Archive for the ‘Iowa’ Category

Since its arrival in Indianola, the “God Bless America” statue has been the talk of the town. A friend told me that the American Gothic house in Eldon, Iowa, is worth a visit. So, Dave and I travelled there on Friday. We were impressed!

Today the house is owned by the State Historical Society of Iowa through donation from Carl E. Smith and is registered on the National Register of Historic Places (1974). It is amazing that Grant Wood selected that house, of all possible houses, for his famous painting. The Gothic window was the clincher.

The Visitor Center, run by the Wapello County Conservation Board, is small, relatively new, and packed with interesting information. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. The 25-minute film is a “must see.” The Visitor Center even has mock-up clothing so visitors can have their picture taken (with your own camera) in front of the house in vintage clothing.

Admission and photo session (with or without the vintage clothing) are FREE. The trip is worth it! Enjoy!

IMG_4199 - enhanced (best)


Read Full Post »

Subtitle: “An Orphan Train Story”

Ethel obviously did her research as she prepared to write this historically accurate account. Because of the author’s skilled character development, the reader easily identifies with Iris, Rosie and Pete as they experience the streets of New York City, an orphanage, the train ride westward, and some ominous family situations in which they find themselves in Iowa.

Considered “Young Adult/Historical Fiction” this book is an easy-to-read, page turner. Readers are surprised with unexpected twists and turns in the plot, which should hold the attention of the intended audience, as well as those of us in older generations.

Other strengths of this novel include the appropriateness of the language of the characters and the author’s attention to all kinds of detail.

I rarely read fiction, so it was a stretch for me to finally open the pages of this book. The author’s husband, Ed, is a distant relative of mine. I don’t know either Ethel or Ed, but I know Ed’s two brothers quite well. So, when one of those brothers was selling her book, I felt I needed to buy it. Then, it took me a couple months for this book to reach the top of my “to read” stack. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Then, my husband had the same experience. We both read it in less than a week… in between our many other activities.

This story has “staying” power. I keep thinking about the orphan train children and the myriad of good and not-so-good, sometimes downright ugly, situations following that westward train ride… over which the children had virtually no control.

Thanks, Ethel!


Barker, Ethel. For the Love of Pete. North Liberty, Iowa: Ice Cube Press, LLC, 2012.

Read Full Post »

Just in time for Independence Day celebrations!

What a privilege! This sculpture is almost literally in our backyard… only five blocks from our house.

Bill Friedricks with the Iowa History Center located on the Simpson College campus is responsible for raising the funds and making the arrangements for us to enjoy this piece of travelling art through at least December 31, 2013… the rest of this year!

This 2005 depiction of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is 25 feet tall and weighs 30,000 pounds. Along with two granddaughters, I watched part of the day-long process of assembling the structure. We were amazed at how big it is and how it took cranes to move the pieces into place. For pictures of the installation process you can go to http://tinyurl.com/kj2f5ns. (It is a great set of photos. However, be forewarned, my computer locked up two times as I tried to view them.)

A traveling sculpture it has already been on Michigan Avenue in Chicago; in Mesa, Arizona; Indianapolis; and most recently in Dubuque, Iowa.

Some people think the suitcase is indicative of the travelling status of the sculpture; however, others think it points to American jobs being lost overseas. The stickers on the suitcase are from Taiwan, Shanghai, China, Bangladesh, India and Thailand. Whichever theory, we are pleased and proud to have it in Indianola!

Two of our granddaughters with the lady

Two of our granddaughters with the lady

Granddaughters with the man

Granddaughters with the man

Lowering the man's lower body into position

Lowering the man’s lower body into position

Showing the iron innards and the fiberglass exterior

Showing the iron innards and the fiberglass exterior

"God Bless America"

“God Bless America”

Read Full Post »

Last week Dave and I rode our bicycles with our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter to Summerset State Park, about 6.5 miles from our home, following an old railroad bed. The ride is downhill going out, uphill coming home! While there, I took this picture of our state flower, the Wild Rose.

Wild Rose at Summerset State Park, June 2013

Wild Rose at Summerset State Park, June 2013

The rose was seen by early pioneers to the state and it continues to grow wild throughout the state. In 1896 the Wild Rose was selected as the motif for a silver tea set to be used on the battleship Iowa. On May 6, 1897 it was adopted as the state flower of Iowa.

Today the bushes often grow along country roads or in pastures. They grow to 3 or more feet tall and are covered with the pink blossoms in June. Later in the season, fruit, called “hips,” appear. The hips resemble small apples about a half inch in diameter and it is said that some Indians and perhaps early pioneers boiled the hips to make a syrup.

I didn’t know all this before I did the research. I only knew this is our state flower. Amazing!



Naeve, Linda, “Iowa’s State Flower – the Wild Rose” in Horticulture & Home Pest News, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, at http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/1996/9-13-1996/wildrose.html

Read Full Post »

Recently our Warren County Genealogical Society experienced the rare opportunity to hear from both of our local librarians.

Our meeting consisted of a brief talk by Joyce Godwin, Librarian of the Indianola Public Library (IPL) about the genealogy collection there. She said that the shelf list (with 132 family histories) is in process of being updated. She also told us that between the two libraries (IPL and Dunn) all of the extent newspapers for Warren County are available on microfilm. However, both libraries have been told that once their reader/printers need repair, parts are not available. When state funds for microfilming current newspapers were cut, the two libraries began funding the project so microfilming would continue for Indianola newspapers.

Cyd Dyer, Librarian for Dunn Library, then talked to us about her facility. She worked very closely with Dr. Joseph Walt as he was writing Beneath the Whispering Maples, a history of Simpson College (1995), so she has a very clear idea of what the archives contains for the history of the college. She particularly enjoys research questions that she receives.  She said, “Finding the answers for someone is like the sun coming out.”

Cyd lead our group on a rare tour of the college archives. What a treat that was! While we didn’t see much of what is hidden away in labeled boxes, it still was an awesome feeling just to be in those rooms, knowing that we were surrounded by treasures.

One time she was asked if she could find Jack Trice’s football jersey number (THE Jack Trice of Iowa State University fame). She found a football program from 1923 when Simpson played Iowa State, listing Jack Trice’s number as 37. George Washington Carver attended Simpson and the archives has several items relating to him. Even though a fire destroyed many items, she is always happy to research if a family tradition indicates that someone attended Simpson at any time, even the Simpson Music Conservatory or the Simpson Academy.

The Indianola Public Library and Dunn Library have a joint online catalog. An IPL library card also allows holders to check out books from both libraries.

IPL has a subscription to Heritage Quest that card holders can use on their home computers. Dunn Library has subscriptions to many databases but these must be accessed at computers within the library. While Dunn Library is not oriented to genealogy, the college has a strong history department and since the two fields overlap, this library has a wealth of historical context information for the researcher.

Dunn Library is located a mere five blocks from our house, easy walking distance, partially through beautiful Buxton Park. The Indianola Public Library is only 3 blocks further down the sidewalk.

Helpful links:

Dunn Library, Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa

Indianola Public Library, Indianola, Iowa

Cyd Dyer (left) and Joyce Godwin (right)

Cyd Dyer (left) and Joyce Godwin (right)


Entrance into the archives

Entrance into the archives


Cyd in one section of the archives

Cyd in one section of the archives


Sometimes I even see our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter out walking with her nanny when I’m in this neighborhood. My sunshine for that day!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts