Warren “Pete” Elbert Rolofson
Meet Warren “Pete” Rolofson. Those that are closest to him know him as “Pete”. Okay, so he isn’t a native of Montgomery County Iowa, but he has spent the bulk of his mature life here in Montgomery County. He was born on October 24, 1922 on a small farm near Lincoln Nebraska. He was the third of 10 children, although two of the children were stillborn. Their farm was typical of the area and raised corn, wheat, barley, oats, and alfalfa, along with livestock of cows, hogs and chickens.
He went to country school for 8 years and then enter high school at Teachers College High School on the campus of University of Nebraska at 12th Street and R St. While in high school, Pete lettered two years in baseball and three years in basketball. The basketball games were played in the gymnasium of the University of Lincoln freshman team. The majority of the teachers were University of Nebraska students that were majoring in Education. Numerous colleges had similar high schools in the 30s, 40s and into the 50s. Pete graduated from high school in May 1941.
After graduation, Pete knew that it was a matter of time before the military called, so he went to work on a farm. The military did indeed draft him in December of 1942. He was sent to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls TX for basic training.
[Note: It was established as Sheppard Field on 300 acres that had been sold to the U.S. Army for one dollar. It was officially opened as an Army Air Corps training center in October 1941. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Sheppard Field conducted basic training for the Army. The base also trained glider mechanics, technical and flying training instructors.]
After two months of basic training and just prior to being transferred, measels broke out in the camp and what would follow would be a three month quarantine! Finally Pete and his fellow troops would be transferred to Warner Robins Field in Wellston GA, near Macon.
[Note: Warner Robins supported Army aircraft in this area with depot maintenance and supply. Throughout World War II (1941–45), 23,670 employees repaired almost every kind of AAF aircraft, including B-17s, C-47s, B-29s, B-24s, P-38s, P-47s, and P-51s. Its training facilities turned out nearly 60,000 field repair mechanics for every theater of war. The workforce supplied every kind of part necessary to keep AAF planes flying, especially spark plugs. It also maintained thousands of parachutes, aircraft electronic and radio systems, and AAF small arms.]
After two months of additional training, Pete’s outfit took a train to New York in preparation to ship out to England. They had unbelievable accommodations by being boarded on The Queen Mary for their 6 day trip to Scotland. In September 1943, they were assigned to a British military division – 808 Chemical Company (Air Operations) and sent to Bath, Somerset in southwest England. They were always on the move and on October 24, 1943 (Pete’s 21st birthday) they would be stationed in Braintree, Essex England in the Eastern part of England.
In the middle of 1944 the call went out for volunteers to transfer to the infantry. Not many takers on this request, except Pete felt the calling and along with his buddy at the time, they volunteered and were sent to join the 8th Infantry Division on the way to German. His buddy was a coal miner’s son from Davy West Virginia by the name of Charley Rhodes. Pete would celebrate his 22nd birthday in Paris France. Soon he would be on his way north to participate in The Battle of the Bulge.
[Note: The Battle of the Bulge started on December 16th 1944. Hitler had convinced himself that the alliance between Britain, France and America in the western sector of Europe was not strong and that a major attack and defeat would break up the alliance. Therefore, he ordered a massive attack against what were primarily American forces. Since the initial attack by the Germans created a bulge in the Allied front line, it has become more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Third U.S. Army’s intelligence staff had predicted a major German offensive, but the Allies were still caught by surprise. Fierce resistance and the terrain did favor The Allies and this threw the German timetable behind schedule. Allied reinforcements, including General George S. Patton’s Third Army, and improving weather conditions, which permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, sealed the failure of the German offensive. With 19,000 killed, The Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that the Americans fought in World War II.]
This was the beginning of the end for the Germans, and the war. In November of 1945, Pete along with a large number of troops boarded a small troop carrier for the trip to Boston – no Queen Mary on the trip home. Seas were rough and Pete along with many of his fellow troops, spent a lot of time being sea sick. After arriving in Boston, Pete was to report to Jefferson Barracks in St Louis after a 30 day furlough.
