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SIMPLE GIFTS from our rural past page 22



in Iowa’s historic hotels page 30

DEAR ABBY & ANN LANDERS Sioux City sisters who changed the world page 50


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November/December 2015





volume 64 | number 2

ON THE COVER Holiday Hearth, Greenfield, 1945, “Simple Gifts,” page 22. THIS PAGE: Ditch Tree and presents, Greenfield, 1947, “Simple Gifts,” page 22. Photographs courtesy Linda Sidey, The Sidey Collection


Simple Gifts

by Suzanne Kelsey

Iowans remember Christmas celebrations in rural

Iowa between 1920 and 1950 that include

unexpected gifts, visits from Santa, and

bobsled rides on starry nights.


Take a Historic Hotel Getaway

story and photography by Dan Weeks

Both a world away and right next door, Iowa’s

antique inns each offer a one-of-a-kind experience.

Combine them with seasonal events and you have

a can’t-miss holiday outing.


Iowan Icons: Grande Dames of the Dailies

by Avery Gregurich

As Dear Abby and Ann Landers, Sioux City’s most

famous twins revolutionized the advice column

and became two of the most influential women of

the 20th century.


Photoessay: Where the Wild Things Are

by Ty Smedes

Iowa’s premier wildlife photographer finds winter

beauty everywhere he looks. But then again, he knows

where to look!



from the editor Stories of the Season

6 letters

Threshing Memories; Great River Love

iowa map


Points of Interest in This Issue


iowa travels

Day Trips


Poinsettia Pointers


iowa grows iowa tastes Say Cheese!


home in iowa

From Foreclosed to Fabulous


iowa celebrates

The Ox Yoke Inn Turns 75


from the archives

Winter Pleasures

flashback: 1955


60 Years Ago in The Iowan

80 escapades Post-Blizzard Stress Disorder

from theeditor


Stories of the Season As the year wanes, it’s tempting to indulge in a bit

of reflection. And what better place to do so than

at one of Iowa’s historic hotels [“Take a Historic

Hotel Getaway,” page 30]? Checking in to one of these is my preferred method of time travel. You can choose a frontier riverboat hotel, an urban mobster’s retreat, or a small-town rail-era rooming house, complete with all the antique furnishings and original detailing. Holiday events at each destination will get you in the spirit of the season.

Publisher Polly Clark Editor Dan Weeks Creative Director Ann Donohoe Senior Graphic Designer Megan Johansen

Image/Photo Specialist Steve Seemann Copy Editor Gretchen Kauffman

Senior Account Executives Kimberly Hawn

Mike Kellner Account Executives Ronda Jans

Becca Wodrich

Speaking of the season, revisit Iowa Christmases past in the words of folks who grew up in the ’20s through the ’40s in rural Iowa — accompanied by evocative photos of the times [“Simple Gifts,” page 22]. Life was pared to the

essence during those lean but warmly remembered decades in ways that gave us

some of the traditions we still enjoy and that formed the Iowa character.

And the Iowa character shaped much of the rest of the country, if not the world, thanks to the unlikely ascendance of Sioux City twins Pauline Esther Friedman and Esther Pauline Friedman, better known as advice columnists Dear Abby and Ann Landers [“Grande Dames of the Dailies,” page 50]. They’re the latest in our Iowan Icons series that most recently included Bob Dorr and Jack Trice. These two sisters had lots of spicy stuff to say to just about everyone — including each other! Iowa’s premier wildlife photographer, Ty Smedes, urges us to take a look around when the weather gets cold and Iowa’s wildlife are set like colorful gems amidst a diamondlike background of snow and ice in his photoessay, “Where the Wild Things Are,” page 70. On behalf of all of us here at The Iowan, our warmest wishes to you this season. We look forward to sharing even more of the best of Iowa with you in 2016. Sincerely,

Dan Weeks, Editor @theiowan

P.S. Also, as of this issue, we’re using a different binding process. It will allow us to include more pages as the magazine continues to grow and offers the bonus of a flat spine with the issue’s title and date that makes retrieving the exact back issue you’re looking for from a shelf easy. We hope you like it!


Jim Slife Twilla Glessner Accounting Manager Allison Volker CEO

Production Manager

The Iowan, ISSN (0021-0772), is published bi-monthly by Pioneer Communications, Inc., 300 Walnut Street, Suite 6, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. This issue is dated November 1, 2015, Volume 64, No. 2. All content © 2015 The Iowan/Pioneer Communications, Inc., and may not be used, reproduced, or altered in any way without prior written permission. Periodicals Postage Paid in Des Moines, Iowa, and at additional mailing offices. We cannot be held responsible for the loss or damage of unsolicited material. POSTMASTER: Send change of address to: The Iowan, 316 W. 5th St., Waterloo, IA 50701. Prices: Subscriptions — Special rate when ordered direct or by mail: six issues per year for $24. International orders require additional postage. Please call for rates. Single copies — on newsstands: $4.95; current issue by mail: $4.95 plus $3.50 S+H. Please call for quantity discount pricing. Single past issues 2005 to present: $5.95 plus S+H, two for $9.95 plus S+H; prior to 2005: $14.95 plus S+H. New Subscriptions, Renewals, Gifts: > SUBSCRIBE 800-765-1690 Change of Address:> CONTACT > Address Change 800-765-1690 Past Issues: 877-899-9977 Mail Orders: The Iowan Subscription Services P.O. Box 2516, Waterloo, IA 50704 Advertising Information: Proudly printed in Iowa 10% PCW Paper Made in the USA

November/December 2015







A friend brought me the March/April

LOVED the Great River Road article. Keep

2015 issue of The Iowan today, and I

up the good work.

Please thank

the Malvern Leader, shopped at Earl

Dennis Wilson for

May in Shenandoah, and made many

his article [“High

friends I remember fondly. I value a

I lived in Iowa years ago — wrote for

Noon: Coming of Age on Threshing Day,”

“can do” attitude and found it in your

July/August 2015, page 76] and let him

magazine. I also value windmills,

know that he really got my heart started

barns, art, sunsets, and preserving

again about Iowa.

our heritage. Please send me a year’s

Now in my 80s, I fondly remember

subscription so that I may go down

as a teenager being hired by the local

memory lane and read about how

farmers to work their fields during the

Iowans solve today’s challenges.

summer. I was a “town kid” (my father

—Pat Knight Fort Morgan, CO

was the Ford dealer in Mapleton) and a good size at an early age. I pulled weeds, stacked bales, worked the cornfields,

then back to pitch the bales into the



Earl May

pioneering repreneur and The Iowa ent ds and ality loved see radio person them to. sold he ple the peo

hayrack and onto the threshing machine

by Deb Wiley

to complete the harvest. 30

I FELT SO ACCEPTED AND APPRECIATED The Iowan magazine is an excellent way to promote real Iowa: great people,

the afternoon lunch of cake, cookies,

lovely nature, and, of course, tasty

sandwiches, and ice cream or hot coffee.

food! Small towns in Iowa are special,

Naturally we ate too much again and

wonderful places to enjoy life. I studied

went through the same routine. Quitting

some years ago at Iowa State, and I

time was prayed for and finally came. Six

visited several of those towns. I felt so

dollars for a day’s work was more money

accepted and appreciated!

but still visit almost yearly. Beautiful country. —Tom Collins Palo Alto, CA






went to school there from 1936–45. My younger sister, Margaret Ann, went there from 1945–1951, and I went there from taught there. The small museum in

up, it ended up to be a long day until

Fond memories of a time and place


1942–1950. My aunt, Mae Cummings,


and as usual, the “town kids” all ate too

to remember. I left Iowa after high school

plenty of River Road offers river ports, Iowa’s Great — plus historic and vistas like these areas, locks parks and recreation of relaxing touring. miles dams, and 326

memories. My older sister, Mary Kathryn,

(quite large) lunch at about 9 a.m., and

than we expected.


very interesting — it brought back many

knock over the shocks, then a small

After the lunch, a nap, and throwing

phy story and photogra

the article on the school in Buckingham

Up early to go out into the fields to

our fifty cents an hour.

down the Join us for a fall road trip t of Iowa. picturesque East Coas

is our East Coast, he Missisippi riverbanksettlement began. And where Iowa’s modern Road runs through it. River the Iowa Great of some of the state’s It threads 326 miles places, you’d scenery. In some most spectacular Germany, Ireland. in Switzerland, swear you were but Iowa. be nowhere else n, In others, you can touring destinatio The route is a favorite season. Even then, fall foliage the towns especially during uncrowded and the road is generally Stay at local inns, hotels, g. and cities welcomin from dozens of campgrounds and B&Bs or choose drift off to the muted you can en route where churning past. travels thrum of towboats road scenery, the historic In addition to the small towns and , and dining through great walkable antiquing, shopping cities with lots of hiking and overlooks with and dams options. Parks and walks and locks concerts, biking trails. River explore. And festivals,the trip of and museums to It’s cruises to enjoy. wineries, and river doorstep, so it’s it’s right on your And lifetime. a to take every year. one you can afford there’s more here than you That’s good, for stretch of the river at one pass. Each its own can experience , its own culture, landscape own its has its own surprises. plan your character — and phic tour. Then Join us for a photogra map, list of attractions, detailed . own trip with our River Road resources and Iowa Great

The Iowan — one for each of us. Found

tractors — too hilly).

All of this in 90+ degree heat. We earned



sisters and picked up three copies of

season using horses or mules (no

much and ended up throwing up a lot.

Iowa’s Touring

I was in Iowa last week visiting my two

and ran a hayrack during the threshing

Noon was the highlight of the day,

—Jessica Rilling Amana

have been pouring over it ever since.

—Miguel Estudioso de la Historia (Student of History) San Salvador, El Salvador via Facebook

Traer has many items from Buckingham, including the curtain from the old school gym stage with local advertisements painted on it. —Tom Cummings Fort Wayne, IN home iniowa

Buckingham Palace

Jim and Lind a Sawyer resc ued, renovate 6,000-square d, and live in -foot, 1923 Their friends school in tiny a quickly cam Buckingham e up with a . grand name for the plac story and photog e. raphy by

There’s not a lot left of Bucking ham, a town so north of Traer four miles or in Tama County : a couple dozen grain co-op — and one landma houses, a rk that almost Buckingham didn’t survive School. : The stately brick building is the grandest thing It features orname in town. ntal brickwork, carved limesto ne plaques



on the facade that suggest heraldic shields castlelike crenella , and just a hint tion above the of main entranc the town’s seat e. It served as of learning for more than 40 until 1964, when years, from Buckingham’s 1923 few remaining bussed to the students were North Tama County Commu in Traer. nity School District


iowamap Points of Interest in This Issue

WONDERFUL PHOTOGRAPHY I have had a chance to read my Sept/Oct




The Iowan — what a great issue, chock-





full of things going on in Iowa that I didn’t know about. Your photoessay on Iowa’s country schools exceeded my


45 20

56 22 1 50


hopes and expectations. I have been


to all the schools you photographed,



Branden Township School in a new light because of your wonderful photography.

3 4 55 19 59






21 31

54 52 11 492

34 37 9

27 2946


Thank you for your interest and support


10 58 28 7 53


but I now see Merry Brook School and


16 38


of Iowa’s country schools. —Bill Sherman Des Moines

Iowa’s Country Schoolhouses

47 14


30 5



Why do we love them so?

by Dan Weeks

The-one room school: atop. It is an American pump in front, outhouse in back, bell the democratic ideal icon, a symbol of something great: of to history, literature, a free education. Of broad exposure and culture for all working prairie. — even on the hardThese schools shouldn’t have succeeded. often in her teens One teacher — — taught every student in every subject. She was grade also janitor, cook, principal, and lone every adult in residence. almostStudents often arrived chores and cold already tired from from walking in from far-flung farms. Yet teachers, parents, and students willed “My first year, I the schools to work. taught 12 children rural Harlan, wrote in Louree Clem. “1930s five grades” in cooperative and country kids were unspoiled. They relished singing Exercise while I at Opening pedaled days everyone brought the tunes on the organ. On winter At noon we scurried a potato to bake on the heating stove. for our lunch pails eating and talking. and sat like a big This simple setting family nation for literacy.” kept Iowa first in the Perhaps that’s why these schoolhou They served great ses are so compellin ends with modest means — and they g: them well. Iowa is one served them by the hundreds,of few states where you can still find standing at county last lesson to teach crossroads with about what matters one most.



of 160 of Iowa’s country schools: preservationiowa.or g


NTARY Country Schools: One countryschoolmovie Room — One Nation: .com



page 9



“Country School

Preservation Conference,”

“Buckingham Palace,” page


Merry Brook School was built in the 1880s current Woodbine near the airport. It’s been relocated since then and twice is restored and furnished with school memorabi period lia. Location: 212 Lincoln Open: By appointme Way in Kiwanis Park, Woodbine nt: 712-647-25 93


One Room Schools, Keeping History schoolhouses Alive:

September/October 2015


STAY IN TOUCH! The Iowan 300 Walnut Street, Suite 6 Des Moines, IA 50309 > Contact > The Iowan

READ OUR BLOG! features local characters, favorite places, littleknown facts, and other Iowa discoveries every Friday.

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

Allison — 24 Amana — 6, 57, 58, 62 Ames — 43 Ankeny — 18, 19 Bentonsport — 32 Boone — 8, 26 Buckingham — 6 Burlington — 8 Camanche — 43 Cedar Falls — 10, 34, Cedar Rapids — 8, 10, Centerville — 62 Cherokee — 9 Clarinda — 42 Cresco — 15 Davenport — 8, 43, 45 Dayton — 25, 43 Decorah — 9, 35, 42 Des Moines — 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 18, 45, 61, 64, 80 Dows — 24 Dubuque — 9, 10, 38, 69 Dumont — 23, 25 Edgewood — 25 Greenfield — 2, 9, 22, 23, 27, 39 Grinnell — 43 Honey Creek — 9 Iowa City — 43, 45, 79 Jesup — 23 Kalona — 11, 44 Keosauqua — 32

31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

La Motte — 61 Lamoni — 65 Mapleton — 6 Maquoketa — 33, 44, 45 Mason City — 30, 36 McGregor — 69 Mount Vernon — 63, 65 Muscatine — 8, 69 New Albin — 42 New Hampton — 24, 25 Newton — 16, 79 Northwood — 24 Okoboji — 64 Osage — 26 Pocahontas — 42 Riverside — 63 Shenandoah — 6, 78 Sioux City — 4, 9, 11, 42, 44, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 69 South Amana — 44 Stout — 26 Strawberry Point — 23 Toddville — 63 Traer — 6 Troy Mills — 23 Urbandale — 9 Vilmar — 24 Waterloo — 10, 23, 25, 44, 45 Waverly — 24 West Des Moines — 65 Woodward — 62

November/December 2015



DayTrips Events worthy of an excursion

Living with Pots Ceramics Display SEE CLAY ARTISTRY Cedar Rapids Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Tuesday–Sunday, August 15–April 10, regular museum hours vary by day 410 Third Avenue SE 319-366-7503

Railroads at War FOLLOW THE TRACKS Boone James H. Andrew Railroad Museum and History Center Now through 2017, Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Saturday, noon–4 p.m. 225 10th Street 800-626-0319

Midwest artists Warren MacKenzie,

$8 adults, $3 kids ages 3–12, free kids 3 and under; admission included with most Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad train tickets

Clary Illian, Chuck Hindes, and Ron

Rare archival photos and motion

Meyers, plus several international

pictures reveal the role of railroads and

artists. On Saturday, November 15,

railroaders during the Civil War and

catch the second annual It’s All About

World Wars I and II — including the role

the Art: Artists’ Market in the Museum

of women and the turn-of-the-century

Store, a showcase and sale of local

Camp Dodge electric railway.

$5 adults, free ages 18 and under This diverse ceramics exhibit features

artists’ work along with live music and demonstrations.

