Marty & Sandy Boller.
Have you ever heard the expression, “It will be a cold day in July when I’ll ever…”? Well, I don’t know if George & Dixie Boller used that expression when thinking about having their third baby, but indeed, it was a cold season in July when I was born!
Growing up, my mother would tell me that early July 1951 in southeastern Iowa was downright chilly. Keep in mind of course, that she was one of those women who was cold even when the temperature was in the high 60’s! But according to her recollections, everyone in Wayland, Iowa wore their jackets to keep warm at the July 4th fireworks display held at the Wayland High School football field in 1951. Being nine months pregnant probably didn’t help the situation, but suffice to say that 6 days later, at Mt. Pleasant Community Hospital (Wayland was just too small to have its own hospital) I was born. July 10, 1951.
The 1950’s in America.
I’ve seen the headlines from Tuesday, July 10th, 1951 newspapers and it wasn’t much of a big news day. The Mt. Pleasant News headline was, “Nationals Win All-Star Game 8-3” while The Iowa City Press Citizen’s top story, “Make ‘Progress’ in Truce Talk”, referring to President Harry Truman’s efforts to end the Korean War conflict. Another big story in the papers that day revolved around the renowned WWII army general Dwight D. Eisenhower grooming himself for a run at the presidency in 1952. As you know, that “grooming” seemed to work.
In order for this biographical sketch to have full balance, I need to report that your grandmother, Sandra Elaine Unrue, was well underway with life by the time I rolled around in July 1951. Sandy was born to Jack & LaVonne Unrue of Warsaw, Indiana on Tuesday, April 18, 1950. As with my birth date, April 18th was not a big news story day, with the only bit of trivia found is that it was the day of the first trans-Atlantic jet passenger trip.
The baby-boomer generation. Sandy (born 1950) and Marty (born 1951)
Sandy & I have very similar childhood memories, growing up in middle-class, Mid-Western homes of the 1950’s. Society calls our generation the ‘baby boomer” generation. When World War II ended, our parents, like most young American men & women, returned home from war, married, purchased a little home, and began building their families.
George & Dixie raised up a family of three boys, Eric Hollis Boller, my oldest brother, born September 14, 1946; William (Bill) Edward Boller born December 3, 1948, and me. My parents faced a terrible tragedy in December 1948 when my brother Bill died suddenly only two days after his birth. This sudden death was very traumatic to my parents and indeed, they were thrilled to see my safe arrival in 1951.
Sandy Elaine Unrue: super piano student in 1952.
Sandy was the first of four children born into the Unrue family in Indiana. Sandy’s sister, Janice Ann Unrue was born September 23, 1951, her brother David Michael Unrue was born February 1, 1954, and her youngest sister, Kristin Karole Unrue was not born until July 17, 1964, after the family had moved from Warsaw to Goshen and then finally settling in Elkhart, Indiana.
I find it so interesting that Sandy grew up in the same part of Indiana (Goshen) that your great, great, great, great, great grandfather, George F. Boller spent his final years. As a matter of fact, Sandy’s mom, LaVonne has now moved back to Goshen and lives probably less than 5 miles from George’s burial site!
My family maintained our Mennonite church connections while we lived in Wayland, Iowa. But in 1957 when we moved from Wayland to Mt. Pleasant to follow my dad’s new job with the Mt. Pleasant News, apparently we didn’t find a Mennonite church to our liking, so my parents began church shopping and ended up at 1st Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant. With over 150 years of Mennonite heritage in the Boller family, I’m surprised our decision to become members of the Presbyterian Church didn’t cause more of a stir. By that time however, (1957) my grandmother Olive was the only remaining relative on the Boller side of the family, and since she was the first ‘non-Mennonite’ member of our Boller family line, it probably didn’t ruffle her feathers that much. I recall my mom and dad saying they first considered visiting the Presbyterian church in Mt. Pleasant because a nice Presbyterian minister married them in 1946 in Billings, Montana. That nice pastor obviously made a good impression because my parents stayed with the Presbyterian Church the rest of their days!
Sandy in 1955 & 1960.
