House history in a Younkers box

Our backyard neighbors were doing some cleaning and came across a Younkers box full of clippings and letters from our “house ancestors” the other week, so they literally passed it over the fence for us to check out. I don’t think “house ancestor” is a real term, but that’s how I like to think of Sec Taylor and his wife, who I’m pretty sure was named Hazel. It also helps justify my curiosity as I went through the letters, articles and photographs.

Scan from the Des Moines Register archives

Joe and I have known about the Taylor connection since we first spotted the house on Zillow in 2009. Sec Taylor was a longtime sports editor at The Des Moines Register and Des Moines’ Iowa Cubs stadium was originally named after him, so he was a local celebrity about town, especially in the first half of the 20th century. Having a kind of house ancestry is one of the reasons I fell in love with our home in the first place, in addition to its cuteness, built-ins and our location on a leafy central Des Moines boulevard. We found a few photos of Sec in the Register’s archives when we worked there, and did a tiny bit of research on him and his work at the Des Moines Public Library. (They have some great local history info online.)

The box contained some mundane but fascinating correspondence among Sec’s siblings about what to do with a farm in Kansas that their father had passed on without a will (and under which there was the possibility of an oil strike), and fun surprises, like a photo of Sec Taylor and some Milwaukee Braves players, one of whom happens to be Hank Aaron. Or so thinks Joe, because I have no idea.

There were also clippings from Helen Hazel Rex’s society page writings for (we think) the newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. “Will you stand for a bit of scandal? I’ll try you one…” It’s funny stuff I can’t believe she got away with writing in such a small city. She would have been one snarky blogger.

The box also contained some glamour shots of Miss America, 1954, and photos of Sec at various hob-nobby looking functions with people holding an Oscar and in front of a model horse track. I think the Braves photo will go in a frame near our Iowa Cubs art, but I’m not sure what we’ll do with the rest of it. We’ll have to talk to Leo, our next-door neighbor who is curator for the Salisbury House!

Do any of you know the stories of your home’s ancestors?

Baseball photo update from Leo: ‎”44 is definitely Hammerin’ Hank. 21 is Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, 41 is HoFer Eddie Matthews, and only player to play for Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves and Atlanta Braves. Pretty sure Frank Torre is on the left, possibly is 1957 or 1958 World Series.” I’ll tell you, having a museum curator/bacon expert as a next-door neighbor never fails me. Thanks, Leo!

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9 Comments

Filed under At home

9 responses to “House history in a Younkers box

  1. R.H.

    Brianne, Joe and you are surrounded by great history and an Iowa legend in good ol’ Sec!

  2. How NEAT! I still call Principal Park, Sec Taylor. It’s an old habit that is extremely hard to break and I hate that the name of the stadium changed.

    My parents house is also in central Des Moines, and it was built by my great, grandfather. It’s been in the family since it was built and there are some great stories! I love old houses!

  3. Dan

    It is Hank Aaron. He wore #44. Great blog by the way!

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  6. If anybody still cares, the player on the left is backup catcher Del Rice, not Frank Torre. And it’s not from the 1957 or 1958 World Series, or any World Series. The photo was taken in Wrigley Field in Chicago between 1954 (the first year Aaron was with the Braves) and 1956 (the last year that Indian Chief shoulder patch was used on the Braves jerseys).

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