Sonnenzimmer Exhibit CONTEMPLATE THE CONTEMPORARY Davenport, St. Ambrose University Galvin Fine Arts Center Tuesday–Saturday, October 28– December 18, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Arlo Guthrie: “Alice’s Restaurant” 50th Anniversary Tour WALK RIGHT IN Des Moines, Hoyt Sherman Place Wednesday, November 4, 7:30 p.m. 1501 Woodland Avenue 515-244-0507

Muscatine Independent Film Festival WATCH IT! Muscatine, various locations Thursday–Saturday, November 5–7, times vary Various Muscatine sites 641-648-7393 $5 per film block Experience Red Carpet parties, an award presentation, after-parties, and some of the best local and regional independent films of the year. The main event features selected international shorts. Other genres: Murder/Mayhem, Music Videos, Shorts, and Documentaries. Saturday’s Twilight Film Block is free.

Mississippi River Fall Art Drive TOUR THEIR STUDIOS Elizabeth, Illinois, to Burlington, Iowa Multiple Locations Saturday–Sunday, November 7–8, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. most sites


Mississippi River Valley 563-343-2765


You can get anything you want,


See the nationally collected contemporary

including Guthrie classics and tales of

Take the Mississippi River Valley Art

screen printing and fine art of Chicago

a life devoted to social justice. Guthrie

Directory self-guided driving tour to

duo Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi

showcases his 50-year career with the

see artists at work in their studios and

in the Catich and Morrissey Galleries

rarely performed-live tale of a long

to purchase their creations. The tour

at this special show. For a preview:

Thanksgiving weekend in 1965. Includes

includes 40-plus locations, some with

extras such as a multimedia presentation

multiple artists. Most offer refreshments.

from Guthrie’s archives.

A printable map is available online.

518 West Locust Street 563-333-6444




iowaxxx iowatravels

Ballroom with a Twist DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! Sioux City, Orpheum Theatre Saturday, November 14, 7:30 p.m. 528 Pierce Street 712-252-0224 $15–$75, student and group discounts available This Sioux City Symphony production features dancers from Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and American Idol. Stunning costumes and elaborate theatrics make for an electrifying show.

Letters Home VISIT THE FRONT LINES Dubuque, University of Dubuque John and Alice Butler Hall Wednesday, November 18, 7:30 p.m. 2255 Bennett Street 563-585-7469 $6–$24, free admission with military ID Letters, images, and videos from soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan bring warriors’ courage, camaraderie, and longing for home to life in this stage production by Chicago’s Griffin Theatre Company. A 30-minute presentation at 6:30 precedes the play; the performance is followed by a Q&A session.

The Bridges of Madison County

Public Planetarium Program

Living History Farms Family Christmas



Cherokee, Sanford Museum & Planetarium

Urbandale, Living History Farms

Sunday, November 29 & Sunday, December 27, 2 p.m.

Saturday, December 5, 3 p.m. 11121 Hickman Road 515-278-5286

117 E. Willow Street 712-225-3922

$6.50, $5 for LHF members


Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around

Surrender yourself to the stars with

1875 Walnut Hill. Trim the Flynn Mansion

an educational program and stargazing

Christmas tree with Victorian ornaments.

the last Sunday of every month at

Print a holiday greeting at The Advocate

Iowa’s first planetarium. Then check

newspaper office, then stop at the Church

out the permanent exhibit on prehistoric

of the Land for an old-fashioned holiday

northwest Iowa and featured artists.

social of music, dancing, and food. Throw

Holly Jolly Night Hike Honey Creek, Hitchcock Nature Center Friday, December 4, 7 p.m. weather permitting 27792 Ski Loop Hill 712-328-5638

Greenfield, Warren Cultural Center

$2 Immerse yourself in a moonlit woodland, senses on this hike for all ages through Iowa’s spectacular Loess Hills.

$10 adults, $7 kids age 12 and under Wonderfully crafted miniature Bohemian

Norwegian Christmas Celebration

puppets interact on giant pop-up


tale. A feast for the senses for all ages.

Saturday, December 5, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Saturday November 28– Saturday December 5, Sunday, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., all other shows 7:30 p.m.

502 W. Water Street 563-382-9681

and the music of Jason Robert Brown combine to bring this tale of forbidden love in rural Iowa to life in the Broadway

Sunday, December 6, 7 p.m. 154 Public Square 641-343-7337

listen for wildlife, and awaken your

Des Moines, Des Moines Civic Center

Robert James Waller’s best-selling novel

Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre: “The Snow Queen” EXPERIENCE THE STORYBOOK


$35–$101, no children under 5 allowed

Victorian Christmas at its best.


Decorah Vesterheim: National NorwegianAmerican Museum & Heritage Center

221 Walnut Street 515-246-2300

in crafts and Santa in his sleigh for a

storybook pages in this telling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy


$10 adults, $5 kids 7–18, free kids 7 and under, $8 seniors 65 and over Experience Christmas in Norway with a Christmas tree party, hands-on crafts, folk art demonstrations, live music, Scandinavian Christmas treats, and a

Does your organization put on an event worthy of an excursion? We’d love to consider it for inclusion in Day Trips. For more information, email

visit from Julenisse. Fun and holiday cheer for all ages.

musical that won two Tony Awards.

November/December 2015





SING A SONG OF CHRISTMAS Here is some of the best holiday music Iowa has to offer.

Cedar Falls UNI COMMUNITY MUSIC SCHOOL RECITAL WEEKEND Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center Russell Hall Saturday–Sunday, November 7–8, concert times vary 319-273-2024 Free Experience an entire weekend of free, festive sounds for the whole family. Concerts include the Varsity Men’s Glee Club Christmas Variety Show, Chimes of Christmas, New Horizons Band Winter Concert, and the annual Children’s Choir Winter Concert.

Cedar Rapids

Des Moines



Paramount Theatre

Drake University, Sheslow Auditorium

Saturday–Sunday, November 19–20, matinee 2:30 p.m. both days, Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 10, 7:30 p.m.

123 3rd Avenue SE 319-366-8203

Cedar Falls

$31–$57, $10 for students 18 and under


a children’s chorus — this show brings

Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center Great Hall Saturday, December 12, Meet Our Artists 3:15 p.m., concert 4 p.m. 8392 University Avenue 319-273-3373

Christmas classics, special guest stars, Christmas in high style to the beautifully restored Paramount Theatre.

Cedar Rapids CONCERT CHORALE CHRISTMAS SHOW Immaculate Conception Church

$21.50–$51.50 adults, $7.50 youth

Saturday, December 12, 7:30 p.m.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony

10th Street & 3rd Avenue SE 319-365-8221

accompanying the animated film The Snowman, performances by talented youth musicians, and a carol sing-a-long highlight this holiday offering. Come to the Meet Our Artists event prior to the show. Bring the kids — they can test their own musical inclinations at the Instrument Petting Zoo.

$15 adult, $10 student

2507 University Avenue 515-280-4020 $15–55 This award-winning a cappella quintet from Leipzig is one of the world's finest vocal ensembles. Hear them perform sacred and secular carols from Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and the Americas.

Dubuque DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: HOLIDAY FAMILY CONCERT Five Flags Theater Saturday, December 5, 1 p.m. 405 Main Street 563-557-1677

These beautiful voices ring in the season

$21 adults, $11 kids 12 and under, $31 box seats

with John Leavitt’s Hodie!, a short, four-

This hour-long concert packs in sing-

movement contemporary cantata based

along tunes, kid-friendly holiday

on popular Latin texts with percussion;

music, and a visit from Santa. Special

and Camille Saint-Saens’ Christmas

appearances by the Dubuque Chorale

Oratorio, an eight-movement piece

Children’s Choir, vocal soloist Diane

featuring soloists, string ensemble, and

Penning, and members of the Heartland

harp. Celestial!

Ballet Company fill out a program that grown-ups love as much as kids do.


Kalona GREAT BLUEGRASS HERONS & FRIENDS ANNUAL CHRISTMAS CONCERT Sharon Center United Methodist Church Sunday, December 13, 7 p.m. 2804 520th Street SW 319-683-2564 Free-will donation Lots of Christmas favorites and a few new tunes highlight this concert by some of the top bluegrass musicians in the country, including Bob and Kristie

Des Moines & Sioux City TONIC SOL-FA HOLIDAY SHOW Des Moines: Hoyt Sherman Place Saturday–Sunday, December 18–19, 7:30 p.m. 1501 Woodland Avenue 515-244-0507 $30.50–$35.50 Sioux City: Orpheum Theatre Sunday, December 20, 7:30 p.m.

Black & Banjoy.

528 Pierce Street 712-244-5000

Sioux City

$30-36 adults, $10 age 12 and under


Sol-fa’s sound as “A vocal kaleidoscope

Orpheum Theatre

The New York Times described Tonic … to the human voice.” This Midwest

Saturday, December 12, 7:30 p.m.

a cappella group’s 25-city holiday tour

528 Pierce Street 712-277-2111

is quickly becoming a Christmas classic. It features great musicianship, amazing

$15–$75, student and group discounts available

and a playlist of Christmas favorites.

This Sioux City tradition of holiday

harmonies, a dash of showmanship, Don’t miss it!

classics and treasured Christmas carols features Rick Darrow on the Wurlitzer organ — and a visit from a jolly man in


a red suit.

November/December 2015




You hungry? Welcome to comfortable food.

Handmade in our kitchen from five generations of recipes. Serving daily family style for our friends on the road and just down the road, too.

Changing lives one student at a time!


You decide how you want to earn your degree.






• On campus • At one of 25 centers in local communities






• Self-paced


• Or combine learning options to fit your busy schedule


• Online


Don’t get lost in the crowd. Stand out at Upper Iowa University.

78 90




Ox Yoke Inn


4420 220th Trail, Amana, Iowa

Breakfast • Lunch • Dinner • Banquets • Sunday Brunch


An Amana Colonies Tradition Since 1940




800-553-4150 • The Iowan --- Nov-Dec 2015 issue (3.56x9.75).indd 1


9/15/2015 11:25:43 AM The Iowan_NovDec2015.indd 1

8/31/2015 10:39:01 AM



THROUGH JANUARY 24, 2016 A native of DeWitt, Iowa, Arizona artist Ellen Wagener takes the quintessential Midwestern landscape—rows of corn receding to the horizon under ever-changing skies—as the starting point for her works. Working in pastel, and often in series and at large scale, Wagener uses sketches, photographs and her memory to create vivid evocations of particular weather patterns and times of day. Horizon Lines will feature several new series of works depicting the seasons and the rising sun, as well as earlier works, such as F5 Tornado from the Figge collection. CONTRIBUTING SPONSORS Scout Wolf, Xenotronics, Pappas Davidson O’Connor & Fildes, P.C. Ellen Wagener, Summer, 2014, pastel, courtesy of the artist.

Davenport, IA • 563.326.7804

November/December 2015




The traditional holiday plant gets some not-so-traditional treatments — and is more popular than ever. Here’s what’s new.




The traditional holiday poinsettia is native to Mexico. But if you buy yours in Iowa, there’s a good chance it grew up in Cresco. That’s because Plantpeddler, a retail and wholesale greenhouse, grows about 1 million poinsettias there every year. “To the best of our knowledge, we’re the only company in the United States that represents all the poinsettia breeders,” says Mike Gooder, who owns the business with his wife, Rachel. Plantpeddler grows nearly 50 varieties sold at Hy-Vee, Fareway, floral shops, and garden centers throughout the state, as well as at its own retail shop in Cresco. Though red is still the top-selling color, you can buy poinsettias in shades ranging from white to almost yellow, pink to burgundy, and variegated colors in a wide range of sizes or with ruffled bracts. Those are the colored leaves we think of as the flower petals. But there’s more. Purists, cover your eyes. Since 2001, poinsettias have gone glam in a program Plantpeddler calls Paintsettia. “We individually hand-paint each plant,” says Gooder. The alcohol-based paints, formulated in Europe, sink into the tissues of the plant so they’re colorfast yet don’t smother the plant’s tissues. The result is 13 more styles of poinsettias that Plantpeddler paints with color, sheen, and glitter. They’ll even custom-paint. “It gives the plant new life,” Gooder says. In a tradition spanning more than 50 years, Plantpeddler hosts a holiday open house — Sunday, November 22, this year — in Cresco that includes a People’s Choice vote. “We started seeing 20-year-olds, grade-school kids, people of all ages starting to take an interest,” Gooder says. “Painted poinsettias started outvoting traditional poinsettias.” You may have seen pink poinsettias (Princettias) sold for the first time in October this year in Hy-Vee stores in Iowa’s metropolitan areas. They’re a series of interspecies varieties from the Japanese company Suntory that Plantpeddler first identified in trials in Cresco. Plantpeddler matches up to 10

TIPS AND TRICKS • Buy a poinsettia when the true flowers, the tight yellow buds called cyathia, just start to open, displaying nectar and pollen. “That’s the ideal stage,” says Gooder. “If you do that, you know you’ll get six to eight weeks of good life out of that poinsettia, easily. You should hit Valentine’s Day if you get that plant.”

• The most important care tip: Water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. If a poinsettia’s leaves are curling and the soil is wet, take the pot out of its decorative cover and put it on a saucer to let the soil dry out. “The soil should not feel like a wet diaper,” Gooder says. “Always err toward dry.” If you’re not sure whether to water or not, wait 24 hours.

• Keep poinsettias away from extra-warm and cold spaces such as furnace ducts and windows.

percent of Hy-Vee’s wholesale cost of the pink plant to donate

• In their native Mexico, where they are perennial,

to local breast cancer support groups in honor of Rachel

poinsettias can grow up to 15 feet tall. The botanical

Gooder’s sister, Mim Norton, who died of the disease in 2004.

name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, but the common

Gooder predicts you’ll see more poinsettias at weddings,

name comes from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S.

especially the new paper-white Princettia variety called

ambassador to Mexico, who brought specimens to

Max White.

Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1820s.

As for trends, expect to find tie-dyed colors, single-stem

• And don’t worry if your child or pet eats part of the

poinsettias, and combinations of poinsettias potted with plants

plant; it’s not poisonous. However, like all euphorbias,

such as hellebores and succulents.

poinsettias emit a white, sticky sap that can cause a

In the wild, poinsettias turn red in winter in the northern

skin rash or a mild gastrointestinal upset.

hemisphere because of dwindling light hours. Plantpeddler grows poinsettias all year by rooting cuttings, then using black cloth to give plants at least 14 hours of darkness. It takes about five weeks to produce a full-grown plant, so Princettia plants were started in early August for sale in October.

Deb Wiley is a Des Moines-based garden writer and regular contributor to The Iowan.

November/December 2015




SAY Cheese!

Maytag Dairy Farms celebrates 75 years of creating world-class blue cheese with a unique Iowa recipe by CAROLE GIESEKE | photography by JIM HEEMSTRA

Fred Maytag was a curious guy. The son of E.H. Maytag, founder of Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton, he was less interested in improving his father’s championship dairy herd in 1940 and more interested in doing something unique with the milk. He wanted to create something like European Roquefort PHOTO COURTESY MAYTAG DAIRY FARMS

blue cheese made from nonhomogenized sheep’s milk. So he consulted the dairy science professors at Iowa State University. Coincidentally, professors Bernard Hammer and Clarence Lane had just patented a process to use homogenized cow’s milk to create a blue-veined cheese similar to Roquefort. Maytag applied that process to the milk of his grand champion Holstein herd, and in 1941 the first wheels of Maytag Blue Cheese were put into special caves dug in the prairie for the sole purpose of aging the cheese. Today those famous silver-and-blue wheels and wedges are made using the very same process that Fred Maytag used back in the 1940s in four small batches each weekday. It is a remarkably labor-intensive process and key to the worldfamous cheese’s taste.


Trent, a Maytag cheese maker, carefully replaces wheels of blue cheese in the cave after they have been aerated, above top. Maytag Dairy Farms founder E.H. Maytag with one of his prize Holsteins, above bottom.

SIX MONTHS OF TLC The process of making handcrafted cheese begins early each morning with fresh milk trucked from nearby dairy farms and pumped into open vats. A culture is added and the fermentation process begins, producing lactic acid. An enzyme called rennet then thickens the milk, causing it to separate into curds and whey (yes, just like Little Miss Muffet!). Workers transfer the fresh curds into cloth-lined baskets and hand-scoop them into round, stainless-steel hoops. By day's end, the curds are solid, 4-pound wheels of cheese. That’s just the beginning. Those wheels need a lot of loving care in just the right cool, damp environment, where head cheesemaker Robert Wadzinski and his staff carefully salt, turn, and aerate the cheese for 6 months before it is ready to eat.

