Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, McKinley Graves!

The character of McKinley (or banker Graves), played by Curtis Deterding in our upcoming film project He Leadeth Me, was born April 1, 1881. In 1932, during the Great Depression, McKinley would have been 51 years old April 1! Because the 2011 calendar matches the 1932 calendar exactly, he would have celebrated his birthday this month!

- Born April 1st, 1881 in Murray County, Minnesota
- Son of: Joseph Earl Graves (deceased 1911) and Irene Bess (Griffith) Graves (deceased 1921)

 Leonard Caleb Graves born 1863 (deceased 1928)
 Lacy Sofia Graves born 1864 (deceased 1866)
 Barry Cedric Graves born 1868 (deceased 1902)
 Reid Joseph Graves born 1869
 Donald Ernst Graves born 1872
 Loran Luther Graves born 1873

- Occupation: banker
- Location: Mount Sterling, Illinois (Brown County)

- Personal interview: “No man in his right mind should be in the banking business when a depression hits. I wish someone had told me that.”

- Character profile: Graves, youngest of six children to immigrant homesteaders, was raised on a farm in Murray County, Minnesota, where his father grew wheat and corn. Determined to avoid the doldrums of farm life, McKinley finished the eighth grade and apprenticed himself at the town bank and loan office. There, he learned the business of bank, mortgage, and loan and longed for a business of his own. He left a local sweetheart for the adventures of Illinois and established his bank and loan office in Mount Sterling at the start of the new century. When the market crashed in 1929, his worst fears became a reality: almost all of the farms in the area with outstanding loans from McKinley’s bank stopped making payments. The vault emptied of its contents so fast that McKinley had to establish a self-initiated two-day bank holiday to give him time to borrow money from a wealthy relative. The money sustains the bank for now, but the depression continues and Graves is desperate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Shawn Harper!

The character of Shawn, played by Joe Larson in our upcoming film project He Leadeth Me, was born March 21, 1915. In 1932, during the Great Depression, Shawn would have turned 17 years old March 21! Because the 2011 calendar matches the 1932 calendar exactly, he would have celebrated his birthday this month!

- Born March 21st, 1915 in Sioux County, Iowa
- Son of: Orrin Wilson Harper (deceased 1932) & Fanny Hazel (Bradley) Harper (deceased, 1923)

 Baby Harper, male born 1913 (deceased 1913)
 Baby Harper, male born 1914 (deceased 1914)
 Baby Harper, male born 1923 (deceased 1923)

- Occupation: farmer
- Location: Rock Valley, Iowa (Sioux County)

- Personal interview: “My pa drowned himself. My ma died awhile ago, and I don’t blame her. He was a drunk…he hated both of us. But I got the land.”
- Character profile: Shawn was raised on the family farm. The site was originally settled in the 1870s but was purchased by Orrin Harper in 1910 after his marriage to Fanny Bradley. After many unsuccessful attempts at farming, Harper allowed the farm to fall into disrepair and became an alcoholic, illegally distributing bootleg liquor to pay the bills. Shawn, the sole surviving child of four, only attended school for two years. He took over management of the farm when his father began spending all of his time with his illegal business. Fanny Harper died in childbirth in 1923. Following her death, Orrin Harper became increasingly violent. On a Sunday in 1932, the gravedigger, John Schmidt, found Harper’s body in the Rock River. The man left behind one son and an insurmountable pile of debt.

"Shawn Bradley Harper" - Joe Larson
Photo provided by Larson Photography

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bonnett!

The character of Bonnett, played by Ashley Simonsen in our upcoming film project He Leadeth Me, was born February 21, 1915 . In 1932, during the Great Depression, Bonnett would have turned 17 years old February 21! Because the 2011 calendar matches the 1932 calendar exactly, she would have celebrated her birthday just a few days ago!


- Born February 21, 1915, location unknown
- Daughter of: unknown

 A 14 year-old sister who goes by the name of “Darcy”, real name unknown

- Occupation: gambler
- Location: Mount Sterling, Illinois (Brown County)

- Personal interview: “I go where I wanna go. I ain’t from anywhere, just from where I’m at right now…if anyone’s askin’. You can search and search and you won’t find anything about me. Darcy? She’s my sister, yeah…anyway, maybe. I guess you’ll never really know for sure…will ya?”

