Friday, November 24, 2017

Who got bucked off by the mule?

I'd be delighted to know the name of the gentleman whose brief flight, launched from the back of a mule, was captured by a Chariton photographer --- perhaps Lloyd Moore --- some time in the late 1940s or 1950s (I think).

The photo is from the Lucas County Historical Society collection, part of a group of photographs associated with the remarkable Mr. Moore but not identified specifically.

It looks to me like the photograph was taken at what now is Eikenberry Park. The old elevator is at left in the background and if you look carefully just to the right of the flying man's foot you can see the steeple of First United Methodist Church.

The occasion? Well, it's hard to tell. But Eikenberry Park was the performance site for many traveling shows and other entertainment events before first television and then other media turned our focus from people in person to people on screens.

Judging from the dress shoes and other parts of the flying man's costume, I'd say he's a business or professional type. 

If anyone recognizes this guy as his or her grandpa, let me know via a Facebook comment or comment on this blog post. Right click and open in a new window for a closer look.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Love can build a bridge ...

Here's a brief video essay for Thanksgiving morn, posted yesterday by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, reprising a mission trip those magnificent choristers and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir undertook during October in five southern states --- Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

The photos are by Dave Earl and the music, two of my favorite pieces from the chorus repertoire --- "Love Can Build a Bridge," which started life in 1990 as a country song written by, among others, Naomi Judd and first recorded by Naomi and Wynonna; and "Light," from the 2008 rock musical, "Next to Normal."

I'm thankful, in these troublesome times, for those who sing their hearts out; for bridge-builders and peace-makers; and for those who cast off the dark and angry gods of ages past and step into the light --- reimagining the inexplicable and unknowable as love.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Moving on up with Kris Patrick

I've been thinking this morning of all that Kris Patrick has helped Chariton accomplish during the last five years --- and it wore me out. My goodness, what a record.

Friday, coinciding with DazzleFest, will be Kris's last day on the job as director of Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street. She was honored during a late afternoon reception Tuesday at the Chamber/Main Street offices on the east side of the square.

December 4 will be Kris's first day on the job as manager of the Fort Dodge Main Street program, a professional step up. And as soon as arrangements can be made, she and husband, Byron, will move to the Fort Dodge area.

Byron is a little concerned because Webster County is extremely flat. So they're looking for a place with hills --- and that may take a little time.


Kris has been involved with the Main Street program in Chariton since not long after a bunch of us got together during 2011 and started the complicated and competitive process of winning admission to it. Main Street America, nationally, is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and, in Iowa, Main Street Iowa is an arm of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

Historic preservation is at the heart of the program's goal to revitalize historic downtown districts in approximately 50 Iowa cities and coordinate Iowa efforts with those under way in 40 other states working through programs that serve approximately 1,200 cities, a majority of them smaller.

At the time Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street won admission to the program it was a fairly unique hybrid, combining the efforts of what traditionally had been distinct Chamber of Commerce and Main Street programs. Kris began as Main Street coordinator in Chariton, then moved up to direct the entire operation when health issues cause the joint organization's founding director, Shantel Dow, to give up the position.

During her years at the helm she successfully navigated --- in cooperation with the city of Chariton and other organizations and countless volunteers --- Chariton through the process of adding its historic downtown to the National Register of Historic Places, an extensive upper-level housing project and a monumental downtown facade improvement program.

She has worked hard to meet the needs of Chamber/Main Street business and professional members, coordinate the efforts of the volunteer divisions ranging from tourism through design to economic development that are the heart of the Main Street program, attended countless meetings, written grants, made sure the Chariton program met the exacting standards of Main Street Iowa and much more.

It's been an amazing run and all of us who have been involved with the program during the last five years hate to see her go, but such is life. We're not even that miffed at Main Street Iowa for facilitating the connection between Kris and another city that needed her expertise, too.


The search is under way for Kris's successor. In the meantime, Florence Heacock (at right below) and Katie Wilson will keep the operation running smoothly --- along with their volunteer base.

If you run into Kris before she heads on up to Fort Dodge, be sure to say "thanks."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A little Della Reese ...

I don't remember watching the late Della Reese, who died Sunday, in a single episode of "Touched by an Angel," although that may be selective memory loss.

But I do remember that voice, from the good old days. Not quite at the level of Billie, Sarah or Ella, outstanding none the less.

So here's a 1960 live performance of "Someday" from the CBC to launch Tuesday:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dreaming along with the Lucas County Arts Council

I drove home past the C.B.&Q. Freight House last evening after the Lucas County Arts Council's "dream meeting" just to admire the new lighting. If you've not done that, you should. And the council would appreciate it, too, if you'd find its Facebook page (follow this link) and "like" it, too.

There are a couple of outdated Arts Council Facebook pages also floating around in cyberspace, but you want this one, with Nash Cox's photo of the Freight House at night at the top.

The Arts Council sponsors an annual October arts festival (at the Freight House), owns and operates the building --- beautifully restored several years ago and listed on the National Register of Historic Places --- as an events venue, coordinates the Vredenburg Performing Arts series and does what else it can to promote the arts in Lucas County.

