When a family’s breadwinner suffers a heart attack, it can cause financial devastation. And, when that breadwinner is just 36 years old, married to someone who has never driven a car in her life and with three children – all under the age of 12 – at home, the problems are multiplied.
I know the situation first hand.
My mother had never driven before my dad went down suddenly one afternoon, the victim of a massive heart attack. He survived, but was hospitalized for several weeks, then bedridden at home for a long time after that.
Suddenly, my mother found herself in the situation of being the family’s only source of income while also serving as both mother and father to three young children.
If medals and ribbons were awarded to moms, mine would win nothing but purple grand champion ribbons. Despite what had to feel like a world crumbling around her, she managed. She kept the family together and even made three young children feel as though they were the wealthiest around.
She worked as a cook at the school, but that was only a nine-month job and paid very little. With my father out of work, even mom’s meager school wages would disappear in June. But, mom never wavered, never uttered a negative word, never cursed her luck, never shed a tear, at least that her children saw. She studied help wanted ads and soon found a job.
But, that job was in Ames – 16 miles, or so, from our home in Alleman. She’d have to learn to drive, and learn quickly. She told me later that she just said a little prayer, started the car and taught herself to drive on her first trip, which was to her job in Ames. A driver’s license would come later.
Old-time Ames residents may remember a small neighborhood store called "Abe’s." Mom said that Abe got his start by selling fruit on the corner, finally putting together enough money to open a small store. I don’t remember the exact location, but I do remember it was west of Highway 69 (perhaps near what is now Northwestern Avenue) and north of Lincoln Way. I remember it was near the underpass on Highway 69 (I walked it many times).
Mom worked virtually every Saturday and I’d almost always accompany her to Ames on those days. She told me she felt somehow safer with me riding along, while my recovering dad, aunts and uncles tended to my two younger siblings. Even though she worked more than eight hours every Saturday, I’d while away the time walking around with an ever-present transistor radio held firmly against my ear.
All the current rock ‘n roll tunes blared away, but my hearing survived.
Saturdays became quite enjoyable in the fall, especially when the Iowa State Cyclones played a home football game. In those days – in fact up until about 40 years ago – the Cyclones played at Clyde Williams Field just north of old Highway 30 out in campus town.
When the Cyclones played at home, I’d take $1.25 of my odd jobs money, and spend all morning walking around downtown Ames. About an hour before the scheduled start I’d walk out Highway 30 the few miles to Clyde Williams Field. Admission, if memory serves, was $1 for a seat in the south end zone and hot dogs were 25 cents. I had just enough for some first class entertainment.
Clyde Williams Field, in those days, had a seating capacity of 20,000, more than enough for the small crowds of fans who’d turn out on game day. Usually, at halftime they’d announce that everyone in the end zone was welcome to find a seat in the west grandstand.
I felt like a king sitting up there among those folks who had real money and I loved every Saturday afternoon at Clyde Williams field.
Even after my mother left her job at Abe’s and I was old enough to drive, I spent as many autumn Saturdays as possible at Clyde Williams Field.
I saw a dozen, or so, games in the few years my mother traveled to Abe’s to work and even more after that I loved the old single wing offense the Cyclones ran and I loved the intimacy of whole afternoon.
I’ve been to several Iowa State games at the new Jack Trice Stadium. It’s one of the best facilities in all of college football and the university makes improvements on a regular basis, enhancing the fan experience at home games.
Yes, I love watching games at Jack Trice Stadium. But, there was just something about old Clyde Williams Field that makes me want to go back there for just one more Iowa State football game.