THE BEST IN THE WORLD At the Maytag Dairy Farms, the farmland and the dairy buildings look much as they did when Fred Maytag was in charge in the 1930s. Today the family business is owned by third- and fourth-generation Maytags. Longtime Maytag employee Myrna Ver Ploeg is president. She leads us on a tour that starts with telephone banks where workers take customer orders, through the packaging department, and into a sparkling-clean room where employees inspect and wrap each 8-ounce, 4-ounce, and 1-ounce wedge.

Workers hand-wrap wedges of Maytag Blue Cheese before shipping to customers. Shirley has been a loyal Maytag employee for 35 years.

One of the women, Shirley, smiles modestly and says she has worked there for 35 years. Ver Ploeg and Wadzinski offer a peek at the production area where milk is stirred, curds are hooped, and aromatic wheels are aerated and aged. The smell is fantastic; you can practically taste the delicious blue-veined cheese. Nearly all Maytag employees are local, but Wadzinski is a third-generation cheesemaker from Wisconsin. He’s been at Maytag for 15 years. Compared with any blue cheese in the world, Wadzinski says, “I’d say ours is the best. “It’s made from fresh Iowa milk, the process was developed at Iowa State, and it’s made by local Iowans,” Wadzinski says. “Everything about it is Iowan.”

WHEN YOU GO MAYTAG DAIRY FARMS 2282 E. 8th St. N., Newton 800-247-2458 Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.–4 p.m. 800-247-2458, From Interstate 80, take exit #164. Follow Iowa Highway 14 north 3 miles and watch for signs. Tours of the packaging area and a video on the history and making of Maytag Blue Cheese are available. There’s a cheese shop as well. Maytag Blue Cheese is available in grocery stores throughout Iowa and by phone and online orders.

Carole Gieseke is a regular contributor to The Iowan. Jim Heemstra is a freelance photographer based in Des Moines.

CRANBERRY BLUE CHEESE SPREAD “This is great for entertaining during the holiday season,” says Myrna Ver Ploeg, president of Maytag Dairy Farms. 4-ounce wedge of Maytag Blue Cheese 4 oz. cream cheese, softened ½ c. pecans — chopped, candied, or plain ½ c. dried cranberries 2 T fresh chives, chopped Mix cheeses together in a medium bowl. Stir in pecans and cranberries; garnish with chives. Refrigerate until ready to use.

November/December 2015



home iniowa


s u o l u b t o Fa

How to find, fix, and finance a bargain-priced showplace by AMBER DAWN BARZ

Purchasing bank-owned Iowa real estate


can help you buy a great home for a rock-bottom price.

Some foreclosures only require a light remodeling. One

So say Courtney and Tyler Tompkins, co-owners of

bungalow in an older residential neighborhood in Des Moines, They buy, renovate, and then

for example, came up as a foreclosure after the previous

sell or rent foreclosures. They say less competition from

owner couldn’t pay the mortgage and simply walked away. The

commercial buyers in Iowa lately means more opportunity for

house needed a good cleaning, floor refinishing, a paint job,

you to invest in a promising fixer-upper.

some new doors, and other work, but it was otherwise in good

As the results of their own work show, there’s no reason a

condition. A few months of evening and weekend work netted

foreclosed house can’t be a showplace you’re proud to own and

the new owner a house with just the colors, finishes, and

live in — if you’re prepared to do or hire the work required.

quality of materials he wanted at roughly half the market price


of a comparable house in the same neighborhood. Other foreclosures pose bigger challenges. These can

First you have to find one. Less than 1 percent of the current

include cracked foundations, sagging roofs, siding and

real estate market consists of foreclosures. But several sources

windows that need replacing, and bad plumbing and wiring.

can help you narrow your search:

In some cases, homes are stripped of appliances, fixtures,

CRAIGSLIST.COM “People who buy and sell foreclosures often

flooring — anything of value. Some problems cannot be

list the properties on free classified sites,” says Courtney.

uncovered with an inspection because the water and electricity

HUDHOMESTORE.COM On this site, a real estate agent who

are shut off.

is registered with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban

In either case, don’t underestimate the time, money, and

Development (HUD) can bid on a listed home on your behalf.

effort involved. Many foreclosure purchasers do, Courtney

Owner-occupants get priority early in the bidding process,

says. Sometimes the Tompkinses purchase homes that first-

and law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical

time foreclosure buyers have started to fix before realizing

technicians, and teachers get a 50% discount off the list price

they were in over their heads.

of eligible properties in renewal areas.

No matter how you finance your home purchase,

MLS.FORECLOSURE.COM This site lists foreclosed houses

mortgage broker Steve Schraderbachar of Wintrust Mortgage

in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. After a free

in Ankeny highly recommends you make an offer contingent

seven-day trial, site access costs about $40 per month.

on an inspection. “However, if the home is being sold ‘as is,’

REALTOR.COM “We check the site daily to see new local

any repairs that show up on the inspection will have to be

listings,” Tyler says. Go to the “more filters” tab and select the

taken care of by the buyer, so the seller may not accept the

foreclosure option.

inspection contingency in your offer. Usually they’ll allow an

ZILLOW.COM Go to the “agent finder” tab, then choose an

inspection, but you’ll pay for the inspection, along with any

agent who specializes in foreclosures under the advanced

recommended remedies and repairs,” he says.

search option.


BEFORE: The previous owners had removed everything of value in this Ankeny foreclosure — even the kitchen sink, above. AFTER: That gave the new owners a clean slate to create a dream kitchen, right, featuring new maple cabinets, granite countertops, and ceramic-tile flooring.

FINANCING If you don’t need financing, the home you buy can be in any state of repair. To qualify for a conventional mortgage, “the home must have no health and safety issues,” says Wintrust Mortgage’s Schraderbachar. That rules out properties in really bad shape, but that caveat may net you a house that’s been fixed up to minimum standards with lower-quality materials. “A bank trying to sell a foreclosed house won’t be choosing 30-year shingles; it will be choosing the least expensive ones,” Schraderbachar says. Renovation loans finance homes that need extensive repairs. “The loan amount is based on the home value after the improvements are made,” Schraderbachar says. Such loans require borrowers to show that the money was spent on the house and are paid directly to contractors preapproved by the lender. Borrowers have up to six months to finish the project and pass a final inspection ensuring the required work was adequately completed.

Amber Dawn Barz is a Des Moines-based freelance magazine and book writer.

AFTER: The renovation made this living/ dining area, middle right, good as new. BEFORE: “Foreclosed” can sometimes mean “gutted,” bottom right. The home was relatively new and basically sound, but nonetheless in need of new appliances, cabinetry, flooring, finishes— even drywall and trim in some areas.

November/December 2015




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November/December 2015



SIMPLE GIFTS Stories of Christmas in rural Iowa, 1920s to 1950s by SUZANNE KELSEY | oral history interviews by ROBERT NEYMEYER photography courtesy of LINDA SIDEY, THE SIDEY COLLECTION

Christmas in 1938 included a visit from Santa and lots of lights and homemade decorations at this home in Greenfield.



itch trees” – that’s what Ruth Haan’s family called the cedars her mother found along the roadside in December and brought home to decorate. “Sometimes it was just part of a tree and she would put it on the wall,” says Haan, raised in the 1930s on a farm near Strawberry Point. Her mother also fixed and cleaned old toys for presents. “It was okay,” Haan remembers cheerfully. “You just did with what you got.” It’s tempting to put a nostalgic gloss on “good oldfashioned” Christmases. But many rural Iowa families — especially farm families — lived in what we’d now consider third-world conditions until the 1940s. No indoor plumbing. No electricity. A seven-day, sunrise-to-sunset work week. A few hundred dollars per family in annual income. For example, in the 1920s, a 300-pound hog brought just $6. Granted, farm families raised and preserved most of their own food and bartered for what they couldn’t grow. But they still needed cash to pay mortgages on land bought at high prices in the boom years during World War I. After Europe began producing food again in the early 1920s, Iowa farmers slogged through a deep rural depression that started long before 1929’s Black Tuesday. By the time Ruth Haan was born in 1933, her family was well accustomed to making do. Even so, like Dr. Suess’s “Whos down in Whoville” making a celebration out of nothing at all after the Grinch stole Christmas, Iowans who grew up during those lean times still cherish memories of unexpected gifts, visits from Santa, trips to well-off relatives in town, and horse-drawn bobsled rides on magical starry nights.

During the Depression in the mid-’30s, these women put together holiday packages for those who needed them. The gifts included oranges, cornmeal, canned vegetables, and a few toys.


Bob Sieglaff, born in 1922 near Waterloo, once asked his parents for leather boots with a built-in sheath for a hunting knife. “It was tough for my folks,” he says. After a bank failure wiped out their savings, “they just didn’t have the money.” So “it was a really a big deal” to get those boots, he says. He had to grow into them quickly: His father died soon afterwards, leaving 17-year-old Sieglaff to run the farm. Ray Cook, born in 1923 near Troy Mills, envied a neighbor who received a jackknife from his aunt. There were no Christmas gifts for Cook’s family. “Other kids got presents, but we knew we were hard up,” he says. Twentyfive years ago Cook received a similar knife from his son. He still treasures it. Ruth Strauel’s special gifts were oranges and apples. Even though they only cost a few pennies each, they were a Christmas-only luxury. Most gifts were homemade and practical, such as pajamas or a shirt. “That was it. Everybody was in the same boat — nobody was really complaining much,” says Strauel, born in 1924 near Jesup. Nina Mulder, born in 1919, got exactly what she wanted — two pair of bib overalls she wore daily to country school near Dumont. When she shifted to the town school, the

In town, churches, schools, and civic groups held Christmas parties that often included Santa in a homemade costume (but real sleigh bells), as did this Service Club in Greenfield in 1952. On the farm, a father or uncle often filled in for St. Nick.

November/December 2015



Left: Electrically lit Christmas trees were mainly an in-town affair; farm families had to use candles until power poles arrived. Either way, the foil icicles were removed, one by one, for reuse the following year. A blue star in the window in this 1944 photograph signified a family member away at war. Above: A crusty snow meant sled races on the farm in 1937 — two-up on fancy new runner sleds that were recent holiday gifts.

teacher mandated a dress, even though Mulder lived five miles from school. “I didn’t like that teacher,” says Mulder. She wore the overalls to and from school and changed into a dress for classes.


Sensory experiences of Christmas are among the most treasured memories. LaVonne Johnson Edeker’s family of Norwegian descent made lefse — unleavened bread — with flour and potatoes. Says Johnson, born in 1937 near New Hampton, “You put butter all over it, the whole thing. Then you take whatever you are having for your big meal — probably turkey — and you lay that on your lefse, roll it up with potatoes and stuffing. Then when the butter runs off your elbows, you know you did it right.” She didn’t like the lutefisk, which smelled to her like rotten fish. But Edna Turvold, born in 1918 near Northwood, says she and her husband loved the winter treat — dried cod soaked in lye to rehydrate, rinsed repeatedly over several days with cold water, then boiled or baked. “You get your lefse and then you butter it and then you put the potatoes on and then the fish. And you roll it up and eat it like a wrap.” Christmas during the Depression smelled like candles to Bob Sieglaff. “You would put a regular wax candle in a holder and clip it on the tree; you’d light it and be careful it didn’t get to the rest of the tree.” For Howard Mueller, born in 1931 near Waverly, the Christmas tree was a “blaze of glory” with the little two-inch candles and “a bucket of sand and a 24

bucket of water” for fire extinguishers. “I liked the Christmas tree,” says Eileen Johnson, born in 1932 near Dows. “There were the glass ornaments of different shapes. We had the foil icicles you put on individually. It was quite a job taking them off. We kept them and reused them every year.”

“The sled was high and made of big boards. That thing could travel!” — Edna Turvold For Ruth Haan, Christmas was redolent of eggnog, made from the family’s own eggs and milk, simmering in the kitchen. Eileen Johnson begged for cooked goose after listening to her mother’s stories about raising geese as a child. “She made it for Christmas, and I ended up getting the stomach flu and didn’t get to eat it,” she laughs. Larry Voigts, born in 1938, grew up at Vilmar, a rural Lutheran community north of Allison. He’d visit his grandparents for Christmas. “They had a huge house and an old Victrola; it was the one time we got to listen to records. I was a country music fan, and they had a couple of records by Vernon Dalhart, an opera singer who became a countrywestern singer,” he says. Voigts can still hum the tunes. Edna Turvold’s uncle rigged a sail on one of the family’s Norwegian sleds. “The sled was high and made of big boards.

Just getting to town for supplies or church services could be a holiday adventure for Iowa’s farm families in the 1930s. Draft horses and bobsleds were often the only way to travel when the roads drifted in.

That thing could travel!” she says. “We’d walk a quarter mile to the north end of the pond that was as slick as ice could be with snow drifting across. My brother and I would get on it and sail clear down to the road where the house was — no matter how cold.” On Christmas in 1936 there was so much snow that Catharine Weaver Wieck’s parents had to rig a bobsled to a horse to get to her grandparents’ house in rural Dayton. They covered the bottom of the sled with straw and added a soapstone slab heated in the oven to keep the young ones warm. “The snow had such a crust on it, we went right over the tops of fences, across the section to my mother’s parents’ house,” says Wieck, born in 1931. Coming home, “it was a beautiful starlit night. And here I was, down in this bobsled, looking up at the stars. It was wonderful. It is one of my best memories of Christmas.”


“There was a triangle there — a little red church, a school, and a parsonage,” says Bob Sieglaff of the important gathering places for his town. Sieglaff’s grandfather, from Germany, was a charter member of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo, which held services in German until WWI. “In WWI they egged my grandfather’s house because of the agitation toward the Germans,” says Sieglaff, who remains an active Lutheran largely because of his grandfather’s devotion to the church.

Many older Iowans from Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark were, like Sieglaff’s grandfather, loyal Americans but longed for Old Country traditions. LaVonne Johnson Edeker was with a group singing Christmas carols in Norwegian around New Hampton. “We started singing and this lady started crying like crazy,” moved to tears by memories of her homeland, Johnson says. Nina Mulder can still recite from her first church performance in Dumont: “One little snowflake can’t do it all/Big drifts of snow are made from snowflakes small.” With no electricity at home, Ann Farmer Sage, born in 1937 near Edgewood, was awed each year by the large Christmas tree “all lit up” at the church. Her husband, Jim Sage, born in 1932 north of Waterloo, remembers a sanctuary full of decorations at First Presbyterian. He didn’t like the taste of the oranges handed out, “but I had to eat mine or Santa would not come again next year.” Country schools also celebrated Christmas with plays and music. At Ruth Haan’s school, parents built a temporary platform out of cement bricks at the entrance of the building. “If you were late, you had to sit outside and wait until the first play was over, and then they would let you in,” she says. “Country school was like a big family,” says Catherine Weaver Wieck, who made her singing debut in third grade with “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”

November/December 2015



Many Iowans have vivid memories of participating in school Christmas programs and church nativity scenes such as this one, which was staged in 1938.


Family and friends helped each other out. Charles Sebring, born in 1935 north of Boone, had a wealthy aunt who sent castoff clothes to his sisters. “They would always give us kids a silver dollar — and other little things that mounted up,” he says. Whenever Ray Cook’s family was drifted in by snow, “the neighbor down the road would always stop to ask if you wanted anything from town.” The Sieglaff family opened their home to the mailman and his wife when the pair became stuck in snow at their lane. “I remember what a great deal that was to have the mailman with us,” Sieglaff says. Ruth Haan’s father was “always giving out cheese” to older people and church members and bought Whitman Samplers for receptionists and telephone operators. “When he was gone, I made sure my mother got a Whitman Sampler each year,” she says. Anna Mae Mehmen, born in 1932, grew up in an austere family of Dutch heritage. No gifts were exchanged on their farm near Stout. One year, her sister was gravely ill. The girl’s teacher gave the family a tree to cheer them, but it was relegated to the spare bedroom. Marla Whitcomb Tebben’s busy father took a break each year to play Santa Claus. While he was supposedly doing chores, her mother would gather the family around the piano to sing Christmas carols. “There was always a clue — a door opening — and then she played ‘Jingle Bells,’” says Tebben,


Trees were small and gifts few — but much appreciated — in 1948 when this photo was taken. A boy proudly displays his piggy bank, football, and doll.

born in 1934 near Osage. “After ‘Jingle Bells,’ Santa suddenly burst into the house and the living room and jumped all over, saying ‘Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.’ We were all excited.” After passing out the gifts from his bag, Santa would say he had to go back to the North Pole. “That always got our childhood Christmas off to a happy start,” Tebben says.


