Monday, December 11, 2017

Candles and Advent carols

One of my tasks this week will be to change out the candles at St. Andrew's, now burning low, in anticipation of Christmas --- and prior to the annual community service for those who mourn, scheduled for Dec. 21.

There are 10 of these candles in three sets of sticks --- the "big six" on the high altar; two, on the free-standing altar; and two more on the credence table.

Each set requires a different size of candle and because they're vintage sticks, our supplier cannot provide candles that fit exactly. So there's nothing to do other than sit down with a pocket knife and shave the base of each to fit.

This can be maddening, if you're in a hurry; accomplished in something of a zen-like state if you're not.

So I'm listening for inspiration this morning to a CD entitled "An Advent Procession based on the Great 'O' Antiphons" recorded by the choirs of St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle.

Here's a selection, among the most familiar and ancient of Advent hymns. Maybe it will calm you down, too.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Meghan Markle's baptism & other religious tempests

While apostasy can be fun, religious illiteracy is a terrible thing --- and there's more and more of that going around these days in the West as fewer and fewer bother to become affiliated with a particular sect. It was an interesting week for tempests in theological teapots, more entertaining to watch when armed with a little knowledge.

Take, for example, the spate of recent headlines (and stories) announcing that Prince Harry's intended, Meghan Markle, will be "baptized into the Church of England." The variant of this statement among some is, "rebaptized" into the Church of England (among those who assume that someone approaching middle age, as Markle is at 36, must surely already have been).

Here's the deal. For a vast majority of the the world's Christians, one is baptized --- and only once --- into the church universal (see the Nicene Creed for details). Membership in a particular sect comes along later, generally via the rite of confirmation. So one is not baptized into a particular expression of Christianity, including the Church of England. Headline writers, please note.

Markle apparently has never been baptized, even though her parents are nominally Christian, so in order to become a communicant of the Church of England (a wise move for someone marrying a royal) she must first be baptized into the church universal. Then, she can be confirmed in the Church of England after some basic instruction.

A majority of Christians acknowledge any baptism so long as the intent to baptize was present along with the elements of water (sprinkled, poured or presented for dunking in a stock tank) and the word, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Baptism in a Baptist tank qualifies one for instruction and confirmation in the Catholic Church, should the baptisee choose to convert, for example. Even a non-believer may baptize in an emergency providing the intent to baptize and the required elements are present.

Of course nothing is simple when dealing with Christians. Eastern Rite (Orthodox) Christians have varying views on what constitutes a "real" baptism. And should a Catholic (or Episcopalian) decide to convert to Baptist or some among the other sects that practice baptism by immersion, most likely he or she would be required to be "rebaptized" by dunking before admission.


And then there was Pope Francis, who riled the water last week by suggesting on Italian television that some wording of the "Our Father" --- commonly called by Protestants "The Lord's Prayer" --- might be more accurately translated.

The line in the prayer under discussion reads, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

"It is not He (God) that pushes me into temptation and then sees how I fall," Francis said. "A father does not do this. A father quickly helps those who are provoked into Satan's temptation."

In might be more appropriate, Francis suggested, if a translation recently adopted by the French church for its liturgies --- "Do not let us enter into temptation" --- were adopted.

English-speaking Episcopalians, in typical fashion, already offer a remedy (along with the older phrasing as an alternative) with "Save us from the time of trial" in their Rite II liturgies.

Most likely the older phrasing will endure among both English-speaking Catholics and Protestants simply because most us have learned it by heart and aren't about to change.

It would be like asking Protestants to drop the doxology that ends the Lord's Prayer as given in the Gospel attributed to Matthew in the King James translation: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen."

Most scholars acknowledge that the KJV translators were working from a newer Greek text when that translation was made and that the doxological ending to the prayer is a later addition to earlier texts.

So in that sense, Catholics are far more fundamentalist that Protestants by ending the Our Father after "deliver us from evil."

Even though it can be disconcerting for a Protestant reciting the prayer among Catholics (and here and there in Anglican liturgies, too) to have to suddenly slam on the brakes after "evil," occasionally leaving skid marks.


And some theological background made it more interesting last week to watch the great rejoicing within our current president's Evangelical Christian base when he directed that the U.S. embassy in Israel be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Detailed Biblical prophecy is principally a byproduct of some American expressions of Christianity but not widely understood outside of those sects that embrace it.

In this instance, the rejoicing comes because many evangelicals see the existence of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, as a sure sign that Jesus is about to return, sweep all those who believe the right things (most notably, them) into the air and leave the rest of us down here, damned eternally.

Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that what with Armageddon and all, but you get the idea.

