Kenneth and Zita

When she was fourteen, Zita met Kenneth while both were living in Rexfield #5. William Shutts had moved his family there after his farm was lost to foreclosure. Kenneth had returned there from North Dakota where he had been working in the mines. Kenneth’s father, Thomas Andrew Jones, was an electrical engineer at the mine. The friendship between Zita and Kenneth started when he would come to the post office to retrieve the mail. Zita had started working at the post office after her sister Carmen, the official postmistress, had largely abrogated her responsibilities. Their first date was to a silent movie shown in a big room over the company store.

Zita reported in her book that Kenneth loved todance, but that her folks would not let her go to dances. Kenneth stopped going to Dunkard services (the Dunkards were a denomination of German people similar to the Amish) and started attending the non-denominational company church and would walk Zita home after the church services.

Zita wrote, “Kenneth decided he wanted us to get married. I was only fifteen and said, ‘I don’t know. You’ll have to ask my folks, I guess.’”  Clementine and Zita bought a gray taffeta dress trimmed in blue in nearby Albia for the wedding.  Zita and Kenneth were married at the First Methodist Church in Albia in the presence of her parents. Zita always maintained that her marriage date was 20 May 1921, though the affidavit on file in Monroe Co., Iowa, would suggest that the marriage occurred on 20 May 1922.  As Zita herself noted earlier, she was fifteen-years-old at the time of her marriage, and this would not have occurred until 1922. (Documentation can be found in a Appendix 3.)

Granddaughter Tamia Cloud Bible wrote, "Mom (Shirley Jones Cloud) never corrected the question about the year publicly.  She had the documentation in her files for the correct date, but she felt that Grandma J would have been hurt if it was made public in her lifetime. She always said that genealogy had the power to hurt as well as help. So, she allowed the artifice to stand to protect Grandma's feelings. She was convinced that Grandma had come to believe in the 1921 date. She also talked about the 50th anniversary celebration in 1971 being quite awkward because all the adults knew that it was actually only 49 years. Aunt B (Lou Jones) told me as well that Maynard (Jones) found the license when he was a teenager and he thought it was hilarious.  I know that Mom's handling of this was done to protect Grandma J and does reflect a certain generational approach to a delicate situation."

After they were married, Kenneth continued to work in the coal mine at Rexfield #5 as a top weigh man. His job was to weigh the coal after it was transported up the shaft to the surface level.  They lived in a company house, which consisted of three rooms.

Kenneth and Zita then moved to Ottumwa, Iowa, when the coal vein lessened, and Kenneth got a job at Morrell’s packing plant. In Ottumwa they rented a two-room apartment in a rooming house called the Glendon.

It was in Ottumwa that their first child, Maynard LeRoy, was born on 22 May 1922 when Zita was fifteen and Kenneth was 24. He was named “Maynard” because Kenneth had wanted his younger twin brothers to be named Maynard and Baynard.

Kenneth developed diphtheria at this time, and all in the family received an antitoxin injected into the spine. The family was quarantined for a period of time and the living quarters were fumigated.  Fortunately, all recovered, but Kenneth was told not to back into the packing plant again.
With a lure of higher wages, Kenneth took a train to Farmington, Fulton Co., Illinois, so that Kenneth could again work in a coal mine along side his brothers Carl and Gus. Maynard and Zita went to live with her parents at Rexfield #5. While at the mining camp, Kenneth developed pneumonia.  Zita received a telephone call that Kenneth was very ill with pneumonia.  Kenneth’s mother and father, Maynard, and Zita took a train to Farmington where they found Kenneth deathly ill, a perception that was confirmed by the local doctor who said, “There is no point in giving him (Kenneth) any more medicine. I won’t be coming back to see him again because he will not be alive by morning.”  Kenneth’s brothers had planned to move to an apartment and had removed all items from their living quarters. Kenneth was found lying on a spring bed covered only with a blanket.

Zita and Kenneth’s mother, Eva, mixed up hot poultices of lard, turpentine, and mustard and kept applying them to Kenneth’s chest. Kenneth’s fever broke, and after about five or six days he was brought back to Albia by train and then by bobsled to the Shutts’ house at Rexfield #5.

In the spring of 1923 after Kenneth had recuperated from his pneumonia, he took a job as a section man for highway construction. Zita and Maynard moved to a three room house in Dows, Iowa, to be near Kenneth’s work.

