The Dos Equis beverage company has a campaign called “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” In the series of commercials this fictional man is said to have done everything from “giving his father the talk” to being “both left-handed and right-handed.”
Mel Allen could very well be who that character is based on. Allen is a Korean War era veteran who took part in “Operation Totem Pole,” an 872-mile walk through Alaska in 1952 and a trip to his basement almost feels like a visit to a hall of fame. The shelves have trophies from his competitive pistol shooting and tractor pulling days.
An old news clip, written by Caroyln Dahiin, should give you an ideal about the talent that Allen possessed in marksmanship.
“The expert marksmen aimed at an imaginary spot, pulled the trigger of his match pistol (unloaded, of course), and the imaginary bullet went speeding on its way—while a cigarette remained balanced upright on the top of the barrel.”
Despite his other accolades, Allen holds something else of more value than his other trophies—his three retirement badges that hang on wall of his basement. One is for the 16 years he served as a firefighter for the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department, one for the nine years he served at the Franklin County Conservation Department as conservation officer and the most important badge is the one he got after 24 years as an Iowa State Patrolman (the title was changed to State Trooper in the 70s).
“There were 185 patrolmen when I went on,” Allen said. “27 of them were driver’s license clerks, about 14 supervisors in the district and another ten or twelve over at headquarters and took care of things. That narrowed it down considerably and when you consider that you got two shifts and days off, you are spread out pretty thin.”
Iowa has 99 counties and Allen said that as a patrolman you would sometimes have to cover more than four counties at once. He also said back up wasn’t that abundant, as patrolmen were spread out and a lot of smaller counties had a sheriff and one deputy at a time.
“It was a very respectable job and sometimes a very dangerous job,” Allen said. “I used to tell young guys that come to work for me, ‘You come out of school and you think you are some kind of Superman, you’re not. You’re just like everybody else. If you get hit in the head with a brick it’s going to hurt, just like everybody else.’”
During his time with the patrol, Allen kept busy by trying new things. Some stuck and the other didn’t.
“I took flying lessons, thinking I want to be a patrol pilot,” Allen said. “However, flying just did not appeal to me as greatly as I thought it would. I also joined the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department. They were in need of an emergency squad to work accidents and such.”
Allen worked as a patrolman from 1953-76 and as a volunteer fireman from 1960-76, however, he likes to stay active and in that same year he retired from both of those places, he accepted the position of conservation officer for Franklin County.
“I enjoyed that job,” Allen said. “Working outside, giving talks to various groups and working with young people. We maintained 800 acres of parks and lands in their natural state. I did this job for nine years and at reaching the age of 55, I then retired from public service.”
While he officially has retired three times, Allen still hasn’t quite grasped the concept of the word and runs a business, Newton Meter Company, with his son out of a custom built shed in his backyard.
For a guy who started out as farm boy, whose “whole world was within 10 miles of home,” Allen has had more than his share of adventures. His wife Carmen summarizes what it’s been like to go on this journey with him.
“Whatever he wants to do, I just go along and help him out,” she said. “I’ve just enjoyed it with him.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org