“At the end of the day, we had to go home for chores,” says Larry Voigts of the duties that kept Iowa farm families closely tethered to home. But with that routine came pride and a sense of belonging. A treasured pre-World War I gift for Donald Whitcomb, born in 1909 near Osage (and later Marla Whitcomb Tebben’s father, AKA Santa Claus), was a broken pitchfork to which his father had attached a tree branch — “a short one, about four feet long,” says Whitcomb — to make a kid-size pitchfork. It remains one of the most meaningful gifts he’s received “My goodness, I could get right out there with the men and pitch hay,” he says. “I was so proud.” These homemade gifts and makeshift celebrations may sound simple — even grim. But they reminded Iowans of what they valued most. “Nobody had anything,” says Mueller, “so we appreciated family, neighbors.” Scarcity

Santa’s helpers — likely members of a civic club — refurbish toys for distribution to local children in this 1957 photo.

reminded them that they were lucky to have those — plus good homegrown food, relative self-sufficiency, and a sense that each person, no matter how young, was essential to

Livestock don’t observe holidays, so farm celebrations were short-lived affairs — typically an afternoon long; at most an overnight stay at a local relative’s before heading home for chores. This photo was taken in 1948 in rural Adair County.

TO HEAR MORE GREAT STORIES about life in rural Iowa, go to the Grout Museum

website: and

“At the end of the day, we had to go home for chores.” — Larry Voigts his or her family’s and the community’s survival. The most memorable gifts — boots, a pitchfork, a pocketknife — were those that allowed the receiver to make a greater contribution, to work with adult tools. “Starting in the Depression and coming out through the war years with deprivation, Christmas was a meaningful time,” Mueller reflects. He pauses. “What our grandchildren and children enjoy today — it would have been considered obscene back then. Demonstrating that you had more than the other guy —” he shakes his head — “that is one thing you did not do.” Suzanne Kelsey is a lifelong Iowan and frequent contributor to The Iowan.

select “Farmer Stories.” You'll find dozens of fascinating video interviews of Iowans talking about life on the farm during the early and mid 20th century. The interviews are compiled by the Grout Museum with the support of Silos & Smokestacks Natural Heritage Area and the Fred Maytag Foundation; we’re grateful for permission to quote from them here. Special thanks to Grout Museum’s historian Bob Neymeyer for his masterful oral history interviews that resulted in such great stories.

TO SEE MORE FINE IMAGES of small-town and farm life in Iowa, go to The Sidey Collection has preserved, digitized, and archived thousands of stunning Iowa images taken between 1925 and 1955 by three generations of the Sidey family, journalists for the Adair County Free Press in Greenfield. We are grateful to the collection’s owner, Linda Sidey, for pouring over her collection with us to find suitable images and for permission to print them here.

November/December 2015



gives “Beauty you peace

Open 7 Days a Week Year-Round

wherever you encounter it in the world.




NatlSprintCarMuseum_JAIowan_2015.indd 1

Danish-American Landscape Architect

4:11 PM

Visit the Beautiful

George M. Curtis Mansion 420 5th Ave South, Clinton, Iowa

Friday Dec. 11 & Saturday Dec. 12 5:30 pm

Enjoy the simple joys of Christmas past. Free Admission donations accepted.

NELSON PIONEER MUSEUM In Oskaloosa, Just off Hwy 63

Home of the Clinton Lumber Industrialist Saturday Tours 1:30pm & 2:30pm Special events throughout the year Available for private rentals, including teas, tours, showers, receptions, catered meals & more



Main Street Wine & Beer Walk November 20

Fort Madison Lighted Christmas Parade November 27

Mistletoe On Main Street November 28

Christmas Eve at The Barn December 24 1-800-210-TOUR Iowa Association 28 Museum


Belle Plaine Area Museum & Henry B. Tippie Annex Come experience Belle Plaine’s history along the Lincoln Highway. Visit the Belle Plaine area museum and Henry B. Tippie Annex. 901 12th Street, Belle Plaine, IA 52208 319.434.6093

Holiday Quilts Dickens Village & Animated Tree

715 D Ave, Kalona 319-656-2519





Brucemore: t a s y a d li o The h ecember 31 D 7 2 r e b m Nove

CULTURAL CENTER 2300 Grand Avenue Des Moines, Iowa 50312 515-281-7205

TerraceHill_MJIowan_2015.indd 1 Cedar Rapids, IA

3/12/15 3:24 PM

Take a small scale adventure into the history of agriculture!

We are an innovative visual art museum dedicated to imagination and learning opportunities. 920 3rd Ave S Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501 Open everyday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Dyersville, IA • 1-877-475-2727 515-573-2316


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10:18 AM

An Iowa Century Museum...

housed in the first of 1,689 Carnegieendowed library buildings since 1892. The collections include Roman Antiquities, Native American artifacts and relics from the Civil War.

• History of Ballooning in the U.S. from 1783 to present • Interactive displays • Participative quizzes • Family-oriented • Kid’s Corner • Video Presentations Shop • Research Library open for tours by appt

Playing is learning!

Hours: Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 1–4 p.m. First Friday Art Walk: 6–9 p.m.

Family attraction for hands-on, active learning fun, inspires every child to imagine, create, discover, and explore though the power of play.

112 S. Court Street, Fairfield, IA 52556 641.472.6343

1451 Coral Ridge Avenue Coralville, IA 52241 319.625.6255

Special Advertising Section

National Balloon Museum

WINTER HOURS (November–April)

Every day 1pm–4pm

Gift Shoour p this holida seasony !

Closed January and February

1601 Jefferson Way Indianola, IA 50125 515.961.3714 29 THE July/August 2011

Mason City’s Historic Park Inn, the last remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, offers visitors an impressive display of Prairie School architecture.


Take a

Historic Hotel Getaway Iowa’s antique inns each offer a one-of-a-kind experience.

story by DAN WEEKS | photography by DAN WEEKS AND MEGAN JOHANSEN


hey’re a world away — and right next door. Located in Iowa’s river towns and railway junctions, Iowa’s historic hotels take you back to a time when steam was king, business was personal, and guests were treated like friends. Join us for a stay in seven of our favorites, presented in order from oldest to most recent. Each has its own charm — and each offers a home-away-from-home from which to explore fascinating surroundings and enjoy seasonal celebrations.

November/December 2015



Little has changed in the Mason House Inn’s exterior, left, since its construction prior to the Civil War. It has survived six major floods dating back to 1851.


No other place we’ve stayed feels this authentic to the Iowa frontier Bentonsport — 1846 With only three owners in the past 169 years, so little has changed here that even the ghosts feel right at home. Built by westering Mormon craftsmen to serve steamboat passengers in Bentonsport in southeast Iowa, this inn was also a stop on the Underground Railroad and a holding hospital during the Civil War. It’s the oldest steamboat hotel in continuous use on the Des Moines River. Not only that, it’s been passed down from owner to owner intact — with the original furnishings, quilts, and accessories. Bathrooms, heat, and electricity have been added, but each room features its original wood heating stove, and you can sleep in the same bed as did Senator Thomas Hart Benton, the town’s namesake and a frequent guest. The place is a portal to the 19th century. Looking out the wavy-glass windows at the river, you almost expect to see a passing steamboat. Railroad fans can stay overnight in a genuine caboose permanently parked in the side yard. The inn is now run as a B&B. Hearty breakfasts feature sweet breads, breakfast meats, pancakes, and fresh eggs from innkeepers Joy and Chuck Hansen’s colorful chickens, which have the run of the backyard. Breakfast conversation often focuses on the events of the night before: The inn is a favorite of ghost hunters who swear the place is full of what Joy calls friendly spirits. Joy has experienced so many inexplicable events there that she’s written a three-volume journal chronicling them, and she and Chuck host frequent stays organized around the paranormal. We were looking forward to interviewing any ghost willing to show itself to us, but we experienced nothing beyond a delightful stay. Maybe next time!


Many of the inn’s original furnishings remain from their initial purchase from a supplier in New York in 1857. The Mason Suite, above, boasts some of these antiques.

WHEN YOU GO: 21982 Hawk Drive Bentonsport/Keosauqua 52565 800-592-3133 • Bentonsport was once a thriving river town of 1,500. A handful of dedicated residents remain, painstakingly restoring the beautiful old buildings and welcoming visitors to experience the town’s history, architecture, and other offerings. You’ll find an artisan co-op, a historic general store, a crafts gallery, a sweet shop, a campground, and two more B&Bs. The town hosts special events from April through December.

DON’T MISS: A Bentonsport Country Christmas on Saturday, December 6, with holiday shopping and food in a festive atmosphere. For a calendar of events and visitor information:

To stay in a steamboat-era hotel that looks like a steamboat, try the Hotel Manning in nearby Keosauqua. Its lobby appears virtually unchanged from the hotel’s 1899 opening. The Manning offers 16 antique-filled rooms and breakfast in the grand dining room.

HOTEL MANNING 100 Van Buren Street Keosauqua 52565 800-728-2718


A charming and remarkably well-preserved hotel from the height of the railroad era Maquoketa — 1875 Ulysses S. Grant slept here. So did singer-songwriter Norah Jones a few years ago. But you don’t have to be a president or a rock star to enjoy (or afford) a stay in this grand Italianate landmark in downtown Maquoketa. When the merchants and “drummers” of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man stepped off a train in an Iowa town, they’d have stepped into a hotel such as the Decker for a bit of drink and a fine supper in the dining room with its fireplace and elaborate moldings before retiring upstairs. The main floor of this gorgeous Italianate structure — as well as the imposing exterior — remains exactly as it was. Light spills into the richly paneled lobby from the tall windows and glints off the crystal chandeliers and gilded column capitals that support the high ceiling. The oak registration counter displays postcards and vintage advertisements from the hotel’s glory days. And a massive, carved-walnut grand staircase sweeps gracefully upward. The original 42 tiny rooms have been renovated into 17 spacious, antique-filled rooms and suites — some with whirlpool tubs — but the transformation has been so carefully wrought you’d almost never suspect they’ve been altered. The place is liberally furnished with antiques, and the period architectural features have all been preserved right down to the doorknobs. The restaurant serves both hearty and light American fare, including a Sunday brunch buffet. There’s a lounge downstairs.

WHEN YOU GO: 128 North Main Street Maquoketa 52060 563-652-1875 • Maquoketa has undergone a renaissance recently, with downtown streetscape renovation, the conversion of the old city hall into an art gallery (, a four-storefront-long arts organization and gallery (, and a regular schedule of performances and gallery shows at the 30,000-squarefoot Ohnward Fine Arts Center (ohnwardfineartscenter. com). And, of course, there are the famous caves — 13 of them in nearby Maquoketa Caves State Park ( — that are spectacularly scenic year-round.

Located on the town’s main street, the Decker Hotel’s Italianate architecture, above top, hints at the elegance guests find inside. The building’s many windows belie the fact that the hotel has just 17 guest rooms. Supporting Corinthian columns, the tops and bottoms of them finished in gold, bisect the entrance and lobby, above bottom, where guests can gather around the fireplace.

DON’T MISS: The caves. Seriously. And the Festival of Trees (November 14–24), Maggie Mae Holiday Show (November 28), and the Neverly Brothers (December 31), all at the Ohnward Fine Arts Center. For more information:

November/December 2015




The oldest continuously operating hotel site in Iowa Cedar Falls — 1879 There’s been a hotel on the Blackhawk’s site since 1853, but this building dates from the late 1879s, when it was built as a 4-story deluxe hotel in elaborate, Second Empire style. But open the front door and you realize guests here get an architectural two-fer: The lobby was completely renovated in high Mission style in 1914 with heavy oak beams and paneling, Mission-style windows, an ornate tile mosaic floor, and comfy oak-and-leather Morris chairs. The styles mix remarkably well; the result is both cozy and authentic. The same can be said of the antique-furnished rooms. Each is unique, and you can pick your choice from photos on the hotel’s website. They range from standard rooms to one-, two-, and three-room luxury suites with marble and granite baths, whirlpool tubs, luxury linens, wet bars, and more. Downstairs, there’s The Stuffed Olive, a lounge serving more than 150 kinds of martinis along with potables and bottled beers. The Blackhawk has arguably the best location in Cedar Falls: on historic Main Street, now half pedestrian mall, half old-fashioned downtown with lots of 19th-century storefront boutiques, shops, and restaurants adjacent to the Cedar River and not far from the University of Northern Iowa. When in Cedar Falls, you owe it to yourself to stay there.

WHEN YOU GO: 115 Main Street Cedar Falls 50613 800-488-4295 • With UNI sporting and cultural events, the Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, the excellent Grout Museum District, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, and lots of great eating and drinking establishments, you can find an excuse for a Cedar Falls getaway any time. For more information:

DON’T MISS: The Minnesota Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker November 11 at Gallagher-Bluedorn. It’s a regional family tradition. For more information: Positioned among a thriving business district near the University of Northern Iowa, the Blackhawk Hotel and The Stuffed Olive, above top, are favorite stops for locals and out-of-towners. Guest rooms are cozy and decorated with furnishings appropriate to the hotel’s age, above bottom. The historic hotel lacks an elevator, but guests can opt for rooms on the ground floor.



An elegant and cozy hotel in one of Iowa’s most distinctive small towns Decorah — 1904 Dozens of reasons to go to Decorah already exist. The restoration of Hotel Winneshiek is another great one. Now the town that offers Nordic culture, great food, funky shopping, a lively arts scene, and outdoor recreation galore has a downtown hotel that lets you enjoy it all in luxury — yet with a cozy, small-town feel. The staff we met were locals, proud of their hotel and their town, uncommonly attentive, and genuinely welcoming. The hotel itself has been gorgeously restored to its early20th-century appearance with an octagonal open lobby that soars up three floors topped by a stained-glass skylight. Period furnishings grace the lobby and hallways, including the hotel’s original cigar stand. Alcoves and niches display local artists’ pottery, paintings, and sculpture. Guest rooms aren’t original but feel that way with more antiques, soaring ceilings, elaborate trimwork, and big tiled baths. There’s a sidewalk-level restaurant and bar with lots of glass for people watching. And the restored Steyer Opera House is an event space accessible from inside the hotel that’s popular for weddings and celebrations.

The Hotel Winneshiek’s octagonal lobby, above, was once referred to the as “The Office,” which included the front desk, a writing room, a baggage room, a toilet room, and a cigar room. A huge skylight remains and lights the space during the day.

WHEN YOU GO: 104 East Water Street Decorah 52101 800-998-4164 • Decorah offers resortworthy attractions in a down-toearth, self-sufficient small town. Murals and nationalpark-type sidewalk signage tell the history of the town in words and images; funky local shops from outfitters to craft galleries to eateries fill 19th-century storefronts. A scenic 12.5 mile bike and walking path circumnavigates the town, and the Vesterheim Museum and Luther College provide world-class doses of culture. For more information:

DON’T MISS: Christmas at Luther, December 3–6. Five concerts, six choirs, and a 34-year history mark this musical celebration of Christmas on the Luther College Campus that’s become a regional tradition.