So the thought of Democrats, Catholics, Jews, gay folks, Buddhists, Hundus, Muslims, non-believers and many others writhing in eternal hellfire brightened last week for many Evangelical Christians. Warms the heart, doesn't it? You take your joy where you find it.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Old Betsy No. 1 proves her mettle (December 1877)

The oldest surviving image of Old Betsy the First is an engraved depiction on this card (from the Lucas County Historical Society collection) announcing the second anniversary banquet of the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department, held during early December, 1879.

The first week in December, now past, marked among other things the 140th anniversary of the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department, organized formally on Dec. 5, 1877. As I've written a number of times before, the department was organized in the aftermath of a huge blaze earlier in the fall that destroyed the big brick "South School," built during 1867 on the current site of Columbus School.

Because the city had neither trained firefighters nor firefighting equipment, there was little to do other than evacuate as many contents and possible, then stand back and watch it burn.

In the aftermath, the City Council resolved to purchase both fire engine and hook-and-ladder wagon as well as related equipment. The fire department, consisting of an engine company and a hook-and-ladder company, was organized to operate the equipment.

Council members had boarded a train for Chicago later that fall to examine the equipment used by that big city's fire department and visit with representatives of western agents for various manufacturers. Fortunately for the Lucas Countyans, their visit coincided with a fire in the downtown Field, Leiter & Co. Department Store building that allowed a first-hand view of various brands of equipment in action.

As a result, the councilmen placed an order for an 1875-model Silsby rotary steam engine (Serial No. 578) priced at $3,500 --- a huge amount of money back in the day. Some, back in Chariton, were outraged at the expenditure even though most agreed that something needed to be done.


As December opened, the new engine arrived in Chariton by rail from Seneca Falls, New York, accompanied by Mr. S. McDowall, the company's general western agent.

The hook-and-ladder apparatus also arrived, as The Patriot of Dec. 12 reported: "The hook and ladder truck, with four portable Babcock extinguishers and twenty-four leather buckets, arrived on Tuesday and was taken to the engine room. The company to run this apparatus will now put itself in training."

The Patriot also noted that, "The gentlemen composing the new fire company are taking an active interest in trying to make it a success by drilling and fully acquainting themselves with the duties expected of them. The engine is a beautiful and efficient (and some say expensive) piece of machinery; now let all by acts and words sustain the department and it will eventually become a pride to our young and growing city. The most bitter opponent of the purchase, now that the bargain is closed, will not seek to injure or destroy the efficiency of the department simply to gratify 'I told you so.' The engine is here, the city will have to pay for it, and now let us make it useful."

The engine had been paid for through the sale of bonds ---  printed by The Patriot office, "and the job was pronounced by all to be a superior one. With the facilities of the Patriot office, there is no need of going abroad for fine job printing," The Patriot bragged.


The new engine was tested on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 5 and 6. Patriot editor George W. Ragsdale was there.

"The machine is known as the 'crane neck' style," he reported on Dec. 12. "which enables it to be turned in its own length, is nickel plated, weighs about 4,500 pounds, is 8 feet and 10 inches high, 12 feet long without tongue, 5 feet 4 inches wide, wheels of iron with bronze hubs, has a capacity of 425 gallons of water per minute, and throws from one to three streams. The motion is what is known as the rotary, which is continuous and unvarying, and much superior to the rapid and suddenly reversing reciprocating motion. The motion is made by two wheels which by revolving in opposite directions, expel the air and create a vacuum into which the water rushes, and in turn is expelled with great force. We cannot enter into any elaborate description of the engine more than to say that it is a marvel of strength, ingenuity and beauty.

"The first day of the trial the engine was stationed at Palmer's pond," Ragsdale reported (the pond was located northwest of the square), "and in six minutes and forty-five seconds after the fire was started a fifty-foot stream was playing through 100 feet of hose, and fifteen seconds later the stream had extended to over 100 feet in length. Three streams through 100 feet of hose each were thrown at one time at the pond. Hose was then laid to the square and two streams thrown over the courthouse, the highest structure in the city, which demonstrated the wonderful power of the engine by forcing the water 1,500 feet through the hose up a hill some 40 or 50 feet and then into the air more than 100 feet, and at that great height, too, against an adverse wind.

"On Thursday," The Patriot report continues, "the engine was stationed at one of the cisterns on the square, and gave another exhibition of its power. The tests on both days were satisfactory, the machine doing all and even more than Mr. McDowall had promised.

"There were present during the various trials gentlemen from neighboring towns who were well pleased with the work of the Silsby. Since our engine has arrived, the agent informs us that six orders have been received by the company from western towns for engines, which shows the popularity of the Silsby. Mr. McDowall showed us a list of hundreds of towns, many of them smaller than Chariton, where efficient fire departments are maintained, and certainly what other towns can do, Chariton can. The enterprise is now in the hands of live men, and we believe they will make it a success, and that Chariton will in this and other improvements continue to take an advanced position."


