How to Use
Reading 2: Hoover Remembers His Iowa Childhood: 18741884
In spite of his relatively short time in Iowa, Hoover remembered those years with great fondness. "I prefer," he later wrote, "to think of Iowa as I saw it through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy. Those were eyes filled with the wonders of Iowa's streams and wood, of the mystery of growing crops."1
There also was Cook's Hill, and Hoover described it as a place "where on winters' nights, to satisfy our human craving for speed, we slid down at terrific pace with our tummies tight to homemade sleds."2 The Wapsinonoc Creek was dammed to form a swimming hole under the willow trees. In the woods along the Burlington track Hoover trapped rabbits and occasionally felled a pigeon or chicken with bows and arrows. Using willow poles as rods and worms for bait, Hoover fished for sunfish and catfish in the streams.
The Burlington railroad tracks were filled with gravel where boys searched for agate and fossil coral, polishing them on the grind stone. Hoover remembered that "Their fine points came out wonderfully when wet, and you had to lick them with your tongue before each exhibit."3
Hoover went on to recall that "Iowa in those years as in these, was filled with days of school and who does not remember with a glow some gentle woman who with infinite patience and kindness drilled into us those foundations of all we know today?"4 Hoover also regularly attended meetings of the Religious Society of Friends, a group better known as Quakers. Individual Bible reading was part of their concept of education. "Before I left Iowa," Hoover noted, "I had read the Bible in daily stints from cover to cover."5 The Quakers strongly supported education and the values of thrift and individual enterprise. They worked hard and could always be counted upon to help others in need.
Although Hoover left Iowa at the age of 11, his adult character owed much to those years. He maintained an interest in the outdoors, and he never forgot the lessons of his early religious training.
1. What kinds of amusements did Hoover enjoy as a child? How do these compare with the activities children pursue today?
2. What was Hoover's attitude toward school and school teachers when he wrote his memoirs? Do you think you will have the same attitude about school when you are an adult as you do now?
3. How do you think Hoover's religious beliefs influenced the values he held as an adult?
Reading 2 was compiled from Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, Years of Adventure, 1874-1920 (London: Hollis and Carter, 1952).