A “Field of Dreams” and a painting

I wouldn’t blame anyone who forgot I had a blog these past months. It is time to pick things up again, get the word out as best I can, and see who looks. Twin sons with back-to-back weddings and a new job with the local hockey team will do that to a blog. Time to get back in the saddle.

I have a painting (see below) in my “Bierkeller” at home that I liberated from Duane’s “Den” before we sold the old house on Jahnke Avenue. It used to hang above the desk with our rotary phone. I have posted a picture of it on Facebook periodically. It gets a little bit of attention from alumni, especially recent ones, when they see the bizarre abstraction of the Wartburg campus. Some things look similar, some a bit off, and little is in its correct place. 

There are two reasons for this: first, it is the Wartburg College campus from the mid-1960s, and things have changed.

For instance, you’ll see a marching band coming out of a cornfield. More on the cornfield later.

No, this is not an homage to “Field of Dreams,” which wouldn’t be filmed for 20 more years after the painting was finished.

While puzzling many recent alums, yes, once upon a time, Wartburg DID have a marching band. The original Wartburg fountain, Student Union, and the original Schield Stadium are no longer part of campus. The familiar bits for everybody will be Old Main, Luther Hall, and Neumann Auditorium. 

The second reason is artistic license. Don’t use this as a map around campus. Buildings were painted where they fit into the theme of the painting, not where they are geographically. 

The artist signed the work “C. Shaley.” The C stood for Carol, wife of Ed Shaley, who was a classmate of Duane.

At this point, I’ll let my fellow Wartburg historian, Harold Kurtz, ’58, pick up the story: 

“Ed was an interesting guy. He was from Clinton and came to Wartburg with the idea of being a missionary. I think this idea lasted about six weeks…if that long…. Ed dropped out of school at the end of his junior year, worked for a semester and came back mid-year. I was desperate to find an editor [for The Trumpet] and persuaded Ed to apply. He got the job be default. He did OK and got enough experience so then he was drafted into the military he ended up in public information and spent his time in Washington, D.C. He and Carol married while he was in the service. When Ed was discharged, they moved to Chicago. Carol had a pretty good job doing design work for a religious publisher in Wheaton, Illinois. Duane, Ed, and I were good friends.”

Given Carol’s profession, it makes sense that she also like to paint to satisfy her soul.

How the painting came to our family is another interesting story regarding my extended “Wartburg family.” It was not a simple purchase.

I was in grade school sometime in the mid- to late ‘60s. It was Homecoming, and as usual our modest ranch house was full. To me, it felt like the entire class of ’58 was stuffed into our home. Where I was going to sleep was an open question.

The schedule of these Homecoming seldom varied. Those that got to Waverly on time went to Kastle Kapers and stuck around for the crowning of the Homecoming Queen. Some then went to the Pep Rally / bonfire (more or less were Lynes Field is now) – and eventually it was back to the Schroeders for adult beverages.

The next day, at time much too early for Duane’s comfort, the college hosted a cross-country meet before the Homecoming parade, which he had to cover and report to the media. The usual procedure was to get up with the minimum time needed to brush his teeth, get dressed, drink a cup of coffee with aspirin chaser, and hustle off to the Waverly Country Club for the meet.

This Homecoming morning, disaster strikes! His beloved Volkswagen Beetle was filled to the roof with corn liberated from the field behind our house, which was the south edge of Waverly at that time. There may have been air let of the tires, but that may be an embellishment to the story from retellings at later Homecomings.

Duane didn’t have time to seek out the villain who did this. He cursed loudly and got somebody else who was awake to drive him to the meet. 

There was suspicion that this was Ed’s work, but he wouldn’t admit to anything. Several months passed and a large package arrived in the mail. It was the painting from Carol, but little explanation. The smoking gun: ears of corn at the bottom of the painting and the marching band coming out of the cornfield. It was a very nice apology, if vague.

The joy that the painting gave the family over the decades far outlasted Duane’s irritation cleaning corn out of his Beetle.

Sidebar: During my first month of coming to back to Wartburg to be the information literacy librarian at Engelbrecht Library, I was on my way to Old Main to meet my first information literacy class — an education class taught by Les Huth. Ironically, Les was also a classmate of Duane’s, but that isn’t important to the story.

I was nervous. I had done this for seven years at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, but this was my first time at my alma mater. This seemed more important, somehow…no offense, Augie…

While crossing the campus from old Engelbrecht Library I met a student struggling across campus with a big painting easel and other supplies. I offered to help, which she gratefully accepted. It turned out to be Ed and Carol’s daughter, Kera. She was grateful for the schlepping help; I still made it Old Main on time for the class. The encounter totally relaxed me for Les’s class because it was a reminder of what is obvious: I belonged there. Plus, I had very little worry of corn being exchanged during that Shaley next generation encounter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s