November/December 2015




The last surviving hotel in the world designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright Mason City — 1910 There’s historic, and then there’s world-class iconic. In spite of the name, the Historic Park Inn is the latter. It is a monument to the taste (and the ego, but more on that later) of the 20th-century celebrity architect. You get to call this jewel-box-like piece of architectural sculpture home for the duration of your reservation. It’s an amazing feeling. It began when a Mason City law firm hired FLW to design a little corner law office. The commission wasn’t nearly grandiose enough for Wright’s taste, so he told the lawyers they could have their office if they sandwiched it into a single monumental building between a bank and a hotel. Like all Wright’s clients, the lawyers did as they were told. The bank soon failed in the Depression. The hotel was eclipsed by one with in-room bathrooms built nearby, and the building languished for most of its life. Saved from ruin by a just-completed, just-in-time $20 million restoration, the place is open and attracting FLW admirers worldwide. Great pains were taken to find, reinstall, or duplicate the original stained glass, statuary, furnishings, and lighting. And the original Douglas fir woodwork has been carefully restored. Except for one restored to original, the rooms are larger and faultlessly elegant. The lobby is largely as originally built, and the restaurant has been carefully designed to fit the aesthetic. Onsite are a lounge, a game room, a law library sitting area, and lots of nooks in which to soak up the ambience. It’s Prairie School heaven. And it’s Iowa.


The last remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, above, is up and running again in Mason City. Before the current owners renovated the building, a developer had toyed with the idea of moving the structure to Las Vegas.

WHEN YOU GO: 7 West State Street Mason City 50401 641-422-0015 Mason City is famous for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture: You’ll want to tour the Stockman House and Interpretive Center and take an architectural tour while you’re there. And stop by The Music Man Square and Meredith Willson’s boyhood home, a museum, re-created set from the movie, and performing arts center that are homages to the famous musical. But that’s not all: Mason City is a charming and vibrant town with a walkable business district, a restored steam locomotive, a fine art museum, and more. For more information:

DON’T MISS: Mason City’s events calendar is packed for the holidays with a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas concert, a Home for the Holidays celebration in the square, holiday musical and cultural events at The Music Man Square, performances of Annie, and lots more. For a complete calendar of events: events-calendar

In addition to the hotel, Wright designed an attached bank with law offices above it, above top left. Today the structure is part of the hotel and is used for meetings and events. A guest room with Wright’s classic window designs and some Wright-inspired furnishings, above top right. Guests can visit the 1910 Lounge in the hotel and its adjacent billiards room, above. Rectilinear light fixtures and barstools echo the Wright architecture in the 1910 Grille, left, which serves dinner nightly.

November/December 2015



HOTEL JULIEN DUBUQUE The past is envious Dubuque — 1915

There’s been a hotel on this site for 150 years, but the current building is exactly a century old and has just undergone a $30 million renovation inside and out designed to summon “the grandeur of the past.” We suspect the past is envious: What once was a business travelers’ hotel is now a destination boutique inn filled with sumptuous luxury. The elegant two-story lobby features a grand staircase, restored marble floors, and lots of wood and brass accents burnished to a rich glow. If the rooms weren’t equally plush, you’d be tempted to spend all your time there, reading in a cozy nook or sipping a drink and gazing at the brick facades and passers-by on Dubuque’s old Main Street. But the rooms are every bit as grand with refrigerators and stocked honor bars, granite-accented baths, HDTVs, and snappy WiFi. Many have views of Dubuque’s Mississippi Riverfront and the old Ice Harbor, where stern-wheelers still arrive and depart for sightseeing trips. If you like, you can stay in the Al Capone Suite on the 8th floor, where the capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) allegedly used to hide out from the Feds. He liked the 8th floor, they say, so he could keep his eye on the bridge to Illinois. The Riverfront Lounge is a cocktail bar with a sidewalklevel view of Main Street and, often, live music. Downstairs, Caroline’s Restaurant serves American cuisine with a twist. The hotel has an indoor pool, whirlpool, fitness facility, and spa. 38

During the hotel’s $30 million renovation, many artifacts, such as mirrors and framed prints, were found in storage inside the building, and many of them were restored and put back into use, above.

WHEN YOU GO: 200 Main Street Dubuque 52001 563-556-4200 • You could comfortably hole up at the Julien for an entire stay and want for nothing. But you’re also within walking distance of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, casino, year-round outdoor recreation, the Fenelon Place Elevator (the steepest railroad in the world), college and university events, and a downtown that’s both lively and historic. For more information:

DON’T MISS: Dubuque’s Winter Farmers’ Market and the Christmas Lights Tour. For a schedule of events:

The Hotel Greenfield, left, built in the Classical Revival style, is simple and elegant and anchors the downtown area.


Sculptures and antiques provide accents in the hotel’s lobby and lounge areas, above.

A small-town love story Greenfield — 1919 As Greenfield entered the Roaring Twenties, the town needed a fine hotel to welcome travelers. When the doors opened, the hotel featured an elegant lobby with adjoining dining room and 30 compact guest rooms in a handsome, three-story, Classical Revival brick structure just off the town square. Nearly a century later, the Hotel Greenfield is better than ever: A recent renovation reduced the number of rooms by a third, increased their size, and added luxurious bathrooms. All are furnished with antiques, as are sitting areas in the halls. The lobby is all original, right down to the check-in desk and wood-paneled phone booth; a player piano tinkles jazz standards. Gorgeous vintage black-and-white photos from The Sidey Collection on display in public areas offer fascinating views of life in and around Greenfield in the 1920s through 1950s (for examples of The Sidey Collection images, see “Simple Gifts,” page 22). There’s a full-service lounge and a fine restaurant in the adjoining former Adair Free Press building. Breakfast is included in room rates. The Greenfield likes to say it offers five-star amenities at small-town prices, and it does: Each room and suite has a full complement of electronic entertainment, a fridge, and luxury appointments for about what you’d pay for a room at a generic discount chain motel out on the interstate. But there’s more: The hotel’s solid construction, elegant appointments, and loving 2010 restoration ooze civic pride. The thoughtful staff makes you feel like a distant and admired relative of small-town royalty who’s been given the best guest room in the family mansion.


110 East Iowa Street Greenfield 50849 641-221-0034 • Greenfield is rapidly becoming a getaway destination. The town’s center is a rare “Lancaster Square” that features streets that enter the square in the middle of its sides rather than at the corners, eliminating the need for stop signs. You’ll find a grand courthouse; the impeccably restored 1896 Warren Cultural Center with exhibit space, an artisan gallery and retail store featuring works of more than 40 Iowa artists, and a calendar of events at the town’s original and opulent opera house; the Iowa Aviation Museum; the Adair County Heritage Museum; and more, all just 15 minutes south of I-80. For more information:

DON’T MISS: the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre’s presentation of The Snow Queen Sunday, December 6 (see page 9 for details), and the New Year’s Eve Party with live music, dancing, snacks, and a midnight Champagne toast. For more information:

Dan Weeks is editor of The Iowan. Megan Johansen is senior graphic designer of The Iowan.

November/December 2015




This winter, the arts are exploding all over Iowa! Premier museums are hosting world-class touring exhibitions while smaller museums and venues are mounting their own shows around local talent and historical focal points. Performances range in scope from trios playing in downtown coffee shops to full orchestra sounds filling our many fabulous concert halls. This special section highlights offerings in all corners of our state — some in larger established venues, and some in quirky, smaller ones. We love to find unique spots for you to visit, and we hope these provide interesting winter interludes for you. Remember to check out your many local options and to support the arts in your communities. We are fortunate to be riding this wave of amazing resurgence in the arts. We plan to jump in and try, see, do, attend. We hope you do, too!















print making

film sculpture



















art bound!

fine art



November/December 2015



artbound! AGORA ARTS GALLERY Decorah 563-382-8786 Agora Arts is an American craft gallery featuring the works of more than 200 artists, including Iowa artists Brian Andreas and Val Miller. Agora also carries Sticks furniture and has a large selection of handmade jewelry, pottery, prints, sculpture, wood, clothing, books, and more. Located at the historic Hotel Winneshiek in downtown Decorah, Agora is open daily. ALLAMAKEE WOOD-FIRED POTTERY New Albin 563-544-4378 Allamakee Wood-Fired Pottery creates handmade pottery that keeps the old idea of beauty in function alive by producing simple and functional pottery for everyday use in homes and gardens. ART WALK Pocahontas There will be art galore all over Pocahontas on Saturday, Nov. 28, during this event that features more than 30 local artists. Explore paintings, sculpture, wood, metal, jewelry, and fiber arts. In addition to artists showing and demonstrating in several locations, there will be a light and music show at The Rialto Theatre. A Christmas Parade will take place on Main Street in the evening. CLARINDA ART CENTER Clarinda 712-435-0007 The newly restored Carnegie Library now houses the Clarinda Art Center, which offers educational programming and exhibitions. Its collection includes modern and contemporary, some of it from the collection of Karen and Robert Duncan. Their extensive acquisition of nearly 2,000 works includes celebrated artists from the Midwest.

Sioux City Art Center Founded in 1914, the Sioux City Society of Fine Arts gave spark to the Sioux City Art Center, which has continuously featured exhibitions of local, national, and international artists since its opening in 1938. More than a thousand works are housed in its permanent collection, which focuses on artists and art related to the Midwest. This holiday season, from November 7 through January 31, the Art Center presents From the Store Window to the Gallery: The Legacy of T.S. Martin, an exhibition honoring the founder of Sioux City’s trendsetting T.S. Martin Company department store. It features artworks donated by Martin’s descendants, and they will be placed in vignettes inspired by department-store window designs. Following the Martin exhibition, watch for The Art of the Brick, a touring exhibition featuring works by New York artist Nathan Sawaya, who creates large sculptures with Legos. The exhibition, which runs February 20 through May 8, 2016, also includes Dean West’s photographs of Sawaya’s works. The Art Center’s ongoing exhibitions also are worth a visit. Three years before Iowa native Grant Wood earned fame with American Gothic, he painted murals in Iowa hotels owned by Eugene Eppley. You now can view Grant’s restored panels from Eppley’s Sioux City Martin Hotel. Other upcoming activities at the Art Center include art classes for all ages and skill levels, and in June the Art Center’s partnership with Sculpt Siouxland will bring new sculpture to Sioux City’s downtown streets (19 works are already on permanent view). Learn more at


Created in 1985, this intimate gallery at St. Ambrose University in Davenport hosts contemporary art exhibits featuring the works of student and faculty, but also regional and national artists. The university built the gallery as a memorial to the Rev. Edward M. Catich, founder of the St. Ambrose College Art Department in 1939 and worldrenowned calligrapher, stone incisor, and artist. The gallery’s upcoming exhibitions include a current show of acutely observed still life paintings by Brett Eberhardt and an upcoming multimedia installation by the Chicago print and design duo Sonnenzimmer. In the coming year, the gallery will be further expanding its offerings by engaging in longer projects involving faculty, students, and artists working in the community. The gallery will host a comic-book workshop with youth living at Family Resources, a local shelter and social services center. A visiting artist designed the program, and the university’s faculty and students will contribute. We hope this workshop with at-risk youth will offer an opportunity for them to express themselves and to tell their stories. The comic books they produce will work be part of a spring exhibition, Justice! Alternative Voices and Progressive Themes in Comics. The youths’ comics will be displayed side by side with works by professional artists and academics from across the country. This project runs in conjunction with the St. Ambrose art department’s conference Fair Play: Art & Social Justice, which will bring academics together from the region to explore the many ways in which art has become socially engaged. The gallery’s aim is to continue functioning as a community-oriented arts lab and as a traditional exhibition venue.  Learn more at 

Catich Gallery

DIANE VOLRATH Camanche 563-343-2765 Nationally recognized stained-glass artist Diane Michele Volrath specializes in 3-D stained-glass flowers, smallvase roses and lilies, dragonflies, ladybugs, pussy willows, leaf branches, wind chimes, other garden art, and seasonal items.

FAULCONER GALLERY Grinnell 641-269-4660 Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College presents exhibitions of art by regional, national, and international artists. Open daily, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

THE FIGGE ART MUSEUM Davenport 563-326-7804 The premier art facility between Chicago and Des Moines brings art and people together and enriches the community with the experience of art through education, collections, exhibitions, and preservation. FROM MIRY CLAY POTTERY Dayton 515-547-3440 From Miry Clay Pottery creates handmade stoneware that is functional, lightweight, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. Each piece is made on the potter’s wheel. IOWA ARTISANS GALLERY Iowa City Since 1984, Iowa Artisans Gallery has been a destination retail art gallery selling functional art (pottery, glass, wood), gifts, ornaments, jewelry, and art for the wall. Located in the historic Paul Helen Building in downtown Iowa City.

November/December 2015



artbound! IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY THEATRE Ames 515-294-2624 Iowa State University Theatre produces a full range of the world’s dramatic literature. During this season, the Theatre is presenting Treasure Island, The Magic Flute, Love and Information, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Secret Garden, and The Birds. MAX-CAST Kalona 319-656-5365 Max-Cast is a full-service sculpture foundry located in the quaint Amish town of Kalona. Casting in bronze, iron, and aluminum, Max-Cast produces original sculpture and offers a full range of foundry services for artists and artisans worldwide.

THE OCTAGON CENTER FOR THE ARTS Ames 515-232-5331 The Octagon Center for the Arts is a nonprofit community art organization that offers education classes and programs, rotating exhibits, a retail gallery shop, and events such as the Octagon Art Festival.

OHNWARD FINE ARTS CENTER Maquoketa 563-652-9815 As a nonprofit fine arts organization, Ohnward Fine Arts Center’s mission is to ignite the imagination, stimulate thought, offer an avenue of creative expression, and provide entertainment. We seek to enrich our patrons’ lives by providing a center for education, social interaction, and community development.


Waterloo Center for the Arts Located next to the scenic Cedar River in downtown Waterloo, the Waterloo Art Center boasts a significant permanent collection of Midwest art, American decorative arts, and international folk art (including Mexican art and the world’s largest public collection of Haitian art). The Center also offers ongoing workshops and classes for all ages and levels of experience. Instruction is offered in drawing, painting, pottery, jewelry making, digital arts, and more. The Center also offers cultural programs and events throughout the year, including live outdoor music concerts at the RiverLoop Amphitheatre and Expo Plaza and community events and festivals, lectures, film series, and performance art. Many of these events and concerts are free to the public. In addition the arts offerings, the Waterloo Center for the Arts houses the Phelps Youth Pavilion, an interactive children’s museum featuring more than 40 hands-on exhibits for all ages to explore ($5 admission). Visitors can also enjoy Mark’s Park, a free outdoor splash pad and playground, open seasonally. The Waterloo Center for the Arts strives to stimulate inquiry, provokes dialogue, and connect people through the arts. Learn more at

OLD CITY HALL GALLERY Maquoketa 563-321-1074

Misty and Shawn Palek, owners at Palek Studio and Gallery in Des Moines’ East Village district, believe everyone should have access to art. Their business is a fine-art gallery that also hosts acrylic- and watercolor-painting parties and coloring meditation. It is also a venue space for artists to show their works and other events. Here’s a look at what’s happening at Palek Studio and Gallery through the end of the year: Gallery Night Happening: Nov. 13 and Dec. 11, 6:30– 9 p.m. Free and open to the public, this is an opportunity to see our guest artists for the current month and enjoy free music.   East Village Promenade: Nov. 20, 5–9 p.m. This is the annual lighting of the village, and stores are open late to kick off the shopping season.  Dr. Seuss-Themed Art Show: Nov. 28, 6:30–9 p.m. Free and open to the public. You’ll see lots of Dr. Seussrelated objects. Paint Parties: If you’re looking for a fun and memorable night in a relaxed environment with wine, food, and a little creativity, these classes are perfect for you. Within a couple of hours — and with step-by-step instruction — you will paint and take home your own masterpiece. No experience necessary. Adults only. Check our calendar of events to see date offerings and what the classes will be painting at each party: Meditation Coloring: Join the gallery and studio for an evening of relaxation coloring — you’ll become a more peaceful you. Upcoming dates: Nov. 6, Dec. 4, 10, 18, 6:30 –8:30 p.m. and Nov. 14, 4–6 p.m.

Artist Rose Frantzen and her parents, Wayne and Ellen Frantzen, purchased Maquoketa’s former city hall in 1991, converting the three-story 1901 building into this gallery and studio space. Rose Frantzen has gained national and international acclaim for her oil paintings. Her husband, Charles Morris, also shows at the gallery.

SHANZ FURNITURE South Amana 319-622-3529 Shanz Furniture custom-builds and designs furniture in clients’ choices of hardwoods. Walnut, cherry, and oak woods are primarily used, but other native Iowa woods are available, including hickory, maple, and ash. Shanz also repairs and refinishes older furniture with a four-coat, oil-based varnish that is hand-rubbed to a satin sheen. Among the other services Shanz Furniture offers is chair-seat weaving with natural bamboo cane.

