As we told you in an earlier post, in 1896, D.J. Boller moved his family to Wayland, Iowa in order to open up Boller Furniture Company – bringing to the area both a fine selection of furniture and the much-needed skills of an undertaker. Click here to read more about D.J. and Barbara Miller…
My grandfather, Waldo E. Boller joined his father in operating Boller Furniture at an early age. Waldo (born-1884) and his younger brother, Frank (born-1886), had the unique honor of being a part of Wayland High School’s second high school graduating class (see pics below). There were a grand total of four students who graduated on May 1, 1903 and Waldo (age 19) & Frank (age 17) comprised half of the class! Read more here.
The graduating class motto? Labor Opens The Gate!
After high school graduation (1903), Waldo took the State Embalmer’s examination, and after receiving his license, was employed in both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, finally associating with his father, D. J., in the furniture and undertaking business in 1906.
According to family records, Waldo took over full management of Boller Furniture around 1920. As it can be in many father-son relationships, it was very difficult for Daniel to delegate and relinquish control of the retail business over to Waldo – an issue that eventually caused a great deal of tension between the two. Retailing is never an easy task, but by the time Boller Furniture reached the late 1920’s and the early 1930’s, the national economy was becoming a disaster.
(P-0127) This postcard (above left) from 1924 features Main Street in Wayland. A wonderful resource we have used in gathering much info found on this page is Wayland – The First Century (BH-105).
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.
Click here to read more about how WPA projects in eastern Iowa helped battle the Depression.
I recall my parents, George and Dixie Boller, talking about growing up in those days, when great numbers of people lost their businesses, jobs, and homes, with entire families walking from town to town looking for any handout or odd-job they could find. My father tells the story of the Wayland School District which by the mid-1930’s was very short of cash and looking to save money anywhere it could. They decided to cut the school superintendent’s annual salary to $1,000 per year in order to force the man to leave, but the superintendent realized that some money was better than nothing and decided to keep the job until the worst of the depression was over.
As a retailer, myself, I know that its always important to find creative ways to help keep your business’ name in front of your potential customers. This is especially true during tough economic times like the 1930’s. It’s obvious that Waldo did a great job in finding promotional give-aways that would help the good folks of Wayland remember Boller Furniture.
(M-0053) One unique Boller Furniture Company promotional item that we discovered on Ebay (above) is this small wall hanging. At the top of oval picture we find the phrase… “A remembrance from the Boller Furniture Company – Wayland, Iowa.”
(M-0052) Here’s another keepsake that’s been handed down in the Boller family – a promotional brush from Boller’s – Complete Home Furnishers – Wayland, Iowa – circa 1930.
Click here to read more about the very best days of Boller Furniture – the Roaring Twenties.
(C-0101) As you can see from the decorative letterhead and envelope above, Boller Furniture was your Home Furnisher supplying Furniture Your Children Will Treasure. Click here to read more about this unique letter from my grandfather Waldo to my dad, George Boller.
Watching over a retail business during these depression years was an intense job. Fortunately, Waldo was able to keep the furniture and undertaking business intact during this very difficult season, but not without it taking a heavy toll on him. Between the internal pressure he felt to keep the business going, plus the strain of working under the watchful and sometimes unyielding eye of his father, the pressures caused Waldo to be very susceptible to hopelessness and despair. Like many others during the worst of moments, Waldo turned to alcohol to ease his tension and pain.
This 1937 article (above left & middle) from the Mt. Pleasant News indicates some of the financial problems surrounding both Boller Furniture and Wayland Savings Bank during the depression years. The News (September 1941) releases the bad news (above right) about both the business (first paragraph) and Waldo’s health (fourth paragraph). Under all this duress, Boller Furniture, after 45 years of serving the good people of Wayland, finally closed its doors in 1941, selling the business outright to Lyle Zehr, owner of Zehr Funeral Home in Wayland.
Under the veil of poor health and nerves that were brittle-thin, Waldo succumbed to a premature death as well, at age 57 on November 22, 1941. His wife, Olive, my dear grandmother, lived on in Wayland for many more years, becoming a friend to many in this small community. Olive passed at age 82 on December 20, 1969. Both are buried at North Hill Cemetery in Wayland.
Click here to continue with Waldo & Olive Boller’s story…
D.J. and Barbara lived the remainder of their years in their beloved farm community of Wayland. Daniel J. Boller passed away on May 24, 1946 (at the age of 89) just as World War II was ending. Barbara Boller lived on to a ripe old age of 91 and finally succumbed to death on February 12, 1955. Both are buried at North Hill Cemetery in Wayland, Iowa.
Click here to continue with D.J. & Barbara Boller’s story…
Sadly, as Waldo’s grandson, I never met him since he died a decade before my birth (1951). My father didn’t talk much about Boller Furniture and the toll it took on Waldo. But after dad’s death in 1994, I found some wonderful written evidence that my father and his dad were really close and I came to see how hard it was on the whole Boller family to have the business end the way it did.
So, here’s a toast and a tip of the old hat to Waldo Boller and the role he played, not only in keeping Boller Furniture alive into its 45th year, but doing it during one of the bleakest economic times of the 20th century. Even more, here’s to you, Waldo, for your tenacity and strength in loving and caring for your family, right up to the point of your departure in 1941.
In my eyes, Waldo, you ran your race well. Thanks, Gramps! Godspeed!
Here’s a tip of the old hat to Boller Furniture Company of Wayland, Iowa. From 1896 to 1941 – 45 years – serving the good people of Jefferson Township in Henry County.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Wayland Museum, WaylandIowa.com
Chapter Four: Waldo E. Boller & Olive A. Hulme – Surviving The Great Depression, Marty Boller, From the Heartland of Europe to the Heartland of America, 2006
Furniture and Undertaking: An Odd Combination?, Jocolibrary, January 16, 2014
Seek $18,000 in Seventeen Court Actions, The Mt. Pleasant News, September 11, 1937, p 1
Boller Sells Store Stock at Wayland, Mt. Pleasant News, September 3, 1941, p 2
Lyle Zehr, Zehr Funeral Home, Mt. Pleasant News, IAGenWeb
Waldo Emerson Boller, Find-A-Grave
Olive Alice Hulme Boller, Find-A-Grave
Click here to go on to the next page…