Our Iowa Heritage: An Iowa Classic – George E. Boller.

Allow me to start this section by telling you a bit about my dad, George Edward Boller. As we said at the outset of Our Iowa Heritage project, it was my dad who first started my interest in collecting stamps, coins, and other Iowa collectibles.

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You can read more of the details about my Dad here, but suffice to say here that George was born in Wayland, Iowa on May 11, 1921. He was an only child, who ended up marrying another only child, Dixie Lee Boyer of Trenton, Missouri. That means that my older brother, Eric, and I grew up never knowing what a cousin was!

Maybe it was in his alone-ness as an only child where George first acquired his keen interest in stamp collecting and University of Iowa memorabilia, but regardless of the motivation, by the time I came around, in 1951, his life had gotten so busy, he had put his childhood stamp collection at the bottom of a cedar chest: a hidden-away treasure just waiting for a 9-year old boy like me to find, reviving the hobby, and just maybe, expanding on it a bit during my lifetime!

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(C-0101)  Wayland, Iowa. George grew up in small-town Iowa. His grandfather, Daniel, and his father, Waldo made a living running Boller Furniture Company in Wayland, Iowa, which as you can see from the stationary (above), sold Home Furnishings and Furniture Your Children Will Treasure.

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Wayland is in Henry County, Iowa (just northwest of Mt. Pleasant). As you can see from the railroad map above, in its heyday, the Iowa Central Railroad ran through Wayland.

So, since we talked about railroads, RPO’s and the U.S. Mail earlier, let’s pick up on George’s philatelic story with the time this 12-year old small-town kid took a big trip to the Big City of Chicago. It was August, 1933. With some family friends (Paul & Mildred Rainier) George traveled to the Windy City to take in the Chicago World’s Fair, or as some called it, The Century of Progress.

1933 Worlds Fair
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(C-0102) 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – The Century of Progress. This penny postcard was postmarked on August 22 – 9 PM, 1933 in Evanston, IL where George was staying while visiting the Fair. Interestingly enough, George and his friends had accommodations on the Northwestern University campus (Willard Hall), where Sandy, my wife, attended college and lived in Willard Hall for three school years (1969-1972). Small world, huh?

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(C-0101) Boller Furniture Company return letter.  My dad’s postcard arrived in Wayland the next day (August 23). My grandfather, Waldo, mailed his response letter the following day at 6 AM (August 24). Here’s what he said…

Dear Sonny Boy…just got back from supper and will write you a few lines…we got your card this morning (amazing that the mail was so fast back then!)…I suppose you went to the fair today and had a good time…Mama canned apples and tomatoes and grapes at Grandma’s today and we ate dinner there. Listen to the games today (Chicago White Sox) and Bob Ellson (famous Sox sportscaster) said it was raining in New York and Philadelphia. Mamma (Olive) and Grandpapa (Hulme) went down to Maple Grove School House (near the Finley Methodist Church) this evening to an ice cream supper…will close hoping you are well and take care of yourself…as ever, your Daddy.

That letter from Waldo arrived in Evanston at 4 AM the next day (August 25). What an amazing turn-around in delivery time! Today, this whole transaction would take over a week or more to get a postcard and a letter back and forth from Evanston, IL to Wayland, IA! In 1933, it only took a total of four days! Speedy delivery, indeed!

1933 Chicago World’s Fair – The Century of Progress.

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(C-0103) In 1933, during the Great Depression, Chicago held the Century of Progress Exposition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its incorporation as a village. The fair was held on the lake-front & featured outstanding exhibits on the latest advancements in science and technology. It brought an enormous amount of business to the city and was a huge relief from the woes of the Great Depression. This FDC features a block of four of the 1-cent Ft. Dearborn stamp.
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(C-0104) Two of the main features on the Chicago Exposition grounds were meant to provide a contrast by which to measure the city’s progress. A restoration of Fort Dearborn, the original site of Chicago, which had twice been destroyed, stood in sight of the towering Federal Building, which dominated the grounds. These concrete symbols of Chicago’s progress were natural choices as stamp subjects.
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(C-0105) September 30, 1933 – Iowa Day at the Fair. This special cover was postmarked on September 30, 1933 – which was Iowa Day at the Fair. This tradition of having a special day set aside for a specific state began with the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

(M-0013) Chicago World’s Fair  – The Century of Progress – Souvenir Coin. Originally, the fair was scheduled only to run from May 27, 1933 until November 12, but it was so successful that it was opened again to run from May 26 to October 31, 1934.

