Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor


Interview conducted as part of research for the writing of World War II in Mid-America

Cora (DeMunck) Manthe  © Copyright 2005

Interview by Robert C. Daniels

Cora (DeMunck) Manthe was interviewed at the Union-Congregational Church in Waupun on 28 November 2005.  The interview started at 10:30 A.M. and lasted 23.04 minutes.  At the time Cora was seventy-seven years old.


 What is your full name?  Cora Ann DeMunck Manthe.  I usedÖ, DeMunck is my maiden name. 

How do you spell that?  DeMunck is capital D E capital M U N C K.  Manthe is M A N T H E.

DeMunck is capital D E capital M U N C K.  Right.  My father immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands.

I know a lot of people born in the early twentieth century were not born in a hospital, but at home.  Where were you born?  In a hospital in Le Mars, Iowa. 

Okay, in a hospital.  What was the town again, please?  Well, Le Mars, but my home was Alton, Iowa.  But they did have a hospital in Le Mars, Iowa, where they didnít in Alton.  And Alton is another Dutch colony likeÖ, well, itís three miles from Orange City, Iowa, where they have a Dutch tulip festival every year.

Oh, wow.  Who were your parents?  Cornelius John DeMunck and Bessie Bell DeMunck.

Your motherís name was Bessie?  Bessie, B E S S I E.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?  I haveÖ, had two older brothers.  Glenn DeMunck, he served in the Air Force, he was a pilot and he put over thirty years in service.  He served during World War II.  And my brother Bob, he was about ten years older than I was.  Glenn was twelve years older than I was.  Bob served during World War II.  He has a degree in mechanical engineering, so he was placed in an engineering outfit and he served on Okinawa and some of the places where there was really fierce fighting.  And my brother Glenn flew mainly cargo planes.  But he stayed in service and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

When were you born?  I was born October 10th, 1928.

Where did you go to school?  Grade school and high school I attended the Alton Public School.  And then I had two years at the Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.  And I received my degree.  I transferred to the university there in Iowa City and I received a degree in Economics from that university.  There was like one or two girls in the class at that time.  All the rest were men.

What was like for you growing up?  Well, I had very nice friends.  I grew up in [the] Depression years.  In fact, I was born just before the stock market crashed in Oct 29th, and maybe thatís one of the reasons I was interested in economics. 

My father operated a garage businessórepaired cars and radios, sold radios at one time, and stored cars at one time, like for the highway department.  And my mother had one year of college.  And she played the organ in church and she did my fatherís bookkeeping.  And she was very active in organizations and usually took a leading part in organizations. 

My good friends, one of them was Pauline Hoeven, her father later became a U.S. congressman, and he was in Congress over twenty years.  And from a small town of a thousand population, I thought that was pretty good.

Another person that came from that area was Reverend Robert Schuller of the Hour of Power Crystal Cathedral.  He was born on a farm outside of Alton.  His brother now lives in the town of Alton and not on the farm anymore.  They retired from farming.  But, he (Robert Schuller) and his wife, who was from the county, formed the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, who now reaches twenty million people in fifty countries every week.  So we always thought that was pretty good for coming from a small rural farm area.

What were you doing in the 1939, 1941 timeframe, basically the timeframe just before World War II started?  Well, I was still in school at that time.  It would have been Elementary school, because I didnít go toÖ, I graduated from high school in 1946.  And, of course, during the war years there was some rationing. 

And another thing that happened to us as a family, my grandmother lived with us, and she had a stroke and she wasnít able to feed herself.  She had no control over her bowels.  We took care of her at home because there werenít nursing homes.  And she never recognized any of us after that happened.  She was like that for two years.  And I was eight years old when this happened, and ten when she died.  So Iíve seen what it is like to have a person like that.  The main caretaker was my mother.

Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard that Pearl Harbor was attacked?  No, I donít remember exactly what I was doing.

You were kind of young then.   Uh-huh.

Okay.  The next question is probably redundant then.  What were your thoughts and feelings about the United States being attacked?  Well, I thought that we had to respond, and I think there was more justification for that response that there is now for the war in Iraq.  I think we have lost a lot of friends overseas because of that, because of the Iraq War.

What were the general feelings of those around you about the Pearl Harbor attack and the fact that the United States was now in a war?  Well, they all noticed we were all going to have to sacrifice some things and many of the younger fellows would have to go to war.  And so I guess that was what we were prepared to do.

What were you doing during the war?  What did I do?  Well, I was in school, mainly, and took part in rationing.  They had rationing, and complied with that.

Can you tell us about the rationing and the rationing cards and how they were used?  Iíd like to but I donít remember specifically.  I think there were little booklets and then you tore outÖ, when you got something then you tore out whatever you got.  And so thatís how they kept track of what you had and what you got and what you couldnít get.

