Peonies; Serendip. It has been a joy this spring, to see my peonies grow and bloom. They have been beautiful. Even better, I’ve shared them. My niece got some very nice red, pink and white blooms, on Saturday before Memorial Day. She also used the vase I gave her recently. On Friday after Memorial Day, I cut more blooms, all red, to share at Friday Coffee, and than at the library. Sharing beautiful, glorious peonies has felt good, very good. I can revel in it. Better yet, my peonies are old, very old. They were already old when my mother transplanted them to our “new” farm in 1949. She got them when they were already ancient from someone in her family, someone willing to share. I like that especially. They also have a pleasant, heart-warming scent. I am told by a good gardener, that one does not get the same scent from peonies produced for the market today.

On Saturday, I unexpectedly found today’s material for Long Ago in part of columns 1-3 of the Dec. 9, 1904, Winterset News. In the first two items, I’ve changed the capped headlines to regular type, and moved their secondary headlines to the text. Except for that, what you see here will be what I saw and selected, word for word.

Boys are Tempted.

Slot Machines And Guessing Contests Are Ruin for Boys.

In several Iowa towns the slot machine is not allowed to exist. The wisdom of the anti-slot machine movement cannot be questioned. It really puzzles us to give any reason whatever why many good people whom we know say absolutely nothing against this form of gambling. Of all the crap shooting, the card games and the betting on this, that and the other, there is nothing on the face of the earth that so tempts the small boy, the young man or the old to gamble, as the average slot machine. It is plain gambling and nothing else. Put a nickel in the slot machine, give the handle a turn, and you may win five times the worth of your money, and you may loose. We saw a prominent Red Oak man deposit five nickels one after another in a slot machine the other day and never get a thing. A boy of our acquaintance was jubilent [sic] over the fact that he had deposited a nickel and got twenty-five cents worth of cigars.

Argue the matter as you may, the fact is evident that this is nothing but ordinary gambling, and if Young America is to be injured by contracting gambling habits, the slot machine is responsible for much of the mischief.

Many merchants who have these slot machines in their places of business would be willing to do away with them, but they say that if others have them, it will cut down their trade to cast them out. There may be some excuse for so many of the Red Oak merchants having slot machines but we believe that if all would agree to do away with them, no merchant would seriously object. It would certainly add to Red Oak’s good reputation if it were known that no form of gambling was tolerated in our midst.–Red Oak Express.

Smallest Residence.

Smallest Residence in Iowa Belongs to a Man, Who Resides in Marshalltown.

Probably the smallest house in Iowa, if not in the whole country, is owned by Albert W. Morgan, an old veteran of the civil war, who resides at Marshalltown. Morgan was for a time an inmate of the home [the veterans home] and accepted the charity of the state of Iowa, and being also of an ambitious turn of mind, he went about to secure a home of his own. Making a supply of ammonia, he has been furnishing the housewives of Marshalltown with that product and goes about the city and country on a tricycle of his own manufacture.

As the cold weather began to come on Morgan cast about to secure a small tract of land. He secured a small piece of ground, and then got two piano boxes and joined them together, placing the two taller sides next to each other. With the sides of the boxes, which had been removed, Morgan built a gable room overhead to keep out the snow and rain. Then with ordinary tar paper, he covered his toy house all over to keep out the cold air of winter. He banked plenty of earth all over the little shanty, put a window in one end, a door in the other, and in true soldier fashion made a good bunk to sleep on inside.

The little house is about 6x6 feet inside, and while the former occupant of the box, a piano, is being played by some fair haired girl, the present occupant is lulled to sleep by the memory of the sweet strains of a piano he may have heard in the days and years gone by.

How to Get a Boy Up.

The Frolics column of the Council Bluffs Nonpariel is one of the best humorous columns published in any paper in the country. Its editor gives the following as effective means for getting a boy up: “I have raised four boys and have struggled with the problem for seventeen years in all. My conclusion has been that it is impossible to get a boy up in the morning. I have a neighbor who claims that he gets his boy up at 7 o’clock, but I notice that the father gets up at 5 in order to accomplish this feat. He looks prematurely old. When it is absolutely necessary to get one of my boys up I set fire to he woodshed. Any boy will get up for a fire.” –Discouraged Parent.

“How do I get my boy up in the morning? This has been my method: First I call him a few times. Then I get up myself and do the chores. Then I select a smooth flat board and whittle out a handle. I grasp this in my right hand, first moistening the palm; then I call out to my wife that I will not hurt the child any more than necessary. I then advance up the stairs rapidly, two at a time, at the top I pause and call my wife, telling her to stop up her ears if she doesn’t want to hear what follows. I then wave the paddle around a couple of times, shout once and enter the bedroom where I find the young rascal washing his face with his trousers on wrong side turned around and his coat on over his nightshirt. This plan never fails, but you must take your time.”–A Subscriber.

Peering into a Cloudy Crystal Ball. Readers, this is Walt, of Very Long Ago, not the December, 1904 newspaper. You’ve just seen less than half of what I wanted to squeeze in. You haven’t read about tramps in our own Peru, the uses of alcohol (with a double meaning), a pie with unusually good scalloped edges, a very bad habit, getting even with white caps, and inspiration from Edison. Those items join my list of heroes of World War II stories to ease into Very Long Ago columns, someday, someway. Plus, how, a follow-up on one of today’s themes.

God willin’ and if the creeks don’t rise, next week’s Very Long Ago, at long, long last, will, for a while, take up something very, very special, the story of a young Winterset couple just before and during World War II. This isn’t quite a promise. I made a promise a couple of weeks ago that was not kept. That’s not my usual style of doing things. But I do know this: If this hope, this expectation, does not come about next week, something will be very much awry, at least from how things appear today. That sometimes happens too. This is Take Eight – I’ve counted them – of trying to get this week’s Very Long Ago written. There were an incredible number of competing themes. I hope the final choice pleased YOU.