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(S-0040) Celebrating the Joys of Stamp Collecting. So, now, back to George’s love of stamp collecting.
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George Boller and his dad, Waldo. Two avid stamp collectors!       

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Stamp collecting was a hobby Waldo handed down to George, and interestingly enough, George’s first job after returning from WWII was serving as a postal clerk at the Wayland, Iowa post office.

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Here’s Dad with his mom, Olive Boller.
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(M-0042) Circa 1920’s – Boller Mantle Chime Clock.  This chiming clock holds some of my favorite memories when I was visiting my Grandmother Olive’s house in Wayland.
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(C-0106) This is a letter written in 1915 from my great grandmother, Barbara Miller (Boller), to a Miller relative still living in the Wellman/Kalona area. My great grandfather, Daniel (D.J.), and great grandmother, Barbara Miller, moved to Wayland in 1896 with their two sons, Waldo and Frank. D.J. opened Boller Furniture, offering a fine selection of furniture and other services such as mortician and funeral director!

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(M-0052) Promotional Brush from the Boller Furniture Company.
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(M-0053) Promotional Wall Hanging from the Boller Furniture Company.

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(M-0109) Wayland Phone Book from 1952 features the Bollers on page 3.
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(P-0128) State University of Iowa Postcard – Postmarked Jun 22, 1921.  Only one month & eleven days after my Dad’s birthday – May 11, 1921.
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October 29, 1938.  Dad’s Day in Iowa Stadium. Waldo and George attended. This was my dad’s first year of school at SUI. Waldo died November 22, 1941. That, along with the war, interrupted Dad’s time at Iowa. After the war, Dad came back to Wayland, worked a while at the Wayland Post Office, but decided to go back to SUI for training as a printer. It’s that training that led the Bollers, first to Mt. Pleasant for a job with The Mount Pleasant News, and then, in 1965, to Iowa City…


George (the Hawkeye) Boller finally moves to Iowa City – 1965-1966.

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(P-0129) Close Hall (1890-1970) Located at the northwest corner of Iowa Avenue & Dubuque Street, Close Hall was the original home of the School of Journalism, and for many years, the home of The Daily Iowan student newspaper. The cornerstone of Close Hall was laid November 14, 1890 and it was originally the home of eight Christian associations on campus, including the YMCA and YWCA. Named for Mrs. Chalmer D. Close (who donated $10,000 of the $27,000 raised to complete the building) Close Hall became my dad’s work place beginning in the winter of 1965.

George took his new job with The Daily Iowan (printer & linotype operator)  in December, 1965, and we moved from Mt. Pleasant, where he worked for The Mt. Pleasant News (1957-1965), to Iowa City in June, 1966. My first job during my high school years was working here in the basement of Close Hall as a janitor. In 1968, The Daily Iowan combined all of its printing operations in a building near the corner of Madison & Burlington Street, where The Lindquist Center stands today.

(P-0130) (P-0131)

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George Boller – Linotype Operator, Printer – University of Iowa.

On Homecoming weekend, October 15/16, 1976, The Iowa City Press Citizen Sports Editor, Al Grady, wrote a moving tribute to my dad, George Boller. We used a great majority of the article in writing about George in Our Boller Family Story. Click here to read all the details.

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(M-0014) December 1965 to June 1986 – University of Iowa Service Medallion.

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(M-0054) Printer’s Markup Ruler awarded to George E. Boller on his retirement – June 1, 1986. One of a printer’s most treasured tool: a markup ruler (line gauge) made by the Arthur H. Gaebel Company of Larchmont, NY. Formed in 1946 to serve the newspaper industry, Gaebel produced stainless steel rulers and printers line gauges. I have two rulers from Dad’s collection. One was engraved on the backside by The Daily Iowan staff and presented at his retirement.