- Character profile: An individual with secrets, Bonnett has a past that no one has been able to understand. Full of secrets, and not really trustworthy of anyone, this young woman acknowledges that she has one sibling, though the truth of their relation has not yet been proven. Her location is always wherever she happens to be living, currently, and she is an expert at covering her trails. She earned her nickname by swiping a wealthy woman’s Sunday bonnet during a rural church picnic. During a train ride through the North West, an old, crusty transient told her how to spell her name. She’s never gotten it right since.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Clara Crawford!

The character of Clara Anne Crawford, played by Gina Vandever in our upcoming film project He Leadeth Me, was born February 15, 1905 . In 1932, during the Great Depression, Clara Crawford would have turned 27 years old February 15! Because the 2011 calendar matches the 1932 calendar exactly, she would have celebrated her birthday tomorrow!


- Born February 15, 1905 in Saline County, NE
- Son of: Edwin Murray Crawford & Martha Gene (Dawson) Crawford (deceased 1930)

 Sue Beth Crawford born 1908 (deceased 1908)
 Harold Dean Crawford born 1909
 Lester Lloyd Crawford born 1910

- Occupation: teacher
- Location: Rock Valley, IA (Sioux County)
- Personal interview: “Maybe I’m supposed to be looking for a husband. I don’t know. Ma doesn’t seem to give a hoot about the fact that I haven’t given her any grandchildren. Remembering all of the children I’ve taught…I don’t think I’d ever be able to choose a name for my own baby anyway…there are too many faces already attached to the names I like...and don't. I don’t want to look at my own children and think of all the rascals, rats, and rebellions…far too exhausting to be worth it.”

- Character profile: Clara Crawford, born and raised on a rural farm in Nebraska, once had aspirations of becoming a stage performer on one of New York City’s leading stages. She’d never seen any of these performances, of course, but she figured them to be spectacular for all the fuss the church ladies made over condemning their immorality. She never told her folks about the dream. Instead, she kept the secret to herself and searched for a more local, “acceptable” stage on which to use her creative oratory skills…the neighborhood school. To this day, her lesson skits and fantastical Christmas programs are the favorite of many a Rock Valley citizen. Clara feels near perfectly content…if only they’d pay her a little more.

Gina Vandever or "Clara Anne Crawford"
Picture provided by Diane Ehlers

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Timothy John Barry!

The character of Timothy John Barry, played by Josey Wilson in our upcoming film project He Leadeth Me, was born January 19, 1922 . In 1932, during the Great Depression, Timothy Barry would have turned  10 years old on January 19th. Because the 2011 calendar matches the 1932 calendar exactly, he would have celebrated his birthday yesterday!

- Character profile: Timothy Barry, born and raised in Rock Valley, IA, has never known anything but the small-town atmosphere of the humble farming community. As the Great Depression rages around him, he occupies himself with his own version of reality which consists of only innocent childish play, pranks, and prayers. His only real fear is never having enough food to eat, but his mother and father continuously encourage him to trust that the Lord will provide and, in the meantime, eat everything on his plate. His only one true temptation: finding ways to drive his younger sister Angela absolutely crazy.

Josey Wilson, "Timothy John Barry" (courtesy Dawn Schlienz)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Judge Ethan Evan Carter!

The character of Judge Ethan Carter, played by Nick Mundis in our upcoming film project He Leadeth Me, was born January 12th, 1890. In 1932, during the Great Depression, Judge Carter would have turned 42 years old on January 12th. Because the 2011 calendar matches the 1932 calendar exactly, he would have celebrated his birthday this week!
- Character profile: Ethan, son of a United States army officer and a Norwegian immigrant, married Laura Brenow in 1914 and was appointed judge in the railroad town of Rock Valley, Iowa one year later at the age of 24. Soon, Ethan and his small family became the most affluent individuals in town. His integrity as justice has gained overwhelming approval and he’s been encouraged more than once to run for mayor. He politely refuses the offer. Laura and a second child, a boy, died during childbirth in 1921. In the midst of his grieving, Ethan hired help to care for his home and his only daughter. This has allowed him to continue his financial and professional affairs in Rock Valley, though his paycheck has slowly dwindled to nothing since the market crashed in 1929. Ethan has one younger brother living in Boston, also a judge.

Nick Mundis, "Judge Ethan Evan Carter" (courtesy Nick Mundis)