1920-1929 – The Roaring Twenties.

The Roaring Twenties started off with Waldo & Olive Boller moving into their new home at 203 E. Main Street (below right) – a home that would remain in the Boller family for the next 50 years.

The 1920 census.

In May of 1924, Waldo (’03) served as the president of the Wayland High School Alumni Banquet, giving the welcoming speech! Look at that delicious menu!

Family records also indicate that around this same time, Waldo took over the management role of Boller Furniture Company – the furniture and undertaking business started by his father, D.J. Boller, in 1896. After graduating from high school (1903), Waldo received training to be an undertaker, most likely from the Iowa State School of Embalming in Iowa City, which was established around the turn of the century by William Price Hohenschuh, the highly-respected Iowa Citian who was president of the National Funeral Directors Association.

Wayland had tripled in population (from 231 to 637) from the time D.J. started Boller Furniture in 1896 until 1920, when Waldo took over the business. And, while well-trained as an undertaker (mortician), Waldo also had other business interests that helped his retail store expand well beyond what Boller Furniture had become under his father’s care.

It’s obvious from some of the promotional pieces we still have in our family that Waldo put a much larger emphasis on the “furniture” side of the business. Below are some of the remaining pieces of a beautiful dining room lamp shade that hung in Waldo & Olive’s home. Sadly the piece didn’t survive, but we’ve salvaged some of the decorative glass!

Click here to read more about Boller Furniture Company during Waldo’s years as manager.

This Boller Furniture stationery reflects the expanded market that Waldo brought to the business. Note the emphasis on furniture, home furnishings, Victrolas, Victor records, and Victor radios.

Waldo & Olive Boller were lovers of good music, and for many years, Boller Furniture sold Victor phonographs (Victrolas), records and radios in the store. In Waldo’s obituary, it states that “through his knowledge of good music many of the best records were made available to this community.” The obituary also mentions that “(Waldo) invariably was a member of the church or civic quartets in which he sang baritone.”

As a sidebar here, you might like to know that Victrolas were early phonographs and radios made by The Victor Talking Machine Company. These machines had the horn “built-in” (internal) to the cabinet. History shows that while a great deal has been written on the subject of the acoustic phonograph, much has been focused on early Thomas Edison cylinder machines and early external horn manufacturers. While Edison’s phonograph represented the critical development phase of sound reproduction, it was the invention of the internal horn Victrola in 1906 that literally launched the phonograph into millions of homes.

No longer was the phonograph a strange machine with a huge horn that stood out so awkwardly in a room; but the new Victrola looked like a piece of furniture that fit perfectly in the parlor. Certainly, Waldo made certain his community of Wayland was up-to-date with this “state of the art” entertainment center.

As we mentioned earlier, in November of 1916, Waldo & Olive lost their first child, Kathryn Anna Boller, as she died at birth. Joy was restored on May 11, 1921 when God blessed Waldo and Olive with the birth of my father, and the beginning of the fifth Boller generation, George Edward Boller (my dad).

Waldo and his son, George had many good times together as George grew up. They shared their love of University of Iowa football and basketball. One of my father’s earliest memories was attending the 1926 Iowa Homecoming football game with his father and family when he was only five years old! I’ll give you more of my father’s memories about Waldo when we get to George’s chapter.

In the midst of the joy, a great deal of anguish and pain began to come to Waldo as Boller Furniture entered into the 1930’s. In October of 1929, the infamous stock market crash ushered in an economic climate in America that did not let up until the United States entered World War II in 1941. Many businesses closed their doors during this Great Depression and to make things worse the drought of the century hit the Midwestern section of the United States in the midst of the 1930’s, blasting the farm economy in the nation’s mid-section to near collapse.

Now, after a decade of overseeing his successful business, Waldo will now face his darkest days, keeping Boller Furniture afloat through these tough economic times.


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

(BH-105) This book on the first century of Wayland, Iowa contains a treasure-trove of information about our Boller family’s first home in Henry County, Iowa.

Furniture and Undertaking: An Odd Combination?, Jocolibrary, January 16, 2014

A Legacy of Excellence: The Early Years: Cabinetmakers and Livery Proprietors, Mary Halstead, Hamilton’s Funeral Service, 1984, 2003, pp 25-26


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