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My dad, being from Wayland, Iowa, made the 50-mile trip on old Highway 218 from Henry County to Iowa City on numerous occasions throughout his lifetime. His first recollections were of his dad, Waldo, talking about the wild adventures associated with venturing through snow, rain and mud to Iowa City for a football game at the turn of the century. Next up, my Dad told me about the blessing of the paved cement that was put in during the 1920’s, making the time it took to get to Iowa City for a game to be cut in half. In the late 1930’s, my Dad traveled to and from Iowa City to go to college, meeting football stars like Nile Kinnick and others from the famed 1939 Ironman team. In the mid-1950’s Dad drove from Wayland to Iowa City to be trained as a printer/linotype operator so he could get a good-paying newspaper job in Mt. Pleasant in 1957. And then in 1965/1966, Dad took yet a better job at The Daily Iowan in Iowa City, driving that 50-mile trip on a daily basis from November to June, when we moved our whole family to Iowa City. And finally, the old Hawkeye took his final road trip on Highway 218 as we brought him back to Wayland from Iowa City to be buried at North Hill Cemetery.

Click here to read more about George Boller’s life-long relationship with old Highway 218 – Wayland/Mt. Pleasant to Iowa City.

The Love Letter Connection: George Boller & Dixie Boyer (1945).

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(M-0043) and (M-0044) Iowa 1921 and Missouri 1923 – License plates matched in heaven!

Fortunately for us, people wrote letters back in the day, leaving us with communication that lasts. On the next two display sheets, you will find a series of letters sent back and forth between two love birds. My mom, Dixie Boyer, was from Trenton, Missouri. She graduated from the University of Colorado and was offered her first job as a school teacher of Japanese-American children at the Heart Mountain Japanese-American Internment Camp in NW Wyoming. My dad, George Boller, from Wayland, Iowa, dropped out of college to join the armed services after Pearl Harbor. He ended up being stationed for most of the war at Heart Mountain, serving as a guard for the U.S. Army. Read more about this aspect of US History here.

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(C-0107) First up, here is a 1943 letter from Dixie’s dad, William Hollis (W.H.) Boyer, to Dixie in her final year of school at the University of Colorado.

(C-0119) included in this picture is an Invitation to a weiner roast at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, where my mom was a school teacher after graduating from college.
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So, here’s the scenario. On February 6, 1945, 9:30 PM, George is on “15-day leave,” on his way home to Wayland via train. His first stop is Billings, MT where he’ll catch a train to Omaha. Interestingly enough, Billings will be the city where George & Dixie will be married on March 17, 1945! In Omaha, he’ll change trains for a train to Ottumwa. There his grand-dad, will pick him up and he’ll be in Wayland for a week, where he’ll catch up with family, look at wedding rings, and miss his honey back at Heart Mountain! Enjoy the reads.

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(C-0108) Letter #1. George to Dixie. Postmarked in Billings, MT on Feb. 7, 1945 before George hops on the train. Note on the envelope that there is no stamp, but the word FREE. All servicemen during WWII could mail letters at no cost!  Read more about “stamp-less” mail and how postage rates were determined.
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(C-0109, C-0110) Letters #2 & #3.  Dixie to George. Postmarked in Heart Mountain, WY on Feb. 8 & Feb. 9.
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(C-0111) Letter #4. George to Dixie. Postmarked in Washington, IA on Feb. 9. George is there looking over some wedding rings for his love back in Wyoming.
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 (C-0112) Letter #5. George to Dixie. Postmarked in Wayland, IA on Feb. 12. Old girl friend is a thing of the past. Full speed ahead!
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(C-0113) Letter #6.  Dixie to George. Postmarked in Heart Mountain, WY on Feb. 12.
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(C-0114) Letter #7. George to Dixie. Postmarked in Wayland, IA on Feb. 13.
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(C-0115, C-0116) Letter #8 & 9. George to Dixie. Postmarked in Wayland, IA on Feb. 15 & Feb. 17. Back in Wyoming on Feb. 21. 
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(C-0117)  Letter #10. Dixie to George. (Missing envelope) Written on Monday evening (Feb 12?)
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(C-0118)  Letter #11. This final letter in our collection. Postmarked Mar. 10, 1945 in Heart Mountain, WY is a touching letter from my dad to his mom, Olive, back in Wayland. It is written just seven days before being married to Dixie (March 17, 1945 – St. Patrick’s Day). It’s a letter that brings me to tears, as my dad talks about his father and his struggles with depression and alcoholism that led to an early death.  Read more about “stamp-less” mail and how postage rates were determined.

Want to read more about George & Dixie? Click here.


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

George Boller – A Hawkeye Football Nut, Al Grady, Iowa City Press Citizen, October 15, 1976, p 11

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