Since Pete’s school days, his folks had moved to Westboro Missouri. So he headed to Westboro to see his folks. While in Westoboro, he met a friend in the local pub. A short time later, his new friend, Carl Barnett, introduced him to his younger sister, Dixie. After Pete was mustered out of the service, he and Dixie would be married in Hiawatha KS, in July 1946. Dixie’s brother Carl that had introduced the couple would be on furlough from the Air Corp and would be Pete’s Best Man at the wedding.
After the wedding, the newly married couple would move into a small house just outside Westboro. It had been a “hired man’s” house. It was very common in that period of time to have a hired man’s house near a large farm operation. But indeed, in this case it did service as a hired man’s house because Pete would work for his father-in-law farmer for the next year or so until his father-in-law quit farming and moved to Tarkio Missouri in 1947. Pete and Dixie would also move to Tarkio where Pete would work for his uncle Lyle’s Chrysler dealership as a mechanic. But when a chance came along to rent an 80 acre farm near Fairfax, Pete jumped at the chance.
He was farming with four head of horses. He used a four horse team to do the disking and then he would use just a two horse team to plant. The next year, a bigger farm became available in the Blanchard Iowa area, so Dixie and Pete moved again. But times were changing and the need for more mechanical power forced Pete to consider other options. In 1954, the couple moved to Farragut IA to work for $120 a month for the Anderzon brothers, Wayne and Roy. They were good sized farmers for those days and were farming 480 acres and had newer M Farmall tractors.
It was during this time that they decided that maybe Dixie could go to work and help support their growing family. She got a job in Red Oak IA at Union Carbide plant in 1957. As with nearly every lady that ever worked at “The Carbon Plant”, she had to start on the night shift. Pete didn’t want her traveling that distance by herself late at night, so they made the decision to move to Red Oak. As it turned out, Pete was able to get a job at a gas station right across the street from The Carbon Plant. It was owned by Dick Ness.
To make some additional monies, Pete got a job with the Red Oak Police on the night shift. One story the couple remembers is on one Saturday night when Pete was on police duty and the kids were all at the movie. Dixie was making cookies and she heard some one come in the front door (remember the days when no one locked doors?). When she went into the living room, she found a stranger laying on her couch. Unafraid, she asked what he was doing and he responded that he was going to take a nap. She told him to go home and take a nap and he told her he was home (or so he thought). Dixie called the police and of course it was Pete that came and escorted the unidentified trespasser to a jail cell where he could “sleep it off”.
Another “police” store remembered is one evening when the grumpy neighbor lady came to the door and informed Dixie that she (the neighbor) had been bitten by her (Dixie) dog. Dixie told her that she didn’t blame the dog – that didn’t mend any fences! Where upon the neighbor informed her that she was going to call the police (ok, you can see where this is going)…Dixie told her to go ahead, and she did. To the neighbors surprise, it was was her neighbor (Pete) that showed up. It was then that she decided that she could really be a good neighbor (…nice lil doggy!).
Of the many “free time” activities, Pete is most proud of his many years of involvement with the boy scouts. In this period of time he had two sons, Dean and Gayle, become Eagle Scouts.
Pete would be a police man for six years or so and then transfer to Red Oak Parks Department, where he would work for 10 years and then transfer to another city department – water department. He would work in the water department for another 10 years until his retirement in 1984. After retirement, he continued to stay active by helping his son Danny do carpentry and remodeling around the area.
But most of his time was spent working at his “mini” farm. In 1971, Pete and Dixie had bought a 7.5 acre lil’farm on Blue Grass Rd, Red Oak. He always loved working with livestock and the mini-farm gave him the opportunity to do just that. He always had 10 to 15 head of ewes and sold lambs, as well as having 3 to 5 stock cows and sold their calves. They also had a good size flock of laying hens and Dixie’s hens were a regular source of eggs for many in the area. She was a regular “seller” on Saturdays at Bradley Sale Barn.
The couple had six children – 5 boys and 1 girl – Dean, Gayle, Linda, Danny, Carey and Steve. They have 16 grand children. They still reside on Blue Grass Road, although Pete is now a full time resident of Good Sam Nursing Home in Villisca.
Editor Note: unfortunately the pictures were lost