MARION — More than 65 years after he wrote letters home while serving with the Army in Korea, LaVerne Crowley is reading them. In fact, now that LaVerne is 84 and comfortably retired in a Marion condo, he’s also taking the time to read his old diaries which hearken back to 1941.
On Jan. 3, 1941, he comments that he lost his watch. A couple of weeks later he writes that he found it.
“I read that the other day,” says LaVerne, 14 when he started and still keeping daily records. “They sure bring back a lot of memories.”
That’s the purpose of keeping a diary in the first place — a great chance to look back on your life and reminisce.
“They do solve a lot of arguments,” LaVerne adds with a laugh. “We just go to the diary and check it out.”
Yep, when was so-and-so born? When did she die? What year did we have the big snowstorm?”
“It was unbelievable the blizzards we had back then,” he says. “The snow and high winds. I don’t think people could live through it today.”
His wife, Mary Jane (they celebrate 60 years Sept. 24), also enjoys deciphering the faded pencil scratches.
“Once-in-a-while she’ll be reading and say, ‘Oh, do you remember this?’ I don’t remember,” he laughs.
LaVerne was born May 28, 1927, in a rural Coggon farmhouse at the far northeast corner of Linn County, adjacent roads dividing it from Jones County to the east and Delaware County to the north. It was home for more than 80 years until last spring.
The Crowley farm was settled in 1865, his father, John “Jack” Crowley, being born in the same house. LaVerne and Mary Jane moved in when they married, after his parents had retired, and he continued to farm with his brother, Harold, who now lives in Hopkinton. They had four children and their son, Bill, is now on the farm.
Peruse the diaries and you learn about new milking machines for the cows, gasoline at six gallons for a dollar and LaVerne’s first car, a 1942 Chevrolet bought after his return from Korea. Read the letters with 6-cent stamps, saved by his mother, Alice, and you learn about a young soldier’s concerns half a world away in 1946 and 1947.
Soon, thereafter, on his visits to the McDonough store (groceries, feed and farm supplies) in Castle Grove, LaVerne got sweet on the owners’ daughter, Mary Jane.
“She used to make me ice cream cones,” he laughs,
For nearly 60 years LaVerne told his wife he’d read his diaries after he retired. This winter, when he dug them out, the first one was locked.
“I had to cut it open,” he says. “I don’t know why I locked it. It didn’t have any secrets.”
But, like the letters, those diaries give a lifelong farmer a window into his own life.
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