Iowa memories: A magnificent barn welcomed a POW home.
Some memories live forever. Old barns have been used to house livestock, store hay and grain, provide a playground for kids in the haymow, and for many grown-up farm kids, they are also a storehouse of memories.
Al Yungclas still remembers the night nearly 70 years ago when his parents wouldn’t let him come to the big party in the family’s brand-new barn. To be fair, Al was just a little sprout at the time.
“The barn had just been built, and my parents were having a dance in here and Mom wouldn’t let me come,” he recalls with a soft smile at her memory. “I was three years old, seeing all these people come for a party, and I couldn’t go.”
Al’s parents, the late Bruce and Patty Yungclas, have been gone a few years now, but they are still well-known and quite fondly remembered throughout Hamilton County. It is so easy to imagine this fun-loving couple dancing up a storm to all hours of the evening back in 1953.
Bruce, a WWII veteran and former prisoner of war, was now living life to the fullest. He and Patty married in 1948 and quickly started their own family of little Baby Boomers.
This is a barn, just a few miles west of Webster City on old Highway 20, that has known some living over the years. Al Yungclas is the fourth generation of his family to call the place home.
“My great-grandfather bought this half section in 1889,” he explains. “His name was Henry Theodore and his wife was Anna May. She said she wasn’t going to live with his folks, so he had to build the house before she would marry him.”
Al and wife Karin still live in the house today, although it’s changed considerably since that time. The original home includes only the kitchen and dining room of the modern home today. The original barn was built in 1904 and actually facilitated some modern conveniences that were hard to come by, especially on farms of that day and time.
“My great-grandfather put a tank in the haymow,” Yungclas explains. “The windmill would pump water up and fill the tank, and he piped the water into the house. He was kind of an inventor, and they actually had water pressure in the house.”
The 1904 barn had a similar footprint as the current 1953 barn, at about 130 feet long and 40 feet wide, but the older barn had a larger haymow. To build that first barn, it literally took an entire lumberyard.
“When Grandpa built the barn in 1904, he bought a lumberyard in Highview, and tore it down to use here, plus new lumber,” Yungclas says.
In its early days, the barn had 12 milking stalls on one end, while horses were kept on the opposite end. It was an active farm, growing a family as well as grain and livestock.
“My dad grew up on this farm, and both him and my grandfather, Bill Yungclas, were born in the house,” Yungclas notes.
The original barn would stay in use until June 1953, when a tornado swept through the area and blew it down into a heap. The replacement would have to go up quickly in order to provide shelter for the animals in time for winter.
“They had to build something in a hurry,” Yungclas explains.
Pre-formed rafters were used to create the curve-roof barn. And although the new barn went up quickly, nothing was sacrificed in quality, as evidenced by its longevity and good condition yet today.
The pre-formed rafters are several layers of fir glued together. The arch of the roof actually creates a stronger structure, allowing wind to sweep over it.
“It’s well-built and it’s a strong shape,” Yungclas notes. “The curves give it strength. When you have right angles and corners, that creates a weak spot.”
Over the decades, the new barn would be used to house perhaps 200 head of cattle, and later it would serve as part of the family hog operation. Painted numbers on the walls still reveal the placement of farrowing crates. The barn was used to farrow in the summer, but not in the winter as it was not warm enough for baby pigs, Yungclas recalls.
Al and Karin Yungclas are retired now, pursuing their passion for community theater, much as did his parents, Bruce and Patty, in their day.
And the 1953 barn is still a great place for parties.
“When my daughter got married we had 200-plus people in here, tables, a band, and there was plenty of room,” he says.
The Yungclas family knows how to celebrate, and what better place than this barn, and this farm, home to so many generations? Sometimes, on rainy days, Al and Karin will take a walk out to the barn, pull out some chairs, and sit and watch the rain fall. Perhaps, if they listen carefully, they will hear the echoes of that long-ago barn dance that Al could only watch from afar.
Some memories really do live forever.