FOREST CITY | One of Forest City's oldest living alumni is James Orlando Lovick, 98. He is a member of the Class of 1936 and lives at Good Samaritan.
James is still an ardent supporter of his Forest City Indians and, in fact, his great-grandson, Blaze Andersen, is a starter on the Forest City varsity football team.
Other than using a walker, James is quite self-sufficient and let there be no doubt his memory is "right on."
Most of James' school years were in the depths of the Great Depression. James was the fourth child and first son born into a Mount Valley Township farm family, which would ultimately number 12 children (five boys and seven girls).
An early memory was driving his dad's Model T six miles from their home to the Fertile Creamery, when he was about eight years old, with his mother at his side.
Times were very tough but his family was somehow able to hold on to its farm, while many were not. They slept on straw ticks, three to a bed and in the winter, horse manure was piled high on the house foundation for insulation. They gathered corncobs for cook stove fuel.
James attended a country school known as Russley No. 1 through the eighth grade. He said there were usually 20 to 25 students in attendance. They brought lunch with them to the school, sometimes heating it up over the school furnace.
Although times got very tough, he said they always had plenty to eat, mainly eating off the produce from their very large garden, with his mother doing a lot of canning to see them through the colder months.
He and a friend made some money by selling tomatoes to the Mexicans, who came to the area each year, to work at the canning factories in Forest City and Lake Mills. James worked as a hired boy, being paid one dollar a day to pitch manure and walk miles behind horses. The family grew a lot of sweet corn, which was sold to the canning factories.
In the fall of 1932, James and his country school friends were off to high school in Forest City (where Hardees is now located).
He said the country guys were pretty intimidated by the "city boys." No lunch was served at the school and he recalls going downtown at lunch time and spending five cents at Anderson Grocery for a Long John, with jelly in the middle. That was his lunch. The coach wanted him to play football, but his father wouldn't let him, saying chores came first and we "had a barn full of horses." There were no school buses and James found a source for income by driving many of the neighboring youth to and from school for $1.25 a week each.
He continued to hire out to other farmers during that period. This included picking corn by hand for which he was paid three cents per bushel. He never reached his personal goal of 100 bushels a day topping out at about 90.
He remembers going to the Junior/Senior Banquet in a 1929 Touring Ford with "fancy wings." He had a date with "the Peterson girl. He wore a suit and she a "fancy" dress. They went out to eat in Clear Lake, which was a "big deal."
In high school, they posted both the honor roll and another list you did not want to be on. He got a nice Forest City pin for being on the honor roll, which he allowed a girlfriend to wear, but "I never got it back." He said you did not want to go to the Principal's office and if you got in trouble at school you really "got it" at home.
And, of course this is only the beginning of James' life story which would go on to include his 72-year marriage to the former Alvera Hanna, six children and many, many more adventures.