Sadly, Old Betsy the First had a rather short life. The firehouse caught fire and burned early on Sunday morning, Sept. 9, 1883, taking the Silsby Steamer and all the rest of the department's equipment --- every bucket, every inch of hose, every hook and every ladder --- with it.

But before two weeks had passed, city councilmen had commissioned new hook-and-ladder equipment and were back in Chicago to negotiate the purchase of a replacement engine.

Old Betsy II --- also an 1875 model (Serial No. 758) arrived in Chariton on Dec. 7, 1883, and that's the Old Betsy that remains with us still.

Friday, December 08, 2017

In time for Christmas 1927: Hooray for the Model A

There was considerable excitement in Lucas County (and elsewhere) as Christmas 1927 approached --- Henry Ford finally was ready to introduce the Model A, successor to the venerable Model T. The Model T had premiered in 1908 as America's first widely affordable automobile and had remained in production for nearly 20 years.

The Chariton Herald-Patriot mirrored the anticipation with a front-page story in its edition of Dec. 1 that was introduced by a four-deck headline: "New Ford Ready for the Public - Tomorrow is Day Set for Telling the Public of New Motor Car - Hold Public Reception - The NaLean Motor Co. after Long Wait for Latest Product of Dearborn Plant Now Prepared to Give Details."

In case you've forgotten what a Model A looks like, the photo here is of Jerry Pierschbacher standing next to the Lucas County Historical Society's 1929 model, in line for a recent 4th of July parade. The 1928 model was introduced on Dec. 2, 1927, priced at $500 for your basic Tudor sedan, available in black, gray or green. Not much had changed by 1929.

"Chariton will get its first full description of the new line of Ford automobiles tomorrow," The Herald-Patriot announced in its edition of Thursday, Dec. 1. "A public reception to be held by local dealers is part of the national introduction of the new Ford models .... The doors of the show rooms are to be opened promptly at 8 a.m. and attendants will be on hand throughout the remainder of the day to explain the new and interesting features of the car which is expected to make a new chapter in automotive history."

Mind you, none of the new Model A's actually were going to be present for the open house --- dealers were counting on the just the details (and most likely free food) to attract a crowd.

The NaLean Motor Co., Chariton's Ford dealership, had been opened by Lawrence A. NaLean during May of 1927 after he purchased Egan Reese's Reese Motor Co., distributor of Fords since 1917. It was the sixth dealership owned by NaLean, who also had operations in Fort Madison, Albia, Corning, Villisca and Bedford. Although the NaLeans lived in Chariton for a time, they eventually settled in Corning where he was living when overtaken by death in 1939.

Ford dealers were quick to point out during these receptions that introduction of the Model A "will not make the Motel T line obsolete. The manufacture of new parts for Model T replacements will continue to be an important factor of the Ford plants as long as any of the Model T cars are still in operation, the local dealers were advised," The Herald-Patriot reported. "Because of this policy, present owners of Model T Ford cars will be able to keep their cars in perfect order as long as those cars remain in commission."

The first live and in person Model A arrived in Chariton a few days later, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, and the Herald-Patriot was able to report in its edition of Dec. 8 that "Wednesday was a busy day at the NaLean Motor Co., when hundreds of visitors called to satisfy their curiosity as to the details of the new Ford car on exhibition there. The model exhibited was the Tudor sedan and most of those who saw the car expressed surprise at the completeness and nice appearance of the latest product of the Ford Motor Co.

"Perry Barger and Merrit Nolan drove to Centerville Tuesday night to bring the car to Chariton. Barger drove the car here in 45 minutes, he stated. The speedometer on the new Ford registering the distance as 43.3 miles.

"From here the car was taken to Albia last night, where the Monroe county folks will be given a chance to see the new Ford today.

"The local dealer reports the sale of several cars on the day shown here, although deliveries will probably not be made before the first of the year."

The 1929 model at the museum works just fine, by the way --- coddled by board members Pierschbacher and Nash Cox. It no longer goes out at night, however; and spends most of its days in the Swanson Gallery musing about the glories of days gone by.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tom Kelly's body lies a-mouldering --- but where?

Anamosa's Holy Cross Cemetery

Thomas Kelly and his lady wife, Margaret, have shared a unique footnote to Lucas County history since 1886 as the only married couple convicted of murder. Or more accurately, Tom was convicted of first-degree murder; Margaret, of manslaughter.

Tom was 64 at the time and his wife, some 10 years younger. Their victim was an eccentric and miserly neighbor, Charles Archibold, 85. All three were natives to Ireland. That's Archibold's tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery at left.

I wrote first about the details of this sensational murder back in 2012 --- you can read the report here.

