are comments added by me. For more on the life of my grandfather, visit the memorial web page that I am working on.

Harlan: Well, last year when we went back we did the Wellman historical tour and I never knew that there was a cemetery near where we lived when I was a twelfth grader. We lived at the top of the hill and at the bottom was the river. In early colonial times, they always built their towns right on the river, you know, and every spring the river would flood out so they eventually moved the town up on the hill and there was a cemetery right near where we lived and a lot of the early colonial people were buried there and we went to visit it. And at the bottom of the hill was a mill and we used to take corn there to grind it into cornmeal and, you know, it’s one of those mills run on water power and actually the farm that we were renting had land on both sides of the river, and the pasture was really on both sides of the river, mainly.

As the years went along, they straightened the river and tried to prevent a lot of the flooding but when we went on the historical tour, they took us over through the Wasserville cemetery and there’s some stories about early Wellman in the 100 Year History of Wellman. Originally there was a town of Wasserville and then there’s the town of Daytonville and then when the railroad wanted to come through, they didn’t take it through Daytonville. I don’t know, there was controversy. Of course, there was always controversy in the early days when the railroad wanted to come through, but anyway Mr. Wellman donated land or sold land to the railroad and that’s the reason why my hometown became called Wellman, Iowa.

Cherie: Then how old were you when you went to go live with Uncle Wilbur? [Wilbur Geyer]

Harlan: I don’t know, when I was thirteen
[1933], my grandmother [Lucinda (Griffith) Geyer] had me go and live with Uncle Grant Griffith and he raised stock cattle and he milked 25 or 30 cows, which was big for a regular farmer back in those days. So, at 13 years of age, I had to get up before really daylight and go milk four or five cows before breakfast. And I got 50 cents a day plus room and board for the summer when I was thirteen.

Cherie: Didn’t he work you from morning till night?

Harlan: Yeah, just like the other two farmhands that he had.

Christina: Was 50 cents a day a lot back then? Is it the same that the farmhands were getting paid?

Harlan: Well, when I was eighteen
[1938], I taught school for $50 a month and before I went into the Marine Corps [1941], the wage was $1 a day for farmhands.

Cherie: Can you think of a story that they might find interesting about Junior?
[his son and my father, Harlan M. Geyer, Jr.]

Christina: Is it true that when dad came home and said he volunteered for the Marines that you got in a fight and punched him?
[June 1966]

Harlan: No I did not punch him, that I know of.

Christina: He always said that you were fighting in the front yard and you punched him.

Harlan: I don’t remember that, I just…

Cherie: I remember him crying.

Harlan: I was just upset because I figured that I did enough for both of us and when I became convinced that he was determined to go into the Marine Corps, I realized that I had to make a change and I said okay, if you’ve gotta go, I’m taking the day off and I’ll take you down myself. So I took him. And when the recruiting sergeant called me, wanted to talk to me, and I told him to go to hell. And he said that he was supposed to pick him up at 5 o’clock in the morning or something like that and I said, well, if you do you’re a dead man. But then Junior come home and he was so uptight about wanting to be a Marine that I decided that the best thing for me to do was to change my attitude and support my son.

Christina: Did he say why he wanted to be a Marine so much?

Harlan: He wanted to be like me.

Harlan in Korea, 19 October 1953


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