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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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Gatsby glamour

“Two knocks and the password is Gatsby!”

We squeezed through the basement entry and were whisked through a labyrinth of narrow, dark passageways in the old Weeks mansion ‘south of Grand’ before stumbling upstairs and into the roaring ’20s, prohibition-themed gala. The annual event took a new twist this year, with a clever temperance society/Templeton Rye theme.

It was a chilly night for a party , but I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to play dress-up for an event that benefits an organization close to my heart. When I first moved to Des Moines, I happened upon the Salisbury House on a bike ride and used to spend quiet afternoons hanging out in the yard and even did some volunteering at different events (which meant I was able to entertain the men in line for the restroom with nerdy factual information about the house.) Plus, our next-door neighbor is the museum curator and a fellow Mizzou alumna co-chaired the event, so we just had to get tickets and go! (Four years ago, I attended as a Gatsby Girl, selling cigars and whatnot, so it felt great to come full circle at a truly enjoyable evening.)

Photo of a group of guys getting some of “The Good Stuff” via a Metromix gallery of the event. I had a little cocktail, too! My first taste of Templeton.

As for the style: I pre-wore my bridesmaid dress that I got at Banana Republic last fall for Christa’s November wedding, which felt kind of weird, but ended up being a fun, flapper-modern choice. Earlier in the day I got a totally ’20s bob, with bangs! It was quite a big change, and post-gala I feel like I look more Dora the Explorer than glamour girl, but I’ll just have to become BFF with my flatiron and actually style it like a grownup would. (I have to say that I love all of the stylists at salon W and am a total ‘chair-hopper.’ Mollie transformed me this time.)

We asked some guy I enthralled bored with information about the house snap a photo of us, but we really need to remember to take decent pictures when we get all dolled up. Joe totally surprised me with his last-minute purchase of a linen pinstripe suit, navy vest and bow tie and hat, scored at a Dillard’s closing sale for 80 percent off. Dapper, if I do say so!

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