Three widower friends making a trip from California to Iowa to see the place one of them was born, and to see if the yarns he’s spun through the years match up to the real thing.
It sounds like a premise more suited for a Hollywood road trip movie, but that’s what Tuny Bosch, 84, Arnold TenBerge, 73, and Syp Vander Dussen, 77, did this last week.
Bosch, raised on the family farm in Carmel, made a business for himself in Chino, CA, starting Crown Shavings in 1961. The company produces bags of wood shavings to be used for animal bedding.
TenBerge, who had for years been in the coffee distribution business, ended up working with Vander Dussen at Vander Dussen & Haringsma Dairy & Real Estate Brokers.
The three are retired, live in the Chino area, and they go to church together.
“The only reason I’m here is to babysit those two, and that’s it,” TenBerge teased. “I have no reason to come to Iowa. Absolutely none. Did this as a total favor to drag him out here because Tuny kept talking about it. I finally said, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s just do it.’ That’s why we’re here.”
He continued, “Then we find out (Vander Dussen’s) son has built a dairy not too far away, and he had never seen it. So I thought this was perfect, and we’d kill two birds with one stone. So he came with us, and here we are.”
It was a trip to visit some of Bosch’s old friends and to see the sites he’d grown up with. It was the first time Vander Dussen has been to Iowa, and TenBerge has visited Des Moines before to see his grandson race.
Bosch’s family moved to California when he was 12 years old, and he’s made many trips back to N’West Iowa over the years, but he hasn’t returned for more than a decade.
They arrived in the Midwest on Friday, Nov. 22, after much hopping around on planes.
On Saturday, the trio arrived in N’West Iowa, and Bosch wanted to meet up with Florence Sandbulte, an old friend of his when he was growing up.
But she wasn’t there when they arrived at her farm, so they went up the road to her son, Shawn Sandbulte. When Bosch knocked on the door, Shawn’s wife Jami answered.
“She says, ‘Can I help you?’ I said I want a hug. She says, ‘Who are you?’ I says I want a hug. I said, ‘I’m Tuny.’ She says, ‘You get a hug,’” Bosch said.
Bosch had a list of things he wanted to see, such as an old cement slab he and his brother used to slide down and the hog barn.
The slide, TenBerge said, wasn’t close to the touted 12 feet length, and the hog barn much smaller than in the tales.
Bosch chalked it up to mysterious shrinking that’s occurred in his absence.
“I don’t know if things are just multiplying in his head and reality is gone, but I really wanted to see all of this stuff,” TenBerge joked.
Switching tones, TenBerge continued, “We were fortunate. The hog barn and some of that stuff was still standing. His house wasn’t. I find it all interesting too. I love the history of things. When we went through the old Carmel store, oh my gosh, you just wish the walls could talk. Built in 1902. What a fascinating story that place must have.”
Not missing a beat, Bosch chimed in, “And that place really shrank also.”
“We’ve had so much laughter. It’s been crazy,” TenBerge said.
One of the spots Bosch had really looked forward to visiting was Carmel Reformed Church since he hadn’t been in the new building before. The three were welcomed from the pulpit by Pastor Mike Pitsenberger at the start of Sunday’s service, and Bosch met with some old friends of his afterward.
As it turns out, Bosch’s roots to the church run deep. His grandfather was a pastor there back in the day.
“This may have shrunk too, but years ago, there were pictures so wide and so high of all the pastors, each an individual picture. Now they’re all in one frame and are at the consistory room,” he said.
It’s amazing what long-forgotten memories come back to you. As he and his friends were making their rounds, he remembered one mysterious date from his youth.
The story goes like this: When he was 16, he and his parents returned to Iowa for a visit. After the service at Carmel Reformed Church, he ran into Betty Van’t Hof, Florence’s sister. At the time, Betty was dating Delmar Sandbulte, who she’d later marry.
Betty asked Bosch if he’d like to go on a date with someone, and he agreed.
“They introduced me to a young girl, and I said yes and she said yes,” Bosch said.
That night, Delmar and Betty picked him up and together, they picked up this girl. Delmar and Betty then had themselves a bit of a picnic date on the grass, gave Bosch the keys to the car, and he and the girl went off.
To show his appreciation, the next day he bought two candy bars for her. Bosch gave them to Betty to give to her when they next met.
Bosch has no idea what became of this girl after that night, and he’s long since forgotten her name. On a whim, he and the other two decided to stop in on Betty to see if she recalled this 68-year-old-or-so date.
Sadly, the visit with Betty didn’t turn up any leads.
“I thought for sure she would remember. I thought this’d be the cherry on the whole thing, and we’d learn all this stuff. Everything else we’ve visited and done and what he wanted to do has worked out perfect. It’s been a beautiful journey to be on because everything worked out,” TenBerge said.
It looks like Bosch will have to wait a bit longer for that second date.
If by some miracle someone knew who that girl from the date was, TenBerge said they’d have to return again.
Vander Dussen and TenBerge have thoroughly enjoyed their first excursion to N'West Iowa.
They were impressed with how tidy everything was here and how friendly the people are. Though much is different here from their homes in California, there is a Dutch community where they’re from.
“There are a lot of us in our area who still speak Dutch. Not so here,” Vander Dussen said. “But it’s still good to see that all those values and traditions of the Dutch still survive.”