But to make a longer story short. The Kellys --- he a railroad section hand and she a washerwoman --- were entertaining their neighbor, Archibold, at the kitchen table in their home near the depot in northwest Chariton on April 6, 1886.

One or the other whacked the old gentleman over the head with a soldering iron. Margaret claimed later that she was reading poetry to Charles at the time and that it was her spouse who struck unexpectedly. Thomas declared that it was Margaret who delivered the fatal blow.

This charming couple then dumped the body through a trap door into their cellar, but retrieved it after nightfall, hauled it out and dragged the remains to his back door --- leaving a clear trail --- and left it there. Each accused the other of completing this task single-handedly.

At some point, one or the other Kelly (or both), found a tin can in Archibold's home containing $1,230 in cash, took it home and concealed it in their own coal shed.


Since each was declaring the other a cold-blooded killer and herself/himself an innocent bystander, separate trials were ordered. A Lucas County jury found Tom guilty of first-degree murder on Nov. 25, 1886, and he was sentenced immediately to life in prison and dispatched to Fort Madison, where he entered the state penitentiary on Nov. 26.

Margaret, who had better lawyers, was convicted of manslaughter during January of 1887, sentenced to a five-year term and arrived at the Fort Madison penitentiary on Jan. 21 or that year. 

There is no further record of Margaret in available penitentiary records, so her trail goes cold here.

But Tom remained a prisoner for the next 14 years. Penitentiary records consistently describe his habits as "intemperate" and his mental culture as "poor." On April 20, 1891, he was among a number of prisoners transferred from Fort Madison to the new state penitentiary at Anamosa, established in 1873.

But during the late 1890s, as Thomas aged, a move began to obtain a pardon for him --- something that would require action by the Iowa Legislature. I know nothing about his children, but apparently there were some and they may have been involved.

Legal notice of his intent to seek a pardon first was published in Chariton newspapers during December of 1897 citing the reasons as follows: 

"First, that since November, 1886, he has been confined in the state penitentiary, and if released his children will take care of him during the remainder of his life.

"Second, that he was a soldier in the Union army, a member of Co. A, 13th Maryland Volunteers.

"Third, that he is now an old man, about 76 years of age, infirm, and cannot live many years at best, that he will, if released, be unable to do violence to anybody, and it is believed he will have no disposition so to do.

"Fourth, that the law has been vindicated, and society needs no further protection from this feeble old man."

The 1897 application failed as did others in subsequent years, but during February of 1900, the Legislature acted in in Tom's favor. Unfortunately, there was a procedural error and he failed to gain his freedom. This little article, published in The Herald of Feb. 22, 1900, provides the details:


Death Robs Thomas Kelly of His Legal Pardon

"Des Moines, Feb. 17 --- 'Number 2069 died at 7 o'clock this morning,' was the brief telegram that came to Mayor Warren S. Dungan yesterday from Warden Hunter, of the Anamosa penitentiary.

"Number 2069 was Thomas Kelly of Chariton, who was sentenced to the penitentiary for the murder of Charles Archibold, an old miser; and whose pardon would have been granted by the legislature today. The death of Kelly ends the history of one of the foulest murders ever committed in Iowa. Although Kelly paid the penalty of the crime, his wife, Margaret Kelly, who escaped punishment, was always supposed to have been more guilty than her husband.

"An interesting phase of the affair is that Kelly would have been a free man if he had lived a few days longer. An effort was made to obtain his pardon at the last session of the legislature, but it was unsuccessful. The matter came up again Thursday, and both house and senate passed a resolution for his pardon. After the action was taken, however, it was found that they had passed a concurrent resolution, whereas a joint one was necessary to free him. The matter was then laid over to next week when it would have been attended to had Kelly lived."


I got to wondering where old Tom had been buried, so went looking first via Find a Grave in the Anamosa penitentiary cemetery, not established until 1914 but including the remains of convicts who died earlier that had been moved from elsewhere. No sign of Tom.

Then I located online an Anamosa penitentiary necrology report that gave his date of death at "age 79" as "Feb. 6, 1900" and gave his place of burial as "Catholic Cemetery." I had forgotten the fact that prison records identify both Tom and Margaret as Catholic.

Iowa by 1900 was providing tombstones for prison inmates who died in custody, so I checked out online listings for Anamosa's Holy Cross Cemetery and found Tom listed as "T. Kelley" (or Kelly), who died Feb. 16, 1900 (the accurate date) at the age of 78.

It's not exactly clear that he has a tombstone, since all of the Holy Cross stones have not been photographed.

But at least now we know where Tom rests, far from his native Ireland, far from the state where he volunteered to serve the Union cause and far from Lucas County, which he left under less than favorable conditions back about this time of year during 1886.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The pre-holiday high life and Lucas County socialites

One common misunderstanding about our forbears is that, in the absence of social media and instant communications, they led rather boring lives. Nothing could be farther from the truth; the major difference being that a century or more ago folks were forced to entertain each other face to face.

