THE AMERICAN SOLE - PART 2
By Linda Brand with help from Beverley Driver Eddy
This article was originally published in the April 2011 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
At the end of part 1 of ‘The American Sole’Charles, Rose and Ernest were leaving England on the SS Baltic for a new life in America.
In this article we hear the rest of their story…….
Rose Sole with her husband, son and their eight year old charge Mary Salter arrived in New York on the 5th October 1913. First customs officials came on board to question the passengers, next they had to open their luggage on the dockside. On seeing Charles’ large family bible in his wicker trunk, the customs official said ‘ I can see this is alright’ and passed them through. The family went straight to Grand Central Station, which made a lasting impression on Ernest, and caught a train to Chicago. This journey was another eye opener. The train tracks were completely unfenced and in some towns went straight down the middle of the main street. They also saw many unfamiliar plants like Sumac trees in the countryside. They changed trains in Chicago and on arriving in Red Oak, Iowa, were met by Mary’s father who took them to Charles’ brother Jim’s house. This was their first ever ride in an automobile.
The Drivers stayed with Jim, his wife and five children for a month. Charles looked for a job and eventually the local congregational minister found him a small church in Wales about twelve miles away. As the name implied the older residents spoke mainly Welsh and very little English. However there were enough of the younger people who spoke English to start up a congregation in a small stone church in the Iowa farmlands.
The change for Rose was enormous. Back in Wallington she had a gas stove, indoor plumbing and daily deliveries of milk and bread. A network of trains linked her home with her family in Kent, to nearby Surrey towns and to London. In Iowa the climate was harsher and the distances between towns much greater. There was no gas, running water or indoor plumbing in her new home and no public transportation. The small parlour heater was fuelled by coal and the kitchen stove burned corn cobs. There were two small buildings behind the parsonage, the outside toilet and a shed where the corn cobs were stored. The only shop was a general store about a mile away where Rose could buy kerosene for lamps. Like all the other residents of Wales, they went to Red Oak once a week, on a Saturday evening to do their shopping. Farmers wives brought their produce to Red Oak on a Saturday and the visit was a chance to meet up with friends and even occasionally to go to the cinema before returning home. Their transport at the time was a horse and buggy and in the cold winters they kept warm by resting their feet on a large heated soapstone slab. The slab was reheated on a store radiator for their return journey.
During this time Charles began a correspondence course in theology and qualified as a Presbyterian minister. Ernest went to Red Oak High School but because of the distance had to board with one of the teachers, only coming home at the weekend. Rose got involved in parish activities, church socials, family dinners and baking and sewing projects. It was at this time that she began quilting. She sold her quilts for $25 to $30, a bargain even in those days, to help supplement the family income. As a cook Rose stuck to her English recipes, toad in the hole etc. but did learn to can fruit and vegetables for the store cupboard.
After two years they moved to the German community in Yorktown and Ernest finished High School in Carenda, the county seat. Although he could cycle to school for part of the year, he again had to board during the winter months. Ernest finished High School in 1918 and like many Iowa farm boys, volunteered for the army. Many of his school friends enlisted in the army reserve and were attached to a British regiment and sent straight to the front. With little or no training, few of them survived. Ernest joined the ‘student army training corps’ and was sent to Coe College in Cedar Rapids. After about six weeks, a flu epidemic swept through the college. Ernest was in hospital for two weeks and shortly after his release the armistice was declared. He received an honourable discharge and it was only at this point that the army discovered that he was not an American citizen. When he returned to Yorktown he found it impossible to get work because the Government had cancelled all the lucrative war contracts and many farmers were on the verge of bankruptcy. Instead he enrolled in the Iowa State Teachers college and after three years obtained a degree. He eventually studied for his Masters degree and PhD and became Professor of Zoology at Smith College Northampton, Massachusetts. He married Olive Wagner on March 29th 1929 and had two children Clive Ernest born in 1935 and Beverley Rose born in 1940.
Charles continued to preach and at times they lived a very hard life. During the depression for example when the church couldn’t afford to pay Charles he was paid in produce. After his retirement he and Rose moved to Northampton to be nearer Ernest and their grandchildren. Rose continued to correspond with her sisters in England especially Kit, who after the Second World war sent her a map to show where the bombing had been around her old home in Wallington, only a few miles from Croydon Airport. In 1948 Charles and Rose celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary and were to have two more years together before Rose died of a heart attack on 8th February 1950 aged 78. Charles continued living alone until his health failed and then went to live with Ernest and Olive until he died ten years later.
College Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Mass
Ernest carried on teaching at Smith and published books on the identification of animals which were illustrated by his wife Olive. He retired in 1965, moving to North Carolina in 1968 and Pennsylvania in 1978. He died on March 18th 1987 in Bendersville, Pennsylvania aged 88.
Rose’s grandson Clive, a historian, was the director of the Provincetown Museum and Pilgrim monument until his death from a brain tumour in 1999. Her granddaughter, Beverley Rose, was Professor of German at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania until her retirement and now runs a bookshop in Gettysburg.
Rose spoke of her home in England often. She showed an indomitable pioneering spirit and was immensely proud of the achievements of her son and grandchildren and her only regret was that she never got to come back to England to visit her sisters. Beverley, the only remaining member of The American Soles keeps in touch and I hope to meet up with her on one of her visits to Europe.