What changed in your town during the war?  Was there anything that you remember that actually changed because of the war?  Well, you couldnít buy new cars, so my father was kept busy repairing cars.  AndÖ, oh, letís see, that is probably the main thing I remember during that time.

Is there anything you remember that actually stayed the same during the war?  Anything specific that comes to your mind?  Well, another memory that I have is getting letters from my brothers, and my mother sitting around the table reading those letters from their experiences and what they were doing in the war.  And also reading letters from people that knew my brothers and whoíd write my parents what nice people they were. 

What was it like when you heard that the war was over?  Well, it was a wonderful thing to have the war over.  I donít like wars.  I think they are waste of time and people and money, and which could be spent so much better in other ways. 

What was it like when the military members came home?  When the military people came home?  Well, it was good to see them. 

Another memory I have is the fellow that became the congressman.  I was raised with his daughter.  We were good friends, and they invited me out to Washington, D.C. to visit them.  And I was about fourteen when they invited me.  And I remember that the train was filled with serviceman, too.  And I remember going down and visiting these people in Washington, D.C., and then coming back to Iowa with them.

Did the town you lived in change when the military members came home?  No, I canít see.  Well, the rationing stopped.  Well, we were glad to have the younger people around again.  The youngerÖ, mainly men.  And thatís probably the thing I remember the most.

Did things sort of go back to the way they were before the war or did they stay the same, or did they change?  I think they stayed pretty much the same.  I didnít see many new inventions coming out.  But, of course, the atom bomb was produced at that time.

But in the town, did things stay the same as they were during the war or did they revert back to the way they were before the war, or did they change?  I think they reverted back or stayed the same as they were during the war except for the rationing and other things, and people being able to buy cars.

The military members, were they different when they came back home?  Did you see a difference in them?  Well, I guess for a time my brother Bob was grinding his teeth.  And he told us that in his company at one period of time there were five officers, and three of them were killed, one was wounded, and he was the only one that came out alive and without a scratch.  And so there was quite fierce fighting with the Japanese in Okinawa and [the] Philippines and places like that.

What did you do after the war?  What did I do after the war?  Well, I started college.  And there was a time when the enrollments really increased because the service men were back.  And some of those were starting college on the GI Bill.

And after the war you got married.  When did you meet your husband?  I met himÖ, I finished college and I got an invitation from Capital Airlines to come out and interview for an airline hostess.  And they sent me a ticket to do this.  They were interviewing fifteen people for one position, and I didnít get the position. 

Then IÖ, so I was out in Washington, D.C. and heard about this agency, government agency that was hiring people.  So I applied and was hired and went through about eight or nine months of schooling.  And then they also did a background security clearance [investigation].  For instance, people would tell me that they went up to my high school, sent somebody there, and they talked to people in my high school in this small rural town.  Talked with people that knew me there and people that I was living with.  And then I was cleared for a top secret security clearance.  And I worked during the Korean War with that, in Washington.

And when did you meet your husband?  I met him during this period of time.  We met in Washington, D.C.  I lived in a place where they had both boys and girls, or men and women, living in it.  And we had a commonÖ, well, the girls were in one floor and the fellas were in another floor, and then we had a common living room and common dining room.  And he came to the house one time with a fellow that lived in the house that he worked with, and my husband was working in personnel with the Hecht Department.  He did all the hiring of the non-selling people, like the janitors, the truck drivers, the people that maintained the building.  I think at that time there were three Hecht companies there.

Did you have children?  We have two boys.

Did any of them join the military?  No.  Neither of them were in the military.

How do you spend your days now?  Well, I like to read, and I do some investing.  In fact, at one time I persuaded my husband we should buy a building here in Waupun.  And we bought the building on Fond du Lac Street, 10 Fond du Lac Street.  It had four apartments in it.  And then there was a good going restaurant on the lower level, and I liked the restaurant.  It was good food and it was reasonable, and that was Helenís Kitchen.  And each of the apartments were on separate utilities so each apartment paid for their own lights and heat.  And that was another thing I liked about the building.  And so after that I got to lease out the apartments and see that they were cleaned and repaired and find tenants and do that sort of thing. 

After Helenís Kitchen left, the City called me and asked me if they could lease the lower level that we had for a senior center, so I leased the lower level for a number of years to the City of Waupun for their senior center. 

And now I have sold the property.  And things I do, I take part in church activities.  And when there are funerals I help with the funeral lunch.  I am helping with the womenís group and we go out and visit people that are in the hospitals and do other things.  And letís see, I play bridge.  I still do some golfing and Iíve done quite a bit of traveling.  I did travel to China and Hong Kong, Israel and Egypt, Morocco, Spain and Portugal.  And a monthís travel in Europe, the countries in Europe, Poland, France and England and Austria and Italy and the Island of Capri.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the war years or what you were doing after the war, anything that comes to mind?  Well, I canít really think of anything right now.

Thank you.


This is considered © Copyright (2005) material.  Only minor quotes, giving proper reference, is acceptable.

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