These august ladies were the Zetamathians, members of Chariton's first federated women's club, photographed during April of 1898.

During the week after Thanksgiving 1897 these women, their spouses and other groups of other Lucas County ladies and gentlemen engaged in a flurry of entertaining, reported upon in The Chariton Herald of Dec. 2, that would have worn today's less sturdy socialites out.

For the Zetamatheans, it had been an annual dinner that marked the sixth anniversary of the organization. Here's the report:

"The most elaborate social event of the week was the annual dinner enjoyed by the Zetamathean History club at the home of Mrs. Anna Dent, on Braden avenue, last Friday evening at 6 o'clock. The fifteen ladies who constitute the membership of the club invited their husbands to participate in the feast of delicacies, and the company, thus augmented, numbered thirty; a very pleasant party indeed. The richly laden table was decorated with smilax and pinks in profusion and a printed menu tied in lavender ribbon, the class color, was given as a souvenir. After supper, the company repaired to the nicely furnished parlors, where they entertained themselves by matching "sliced poetry," and exercising their ingenuity in "guessing contests." This thriving society completed the sixth year of their organization in October, and in that time they have accomplished much in the way of historical research. Today their knowledge of history, ancient, modern and Biblical, is such as can be gained only by years of constant and careful study."

Elsewhere among the social news of the day was a report on a reception held the next day, Saturday, at the grand new turited home on South Main of Mr. and Mrs. Webb Hultz, located on a site that now is a vacant lot. Here's that report:

"That admirable hostess, Mrs. Webb Hultz, entertained a party of friends at her handsomely appointed home on South Main Street last Saturday afternoon. This is the second of a series of 'at homes' that she will give this winter, and those present were glad to be numbered among her friends as her ingenuity in providing entertainment is unexcelled. Blackboard drawings formed the entertainment for this particular afternoon, and because of her skill with the chalk, Miss Tool was awarded the first prize and Mrs. Mallory's drawing, being adjudged poorest, won for her the booby prize. Dinner was served in three courses, and in its completeness culminated the evening's enjoyment."

That Saturday night, the Bates House hotel was the site of a banquet arranged by charter members of the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department, which had been organized 20 years earlier.

"The gallant fire laddies, who met a score of years ago and pledged themselves to turn out at all times of the day or night, in all kinds of weather, to fight the flames from other people's homes and property, had a reunion and banquet at the Bates House last Saturday night," The Herald reported. "Of the seventy-five men who originally constituted the charter membership, only eleven were present. The vicissitudes of time had taken many beyond the borders of Chariton; others had been claimed by death, and the honorable remnant that looked from one to the other across the banquet board, were led to call up from the scenes of the past many pictures that took them back to days gone by.

"One lady accompanied each gentleman and Eli Manning was appointed toastmaster. Supper was brought in, in three courses; and the menu consisted of everything the larder afforded. Oysters, served in three styles, sufficed to appease their hunger to some extent, but when the remaining courses, consisting of meats, fruits and pastries were brought on, they declared themselves fully satisfied. Each member responded to a toast, as proposed by toastmaster Manning. The company were swayed by a variety of emotions, as anecdote succeeded anecdote and each climax was capped and recapped by the succession of gifted story tellers. An organization was effected for the purpose of making this annual banquet a permanent thing. Eli Manning was chosen president and Geo. Ensley secretary.

"The names of those charter members who still reside in Chariton are: Eli Manning, G.W. Larimer, W.F. Hatcher, Phil Hahn, W.M. Householder, T.P. Stanton, G.W. Ensley, John Bentley, Wilberforce Coles, W.P. Beem, M.A. Hatcher and T.J. Garland. All were present except T.J. Garland."

Entertainments were not limited to Chariton. Out in my family's rural Benton Township neighborhood, the Myers School was the site of a neighborhood social that benefitted nearby Mt. Carmel Church. Here's the Benton Township correspondent's report:

"The masquerade box supper at the Myers school house Saturday night was a success both financially and socially. The proceeds netted about $10 which will go toward repairing the church. Both sexes were represented and to some of the young men's surprise, who expected to get a fair damsel for partner at supper when unmasked, found her to be one of the coarser sex, so perfectly disguised were they that brothers were thrown together."

Yikes. A bit of drag seems to have been involved here. I wonder if my grandfather Myers and his Gookin and Parsons cousins were involved.

