Jen Bowen … a Fox (or three or four) … Rolfe’s 1960 Senior Class Play … Chicago

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This post is a result of a communication thread on the “Rolfe Community School” Facebook page. There is a lot of educational and entertaining information on that Facebook page. If you are interested in historical tidbits (and even some current) about Rolfe, Iowa, if you have not already done so, I encourage you to join the “Rolfe Community School” Facebook group.

Earlier today there was a query on the Facebook page about Cora Lighter pans. In response to the query I posted a photo of Cora Lighter, a sister to my grandmother DeElda, who is also in the photo.

Clicking on any of the photos below will enlarge them. Clicking a second time will enlarge even further.

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This is the photo I posted earlier today in response to a query on Facebook about the history of Cora Lighter pans. Cora Lighter was my great-aunt on my dad’s side. This photo is of L to R: DeElda Lighter Gunderson (my paternal grandmother), Cora Lighter (sister to DeElda), ? , and Jen Bowen. The three named ladies were from Rolfe. The hotel, in which I assume this photo was taken, opened in 1927. Cora Lighter died in 1951. This photo was in a cardstock frame with an outer cover. That cover is shown in the next photo. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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Since this was the cover for the photo at the top of this post, I am led to think that picture of the four women was taken at The Stevens Hotel in Chicago. My oldest sister, Clara, saw the photo of the four women and commented about it on Facebook. Her comment* is immediately below. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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Clara said this about Jen’s fox stole, “When I enlarged the photo of these four women dining in Chicago, I noticed Jen Bowen was wearing her fox stole (complete with head), which she let me wear for our senior (1960) class play. I played Angela Boyd, Eve’s (Pam Jordan Wolfe) ‘domineering, wealthy aunt.’ The 1960 RAM devotes a page to this play. In one of the pictures, I’m wearing the fox stole. By the way, Jen Bowen sang in the Presbyterian church choir for many years.”

Information about the Stevens Hotel, which opened in 1927, is here.

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When Clara saw the photo at the top of this post of the four women, she realized that Jen Bowen (in that photo) was wearing a fox stole. (You have to click on that photo to enlarge it to see the stole’s furry detail.) In the lower right photo of this RHS 1960 yearbook page, you can see Clara sitting on a chair in the background. You can barely tell that she is wearing a stole … Jen Bowen’s! (Click on image twice to see to Clara.)

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In response to Clara’s FB comment, Sally (Webb) Kish commented*, “I loved Jen Bowen. She had such a happy spirit. I sang in the choir with her many times.”

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Well, lookie here! This stole includes three fox heads! And, the fox feet, as well!!!!! I just happened to have this in a closet. (Click on this photo TWICE to see the beady little eyes and toenails!)

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And, here’s the head at the end, squeezed to open the mouth so, with the stole around a woman’s neck, it could clasp to the other end of the stole so it wouldn’t slip off the woman. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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Here is the same stole as in the previous two photos, plus another stole which does not have any feet or head attached. However, it DOES have a label that says, “Stevens’ — Chas. A. Stevens & Co. . . Chicago”! (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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This is the label on the stole pictured in the previous photo … the one without the heads or feet. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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Information about the Chas. A. Stevens department stores is here.

Now, who knows if the Stevens family that owned the hotel had any connection to the Stevens family that owned the department store in Chicago. At first I was so excited because I figured they MUST be connected somehow. I mean, Jen was at the Stevens Hotel with my grandmother and great-aunt, she was wearing a Stevens stole, and I have a Stevens stole. What more proof do we need that there is a definite connection?!!!!! ; )

Sigh … Obviously we don’t know for sure if there was a connection. But, researching did help me have more insight to Chicago and the Great Depression, knowing the Stevens hotel opened in 1927 … terrible timing with the Crash of ’29 looming.

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*Sally and Clara gave permission for their comments to be included here.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)

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3 Responses to “Jen Bowen … a Fox (or three or four) … Rolfe’s 1960 Senior Class Play … Chicago”

  1. Jeff Moore Says:

    Lots of interesting history and connections. My grandmother (in Davenport, IA) had a fox like that in her house or attic somewhere. It provided some fascination because of how cool it was that the mouth worked as a clip. Seems kind of weird to wear it like that, doesn’t it?

  2. Peg (Gunderson) Moore Says:

    Yes, all the interwoven stories here! GREAT sleuthing, collaboration, and reporting, everyone!

    On a partial note: Grandma looks so pretty. ❤ And Aunt Cora looks *nothing* like I thought! Perhaps there are photos of her older, in which she's bigger and broader? Or perhaps I'd just heard stories and attached my own imagined image?

    Btw, creepy stoles! 😯

  3. cghoover Says:

    What a fun post! I’m sure the pieces just fell together yesterday, especially when you realized you had two fox stoles at your house, and then you were on a roll putting together this post. For anyone reading, be sure to click on the fox photos to enlarge them. You’ll get a much better idea of the eyes, claws and mouths.

    How interesting to read about the Stevens Hotel and the Chas. A. Stevens Department Store. I didn’t do much research to discover if James W. Stevens and Charles A. Stevens were related; however, in articles about each of them I discovered both were originally from Colchester, a small coal mining town in western Illinois, about 40 miles southeast of Burlington, Iowa. Colchester’s current population is 1,400.

    Did you realize that John Paul Stevens (retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice, currently age 93) is the grandson of James W. Stevens, the founder of the Stevens Hotel? We played against J.P.S. once at a duplicate bridge tournament. The Stevens Hotel eventually became the Chigao Hilton and Towers, and eventually just called Hilton Chicago. We have been there when we were in Chicago for library conferences.

    The Stevens Department Store was just north of the Palmer House and surrounded by Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field.

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