|Virgil and Eloise Harms honored as Phillips County Fair grand marshals|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
Surprised and honored are the words Virgil and Eloise Harms used when they heard they would serve as this year’s Phillips County Fair Parade Grand Marshals.
“I think it’s an honor; I really do,” said Eloise.
With much pride for their county and hometown, this long-time Paoli couple will be leading the parade down Holyoke’s Interocean Avenue Saturday, July 28 at 10 a.m.
Both Virgil and Eloise have called Phillips County home their entire lives, growing up in farming families on the plains of northeast Colorado.
Virgil’s family lived two miles north of Paoli, where he attended the rural school of Prairie Star through the eighth grade.
Eloise (Lundberg) grew up 17 miles northeast of Haxtun, attending the small Glenwood School three miles south of her house through the sixth grade.
We started going together after Corn Festival our junior year, said Eloise, remembering how she and Virgil got to know each other at Haxtun High School. Since it was during World War II, the young couple could only go on dates once a week, because everyone was rationing tires and gas and Eloise lived so far away from the Harms’ house.
Virgil said they could see a movie at the Rialto Theater in Haxtun and grab a hamburger and malt, all for $2. “And she made me pay for it, too!”
He also remembered how Haxtun was sure a hoppin’ town on Saturday nights, when most people came to town to sell their goods, buy groceries and socialize. For a nickel, they could get themselves two rides on the ferris wheel, a big Mr. Goodbar or a pound of bananas. But Virgil said most of the time they went home with nothing because they couldn’t decide what to get!
The couple both graduated from Haxtun High School in 1945, but not until they got in their senior sneak day. Eloise remembered they headed to Chimney Canyon, but for one reason or another, they never made it there.
Right after school, Virgil was drafted into the Army, but fortunately the war was just ending, so his time of service was brief and he never had to go overseas. He remembered being in Denver when the war officially ended and not even being able to walk through the streets because of the wild celebrations taking place.
Virgil, who left the service with a sergeant rank, was in the Army Corps of Engineers. Part of his duties included using a typewriter to process the officers who were returning to the states after the war.
During his service, Virgil and Eloise tied the knot in 1946. For a few months after they were married, they lived near Tacoma, Wash. where Virgil was stationed at Fort Lewis.
They were married at Fairfield Covenant Church where Eloise’s family attended. Virgil grew up in the Trinity Methodist Church in Paoli, which is where the couple attended until it closed and they started going to the Methodist Church in Haxtun.
The Harmses briefly lived in a house near Virgil’s parents until they bought their house in 1947 on the northeast side of Paoli. “It was pretty small to begin with,” said Eloise, noting their additions and remodels over the 65 years they have lived in that house on a street they named “Harms Way.”
Like his father, Virgil continued the farming occupation. He first rented some land and then bought some of his own. Wheat, corn, millet, sunflowers and soybeans—on both irrigated and dryland fields—have been grown on the Harms farm.
“We’ve had dry years, and we’ve had some good years, too,” said Virgil.
They started out with tractors that had no radios, air conditioning, GPS or auto steer, said Virgil, considering the extreme ways farming has changed over the years.
Additionally, Virgil and Eloise raised chickens, with as many as 2,000 on their farm at one time, as well as an operation with hundreds of hogs. Virgil also now has a business where he sells trailers, and in the past he’s worked at the filling station in Paoli and the sugar beet factory.
Eloise stayed busy raising their three children: Linda (Alberts), Duane and Damon.
The couple now has seven grandkids, three step-grandchildren and four great-grandkids.
In addition to farming and raising the kids, the Harms have kept themselves occupied with activities like square dancing. “Tell you what,” said Virgil, “we’ve just been busy most of the time!”
This long-time Paoli resident sure has dedicated much to the town. Virgil was recognized last December for his 50 years as mayor of Paoli. He took on the role when he was 34 and hasn’t looked back since!
“Time marches on, and they put a lot of stuff into Paoli,” said Eloise, thinking back on her husband’s 50 years as mayor.
“They had quite a town,” said the Harmses, remembering what Paoli was like in years past, with businesses like a lumber yard and pool halls. Virgil said baseball games in rural Paoli had as many as 5,000 people in attendance.
Eloise especially misses all the pasture land around Paoli and the grocery store run by Nora Fisbeck. “It will be a big loss if we lose our post office,” she said. “It’s still kind of a gathering place.”
The grand marshals also took some time to remember the Phillips County Fairs, explaining how the ferris wheels, rides and other events made the annual fair a big area attraction. Virgil remembered doing a lot of tractor pulling as a kid and attending the stock car races.
Now, looking forward to the 2012 fair, they said the 4-H projects and county exhibits are what make the fair exciting.
Don’t miss Virgil and Eloise as they are honored and will be representing Phillips County at this year’s fair, July 24-29.
Holyoke Enterprise July 12, 2012