The photograph of the Zetamatheans is from the Lucas County Historical Society collection, where the organization's records also are housed. If you're interested in more about the organization or the identity of the members, follow this link to an earlier post. You can read more about Ida and Webb Hultz and their grand house, if you follow this link.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Casual racism, on-air commentary and "Iowa Nice"

Two back-to-back posts presented themselves on Facebook when I opened it before dawn this morning. 

The first, shared by my friend, Tom, among the most professional of Iowa journalists, was this image of a gracious "Tweet" posted by Nikolas Padilla, one of the Eagle Grove High School basketball players dissed on air recently by two Forest City radio station employees during a live game internet video feed because their surnames sounded "foreign."

The second share was this article about that public shaming incident published in The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, posted on "You Might Be From Rock Rapids If ....," a page I subscribe to because of an historic family connection with Lyon County. Orin Harris, 76, one of the public shamers, once lived and worked there.

There's a lot to be horrified about here. First, of course, was the fact that two adult media types, one an experienced journalist (Harris) and the other a veteran educator, Holly Jane Kusserow-Smith, would think it OK to make snarky comments about high school athletes because their surnames sounded Hispanic.

Another was how fast and how wide the story spread. When I first saw the video clip on which it was based early yesterday, only a few thousand others had viewed it. When I checked this morning, 308,000 people had --- and the incident had been reported upon worldwide.

In the aftermath, Harris and Kusserow-Smith have been fired from their radio jobs; Kusserow-Smith has been placed on administrative leave from her third-grade teaching job in the Forest City school system; and multiple apologies have been issued, including those by Harris.

The whole business hasn't done much for Iowa's image either and we've already been struggling with comments over the weekend from our senior U.S. senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, who while discussing proposed GOP changes to inheritance tax took leave of his senses and announced, "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing... as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” 

But that's kind of a minor point and the fact that the incident has come to light actually is a positive thing. Iowans sometimes start to believe the old "Iowa Nice" cliche, overlooking the fact that for many of us --- when interacting with folks who look different, have "foreign" surnames or in some other way fail to meet white cultural norms --- "nice" is conditional.

For those of us not interested in making fools of ourselves, the incident is a good reminder of established media rules, too often ignored --- if engaged in broadcast journalism and in the presence of a microphone, always assume that it's turned on and govern your mouth accordingly; if engaged in some other form of journalism and in the presence of a keyboard, always assume that whatever you type eventually will be published --- no matter how unlikely that seems.

And finally, we can be darned proud that Nikolas Padilla and his teammates, no matter what their surnames may be, are Iowans.

Here's a link to a Des Moines Register story that contains original video as well as a transcript of what was said.

Monday, December 04, 2017

O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk ...

Sometimes, in this season of holidays, I feel like a stranger in a strange land down here in the south of Iowa where familiar culinary landmarks are absent --- like lutefisk. And lefse, mashed potatoes, plenty of butter, meatballs on the side, canned corn perhaps, rommegrot, "fruita soupa" and a big platter of desserts that includes, at the least, rosettes, kringla and krumkake.

I blame Lucas County Swedes for this. Descendants of the hundreds of immigrants from Sweden who settled here between the 1870s and early 1900s, unlike the Norwegians of the North, have frittered away their Scandinavian heritage. Even though as late as 1951, Bob Piper was offering lutefisk at his grocery  store on the Chariton square, the demand dried up soon after as cultural pride diminished. Now, sadly, the holiday treats at First Lutheran Church could just as easily have been prepared by --- and this will chill your blood --- Methodists.

Lutefisk begins life as unsalted whitefish, most often cod, plucked from the sea and dried. This is an ancient practice --- dried fish loses none of its nutritional value and, if handled appropriately, can be stored for years, then reconstituted by soaking in water. Scandinavians discovered long ago that if the water is a mild solution of lye (run fresh water through wood ashes), the fish plumps up quickly, exceeds its original volume and is broken down a little to become even more digestible. When cooked properly --- a task best left to Lutherans --- the result is mild, firm, slightly flakey, slightly gelatinous.

This platter of lutefisk (I've stolen the photo from Maxine Hall Beckner) was served up earlier this fall at Grace Lutheran Church in Hanlontown, where in years past I have enjoyed lutefisk meals although my culinary heart belongs to Zion Lutheran Church in Rake where, oft seated by the side of the late Miss Rosella Erdahl, I learned the basics of eating lutefisk (including, watch out for bones).

The catch is, cod-based lutefisk smells to high heaven. In the little Winnebago County town where I lived for many years, one of the signs of the season was the stench, evident as soon as one walked through the front door of Thompson Food Center, which meant that Don had buckets of lutefisk available in the cooler.

There is, however, absolutely no basis for the awful recipe once prescribed for lutefisk: Rinse thoroughly, place on a board, bake fish, throw away the fish, eat the board. Although --- if mishandled in the kitchen, lutefisk can degenerate to a unappetizing soupy mess.

