What it means to be a Hawkeye

Community: Author's first memory of Iowa was Hawkeye State

  • Photo
Rick Hollis, community contributor

Editor’s note: Rick Hollis of rural North Liberty is past president and newsletter editor for the Iowa City Bird Club.

This picture has been in my family since the 1920s, long before I was born, long before I moved to Iowa.

And truthfully, long before I knew what it was to be a Hawkeye.

This is the SS Hawkeye State and it was in my great uncle’s den from my earliest memories. As a foolish young person, I never asked my uncle George Hoffman about it, although I knew he was on the ship for at least one voyage. The photo, the tattoo on his forearm and the occasional curse were the only things I knew about his sailing days.

George and my grandfather, Julius Teufer, were shipmates in the merchant marine. They sailed on this ship during her first voyage. George may have introduced my grandfather to his sister, which led to my mother and later me.

The Hawkeye State was built at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrow’s Point Shipyard in Baltimore. She was built to carry troops and was fast for the time. She became a passenger/freighter and her early voyages took her to to Honolulu via the Panama Canal and various California ports.

She was sold several times and changed names each time. I suspect the various changes in ownership had to do with the hard times in the late 1920s and early ’30s. As World War II approached, she was called back into service and changed names again, this time as the USAT Hugh L. Scott. After a number of voyages, she was torpedoed off the coast of Africa on Nov. 11, 1941, by U-150.

I had hoped to find a crew list with my uncle and grandfather’s name when I began my internet search. I did find a passenger manifest from one trip as the Hawkeye State, photos of the ship under several names and even a picture of the Scott sinking.

In the early ’70s, we moved to Iowa, the Hawkeye State went my mantel and we learned what it meant to be Hawkeyes.

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.