SUZANNE AUNAN GALLERY Iowa City 319-351-8997

For more information, visit

Palek Studio and Gallery

Self-taught Iowa artist Suzanne Aunan creates art with iconic Iowa themes, including schools, farms, and florals.

November/December 2015





Ohnward Fine Arts Center

“Bringing the arts to everyone!”



Thurs, Dec. 31, 2015 • 7 PM

Sat, June 11, 2016 • 7 PM

A Rock ‘n’ Roll Evolution

TICKETS In advance: $25, At door: $30

JOSEPH HALL’S ELVIS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL REMEMBER TRIBUTE SHOW Sat, Jan. 16, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15


Sat, Feb. 13, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15


Traditional Irish music

Sat, March 19, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15


Big Band favorites of the forties!

Sat, April 23, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15 THROUGH DECEMBER 13, 2015

Featuring works by 29 artists from Sigmar Polke to Yinka Shonibare


Kiss tribute band

TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15

THE RICHARD LYNCH BAND The Last of a Dying Breed

Sat, Sept. 16, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15


The “Star” of RFD-TV’s “MIDWEST COUNTRY” for over 10 years!

Sat, Oct. 15, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15

BRANSON ON THE ROAD Sat, Nov. 26, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15


Featuring the music of Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash

Sat, Dec. 31, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS In advance: $25, At door: $30

Musical Duo of the Year 2014 by The Valley Star Awards

Sat, May 7, 2016 • 7 PM TICKETS Adults $22-$25 Students $13-$15


For a full listing of events and programs, visit or call 641.269.4660 Marlene Dumas, The Confrontation, 1988, oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 19 5/8 inches. The Rachofsky Collection. Image: Kevin Todora.


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UPCOMING EXHIBITION From the Store Window to the Gallery: The Legacy of T. S. Martin November 7, 2015 – January 31, 2016 This unique exhibition honors the legacy of T. S. Martin, the visionary founder of Sioux City’s trendsetting department store, T. S. Martin Company. Artworks donated to the Art Center by his descendants are placed within creative vignettes, inspired by department store window designs.

225 Nebraska Street

Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat 10 am - 4 pm Thurs 10 am - 9 pm; Sun 1 pm - 4 pm Closed Mondays


November/December 2015



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The newly restored Carnegie Library now repurposed to provide Clarinda and Southwest Iowa arts enrichment through educational programming, including high-quality exhibitions. The collection includes modern and contemporary art from but not be limited to, art primarily owned by the Karen and Robert Duncan. Their extensive acquisition of nearly 2,000 works features both Midwestern and internationally recognized artists. The Clarinda Carnegie Library building was built in 1908 as one of the 1,689 libraries that businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built across the United States.

Those interested in bringing youth or adult groups for docent-led tours are asked to contact CCAM Director Trish Okamoto at or 712-435-0007. /Clarinda-Carnegie-Art-Museum



300 north 16th street • clarinda, iowa 51632

Shop Cedar Falls and enjoy Holiday Hoopla festivities throughout December!


November/December 2015






Arguably the world’s two most famous syndicated advice columnists, Sioux City sisters Pauline Esther Friedman and Esther Pauline Friedman went from being inseparable twins to bitter rivals before reconciling later in life.



As “Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby,” Sioux City’s Friedman twins revolutionized the advice column — and became two of the most influential women of the 20th century. by AVERY GREGURICH


n the late 1920s in Sioux City, the front door of Martin Pharmacy swings open. Wearing a matched pair of civet cat coats and carrying identical violin cases, it’s the Friedman twins, Esther and Pauline, stopping in after their music lessons to whip up a little notoriety. “Things really happened after they got in the pharmacy,” recalled one soda jerk. “They were not bashful, and everyone knew they were there and you could not miss them,” wrote the late Sioux Cityan Charlie Striegel years later. “They were full of voice and acetic acid.” Even in their childhoods, they were an act in search of a stage. Perhaps their birthday is to blame: Born on the Fourth of July, they didn’t realize the fireworks weren’t just for them. “A couple of spitfires, they used to call us,” Pauline remembered years later. Eventually, the twins earned the fame they sought as Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren — the most widely read newspaper advice columnists ever and two of the most influential women of their time. First, though, the twins had to grow up. Their parents, Abraham and Rebecca Friedman, fled Russia to Sioux City to avoid Abe’s conscription into the Russian army. At first Abraham was a traveling chicken salesman. Later he bought and ran small grocery store at 1722 Jackson Street. Eventually he owned a string of theaters and was prominent and well-to-do. The Friedmans had four daughters: Helen, Dorothy, and on July 4, 1918, twins Esther Pauline and, 17 minutes later, Pauline Esther. From the start, the twins were both inseparable and virtually interchangeable, with identical features, facsimile wardrobes, and equally quick wits and sharp tongues. One was rarely seen or spoken of without the other. “They once walked home from a music lesson — they might have been about 8 years old — and their route took them past the jail. They felt sorry for the prisoners,

The Friedman sisters in college, 1938. That’s Pauline on the left, Esther on the right. Even friends had trouble telling them apart.

so somehow they talked their way in to serenade them,” Pauline’s daughter, Jeanne Phillips, told the Sioux City Journal in 2010. “We volunteered to play for them, were introduced by Sheriff Bill Tice, and for one hour sawed away on ‘Humoresque,’ the ‘Blue Danube Waltz,’ ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5,’ and ‘Two Guitars,’” Pauline wrote in the Sioux City Journal in 1964. At Central High School they sometimes attended classes based on who had done the corresponding homework. They always attracted attention. “We were unique in high school. We dressed alike. We looked alike. We were so used to being stared at that being celebrities has never seemed any different,” the sisters told their classmates at their 40th high school reunion in 1976. Even then they were distributing wisdom to their peers. “When they told me babies came from between the mother’s legs — why, I fell off the curb. They always knew everything first,” Rosanna Dikel Kornfeld told People in 1976.


Upon graduation, the twins enrolled in Morningside College a few miles away, where they both majored in journalism and psychology — “and boys,” they liked to say — all fitting fields of study given their later careers. They had no aspirations of being writers. “I always thought I would marry and have a family, like all the nice Jewish girls from Sioux City, and live happily ever after,” Esther — by then world famous as “Ann Landers” — told the Sioux City Journal in 1990. But at Morningside the twins began their writing career, and of course they did it together.

November/December 2015




A new column, “The Campus Rat,” appeared in The Collegian Reporter in the fall of 1936 authored by “PE-EP.” A clever play on the girls’ combined initials and on “peep,” it was the sisters’ first pseudonym. The “Rat” poked fun at fellow Morningsiders, offered adages, exhibited fragments of the sisters’ practicality and humor, and oozed playfulness, chutzpah, and sincerity. From their first column: “Melvin Rosenfeld is proud of his football mustache — eleven on each side!” “Already we have been offered very tempting sums if we would but condescend to keeping various names out of this column. One bright soph went so far as to threaten to spank us in chapel if his name appeared once more in this space. Okay, Mr. Worsley … choose your weapon at six paces … see ya’ in chapel!” In lieu of congratulations or thank yous, the duo handed out “orchids.” “Orchids to Sid Iseminger for just being her own sweet self. (Which goes to prove that you don’t have to do a thing to get your name in a paper these days.)” The column continued for the extent of their stay at Morningside, which ended before they graduated.


Two days short of their 21st birthdays, Pauline and Esther were married at Shaare Zion in Sioux City, wearing identical wedding gowns, hairstyles, and veils. Pauline married Morton Phillips; Esther, Jules Lederer. The double wedding was the “highlight of the 1939 social season,” according to the Sioux City Journal. Shortly after a joint honeymoon, both husbands were drafted (into the same military unit!) for World War II. After the war, Phillips hired Lederer to work at his family’s liquor distributing business in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and for a decade the twins lived together there. A 2013 profile in New York Times Magazine wrote of their time in Eau Claire: “The sisters hosted elaborate costume parties and threw themselves into volunteer work. Marshall Atkinson, then the publisher of The LeaderTelegram in Eau Claire, once described ‘the 10 years of twins’ as life-changing for the small town.” Without fail, the pair sought the spotlight. “Atkinson recalled that right before a town parade began, the women pulled up in front of the band in a Cadillac convertible and led the way,” the profile said. Meanwhile, their families were growing. A year after their marriage, Esther gave birth to her only child, Margo, who years later would become an advice columnist herself as Margo Howard. Pauline had two children of her own: Jeanne in 1942, Eddie in 1945.


Double wedding: After a dual ceremony in Sioux City wearing identical gowns, hairstyles, and veils, the twins and their husbands made a joint move to Wisconsin.


The pair was separated for the first time when Jules became an executive of the Autopoint Company and he, Esther, and their daughter, Margo, relocated to Chicago. Morton and Pauline migrated to the San Francisco area soon after. It wasn’t until 1955 that Esther became Ann Landers. She reportedly met and impressed an executive of the Chicago Sun-Times on a train ride. He encouraged her to apply for an opening as advice columnist “Ann Landers,” a position vacated by the death of the “Ask Ann Landers” column creator, Ruth Crowley. Esther won the pen name over 27 other women, impressing the editors with her answers to several sample letters, which included consultation from everyone from a Supreme Court Justice to a specialist from the Mayo Clinic. In her first few weeks, the new Ann Landers was inundated with letters and sought help from her old collaborator. She sent bundles of letters to San Francisco, where Pauline would answer each letter individually and mail them back to Chicago. After three months of this, Esther’s editors prohibited her from seeking outside assistance. Their


Dueling typewriters: Pauline Phillips, left, as Dear Abby and Esther Lederer, right, as Ann Landers became immediate and fierce competitors, each trying to outdo the other in syndications, readership, and status. The feud between the equally matched wits and egos was quite public and at times spectacularly colorful.

second joint newspaper column ended: “Ann Landers” was to be the voice of one woman, Esther Lederer. Pauline, as so often before, wouldn’t be outdone. At the time, the San Francisco Chronicle was running an advice column by Molly Mayfield, which Pauline described as an “agony.” “I went to the Chronicle in San Francisco, to Stan Arnold the editor … I just really gussed my way in, and I said, ‘I really can do a much better column than this Mayfield person,’” she told Larry King in 1990. Attempting to dismiss her, Arnold gave her a stack of letters to answer and told her to bring them back in a week. She brought them back in an hour and a half. Arnold hired her the next day. She made up her own pen name after consulting the Bible (“and David said to Abigail, blessed be thy advice”) and her own sense of which former U.S. President’s name she felt sounded most distinguished.


When Pauline called her sister in Chicago to tell her the news, there was a long silence. Esther eventually said, “I guess it’s all right if you don’t get syndicated.” Three weeks later Pauline’s “Dear Abby” was signed to the McNaught Syndicate and ran in newspapers and tabloids across the country. The sisters’ highly publicized tension lasted for much of the remainder of their lives. For instance, Esther, enraged

that The Sioux City Journal was running her sister’s “Dear Abby” column and not hers, allowed her hometown paper to print “Ask Ann Landers” for free.

“She’s just like a kid who beats a dog until somebody looks and then starts petting it.” — Esther, feuding with her sister A 1958 Life magazine article, “Twin Lovelorn Advisers Torn Asunder by Success,” profiled the tumultuous period immediately following their starts. “She wanted to be first violin in the school orchestra, but I was. She swore she’d marry a millionaire, but I did,” Pauline said of her sister. “I’m not trying to be the champion. It’s just like playing poker. If you don’t have to win, you get the cards, and she’s always just had to win. But I love her.” Esther’s response? “That’s her fantasy. She’s just like a kid who beats a dog until somebody looks and then starts petting it.” The pair reportedly didn’t speak until publicly reconciling in 1964.

November/December 2015




Time heals all wounds: Late in life the twins reconciled and often returned to Sioux City to speak at graduations and banquets. They were received like the international celebrities they were.


Meanwhile, their columns were in constant competition, sometimes lying side by side in the same newspaper. That same Life article described the twins as the “most widely read and most quoted women in the world.” Every day for a half century, their columns reached generations of readers across the globe. Each tackled taboo topics such as alcoholism, abortion, gay rights, gun control, and ending the Vietnam War with a combination of sincerity and scathing wit. (See “Dear Abby’s Snappy Comebacks,” and “Ann Landers Tells It Like It Is,” page 55). The sisters each received thousands of letters weekly. Each column claimed more letters, more subscribing newspapers (about 200 each in 1958), and more readers than the other. “Totting up the score at any given moment is a task calculated to drive any self-appointed umpire to heroin,” reported the Life article in exasperation. The sisters responded to each letter and published the best. They both amassed celebrity friends: Dean Martin, Cary Grant, Jerry Lewis, Henry Winkler, Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.



“I am immensely proud of my Midwestern background because it represents a simple, unadorned, down-to-earth approach to living,” Esther said in a 1968 broadcast from KTIV in Sioux City. “It’s a part of the country where people are accustomed to cold winters and hot summers and hard work. Midwesterners are direct. They are solid, sincere, and unaffected. It seems a miracle that my parents, when they came from Russia, picked of all places in the world, Sioux City, Iowa. I am awfully glad they did.” “The wholesome associations were invaluable and Sioux City’s educational system excellent, and those Sioux City years were the healthiest: hot in summer, cold in winter. Nothing monotonous like my years in California,” Pauline deadpanned. They returned to Iowa often for class reunions and to speak at graduations and banquets. They were always received warmly, often with roses, right off the plane. Their influence on national opinion and culture can't be overstated, and their role as the often similar, sometimes differing moral metric of the majority is well documented.

“Two hundred years from now, if an anthropologist really wants to know what life in these United States … was like, all he or she might have to do is read every one of Ann Landers’ columns,” Rick Kogan, author and Esther’s editor, said in Esther’s 2002 Chicago Tribune obituary. Pauline got an equally affectionate send-off in her New York Times obituary: “It is difficult to overstate the column’s influence on American culture at midcentury and

“It seems a miracle that my parents, when they came from Russia, picked of all places in the world, Sioux City, Iowa. I am awfully glad they did.” — Esther Lederer (“Ann Landers”) afterward … Dear Abby was for decades an affectionate synonym for a trusted, if slightly campy, confidante.” In 2002 Esther died of multiple myeloma at age 83 in her East Lake Shore Drive apartment in Chicago. She wished the Ann Landers name buried with her. Her final column ran a few weeks after her death. True to form, it included an “Airline Etiquette” guide and a poem that the Associated Press said defined “a successful person as one ‘whose life was an inspiration, whose memory a benediction.’’’ Pauline died in 2013 in Minneapolis after an overdecade-long battle with Alzheimer’s. Her daughter, Jeanne, officially took over the “Dear Abby” column in 2000 and continues to write under the pseudonym today. Perhaps the best way to sum up the twins’ lives, work, and influence is with a poem published in their last “Campus Rat” column. In it, they surely were saying good-bye to a pharmacy soda fountain, a campus, a town, and — unknowingly — to millions of readers around the world.


No regrets! We’ve dug the dirt. A few we’ve helped — a few we’ve hurt. This job was not a cinch to handle For few can tell a joke from scandal. Before you knock, remember, please We’ve really tried to earn our cheese. And for our sins, oh Who can tell. The campus rats may go To Illinois!

DEAR ABBY’S SNAPPY COMEBACKS Pauline Phillips (“Dear Abby”) was the master of the quip. Here are a few of her most famous:

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I’d like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he’d like? —Carol DEAR CAROL: Never mind what he’d like; give him a tie. DEAR ABBY: I’ve been going with this girl for a year. How can I get her to say yes? —Don DEAR DON: What’s the question? DEAR ABBY: What’s the difference between a wife and a mistress? —Bess DEAR BESS: Night and Day.

ANN LANDERS TELLS IT LIKE IT IS Esther Lederer (“Ann Landers”) didn’t pull punches, whether dealing with the most naive of maidens or hard rock legend Alice Cooper.