The advertisement here, published in The Chariton Herald-Patriot of Nov. 20, 1913, certainly illustrates the Swedish presence in Lucas County and the Swedish pride (and marketing skill) of Edwin Jarl, whose grocery story was not far west of the alley on the north side of the square.

The main text box reads, "To all Swedes and families who have recently moved into our city: I invite you all to come in and get acquainted with us. As we are the only Swedish merchant in the city, we tried to handle as much in Swedish products as possible, tasty and of the best quality. We have big supplies of men's, women's, and children's shoes of all kinds. Underwear, socks, in one word, everything a household needs."

The advertisement ends with a list of available provisions needed for the holidays and at other times in a Swedish household including, at the end, lutefisk, herring and a third fishy product that I can't translate.

Edwin Jarl was born during 1872 at Skarkind, Norrkoping, Osteregotland, and came to the United States at the age of 15 with his older brother, Emil.  He married Anna Nelson during 1899 in Chicago then set out soon thereafter, with Emil, for Osceola where the brothers established a general merchandise store.

During July of 1912, after Emil had decided to try another line of work, Edwin sold out in Osceola and bought the Busy Bee Grocery on the north side of the Chariton square from Pete West. He added general merchandise to the grocery stock and remained in business there until the fall of 1926, when he closed out operations and moved to Glendale, California, where he died during 1946.

It's hard to say when or how Lucas County's Swedes came loose from their moorings, but World War I certainly didn't help. 

On the 23rd of May 1918, Gov. William L. Harding issued what became known as "The Babel Proclamation" forbidding the public use of any language other than English in the state (other governors outlawed the German language; only Iowa, all non-English languages). This included church services --- and telephone conversations.

Although most provisions of the proclamation were rescinded after the war ended, it certainly had a chilling effect on many ethnic groups.

Norwegians held firm, however; but Lucas County's Swedes --- not so much.

Here's dessert --- a tray of sweets including kringla, krumkaka and rosettes that I bought back in 2008 at Grace Lutheran Church in Hanlontown, then arranged on a tray to take into the office that afternoon. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Iowa shows off at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair

This model of the Iowa Capitol had pride of place in the main pavilion of the Iowa Building at the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893.

Iowa's Columbian Commission, charged with celebrating its home state in a grand manner at the granddaddy of all world fairs to date, asked the Iowa Legislature to appropriate $300,000 back in 1890 --- when the World's Columbian Exhibition (aka Chicago World's Fair) was only three years away.

Intended to mark the now somewhat controversial arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, the fair would occupy some 600 acres along the Lake Michigan shoreline and commissioners --- including Chariton's Smith Henderson Mallory --- thought that figure sounded about right.

The Legislature disagreed, however --- and appropriated $125,000 instead. And so it fell to Mallory, semi-retired after building a fortune as a railroad contractor and, in 1892, named to chair the Commission's Executive Committee, to figure out how to cut corners but still ensure that Iowa could hold its head high.

Iowa is the Tall Corn State, of course, and here is the display celebrating that fact in the main pavilion of the Iowa Building.

These small photographs, pasted onto a jumbo cardboard scrapbook page and labeled not long after they were taken, illustrate the result. The page is in the Lucas County Historical Society collection although the balance of the scrapbook has vanished. The photographer may have been Mallory's daughter, Jessie Mallory Thayer, a camera enthusiast. One of the images on the page --- a depiction of the exterior --- is a drawing; the rest appear to be original images trimmed to fit on the page.

The Mallorys rented a house in Chicago during 1892 and made it --- rather that the Ilion, their Chariton mansion --- headquarters from late that year through the fair's May-October, 1893 run. Smith was tasked with developing the Iowa Building, serving as its superintendent during the fair and making sure his state was represented by displays in other buildings on the grounds.

A pyramid of coal, considered to be Iowa's great natural resource of the late 19th century, also had pride of place in the main pavilion of the Iowa Building.

By pulling strings and benefitting from a degree of good fortune, the Iowa Commission secured use of a vast pavilion along the Lake Michigan shore constructed in 1888 and known as "The Shelter." Supposedly, the design of this early events venue had been inspired by the Chateau de Josselin in Brittany. It was adapted at a cost of roughly $6,000 to serve as the main exhibition hall.

This illustration (not on the scrapbook page) shows the original building on the site, "The Shelter" adapted for use as an exhibit hall for the Iowa Building, in the foreground.

The Cedar Rapids architectural firm of Josselyn & Taylor designed a rather grand two-story addition, designed to harmonize with the original pavilion and to double its size. Cost of that addition was $27,000, but part of the agreement involved in securing use of The Shelter was that the addition would be torn down and modifications to the original structure reversed when the fair ended.

