Driving along Highway 77, there is a small sign indicating the way to Rubio, Iowa. I nearly miss it, but catch the sign in time to make a sharp turn down what looks to be the main road in this town of 35 people. I pull into Carroll Steinbeck’s driveway. He’s waiting for me, announcing that I have, indeed, found the right spot.
Carroll, who will be 95-years-old this November, was born and raised in Rubio, the house he grew up in just across the street from his current home. Familiar with small town Iowa myself, I can see Carroll’s pride in his hometown. The first time he left home was to study at the University of Iowa, followed shortly to fight in WWII.
He ushers me into his home, and we sit down at his dining room table. Carroll has laid out a few pictures of him in uniform from the 1940s for us to look at. While WWII ended 63 years ago, Carroll is still able to recall memories from those days with utter clarity. He joined the army after his sophomore year at the University of Iowa, entering the 66th Division as a mortar gunner. Carroll landed in England on his 21st birthday.
While Carroll had several stories to share about his time at war, what I loved hearing the most was his love story, something that doesn’t seem to match our images of war. Carroll came home to Rubio before shipping off to Europe. While home he went on a picnic with friends and met Evelyn, who was studying to be a nurse and also home for a short time before leaving for more training. With a grin, Carroll tells me he had one date with his future wife, but that was all that was needed. They started corresponding while he was overseas, their letters now part of the Stories Worth Telling exhibit. When he realized he was likely to come home safe, he sent Evelyn a proposal from France, and she said yes. Carroll still gripes that he had to wait 20 whole days after coming back home to marry her. Just one date lead to 56 years of marriage.
On November 2nd, the University of Iowa is fortunate enough to have Carroll Steinbeck come share his stories with us starting at 2pm in Shambaugh Auditorium at the Main Library. From 3pm to 3:30, there will be a tour of the exhibition Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of the Greatest Generation with curator, Elizabeth Riordan, and Head of Special Collections Margaret Gamm. This event is free and open to everyone. Come share these stories with us.