C. J. Adams looks back on 100 years

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Clarence (C.J.) Adams of Dubuque will celebrate his 100th birthday with family and friends on June 25. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Clarence John (C.J.) Adams was born and raised on the family farm located near Turkey River on the Millville-North Buena Vista Road. 

"Turkey River was a town at one time," explained C.J. "They had a post office and everything. When they discontinued the railroad the town shut down."

On July 3, 1922 C.J. was brought into the world by his aunts, Katie Nick and Mary Pete, to parents Mathias J. and Catherine M. (Harasche) Adams. Dr. C.W. Palmer later stopped in to confirm his birth.

He had nine siblings, Elinor, Adeline, Leona, Arthur, Hilda, Lawrence, Agnes, Dorothy and Teresa. 

Farming enterprise

The Adams children all helped out on the busy farming enterprise. "We generally had about 30 0r 40 dairy cows," he noted. "The girls did all the milking by hand. My dad supervised." 

He went on to say, "I was responsible for the chickens – gathering eggs, feeding, cleaning the coop. We had two coops with 500 chickens apiece. We took two cases of eggs a day to North Buena Vista and some to Dubuque, to Gintz and National Tea, a chain store."

C.J.'s brother, Larry, took care of the horses. "We had about a dozen horses. They were used to pull our walk-behind plow," he explained. "We eventually got a 1029 tractor first and then a Farmall in the 1930's." 

His brother, Art, assisted with the hogs. "We had about 100 hogs. We took the hogs to a railroad shipping company in Buena Vista and they would ship them by rail to Chicago," he commented. "In the 30's we only got .03 cents a pound, and ended up with no profit and a bill for shipping!" 

The Adams family tilled approximately 30 acres, rotating alfalfa, corn and oats to prevent erosion, and raised sweet corn in the Mississippi bottom. 

"We raised sweet corn and took it over to the caning factory in Cassville, and Klint Gieger's hardware and grocery store," said C.J. "We lived off that money all year and it helped pay the bills. Our relationship with the canning factory made us financially secure. We also used the sweet corn fodder to feed our cattle. 

The Adams timber was also beneficial. "We were loggers and woodcutters also," C. J. told The Press. "We took the logs across the ice to Cassville. We used a cross-cut saw and a double bladed ax. It was hard work. My dad always wanted more boys so we could cut more wood."

Trenkels

C.J. still remembers the taste of a slice of sausage ham from Trenkels. "Whenever we picked up sausage and wieners the butcher would give us kids a slice of sausage ham," he remembered. "We butchered our own hogs and made sausage, but it wasn't as good as theirs!" 

The Adams household held many barn dances and house parties. "There were always plenty of musicians to play music and we loved to dance," he recollected. "We also went to the movies in Guttenberg once a month." 

Education

C.J. attended grade school at Turkey River School, a one-room school two miles from his home. He was slated to work on the farm after he completed the eighth grade, but Louis Ortale, the superintendent of Guttenberg High School, recognized C.J.'s academic ability and encouraged him to further his education. He was a straight-A student and competed in the Clayton County Spelling Bee four times, and in the Brain Derby at the University of Iowa. 

In 1942 C.J. graduated as co-valedictorian with fellow student Dorothy Brown, and was awarded a four-year scholarship to attend Loras College, Dubuque. 

"Our high school activities and studies kept us busy, but did not prepare me for college," he shared. I started at Loras, but was too timid. I had never spent a night away from home. I only earned C’s. I enlisted in the Army Reserve and continued my education through that program."

Army W.W. II 

In 1942 C.J. began Army Basic Training in Atlantic City, N.J. He attended Coyne Electric School in the Army Signal Corp in Chicago, Ill. 

In 1943 he attended classes at Rutgers University in the Army Specialized Training Program in pre-engineering from St. Bonaventure College. C.J.  met his first wife, Cathy, at a garden party put on by St. Peter's Hospital for their cadet nurses. "Cathy was a nursing cadet at St. Peter's Hospital in New Brunswick. We really hit it off. There wasn't a lot of studying after that," he said with a smile. 

With the successful invasion and advance to the Rhine River the twenty-year war was not to be. Eventually all college programs were cancelled and C.J. was sent to the 104th Division at Camp Carson, Colo. "I had two flat feet, and daily 15-mile marches caused my feet to swell so much I couldn't get my boots on. The doctor gave me orders to report to the 193rd Signal Repair Company at Camp Atterbury, Ind."

His credentials gave him the rank of Technical Staff Sergeant and he was assigned to the First Squad of the First Radio Repair Platoon. He would remain with the 193rd Signal Repair Company overseas until his honorable discharge at the end of WW II. 

Work career

In 1946 C.J. and Cathy were married. Together they raised three daughters Patti, Val and Trudi. "I worked for Westinghouse, in New Jersey, as a mechanical inspector and later a T.V. repairman. The Independent Union of Electrical Workers appointed me to their Organizing Committee. They won the election and I was trustee of the new Local Union. After three years the company went on strike, and Cathy and I packed up our kids and belongings and moved to Dyersville.” 

C.J. set up shop selling televisions and installing antennas. The business was lucrative at first, but an over-extended household budget and declining business caused C.J. to close up and the couple to divorce. 

C.J. took employment with John Deere, Dubuque in the Experimental Shop as a Hydraulics Test Technician. 

He would become Chairman for the UAW, and Chairman of the Stewards Council, creating a better relationship between John Deere and UAW Local 94. 

In 1974 C.J. ran for Congress against incumbent Mike Blouin and three others in the June primary. Without backing from the Union his pursuit was unsuccessful. 

In 1980 C.J. met his second wife, Elaine Bennett Hird, at the Bon Uniques Singles Club. “Elaine was a lovely woman. She was wonderful to my girls. We had many happy years together and did a lot of traveling with close friends and family until she passed away in 2014,” he commented.  

C.J. never gave up on love and found another companion, Dorothy McGovern Wieser Henry. “Dottie and I enjoyed one another’s company for many years. I was very blessed to have loved, cherished, and enjoyed Cathy, Elaine, Dottie and their children, folks and friends,” he fondly shared. 

C.J. is grandfather to three grandsons, six granddaughters, 25 great-grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren. 

He concluded. “I always like to say, ‘The only game where everyone can win is love!’ Onward!”

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