This illustration, found in the scrapbook, shows the addition that formed the other half of the Iowa Building --- torn down when the fair ended.

Inside, there were many wonders --- including the grand model of Iowa's capitol building at the top here. Also on display were models of the Ottumwa Coal Palace, the Creston Bluegrass Palace, the Sioux City Corn Palace and the Forest City Flax Palace.

Iowa also had displays in other buildings on the fair grounds. This is the Iowa Pomological Exhibit in the Horticultural Building. Iowa was a major producer and exporter of fruit, most notably apples, during the 1890s.

After the fair was over, the addition was demolished and the andirons used in the big fireplace of the central hall in it were removed and brought home to Chariton. You still can see them looking considerably too big for their britches in the fireplace at the Chariton Free Public Library.

And here's Iowa's mineral exhibit in the Mining Building.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

"Othering" --- and the way we were ....

Yesterday's post was related to World Aids Day, observed on Dec. 1. One thing I did while thinking about that was to scan Chariton and Des Moines newspapers to refresh my memory of how AIDS was covered during the period 1983-1995. Researchers now estimate that what we call the HIV retrovirus had spread into the Americas from Africa as early as 1966 but it first was isolated by French researchers during 1983.

I was happy to come across, in a community news column from 1995, a reference to a friend of mine who at the time was managing an AIDS helpline in a far-away city. Wow, I thought, it was pretty brave of that proud mother in a little town to share such news back then. In fact, I sent a clipping off to him as a reminder.

Of course there were letters to the editor like the following, published on the Opinion page of The Des Moines Register on Feb. 11, 1985, ten years earlier, that reflects fairly well the thoughts of a good many Iowans --- and others --- at the time about AIDS. No suggestion that research to find a cure might be useful, but a good deal of "othering" --- a tendency that those of us who were gay then, and still are, are accustomed to, but still find annoying.

Muslims and those with hispanic roots are among the current targets, although in a different context. And of course, the anti-gay sentiment remains, especially among evangelical Christians.

In all fairness, it should be pointed out that rebuttals to this letter and other also were published as the days passed, including well thought out responses from long-time activist John Schmacker.

I've removed the author's name from the letter --- perhaps he might not write exactly the same thing today. And it's useful to note that gay folks weren't the only sinners within range of his radar. Another of his letters to the editor of that year pointed out that "alcoholism is a sin which results in bondage, and bars the individual from heaven."

Here's the letter:

For all the talk of AIDS today, there is still no condemnation or suppression of homosexuality.

The deadly plague of AIDS was started by homosexual acts and gays are spreading it throughout the world. The handful of AIDS cases in 1981 has mushroomed from over 4,000 in 1984 to 27,000 today. An estimated 1.5 million are carrying the virus, in most cases without knowing it.

AIDS is overwhelmingly a homosexual disease .... Then over time, others are infected. In the United States, gays now account for about 71 percent of all AIDS cases ....

It is fashionable today to regard homosexuality as a matter of private choice involving only consenting individuals. But considering the unsanitary sexual practices homosexuals engage in ... it becomes obvious that gay sex is filthy sex ....

A large number who practice homosexual acts also have heterosexual exchanges with some frequency, often with partners ignorant of their homosexual habits. So given the mobility and promiscuity of their obscene sexual practices, the "gay community" consumes and distributes fresh germs daily on a worldwide basis ....

People with tuberculosis are quarantined. Those accused of serious crimes are denied bail if they pose a probable threat to society. But promiscuous homoosexuals are allowed to run free, infecting others ....

Even the indirect effect of the disease on society can be significant. One staff worker has to be hired for every 10 additional AIDS patients, and $100,000 is spent per case. AIDS may burden society with the expense of supporting hundreds of thousands of additional personnel and billions of dollars of extra medical expense.

If even 5 percent of the general population were to come down with the disease, U.S. society would be confronted with 12 million new victims, hundreds of thousands of new staff and over $1 trillion in new expenditures. Such an outbreak would prevent the United States from ever balancing the federal budget and wreck the Social Security system. A higher incidence would imperil life as we know it.

Because of AIDS, the United States faces a public-health emergency. These steps should be instituted as rapidly as possible:

1. Insist that tolerance toward "alternate liestyles" in our public schools and textbooks be stopped.

2. Close every gay bar, bath, park and homosexual meeting place.

3. Ban homosexual advertising.

4. Criminalize homosexual acts.

5. Institute a national blood-screening program.

6. Require by federal law that doctors report any patient infected with AIDS.

7. Quarantine all known homosexuals until the public-health emergency is over.

AIDS menaces every citizen and family in this country because we have failed to condemn homosexuality. Now our society faces the most costly and deadly health hazard ever, and unless these steps are quickly taken, the future of our nation stands in jeopardy.