DEAR ANN: I’ve been going with a wristwatch salesman for 16 months. He takes me to the most expensive places, and last year for my birthday he gave me a beautiful watch. Something weird is going on, and I can’t figure out what’s at the bottom of it. His stenographer is overly interested in our personal business. She wants to know where we go, how much he spends, and what we talk about … What do you make of it? —Shadowed DEAR SHADOWED: A watch last year, but this year, you’re getting the works. The reason the girl is so interested in what’s going on is because your boyfriend has probably been making time with her, too … Tell your watch salesman to unwind himself from this private eye.

DEAR ANN: I’m really sorry you found that old song of mine crude and offensive. Actually, “Cold Ethyl” is just a harmless number about necrophilia … satire done with a sense of humor to a rock and roll beat. —Alice Cooper DEAR ALICE COOPER: You can call it funny if you want to, Alice. I call it sick … You have in your group some exceptionally talented performers and you’re no slouch yourself, Alice — I just wish you’d clean up your act.

Avery Gregurich is a student of English and magazine journalism at Drake University in Des Moines.

November/December 2015




The Ox Yoke Inn Turns 75 Here “family style” is a way of life.

story and photography by DAN WEEKS

Built in 1857 by German colonists, the Ox Yoke Inn was originally a home, then a communal kitchen and dining room. It’s been a destination restaurant since 1940.


We stopped at the wrong place. I arrived in Iowa 39 years ago this fall, when the Ox Yoke Inn was less than half as old as it is today. We had been driving through fields of corn for the better part of a day on our cross-country trip when we pulled off the road to eat at a chain restaurant in eastern Iowa. We’d never seen so much corn. My mother wanted to make sure that whatever she ordered included the signature Iowa vegetable. “I can’t wait to taste that good corn,” she said. She ordered meat loaf. She really isn’t all that fond of meat loaf, but it came with corn. The meals arrived. My mother scooped up a forkful of golden kernels and took an eager bite. She made a face. She reluctantly chewed and swallowed.

Don’t miss the Ox Yoke’s second-floor museum, which displays hand-worn relics from the building’s days as the communal kitchen.

“Canned!” she pronounced. If we’d only known to stop at the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana, one of the original Amana Colonies. We could have eaten a

hasn’t changed that much since Bill’s father charged 65 cents

robust, family-style meal of hearty German-American food in

for a family-style meal.

which everyone gets to share the vegetables and they bring

“Times were lean at first,” Leichsenring grins. “My father

out as much of them as you can eat. The corn — along with

used to ask the staff to park out front so it would seem like we

everything else — would have been fresh.

were busier to attract more customers.”

TRADITIONS, NOT TRENDS The restaurant business can be trendy. Yesterday’s haute cuisine can seem as stale as last week’s bread when the next fad rolls in. But the Ox Yoke Inn has been serving food based on the robust meals originally served to the colonies’ field hands, craftsmen, and families back when they all ate together three to five times a day in big, communal dining rooms. Guided by recipes and traditions they’d brought with them

No need to do that now. Thanks to a renovation of the original kitchen’s woodshed into a dining room and a seamless, period-looking addition in 1976, the place can now seat 600 — enough to accommodate a private banquet, a fleet of motor coach travelers, plus the usual walk-in traffic without batting an eye.

AN IOWA INSTITUTION But it’s not easy. Leichsenring is keenly aware that he’s at the

from their native Germany, the Amana Colonists enjoyed thick

helm of an Iowa institution — one of the places that makes

slabs of smoked ham, sauerbraten (marinated roast beef with

Iowa Iowa — and that part of his unwritten job description is

gravy), kasseler rippchen (smoked pork chop), and schnitzels

to maintain its authenticity while feeding huge numbers of

— chicken, jäger (pork loin), and wiener (veal), each dredged in

people. Not to mention competing with national chains that try

cracker crumbs and quickly sautéed — along with other home-

to riff off the same “from the heartland” image.

made favorites. The meat was raised locally, and the vegetables came

He’s very careful about the menu. Too many items and too much variety and the dining experience loses its identity.

from a garden right outside the kitchen’s back door. The

Too few and people have no reason to come back. He sticks

colonies discontinued the communal lifestyle in 1932. But in

close to the colonies’ German-American culinary heritage but

1940 William Leichsenring and his wife, Lina, thought maybe

has added salads, sandwiches, brunches, and even vegetarian

locals — and perhaps a few travelers, too — might want to

and gluten-free items to subtly broaden that foundation. He’s

eat similar meals, served family style. Today the Ox Yoke Inn

following the example of his father, who with some friends

is housed in the same 1859 building in which its founder was

hand-dug a Bierstube Rathskeller (beer room) under the

born in 1908.

restaurant in 1965. Of course, it’s still there.

The restaurant is now owned and run by his son, Bill. His

More recently guests started saying they couldn’t finish

youthful enthusiasm for the place and its customers seems

the family-style meals, so Leichsenring started offering

to belie the fact that he’s worked there 45 years. He started

nonrefillable plates for a lower price, along with half portions,

at age 14 in the same kitchen where his grandmother once

full portions, and three-meat banquets. “It’s the same food,” he

peeled potatoes.

says, “but now you can buy just what you want.”

Aside from the sign outside — which paradoxically looks older than the neon-lit one I first remember there — the place

One thing he won’t compromise on is quality. “We serve the same full-muscle veal we always have. It’s $14 a pound wholesale. The profit margin is pretty slim. We could serve

November/December 2015




The Ox Yoke’s dining room decor with its Bavarian mantel clock, array of beer steins, and burnished wood tables and chairs reflects the Amanas’ German heritage.

deep-fried veal tenderloins like everyone else and make more

more vigorous than ever at 75. Perhaps time changes more

money, but I won’t do it,” he says. “If we can’t offer the very

slowly inside the Ox Yoke’s walls. Several of the restaurant’s 70

best, we don’t serve it at all.”

employees have worked there for decades, as has Bill's wife,

General manager Ron Goltz has been with the Ox Yoke 30

Karen, and his two daughters, Lauren and Taylor.

years and tries to source food locally. But when you serve 25 tons of beef, 20 tons of chicken, and 17 tons of pork annually,


that can be tough. Still, the chicken arrives fresh, packed in ice,

“Our employees love to take care of people,” says Leichsenring,

as do the catfish. Of the latter Bill says, “They are supposedly

who clearly enjoys that as well. “They treat our customers like

‘clean’ when they get here. Well, we rewash the fillets, every

family.” Some practically are: Four couples have eaten dinner

crevice and corner. When we’re done, the water is black. That’s

together at the Ox Yoke every Friday night for decades. They

a difference you can taste.”

even have their own parking spots. Others visit less frequently

Then there’s the price. His number-one source of outof-state customers is the western suburbs of Chicago. Lots

but are just as warmly welcomed. “We have a couple; we call them the silverware thieves,”

of folks there drive 400 miles roundtrip just for an Ox Yoke

Leichsenring says. “They come up from Missouri a few times

Inn meal. They’d likely pay more than the $11.99 he charges

a year for dinner. Once the husband absent-mindedly put his

for a plated two-piece chicken dinner or the $16.99 for the

napkin in his pocket. The silverware was still wrapped up in it.

four-piece, family-style version with two salads, a steamed

He mailed it back to us when he got home with a long apology.

vegetable, real potatoes and gravy, and bread. But he doesn’t

Now when they come, we put out plasticware for them. It’s

want to price out locals for whom the restaurant is a family

a joke that goes back years. They love it. They recently sent

tradition — and who keep his doors open year-round.

us a clock made out of silverware in response.” He pauses.

As authentic as the Amanas are, they’ve changed, too. Amana Refrigeration used to employ 3,000 people in the colonies. Two-thirds of them were executives with hour-and-

“It wasn’t made out of our silverware, of course,” he says. “At least I don’t think it was!” Thirty-five years after our first trip to Iowa, my parents

a-half lunches. The Leichsenrings knew them all by first name

came to live here, too. A little bit ago, my wife and I took them

and fed them well. Now Amana Refrigeration is largely gone,

out to eat at the Ox Yoke Inn.

and so are the Amana Colonies brochures that used to ship with every refrigerator, air-conditioner, and Radarange. Still, the restaurant that survived the building of the

“I can’t wait to taste that good corn,” my mother said as we pulled up to the familiar Ox Yoke sign. And she did. And it — and everything else — was very good indeed.

interstate, the franchising of America, and the breakup of a company that made its town’s name a household word is


Dan Weeks is editor of The Iowan.

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November/December 2015



Holiday Gift Guide Explore the fantastic Iowa products available for gift giving this holiday season. We always encourage our readers to “Buy Iowa.” Now is your chance to “Give Iowa” with our carefully curated picks, which include edibles, handcrafts, books, music, and even a page of gift options for those hard-to-please people on your list!


Artistic Gifts

STAINED-GLASS SCULPTURES Shining with deep color and metalwork and stone detail, these creations are perfect for brightening rooms and smiles. Standing sculptures, hanging versions, and garden pieces on stakes are all available. Stained-glass snowmen–$30 each Stained-glass holiday tree–$30 Stained-glass flowers (small)–$30 Stained-glass poinsettia (large)–$50 563-343-2765

CERAMIC MUGS 3-D PRINTED JEWELRY Suzanne LaTour Stevens creates 3-D printed beads in Des Moines using a mix of interesting print materials. Necklace–$35 Earrings–$18 Five Monkeys Creative Collective 4211 Chamberlain Dr., Des Moines 515-537-5652


WATERCOLOR SKETCHES Choose from many different views in this beautiful collection of sketches by Scott Stouffer of Des Moines. Market sketches–$90–$110 From Our Hands 400 E. Locust St., #8, Des Moines 515-282-3496

Created by central Iowa artist Nancy Briggs, who utilizes bright underglazes to create painterly effects on her raku pottery. Glazed mug–$28 From Our Hands 400 E. Locust St., #8, Des Moines 515-282-3496

BEAD EMBROIDERED CUFF BRACELET Jazz up your sweater wardrobe with this ultimate piece of holiday party statement jewelry. Bracelet–$125 Five Monkeys Creative Collective 4211 Chamberlain Dr., Des Moines 515-537-5652

These items are all made in Iowa from the wool produced by Irish Meadows Alpaca Farm in La Motte. All items are available as shown or in custom colors and patterns by special order. Hand-woven rug (2' × 3')–$149 Knitted earflap hat–$75 Double-sided scarf–$73 Knitted headband (not shown)–$42 563-543-1375

November/December 2015



Edible Gifts

STERZING’S CHIPS This company’s recipe and process guarantee a flavor and crisp texture that help you realize what a potato’s highest calling could be. Sterzing’s chips ship all over the globe and are available in Iowa at most Hy-Vee stores. Bag of Sterzing’s chips–$3.99 319-754-8467 or 800-754-8467


PICKET FENCE CHEESES These cheese curds and bacon cheeseball are some of our holiday favorites. Cheese curds: Dill or Hot Pepper–$4.99 Neva’s Handmade Cheese Ball–$4.99 14583 S Ave., Woodward 515-438-2697

We love the frothy root beer and the clear, refreshingly sweet cream soda from Millstream. Root Beer 6-pack–$4.80 Cream Soda 6-pack–$4.80 Case of either–$18.15 (all plus tax and deposit) 319-622-3672


COUNTRY CANDIES This Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Bar from Country Candies in Centerville comes packaged and ready for a bow. Try everything! Fresh ingredients and homemade goodness make these candies an especially sweet gift. Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Bar–$5 Coffee Caramels (not shown)–$5 641-898-7312 Also available at specialty markets around Iowa


This creamy delight is a wonderful hostess gift, stocking stuffer, or holiday surprise. 1-pound jar–$3.80 (Available in different flavors) 2956 170th South Amana 319-662-4145

Gifts to Read bout the


This buttery crunchy candy is made in Riverside. It’s chock-full of cashews and full of flavor. 7-oz. bag–$5.25 14-oz. bag–$10 319-656-3535 Jon Morris is a commercial and fine-art photographer living in Lakeland, Minnesota. When not behind a camera, Jon spends his time sailing and building birdhouses.

Kurt Meyer lives in rural Mitchell County, Iowa, the sixth generation of his family to do so. A dedicated amateur historian, Kurt is a consultant to nonprofit organizations and serves on numerous local, regional, and national nonprofit boards.

Prairie Visions

Prairie Visions


Keith Newlin is Professor of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The coeditor of Studies in American Naturalism, he is the author of Hamlin Garland, A Life (2008), among other books.


writings by


photography by Edited by



Foreword by

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KURT MEYER 7/17/15 9:20 AM

PRAIRIE VISIONS This volume reprints the first prose writings of Hamlin Garland, which are accompanied by 40 striking photographs by Jon Morris. It’s a beautiful showcase of the Iowa prairie. Book, 75 pages, soft cover–$21.95 877-599-9977

PERFECT BLEND SHORTBREAD This shortbread comes directly to you from Ann Booth’s kitchen in Mount Vernon. The Scottish shortbread, in plain or lavender flavor, will make your mouth water. Small gift tin–$20 Large gift tin–$35 224 First St. SW, Mount Vernon 319-895-6862


Iowa’s Wild Beauty

Iowa’s Wild Beauty Ty Smedes, renowned Urbandale writer and nature photographer, has created one of the most beautiful and diverse collections of Iowa nature images ever to appear in a single book. This visual treasure takes the reader on a photographic journey to every corner of the state. You will discover colorful prairies, beautiful streams, and forested wilderness areas which contain rare plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and colorful butterflies. From a tiny crab spider hiding among the petals of a beautiful wildflower, to the much larger bison that roam the prairie hilltops of western Iowa’s Loess Hills, Iowa’s wild beauty is on full display. These special images, along with descriptive and educational text, provide an intimate look at Iowa’s natural world.

Wild Beauty Text and Photography by Ty Smedes



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IOWA’S WILD BEAUTY This book highlights Ty Smedes’ best nature photography. Images of various wildlife cavorting are artfully intertwined with text and facts that invite thoughtful contemplation. Book, 304 pages, soft cover–$27.95 877-599-9977


See thiS lateSt in the “loSt CountieS of iowa” SerieS... explore the hiStory of Cedar County with uS! ..............................................

Order all the books in this historic series at




Lost Cedar County profiles 94 named locations within Cedar County; most which won’t be found on maps at this time. From simple post offices such as Rosette or Cedar; to missing towns such as Cedar Valley or Lime City; with misspellings such as Union Grove for Onion Grove; or name changes such as Denson’s Ferry for Massillon, this book traces the path of settlement in Cedar County. Why did so many towns form and yet not develop? What caused the rapid growth and then death of some places? You will be surprised at some of the name changes in Cedar County.



