Thomas W. McCollough
BORN: February 2, 1888, on a farm near Charter Oak, Charter Oak Township, Crawford County, Iowa.
DIED: October 23, 1967, in Ida Grove, Ida County, Iowa.
AGED: 79 years, 8 months.
BURIED: Dow City Cemetery, Dow City, Crawford County, Iowa.
FATHER: Thomas Wilson McCollough born in Ohio or Indiana.
MOTHER: Rhoda Jane Gardner born in Ohio?
MARRIAGE: to Edna Myrtle Edwards on May 1, 1912, in Denison, Crawford County, Iowa.
1. Premature infant died at birth or shortly thereafter. Born on August 17, 1915, in Dow City, Crawford County, Iowa. No sex given. Burial on August 18, 1915, at the Dow City Cemetery, Dow City, Crawford County, Iowa.
2. Donovan Edward McCollough born October 22, 1917, in Dow City, Crawford County, Iowa.
Tom McCollough was born on a farm near the town of Charter Oak in Crawford County, Iowa. He was the third of five children born to Thomas and Rhoda McCollough. He lived most of his life in the town of Denison, Iowa, except for a short time in Kansas. He went through the Denison school system and eventually acquired an interest in all things mechanical. As a young man he and another man named Wes Cramer opened an auto repair shop. The business didn't last very long because of the hard economic times and their customers' inability to pay for the repair work that Tom and Wes performed.
On May 1, 1912, Tom McCollough married my dad's oldest sister, Edna Myrtle Edwards. They had one child born on August 17, 1915, that only lived one day. Just over two years later, on October 22, 1917, a son was born. His name was Donavon Edward McCollough.
Sometime during those early years as a mechanic, Tom also developed an interest in electricity. He studied books, and taught himself whatever he could about basic electricity. He also developed an interest in the burgeoning field of electronics. Tom was the first person in town to have his own radio set. He sent away for a crystal radio kit and put it together. He said he "froze" when he tuned in the first radio station, because he was afraid to lose the signal.
In 1930, Tom was offered the job of maintaining and running the two diesel-electric generators at Holstein, Iowa. His responsibility was to run them in order to supply power for the city. In later years, Iowa Public Service ran power lines into Holstein from Sioux City, so the two generators weren't needed except in emergency situations. At that time, Tom went to work as a lineman, taking care of the utility's power grid.
I always liked Uncle Tom even though his "no nonsense" attitude didn't leave much room for relating to children. He believed in the old saying that "children were to be seen and not heard." I remember when I was a teenager, I also developed an interest in electricity. At the urging of my Aunt Myrtle, he reluctantly gave me his old outdated set of electrical books. His only comment when he handed them to me was, "Here, you get all this in your cranium and you'll have something." Then he walked away. A year of so later, after I had had time to read some of the books, I asked to see the old power plant. It hadn't been used in years, but he agreed to take us on a tour. After walking around the equipment, he asked me a couple of questions about the generators. I remembered what I read and knew the correct answers. He quipped, "Go to the head of the class." Then he walked away.
Tom was a very poor driver. One time I rode to town with him to the drugstore. He pulled into a diagonal parking space and ended up so close to the next car that there was only about one inch from his car and the next one. He never owned a new car. He didn't believe in it. He said they cost too much, and a used car got him just as far as a new one. He never believed in owning a house either. He didn't want the responsibility for the upkeep. He didn't mind cutting the grass or shoveling snow, but that's about all he wanted to do.
They lived in two or three locations in Holstein, but the place I remember as a child was the old farm house located just north of the railroad tracks on the way out of town. It was the the last house before leaving the city limits. It had a full front porch with a swing. It was the first place we went to when we visited them.
Tom was always old to me. He was born in 1888, so when I was a young boy, about ten years of age, he was already looking toward retirement. He was fairly tall, probably six feet or more. He had an angular body, but he wasn't fat or heavy. Tom had sort of a low and mellow sounding voice. While he didn't smile very much, he had a quiet demeanor and was easy to get along with. He enjoyed a good story or joke, and he was very witty at times. When he was asked why he played a certain card in canasta he said, “Well, the price of corn what it is and the way the roads have been, I figured that’s what I’d do.”
Tom was a hard worker. He always seemed to have some project to work on in his spare time. After he retired Tom worked some Saturdays at Earl Hanson’s furniture store in Holstein. One day he came back and said, “I was there all day and only sold one package of sewing machine needles. I'm not sure but what she might bring them back.”
His basement workbench was always an unbelievable mess. Despite that, he was able to keep his head in a crisis. One time he accidentally touched a live wire while he was on a power pole. He kicked his boot spikes out of the pole and let gravity pull him down and away from the power line. He got his legs scraped up but he wasn’t electrocuted.
Like most people, he smoked cigarettes and ended up with emphysema. He wore glasses, which were invariably dirty and smudged. I remember my Mom saying, "Tom, give me your glasses. I don't know how you can see anything with them." In good Norwegian fashion, she went over to the sink and washed them with soap and water. Tom liked to fish but didn’t go very often. He hunted occasionally, but he really wasn't an outdoors sort of person.
Tom was clumsy and forgetful at times, and it always seemed to get him into more difficulty. One time he was on his roof installing a device that rotated the TV antenna. Somehow he managed to drop the electric motor down the chimney. He had a devil of a time getting it out. Another time he wired up an electric stove for a farm lady. It took him most of the morning. Shortly after he got back home, the phone rang. It was the lady saying that it didn't work. He drove back out to the farm and discovered that he forgot to plug it into the wall outlet that he'd just installed.
Tom was always at the “leading edge” of electricity usage. He was one of the first people to have air conditioning in his home. He would have been one of the first people to use a computer if he were alive today. One exception to his “cutting edge” technology was his use of an old style toaster that must have been left over from the 1920s or 30s. It was the one with a metal “door” on each side that held the bread at an angle to the heating element. You had to watch it carefully and turn the bread manually when one side was brown. He invariably burned his fingers whenever he tried to turn the toast. I can still hear him saying, “Jeepers Cripes!”
My Uncle Tom was a staunch Democrat. He argued to no end with my Uncle Mike, who was a staunch Republican. They went round and round on any and every topic you could name. Tom always read three newspapers. The Des Moines Register, the Sioux City Journal, and the Omaha World Herald were always delivered each day. I liked that because when we visited, we had three sets of comics to read.
He never had a separate bedroom until my grandmother died. Before that time, he slept on a side porch in the summer and in the kitchen in the winter. I don't know where he kept his clothes. Tom liked to grow fruit and vegetables, and he always kept a large garden. They ate well from their garden and even kept apples grown in a small orchard next to their house.
Uncle Tom and Aunt Myrtle moved to Ida Grove in 1964, after their son, Donovan got married. They lived in a house that looked remarkably like the one in Holstein. The interior of Aunt Myrtle's house looked like something right out of the 1890s. Tom McCollough died on October 23, 1967, while I was serving in Vietnam. I wish I could have been home for his funeral.