Friday, April 24, 2015

Forgotten Iowa: Part 3

Lebanon, Iowa is one of many towns in rural Iowa that are disappearing as the inhabitants move towards the larger urban centers. I don't know how big it once was but now it consists of a handful of buildings and a church. Most of Lebanon was destroyed in 1944 by a tornado and the rest simply vanished.

At the crossroads, there sits the building above which has been a diner off and on my entire life with more off than on. My wife and I've eaten there a couple times over the course of our marriage on the way to somewhere but currently it is vacant and for sale. As fewer people farm and more people move towards the urban centers, there just isn't enough people left to keep a diner open in this neck of the woods. I suspect that eventually it will be sold to one of the neighboring residents and treated as a storage shed for what remains of its life and eventually it will disappear with the rest of Lebanon never to be seen again.

On a side note, notice the telephone booth on the right side of the diner. To my knowledge, it is the only such phone booth in the county. Many of the rural residents to the east, south and west are Amish and they don't have telephones in their homes for religious reasons. They do however need a telephone from time to time and it isn't against their religion to use someone else's telephone. I didn't check, but I suspect that telephone is still working and still gets used by the local Amish.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Forgotten Iowa: Part 1

One of the things that are rapidly disappearing in rural America are barns. In my youth the countryside was full of them and now decades later they are almost all gone, replaced by their metal sheathed cousin called the pole building. There are many good reasons why the barn has disappeared but I am saddened none the less of their demise. A comment on another blog that I read got me to thinking about this sad state of affairs and since then, I have been noticing the carcasses of barns that are still standing here and there. I find myself staring at them imagining them in their glory days while appreciating the beauty of them as they return to the earth they sprang from. I finally took a camera along on a recent small road trip I made and photographed a few of them for posterity.

The top photograph isn't a barn but it was near the barn seen above, both now lost to the woods just to the east of Iowaville mentioned in my last post. The small barn below is a little bit further down the road. Judging from the size of the tree in the middle of the doorway, it hasn't been used in 50 or 60 years, perhaps longer. I am amazed at all the barns like the one below that are the sole survivors of a long ago homestead. The houses and other assorted outbuildings have long since disappeared but the barns are often still standing. Perhaps they were built of stronger materials to withstand the loads of crops, livestock and machinery that were stored inside. Or perhaps they were still utilized long after the house and other outbuildings had served their purpose and so were cared for just a little bit longer.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Real Iowaville

Long time readers will know that in the past, when I've written about my hometown where I grew up, I have used the name Iowaville to preserve a bit of anonymity. I didn't however just pull the name Iowaville out of a hat because there actually was a town of that name years ago. Above you see some of the former residents of Iowaville where they are buried on a steep knob overlooking the river valley.

Indians were the first occupants of Iowaville until the land was purchased by white settlers. They platted out the town and were going to name it Iowa City but that name had already been taken so they settled on Iowaville. The town flourished until the mid 1850's when the railroad went by further north and it gradually declined never seeing a population of greater than 200 residents. Eventually it disappeared until there is nothing left along the river.

Sign on the fence next to the cemetery
 Where Iowaville once stood is now mostly farm land and the grove of trees seen below. If you look closely there is an old barn amidst all those trees though I'm fairly certain it was built after Iowaville disappeared. Only a plaque mounted to a post along the gravel river road is left to tell future occupants of this world that Iowaville once existed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Glory Days

I knew the day would come eventually and as we were down on the farm visiting my parents, my mom had a pile of stuff from her recent basement cleaning spree that she gave to me. Most of it were childhood books that I can pass on to my oldest who is at that age of becoming a voracious reader like her old man was. One box however took me completely by surprise. Unbeknownst to me, every model I had labored over to glue, paint and apply stickers too she had saved, wrapped up in newspaper and put in a box.

I loved to build model cars as a young boy but frankly sucked out at. It seemed as if every model started out with the engine which required lots of gluing microscopic parts together and painted them all shades of the rainbow. I've never seen a factory engine in the colors model manufacturers suggested. By the time I was finished with my rainbow hued, sticky mass of plastic that vaguely resembled an engine, it was time to move onto the chasis and body. Those went together pretty well until I had to apply the stickers. They always required soaking in warm water and then gently sliding into place. Then I spent the next ten minutes repairing all the rips and rearranging all the air bubbles until in disgust I threw the sodden mess into the trash can. That is why almost all my models are sans stickers and the ones that are there I wouldn't recommend looking at very closely.

By the time I was done with the model, I was so disgusted with my efforts, I never wanted to display them and all these years I assumed they had gone quietly to the landfill only to find out my mom had saved them. As I unpacked them on the dining room table last night, pieces were falling off and they were in pretty rough shape after 30 years of storage. I didn't know what to do with them at first. If I sold them at a garage sale, I'm not sure anyone would want to buy them except for a random kid looking for something to spice up his fourth of July firework shooting spree. That is when it hit me that I should just turn my daughters loose with them with one condition, if anything breaks off, they throw that piece in the trash. Several pieces that were loose immediately ended up in the trash but for the most part after one day of play, they are all still largely intact.

My oldest daughter seemed fascinated by them and when she learned that they still make model kits, she was after me to get one for her. I am constantly amazed at seeing things through the eyes of a child. In my eyes, these are relics of past frustrations and frankly quite embarrassing. To her, they are the coolest things on earth and now she wants to build some. I wonder how much has changed in model kit technology after 30 years?