A terrific gift for the outdoorsman in your life. The Heartland Emu Marketing Cooperative in Toddville makes these available to consumers all over the Midwest. Snack Stick–$1.75 each 319-393-9031




Vanished Towns of the Cedar Valley





Iowa author Linda McCann describes lost towns using stories of the past in this historical series about Iowa counties. Various titles, soft cover–$19.99 877-599-9977


November/December 2015



Musical Gifts

THE NADAS The Nadas have been the pride and joy of Iowans since they began playing in 1995. Now with a different lineup, the band is on its seventh studio album and continues to turn out a unique blend of indie-roots rock. CDs–$9.99


BOB DORR & THE BLUE BAND Get your groove on with Iowa legend Bob Dorr and his hip-shaking band that plays blues with soul, reggae, and Creole influences. CDs–$15, or 2 for $20

With her Bohemian and coffeehouse-friendly vibes, it’s the perfect listen for a rainy afternoon or cozy evening in. CDs–$9.99

THE SOUL SEARCHERS The hard-swinging blues band from Des Moines plays over 100 dates all over the Midwest every year. Their vintage sound will keep the party smiling and dancing all night long. CDs–$15

DYLAN SIRES & THE NEIGHBORS This pop style recalls innocent and thoughtful pop of yesteryear. CDs–$10

DAMON DOTSON Okoboji favorite son Dotson has amassed a loyal following in the Iowa Great Lakes region and beyond with his summerready rock music. CDs–$9.99 iTunes


THE MAYTAGS Dustin Smith’s laid-back vocals and the band’s salty grooves make this Des Moines band a go-to for soul music. CDs–$7 Trucker hat–$12 T-shirt–$15 Koozie–$3

Gifts for the Hard to Please FEATHER AND DOWN PRODUCTS These comfy and cozy products are all handcrafted in Mount Vernon just as they were in the small communities of Czechoslovakia. The art of pillow and comforter making has been handed down in this Iowa company for more than 100 years. Pillows–starting at $18 Comforters–starting at $185

WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS AMISH BASKETS These baskets are great gift options and are often signed by the Amish artists who make them. Tall basket with lid–$24 Mini tote with leather handles–$24 Basket with woven handle–$30 Amish Country Store 109 S. Spruce Dr. 641-784-4800

Available in all shapes and sizes, these boards are made by Joe Kucera. They showcase choice woods and patterns. Large cutting board–$94 Small board with cutter–$48 From Our Hands 400 E. Locust, #8, Des Moines 515-282-3496

WOODEN KITCHEN UTENSILS These artful and useful carved wooden utensils are crafted by Jason Headlee. Spalted hackberry, cherry, walnut, and others woods provide the inspiration for the designs. Large spoon, spalted hackberry–$25 Medium spoon, walnut–$25 Medium spatula, cherry–$20 Small coffee scoop (not shown)–$12 Five Monkeys Creative Collective 4211 Chamberlain Drive, Des Moines 515-537-5652 Blue Prairie Kitchenware

IOWA GIFT BASKETS Order your favorite Heart of Iowa basket to be delivered or pick it up at the Heart of Iowa store in Valley Junction in West Des Moines. Iowa Deluxe Basket–$54.99 515-274-4692 or 866-274-4692 *Basket that includes subscription available at

November/December 2015



WINE, CHEESE & GIFT BASKETS are great holiday ideas for your family and friends. Find everything you need at Ackerman and Fireside wineries, as well as Heritage Haus, for the extra trimmings.

AmAnA & mArengo, IowA

Give the Gift that keeps on Giving Honey, flavored honey, lotion bars, lip balm, goat milk and honey soaps, dip mixes, cheesecake mixes, beer bread mixes, & wine mixes.

Call us at 515-210-7445 for all your gift giving needs. CALL FOR WHOLESALE PRICING

Soldier Creek Winery Award-winning Wines from Iowa’s Prairie

Tastings | Vineyards | Tours | Events

1584 Paragon Ave. Fort Dodge, IA 515-216-0987


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3/19/15 9:39 AM

Come experience a slice of Iowa!

Iowan gift baskets/boxes, specialty foods WE SHIP ANYWHERE IN THE US! Homemade pastries, soups and sandwiches Full coffee bar OPEN: Wed–Sat 9am–3pm (March–December) 11310 University Ave, Cedar Falls

319-266-0888 •


Handmade, Wood Fire Pizza

Shop for a Scandinavian Christmas! ROMSEY ART AND GIFTS

• Scandinavian items • Art studio with commissions available • Antiques • Unique home decor items 601 Broad Street Story City, Iowa 50248 515-733-2196

“Stop in for a peace!”


Sabula, IA 563-249-8688

Check website and Facebook page for regular store hours

Empty Nest Winery

Czech Feather & Down Company

A Unique Holiday Gift Item — Give the gift of comfort!

1352 Apple Rd Waukon, IA (563) 568-2758


103 First Street NW, Mount Vernon, IA 319-895-6551

Come and taste the difference! Sat: 10–5 pm / Sun: 1–5 pm

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3/6/15 1:25 PM

9/23/15 1:03 PM


Tearoom • Gift Shop OPEN Tues–Sat 9–5 CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE & CHOCOLATE WALK November 5–7 (call for tickets)

Come try one of our 9 delicious Iowa-grown wines!

911 Parriott Street Aplington, Iowa 319-347-2797

Irish Meadows Yarn Barn & Boutique

2306 160th Ave. Algona, IA 50511 515-295-7954


R.A. Hamer

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3/20/15 12:19 PM

Vineyard & Winery, LLC Visit to learn about our wines, upcoming events and tasting room hours. 15 miles SW of Muscatine on X43 2391 Independence Ave. Letts, Iowa (563) 506-8044

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Pillows, Comforters & Feather Beds Pillow Cleaning Available CPAP & Custom Sizes Available — Call us today!

3/4/15 3:32 PM

Country Christmas Shopping at its best! Featuring Alpaca yarns, rovings & fleece, and hand knit gift items: socks, boot socks, teddy bears, scarves, hats, blankets, comforters and gloves. Large selection of sweaters and jackets. OPEN: Thursday–Saturday 10am–5pm Sundays (in December) 12pm–5pm Through March (excluding holidays) Other times by appt., including evenings.

23477 Bellevue-Cascade Road (D-61) La Motte, Iowa 563-543-1375

Creating modern art using the ancient art form of repoussé. Custom work available after January 2016

(20 minutes South of Dubuque, IA)

November/December 2015




from thearchives

Winter Pleasures Real accounts of life on the Iowa frontier taken from newspapers of the mid 1800s.


HOLIDAY MIRTH AND CHEERFULLNESS (Sioux City) — Holidays are great and venerable institutions, handed down to us from the long ago — enlivened by quaint fancies and superstitions, and hallowed to all by many cherished associations. In whose mind are they not associated with social gatherings and family reunions — with the benevolent visits of the mysterious Santa Claus

DANCING AND FROLIC (Muscatine) — The Turner’s Ball at Trenton Hall comes off tonight. The dancing excitement is getting about to its zenith now — all hands are bent on fun and frolic, and the Ball tonight at the Hall will offer no small inducement — pretty ladies, good music, a superb supper, etc., all for a very small amount of money. Pitch-in, boys, lift your feet, and they’ll fall themselves.

— with festivities and gaieties — with merry dance and song — with cessation of toil and ostracism of care? They alone of the year witness harmony of mind and spirit among all people. Let them be celebrated for their antiquity — for the genial feeling

As a nation we need more holidays — not so much extravagance and display, but more mirth and cheerfulness. they inspire among all classes and conditions. As a nation we need more holidays — not so much extravagance and display, but more mirth and cheerfulness. We have a lean and hungry look, ever under the whip and spur, all absorbed in business and hurrying and jostling through the world. We should have more holidays, and observe them better. To all our readers we heartily wish a Merry Christmas.


“Our excellent friend Mrs. Croly

(McGregor) — With the winter season

of the Rockford News ‘is surprised that

upon us, there is much interest in this

so sensible a paper as the North Iowa

healthful outdoor sport. There has been

Times’ should enter a dissent against

some discussion lately as to whether this

female skating. If Mrs. C. had seen some

form of outdoor activity is lady-like. A

lady skating and tumbling that we have

strongly negative point of view is taken

and had heard the remarks of the gents,

by the editor of The North Iowa Times

who were devilish enough to get the

of McGregor who writes:

farce agoing, she would not wonder that

“There is much talked and written

we are opposed to the practice. “Fun is fun, and exercise is exercise,

about this new exercise of women’s rights. A plate in Harper’s Holiday

but it does not follow that the ladies

Pictorial will cure most ladies of all desire

of America need to carry tubs on

to learn the sublime art of converting

their heads and skate up and down

their pedal extremities into sled runners.

streams as the Holland women do. A

A handsome girl with outer garments

nice graceful walk in a female suits

tucked up and under limbs more than

us first rate, but she can’t win us by

half exhibited, her delicate ‘footsies’ shod

skating well, or attempting to throw

with iron, a la ‘hoss,’ shoving herself one

stones. Women were not made for either

side at a time over ‘the glossy surface


of the frozen lake,’ first one foot and then the other, pushed three to four feet ahead of the perpendicular, and the alternate foot of course that distance in the rear, while a parcel of curiosityloving males are hurrahing over the gracefulness with which the ambitious fair one plays boy, must be a picture which the imagination of both saint and divine would long retain. “Skating is healthy and so are

A GRAND AFFAIR (Sioux City) — The popular landlords of the Hagy House, Messrs. Hagy and Simon, will give a Christmas Ball in Casady’s Hall on the evening of the 24th. The well-known enterprise and taste of these gentlemen is full guarantee that the ball will be a grand affair.

hunting, fishing, and ball playing, but


the profits of exercise can be obtained by

(Dubuque) — There were balls all over

walking and if that were practiced more

New Year’s night. The one at the

there would be no necessity for girls to

hospitable house of Major Meyers was

unsex themselves for the amusement

probably the biggest, happiest, most

of the crowd. When girls take to the

genial affair of the night.

ice ‘they stand on slippery places!’ Let female skating therefore be abolished.”

November/December 2015




This short-eared owl likely spent his summer in the Arctic, but Smedes found him wintering at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City.


Where the

Wild Things Are

Often, they’re right outside your back door. But that doesn’t mean they don’t inhabit a completely different world. photoessay by TY SMEDES

Wildlife photography is challenging

any time of year. But snow, ice, and below-zero wind-chills make it a different world out there. Iowa winter scenes are beautiful in their own right. Add a jewel-hued pheasant or a fluffy red fox whose winter coat makes him look twice his size and the beauty of that winter landscape really comes to life. To get images like this, I have to insulate myself as well as my wild friends do. I’m generally sitting stock-still and not generating much heat while I wait (often for hours at a stretch) for them to show up. So I wear the warmest hooded coveralls I can buy, boots rated for 50° below, and Thinsulate-insulated fleece gloves. For good measure, I also carry chemical warming packs to keep my toes and fingers toasty. The best camera in the world is of no use if your fingers can’t feel the controls. I’ve seen too many well-intentioned photographers spend most of their winter photography expeditions trying to keep warm in their cars. In wildlife photography, great moments are often fleeting. I’ve been lucky to catch many such moments, but I believe in an old saying: “Luck is where opportunity and preparedness meet.” Knowing the life cycle and habits of the wildlife I’m photographing is all-important, too. Why does that neighborhood red fox show up each day where he does? Where do the pheasants feed, and where do they seek shelter from the wind? Why do bald eagles materialize at certain locations along the river and avoid others? The more I learn about my wild friends, the better chance I have of getting a photograph of which I’m proud.

That’s why I love winter wildlife photography. It’s very satisfying to be out with the wild things, staying warm and comfortable while you see beauty unfold that few other people witness. I hope you enjoy these images. Remember, no one charges admission to these attractions. And you don’t need a camera to enjoy them. This winter head out for a walk after a snowstorm and see what you find. Sometimes there’s nothing more exotic and beautiful in the world than the nature right outside your door.

For more great images from nature photographer Ty Smedes, check out Iowa’s Wild Beauty. This brandnew title is the latest in a series of books by Smedes featuring stunning close-up photographs of Iowa wildlife throughout the state. Order your copy at

November/December 2015





Coyotes feel vulnerable crossing open fields. This fellow is lunging through deep snow, headed as fast as he can for the cover of a nearby woodland.

November/December 2015




On a January day with windchills in the –20 degree range, this ring-necked pheasant takes cover in a draw.


November/December 2015





While making his morning rounds, a fox stops to licks his chops. Perhaps he’s contemplating his next meal, or perhaps he’s wetting his nose, the better to smell his dinner with.

Ty Smedes is one of Iowa’s foremost nature photographers and a frequent contributor to The Iowan. For more information about his books on Iowa wildlife:

November/December 2015




60 Years Ago in The Iowan

Corn shocks, covered bridges, and culture characterized our November/December 1955 issue — along with soft hands, durable highways, and a washing machine merry-go-round.

Pre-combine corn shocks graced the cover of the November/December 1955 issue.

Shenandoah’s Tidy House Products Company advertised Shina-Dish’s “miracle skin protecting ingredient that keeps hands soft and smooth.”


State University of Iowa writing program professor and poet Paul Engle rhapsodizes on the unique mix of “the useful reality of farming with the pure imaginativeness of art” that characterizes the Iowa City area.

Decades before the book and movie that made it famous, Madison County’s Roseman Covered Bridge (above) graced the issue’s center spread.

This illustrated map of the county’s covered bridges, left, directed readers to all seven.

“You pay for roads, Mr. Motorist,” wrote the Portland Cement Association in an ad that urged gas taxes be spent on “twice the life” concrete highways.

An article on Newton’s Maytag Corporation featured a photo of the washing machine “merry-go-round” on which the products were tested.

November/December 2015





A Southerner experiences Post-Blizzard Stress Disorder upon his winter arrival in Iowa. by DAN WEEKS | illustration by DAVE TOHT

Gary walked into the office,

“Oh, it’s fahn,” he sighed. “It’s just that it wouldn’t stop!

impeccably attired in a brand-new wool dress coat, stylish

Whah, Ah slid right into a curb! Another tahm, Ah tried to go

black scarf, and polished wingtips. This was his first day

and it would just skid and slip! And on cohnuhs, Ah had this

of work in Des Moines, where he’d recently arrived from a

odd feelin’ that Ah wasn’t connected to the road.”

lifelong residence in Texas. Gary, I would soon find out, was the soul of a Southern gentleman — hospitable, generous, gregarious, and quick to put others at ease. But at this moment he was silent and deeply traumatized. He walked straight to the cubicle next to mine and attempted to remove his coat. But his hands were shaking so, he could only fumble ineffectively with the buttons. “Gary!” I said, recognizing him from a round of interviews

I quickly learned that such instances — he had counted these and seven more — were what he meant by “accidents.” “Gary,” I said reassuringly, “we don’t call it an accident around here unless there’s personal injury or property damage.” He seemed relieved, but only slightly. “Now,” I continued, “let me tell you about a little ritual we have in Iowa called ‘the mounting of the snow tires.’ ” Still, when it snowed heavily, I’d stop on my way to work and pick up Gary to spare him further trauma. One February

he’d had with our staff a few weeks ago. “Welcome!” He looked

morning, I literally couldn’t see the hood of my car from the

up at me a bit desperately. His face was as gray as his coat.

driver’s seat and had to pull over and wait for a moment for

“Hey!” I said. “Are you OK?” He took a deep breath. “We-ahl,” he said in his Texas drawl, “Ah do believe Ah’m goin’ to survahv. But, Dan, Ah must tell you, Ah had tin accidents this mohnin’ on my way to work.” I was stunned. He’d just arrived from Houston, where in

the swirling snow to abate before we could proceed. “Now this,” I said to Gary as I put the car in gear again, “this is a blizzard.” “Whah, thank you so much, Dan,” Gary said from the passenger seat — with remarkable composure, I thought,

my limited experience commuters would sooner run you over

given his earlier reaction to our weather. “Ah’m glad to know

than let you on the freeway. Surely anyone who’d mastered

what to call it.”

that could handle the Des Moines “rush minute.” “What happened!?” I asked, alarmed. “We-ahl, Dan, it’s this blizzahd!” He gestured dramatically

He paused for a moment, considering the whiteout. “If this happened in Houston, we’d just assume it was the end of the world.”

toward the window, where a few November flakes were lazily descending, joining a few more that had already fallen — barely a dusting, hardly worth mentioning. “How you people manage to drahv in these appallin’ conditions, Ah surely don’t know!” he said. I asked if he was injured. He didn’t think so. “What about your car?” I inquired.


Dan Weeks is editor of The Iowan. Dave Toht is an illustrator, writer, book publisher, and blogger ( Do you have a story about your escapades in Iowa? Email it to and we’ll consider it for publication.

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© 2010 Iowa Council of Foundations

For good. For Iowa. For ever.

SIMPLE GIFTS from our rural past page 22

the people. the places. the stories. the life.



in Iowa’s historic hotels page 30

DEAR ABBY & ANN LANDERS Sioux City sisters who changed the world page 50

conservation, or anything else, community foundations help you support the causes you care about. Give and receive. Making a donation through your local community foundation is rewarding—in more ways than one. Your gift creates lasting good, and with the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program, generous tax incentives make it easier to give for less.


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Whether it’s arts and culture, education, children’s health,

NOV/DEC 2015 • $4.95

Contact your local community foundation or visit DISPLAY UNTIL 12/31 Iowa Community Foundations is a collaborative effort of the Iowa Council of Foundations


The Iowan | November/December 2015 | Vol. 64, No. 2  

SIMPLE GIFTS from our rural past SEASONAL RETREATS in Iowa’s historic hotels DEAR ABBY & ANN LANDERS Sioux City sisters who changed the worl...

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