Only Sixteen Miles, but Redfield Hill was a Challenge

This modern map says that it takes about 21 minutes to drive from Dexter to Adel on Old Highway 6.

The Clabe and Leora Wilson family lived near Old Highway 6, during the Great Depression. The stretch of White Pole Road, which was its historic name, was paved through Dexter in 1929, during the 1930s, the trip to the county seat of Dallas County was a little quicker, but even traveling to Redfield and back in a loaded Model T was challenging in those days.

When Clabe Wilson worked at the Redfield Brick and Tile plant, only seven miles away, he carpooled for the trip to Redfield. On the way north there is a large dip in the road, but a Model T could make a run for it on the downhill side, enough for it to make it to the top. Closer Redfield, they could coast down Redfield hill just fine.

Coming home could be a problem, because they had to make good speed on a straight away headed to Redfield hill.

The trip to Adel was nearly twice as far, but much more challenging on a used, single-speed bicycle. Dale Wilson bicycled to the county seat five times the summer before his senior year. His goal was to earn money that June from a bounty on crows and starlings. He had to turn in their feet as proof, from 254 bird pests. Five times at 32 miles round trip. Quite an undertaking for a 17-year-old, especially facing Redfield hill on the way home each time.

A photo of the family to send their “Navy boys,” April 1935, Dexter, Iowa. Back: Dale, Leora (their mother), and Darlene (Dale’s twin). Middle: Clabe (their dad) and Doris (with her machine perm?). Junior and Danny are in front.

The slowest way to travel between Dexter and Redfield was on foot. Dale’s older sister Doris had earned enough money babysitting and such to get a machine perm for her straight hair. She and her mother got a ride to Redfield, where a woman gave those perms, hoping to hitchhike home with someone from Dexter who’d recognize them.

Well, no one recognized them so they walked the entire seven miles. Both women were sturdy but Leora had on her good shoes. They did fine hiking up Redfield hill, but the one with the wide dip was rough on Leora’s feet as they slid into the toes of her good shoes. They made it home, but Leora’s toenails eventually blackened and came off.

You may find more memories along Old Highway 6, including Stuart stories, in Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression.



  1. I take it the old Model-T didn’t have much horse power or horse power? Speaking of Fords, do you reminder the song “Honk, Honk, Rattle, Rattle, Crash, Beep, Beep”?

  2. Back then one dressed more formally when they “went into town” and wouldn’t wear the more comfortable predecessors to modern sneakers. So, poor Leora with her pointy dress shoes! This account was very enjoyable and enlightening. Thank you, Joy.

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