Richard Wipf is the nephew of the last Wipf to own and operate Iola Mills. This is his memory of the mill and Iola:
"My earliest memory of the mill was shortly after World War II. I was eight or nine and my family had come up from Texas to visit family and friends in Iola....................
"The family members that I remember were my granddad and grandmother, Fred C. and Hilda Wipf, and my uncle and aunt, Fred J. and Claudia Wipf. We stayed in the family home up on the hill. Early the first morning, Freddy, as I called my uncle, came down stairs and got in his truck as I hurriedly dressed. I ran down Main and caught up with Freddy just as he sat down for breakfast at Crystal's."
"After breakfast we went and unlocked the Mill and Office, and we were open for the day! Freddy spent hours on the phone lining up flat-bed truck loads of cement. When a truck would arrive, we would have to unload it on the south porch and roll it into the Mill for storage. Back then, cement was sold by the barrel. I do not remember how many sacks are in a barrel, but it seemed better to say we only unloaded 500 barrels instead of 10,000 bags!"
"We never knew what a day of business might bring. There were a number of saw-mills around the area. A saw-miller would show and ask if we could plane 13-15,000 board feet of lumber that day. It was a job and Freddy would set the equipment for the correct dimensions. Herb Grove (Freddy's long-time helper) was responsible for taking the planed boards from the planer and stacking it neatly at the back door near the pond. After the lumber was emptied at the front door, the driver would bring his truck to the back door and load up."
"When the planer was running, all the shavings would drop on the equipment and floor. There is an elaborate set of metal pipes near the planing heads and around on the floor. A huge vacuum sucked the shavings up and across to the stone building to the south of the Mill. Many folks came by and filled their trucks with the shavings. I suppose they bedded down their livestock and chickens with the stuff. It was free."
"When planing a big job, we had to be careful not to overheat the equipment which might start a fire in the shavings. One day we had a big job going and the trucker and his helper were running the equipment while the Family ate dinner. All of a sudden, we could hear someone yelling 'fire'. I never saw my granddad and uncle move so fast! They got to the mill in time to get the fire out without any major damage."
"Of course anytime a big job was on, you could count of a piece of equipment to break! One day, the bearing in the water wheel broke. What was left of the old bearing had to be removed and taken to a shop to be recast. We drove long into the night to get to the bearing shop. Then waited (I wish I could say patiently, but that would not be true). Then it was about dawn when we got back and put the new bearing into the water wheel. By late breakfast we were back up and running!"
"Of course on a big job, we had to be careful not to drop the pond down too low and run ourselves out of water power, or flood the folks downstream. It was a constant balancing job."
"Some days folks would bring in 4-5 bushel bags of corn to be ground. To get the grinder and augers running took a totally different set of belts and pulleys to run the equipment. Lord only knows how anyone could remember the correct belts to set! The corn was emptied into a chute in the floor which fed into the grinder. Then, an auger would pick up the ground corn and put it in an overhead bin. Then Freddy or Herb Grove would fill the empty sacks with ground corn....and away went another load of feed!"
"We even ground flour which was a more elaborate process and involved a lot more equipment."
"And, oh yes, I have to mention the Mill 'public facility'. From my earliest memory until Freddy sold the Mill, the 'restroom' consisted of a two-hole seat. This 'two-holer' was strategically located over the water flow under the Mill. You took care of business and watched it flow down-stream! It sure cured me form drinking stream water."
My sister, Barbara Cullum, was never allowed near the Mill. After all, she was a girl! Barbara and I dearly miss being in Iola and we both have many fond memories of our time there."
"When I got out of the Air Force in 1960, I wrote uncle Freddy and asked if I could work for him in the Mill. It broke my heart when he replied that the Mill was a dying business and that it would not support him or me. He saw the 'big box companies' such as Home Depot coming and he could not compete with them."