Both Sandy (who grew up in the Lutheran Church) and I have many fond childhood memories of growing up in our middle-western, family-friendly church communities where potluck suppers, Christmas pageants, choirs & confirmation were the norm.
Sandy recalls a powerful encounter with God on the Sunday morning of her confirmation into the Lutheran church in Goshen, Indiana. She felt a warm inner glow as the Holy Spirit was touching her deeply through the sacrament of her first communion. I, as well, remember that same warmth of the Holy Spirit during late night Christmas Eve services in the Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. While no one was able to explain to us at the time what we were feeling, it was obvious the Lord was confirming His call on our lives even when we were quite young!
Jack & LaVonne Unrue and Dixie & George Boller.
Another aspect of church life that powerfully impacted both Sandy and me was being around church music. All four of your great-grandparents (above) had great voices and were actively involved in their respective church choirs for most of their adult lives. My dad’s favorite hymn was ‘Rock of Ages’ while Sandy’s dad loved ‘Blessed Assurance’ and the high tenor part on the Christmas classic, ‘The First Noel’.
Rock’n’Roll hits America.
Yet while Sandy & I both shared our love of music with our parents, there was a change-a-blowing in the styles of music young people listened to in the 1960’s. While our parents loved the old hymns and danced to ‘big-band’ sounds, our ‘baby-boomer’ generation decided we liked a new sound called rock-n-roll. Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Righteous Brothers (above) and countless other music stars were radically adjusting the musical culture of America as Sandy & I were growing up.
The turbulent 60’s.
While little town mid-America was still pretty tame, we were all shocked how quickly our comfortable quiet lifestyles in Iowa and Indiana could be disrupted through major world events like the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the assassinations of President John Kennedy(1963), Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy (1968), and the Vietnam War conflict. The culture was changing quickly and by the time Sandy & I were ready for college in the early 1970’s, the world had become a different place.
I was a fairly shy, reserved kid, as was Sandy. Between me being a fat kid with pimples to Sandy just having pimples, we tended to shy away from the public scene. But our lives began to change dramatically as our parents relocated to new communities just as we were entering our jr. high and high school years.
In 1962, Sandy’s family moved from the small community of Goshen to the much larger town of Elkhart, Indiana due to a sudden job change with her father. This move proved to be a real positive change for Sandy and put her in a school system where her musical talents truly blossomed.
In 1966, my family moved from Mt. Pleasant to Iowa City so my dad could pursue a new printing job opportunity with The Daily Iowan newspaper. Like Sandy, relocating to Iowa City where the schools were much bigger and the opportunities much broader, proved to be the positive ingredient God needed to get me into the fresh start I longed for.
With music being such a special part of our lives, we quickly found out that our musical talents were a good way to build an identity for ourselves in our new school settings. Through vocal & instrumental music, Sandy & I both found ourselves becoming quite popular with our high school comrades, so we took the musical ball (so to speak) and ran with it.
Sandy excelled at winning over the crowds at Concord High School in Elkhart. As the lead vocalist in the choir department, she was getting vocal music scholarship offers from numerous universities around the Midwest.
Marty graduates from Iowa City High School in 1969.
By senior year at Iowa City High School in 1969, I was playing first chair tuba in the marching band, the symphonic band, and the symphony orchestra. I won an unprecedented two ‘Gold Key’ awards from the City High Music Department; one for leadership in band, and one for chorus.
1968-1972 Off to college we go.
In 1968, Sandy ventured away from Elkhart, Indiana, winning a vocal music scholarship at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. One year later in 1969, I started my music education degree at (where else?) the University of Iowa. One of my dad’s prouder moments in life was the four years his boy was the star sousaphone player for the Hawkeye Marching Band. Never mind the fact that the football team won less than 10 games my entire college career…people still packed Iowa Stadium (renamed Kinnick Stadium while I was in school) to root on our beloved Hawkeyes and to sing the ole Iowa Fight Song featuring me on the tuba solo!
Majoring in music was a real joy for both Sandy and me. By the time we both graduated with music education degrees in 1972 (S) and 1973 (M), we were ready to find teaching positions in some good-sized school district and lay our claim to fame as a choral director (Sandy) and band director (Marty).