The Hillman siblings, Dana natives, gather for a photo at the Dana Alumni Dinner in May. (From left) Wayne, 93; Max, 89; Ivan, 91; and Martha, 86. The Hillman siblings pose for picture day in the Dana school gym during the 1934-35 school year. (From left) Ivan, Wayne, Max and Martha Hillman.

Hillman siblings remain Dana-proud

Dana school alums remember old times


Four Dana siblings, all in their late 80s and early 90s, recently made their journeys across the Midwest to attend the Dana Alumni Dinner.

“This may be the last time they’re all together,” said Jolene German, daughter of 91-year-old Jefferson resident Ivan Hillman.

Wayne, Ivan, Max and Martha all represented the Hillman clan at a gathering last month for alumni of a school that no longer exists.

Ivan Hillman is now the last representative of the Dana class of ’41.

“Honey,” he noted, “I’m the only one still alive.”

Despite the fact that the Dana school building is no longer standing — its demolition, German and Hillman agreed, was difficult for alumni — the four gathered at the Shriver Building in Paton with a few remaining alumni from their generation.

The siblings place an importance as strict as their old superintendent on the alumni dinners, something today’s high school graduates don’t quite grasp.

The fact that there were only eight graduating students in Hillman’s 1941 class could contribute to what he describes as a perpetual desire for the alumni to stay in touch.

That, and high schoolers in the ’40s were not zipping into a school parking lot in their own cars.

“The people in high school were your only friends. I lived in West Dana, and I didn’t know the people in East Dana,” Hillman said about the close bonds forged with his other classmates.

In the early 1940s, Dana’s population stood at just 153.

The Hillman siblings rode to school on “Oldsmobile busses” that lacked heating systems and got more than chilly during Iowa winters.

The Dana school was new when the Hillman children attended.

They also had to bring their own sack lunches every day, as there was no hot lunch program.

After class was dismissed, the hallways didn’t explode with children, either. All students filed into a line and calmly walked out the front door, saying goodnight to their principal and superintendent.

Hillman, who started at the school in 1928, said the Midwest had not yet produced football fanatics.

“All we had for athletics was baseball and basketball,” Hillman said.

While the children of Hillman’s time did not wear sweatshirts, they did wear jeans, or whatever they had when Depression-era financial problems bled into the Midwest.

“You were lucky to have clothes in those days.”

Because a college education was not as necessary, only Hillman and two others went on to pursue a degree after graduation. None of the girls attended college.

Wayne Hillman, now 93 and living in Nebraska, graduated before his three siblings, in 1937, and went on to graduate from Iowa State’s veterinary school.

After his 1941 graduation, Ivan studied agriculture at Iowa State for five semesters before coming back to Greene County to farm with his wife, who also attended high school at Dana.

Max Hillman, 89, graduated in 1943 and headed west to work on the Alaskan Pipeline and oil rigs off the coast.

Martha, 86, went on to beauty school and now lives in Marshalltown.

Ivan, who still refers to his siblings as “the kids,” said they have always kept in touch with their Dana classmates.

“Once, we said if you were a Dana-ite, you’re a Dana-ite for life.”

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