Eighteen months later, the young family moved to Chariton where they lived in a three-room apartment attached to a boarding house owned by Zita’s parents.  While Zita helped her mother prepare meals for the boarders, Kenneth worked in a lumberyard in Chariton and later worked as a salesman for the Singer Sewing Machine Company which had him traveling from town to town selling the new electric sewing machines.  Zita would sometimes work in the hem stitching shop, which Singer operated in Chariton.

Shutts’ Boarding House, Chariton, Iowa, 1989

Shutts’ Boarding House, Chariton, Iowa, 1989

Shirley Marian was born in Chariton on 21 December 1924 and was named after a character in a book —Shirley Marian Gray— which Zita had read to Kenneth when he was so ill.  Shirley’s nickname was “Little Toot”.

1925 Iowa State Census Collection, Chariton, Lucas County, Iowa:
Last name:    First name:    Relation:    Age:
Shutts William H Head 55
Clementine Wife 50
Carmen Daughter 29
Sims Jason Grandson 7
Jones Kenneth Son-in-Law 27
Zita Daughter 18
Zita Grandson 2
Shirley Grandaughter 1
Shutts Elizabeth Mother 80

In a chapter in her book titled “More than Disaster”, Zita described one of several events that shaped her life:

“At about noon on June 5, 1925, Maynard and Dad had just returned from town, where they had purchased some extra soup bowls. Dad was sitting in the office collecting the money for the noon meals. Dad also loved to go around the dining room pouring coffee for the guests as they ate their meal. Carmen was in the apartment helping to baby-sit Maynard and Shirley.  Suddenly, Ollie showed up at the apartment and said that he had come to try to reconcile with Carmen. Mother and I were in the kitchen preparing the noon meal and heard a lot of commotion.  I went out to help in the dining room as Carmen came running out of the kitchen screaming. She ran through the dining room. Ollie was chasing her with a gun in his hand. As Ollie ran passed me, he stuck the gun in my side and I heard it click. Then, he shoved me aside and continued to chase Carmen. By this time the guests in the ding room were running and screaming. Next, Dad came running out of the office and got between Ollie and Carmen. Ollie aimed the gun at Caren but shot Dad.  Dad crumbled to the floor right in front of my eyes. “O my God,” Ollie said, “I killed Dad!”
“Ollie continued running out of the back door, across the street to the Blackstone Hotel, where he shot and killed himself. The sheriff came to investigate.  Dad had died at the scene!  The newspaper article the next day reported that, when the gun was examined at the sheriff’s office, there was one bullet that had been fired but not released. That was the misfired bullet meant for me!
“Mother wanted Dad’s body brought home to be laid out. Carmen wanted Ollie’s body brought home, too.  So the two of them were laid out in caskets side by side in Mother’s boarding house and buried side by side in our lots at the cemetery.
“Life was never the same after that. Everything crumbled at one time. I lost my Dad.  Mother lost her husband.  My children lost their grandfather.  It completely changed our family!  I ended up not having a home at the boarding house anymore and Mother lost her livelihood because she had to sell the boarding house after Dad’s death.
“There hasn’t been a day in my life since then, that I haven’t thought about it. It was so senseless...  This has been the most difficult event to relate in my entire autobiography.”

Later in 1925, Kenneth got a job in Newton, Iowa, and the family lived in a tent city where Maytag Park is now located. With winter approaching in November 1925, they moved in with Zita’s mother who was now running a boarding house on West Third Street in Des Moines, Iowa.  Kenneth found work as a sand cutter for Green Colonial Furnaces, allowing them to move to a rented house on Chicago Avenue in Des Moines.

They later moved to a rented house on Twenty-fifth Street when Kenneth decided he wanted to have a garden.  When Zita was pregnant with her third and final child, Helen Mae, the family again moved, this time to a house at 2522 Lyon Street.  Helen was born in this house on 20 February 1927.

Several years after Helen was born, Kenneth experienced an illness that caused him to lose work time at the foundry.  Out of economic necessity, Zita found work as a hosiery inspector at a local mill.  She was later promoted to doing piecework and earned between $12 and $18 per week, depending on the work accomplished. Zita later was promoted to a supervisory position, working from 3pm to 11pm, a situation in which she would continue for the next 15 years.

Kenneth and Zita bought their first home located at 2516 Lyon Street in 1929.  Within two years Kenneth would experience repeated layoffs at the foundry and one year worked only 23 days.  When he was not working, he would be out looking for odd jobs. Zita’s work would occasionally be cut back to three days a week.  The mortgage company agreed to take interest only payments instead of foreclosing.  Sometimes after paying the gas, electricity, and telephone bills, there would be less than a dollar for the family to live on for the rest of the week.