A Place of Interest

Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Carolyn Van Loh.jpg

Tom Merchant

Sentinel Tribune

Westbrook — Last week Carolyn Van Loh received copies of her most recent literary effort from her publisher.

For Van Loh much of her book was based on her mother-in-law Betty Van Loh’s diaries dating back to 1946. Betty often used daily calendars which were given out by local businesses to record her brief daily entries. Each page had several days on it with about four or five lines for each date.

Van Loh said she had diaries from 1946 to 2007, although she noted calendars from the late fifties and sixties were missing. Carolyn speculated that Betty probably did not have time to write as much while she was raising her four children. She also noted that all of the chapter titles were direct quotes from Betty’s diaries.

Her book gives the reader a very clear picture of rural life from the mid forties through the end of the century. The book not only reflects life on the farm it also relates to the historical development of rural communities, and particularly the city of Westbrook. It also reflects the strong connection of the Van Loh’s to their church and family.

Betty and John Van Loh were married November 22, 1945 in Sibley, Iowa. John and Betty lived with John’s parents for the first six months of their marriage. The following May John and Betty, pregnant with their first child, moved into a house which had originally been a chicken coop on the Van Loh farm near Ashton, Iowa.

After a while John, wanting to farm, was unable to find land in the Ashton area. Their realtor suggested they look to the north in Minnesota. At the time land there was available at a cheaper price. So John, Betty’s father Art and the realtor went to Minnesota to look at a place near Westbrook. Betty wrote in her diary “One of interest.” Two days later Betty and her stepmother, Wilma travelled with the men to look at the farm. That evening they returned to Ashton, an hour later her dad called and told them he had closed the deal that evening. Betty wrote just one word in her diary, “Happy.”