If you grew up between the 1940s and the 1980s, it was not uncommon to spend most of your summer days taking swimming lessons at the Perry municipal pool, skating at the outdoor roller rink in Pattee Park or playing baseball or softball.
By the time school started, if the weather was crisp and sunny, many of us were still not ready to spend our time inside. Because of all the fun that we had with our neighborhood friends all summer long, we weren’t ready to be inside both at school and at home.
We learned from our parents and friends at an early age how to appreciate nature. This appreciation included walks through the rustling leaves at Pattee Park or at one of our favorite places, Happy Hollow Wildflower Park.
The changing color of the leaves combined with the fall noises and made playing in the public park fun, but Happy Hollow was fun because we could discover things like the Pixie Theater, the Elf Tower or the Happy Hollow Hotel.
Happy Hollow Park was located one mile west of Perry on Iowa Highway 141, where Victor and Ruth Dorman Fagen developed the park not just for themselves but for the enjoyment of everyone from the Perry area and beyond.
As you walked along the trails, you could learn a lot of wisdom from the signage that Ruth Fagen posted. One of these signs said,
Listen! A bird sings.
Whose bird is it? Ours if we hear it.
As much of the world belong to us
As we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Listen!
It was a clever way to show kids how to listen to the many birds that lived at Happy Hollow or how to enjoy the flowers in the spring or leaves in the fall. The signs found along the trail nurtured an appreciation of the environment that was not presented in a typical classroom but was presented in a manner that encouraged our pondering on what the sign meant.
After visiting the pixies, elves, birds and other woodland residents, a family could return to the glassed shelter to learn about the types of flower planted throughout the park. If a family chose to do so, they could enjoy their picnic lunch in the glassed shelter.
Happy Hollow was a terrific place for families as well as a good place for local organizations to enjoy. From the time that Victor and Ruth Fagen developed Happy Hollow Wildflower Park in 1954, they worked endlessly to make additions to the park and perform maintenance without charging a fee to enjoy a walk through their private park.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Victor and Ruth Fagen family for sharing their treasure with us for so many years.