Most recently, the council has opened the Freight House for concerts by the new big-band-sound community band organized by Chariton High School band instructor Daniel Scheetz, who also serves on the Arts Council board, was seated beside me during Sunday's meeting at the library and thereby managed to avoid being photographed, as did several others.

The meeting, which involved Arts Council board members, artists and other interested guests --- including me --- was intended to provide a forum for discussion of Arts Council aspirations and challenges. Some of these were listed as the meeting progressed on the board shown below, so take a look.

Next October's arts festival will be the 25th anniversary edition --- so there was a good deal of discussion about how to make it extra special. One challenge is the fact that the Freight House, although quite large, is filled for display purposes to the maximum when approximately 14 artists are featured. One option would be to expand onto the Freight House deck or grounds.

A major frustration expressed Sunday involved the fact there's no publicly accessible gallery space in Chariton. The Freight House, rented out for events nearly every weekend and at other times during the week, does not lend itself to this purpose. Rental revenue helps fund council activities and maintain the building, so turning the Freight House into a gallery isn't practical. Many of those present would love to have a gallery on the square, but figuring out how to get one there is the challenge.

Potential improvements to and use of the drive-up bank building moved to a spot just north of the Freight House by Nick Cattell and others a number of years ago also was a topic for discussion. The Arts Council needs an office and there are other potential uses.

If you'd like to join the conversations about the arts in Lucas County, the best route probably would be to join the Arts Council. Susan Baer is president and Nash Cox, vice-president. Kris and Lori, at the Chariton Free Public Library, also would be happy to answer questions and accept memberships. And "like" the Facebook page, too.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dobson & the resurrection of Casavant Opus 3105

I'm a big fan of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, an Iowa treasure that too many folks are unaware of. And I've been following with special interest lately Dobson's part in the resurrection of Opus 3105, the mighty Casavant Freres pipe organ that once presided over Clapp Recital Hall on the old University of Iowa arts campus, down along (and fatally close to) the Iowa River.

Dobson builds some of the most acclaimed pipe organs in the United States, but also rescues, revives, repairs, reconditions and in some cases relocates older instruments by other builders for a variety of clients across the country.

Opus 3105 --- a 56-stop tracker instrument with 3,758 pipes --- was built in Quebec during 1971 by Casavant Freres and installed in the gallery of the new Clapp Recital Hall during 1972. More than 30 years later, in 2008, flood waters devastated the University of Iowa arts campus, including Clapp, and the decision was made to relocate its components for the most part on higher ground and demolish the damaged and flood-prone buildings.

The pipe organ, because of its gallery location, was not damaged by flood waters. But the question arose of what exactly to do with it. 

Along came Iowa City's St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, planning a new church and in the market for a suitable musical instrument. The congregation decided to give the magnificent organ a new home and incorporated it into the design of a new sanctuary where its location is similar to the gallery setting it formerly enjoyed at Clapp.

Dobson was employed to disassemble the instrument (aided by volunteers from St. Andrew Church and elsewhere), handle minor reconditioning and for several weeks now company workers have been re-installing it in the new St. Andrew.

The St. Andrew congregation is scheduled to occupy its new quarters in early December and the Casavant should be ready by then. I've borrowed a couple of photos here from the Dobson Facebook page to show how the instrument looked as it was being reassembled. The video below, produced by St. Andrew Church in 2014, tells more of the instrument's history.

Casavant and I go back a long way in Iowa, sort of. I was a sophomore at the University of Iowa when the the state's first Casavant, Opus 2830, a smaller 22-stop instrument with some 1,630 pipes, was installed at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. I am in no sense a theological purist, so divided my Sunday morning time, at the time, between that wonderful new instrument and the more traditional pipes at First Methodist (First Methodist had --- and still has --- better stained glass, another consideration).

I arrived back in Iowa City after a tour of Vietnam in time to watch the new music campus arise along the Iowa River, but finished my graduate degree before the Clapp Casavant sounded for the first time.

Now, some 50 years later and firmly in the Episcopalian fold, I'm delighted to report that the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Des Moines is home to one of the Midwest's finest Casavants, a joy to experience.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Keeping Otterbein Church on its feet ...

The natural inclination of any old building is to fall apart and when that starts to happen, the best defense is a strong offense. Which is why G.M. Builders & Son were digging, replacing timber, crawling around under, pushing, jacking up, bolting and in general doing what was needed Friday to keep Otterbein Church on its feet.

Otterbein is one of seven buildings on the Lucas County Historical Society museum campus and we'd been noticing for a couple of years that the center section of the facade, between the two doors, was starting to bow outward, it was becoming increasingly difficult to open and close the doors and a distinct crack was opening between wall and floor.

Temporary fixes kept the building operational during the open season, but once fall began to turn toward winter and tours were infrequent, it seemed like a good idea to see what was going on --- and fix it.

Otterbein was donated by its congregation, moved to the museum campus, restored and  partially rebuilt by the Lucas County Bicentennial Commission during 1975-76. This incarnation of Otterbein actually was built in the 1940s with materials in large part salvaged from the original 1889 church building, which had fallen into disrepair. Church contents in large part were moved from the original building.

While under restoration, it was decided to make the facade look more like that of the original building. So a foyer was removed, a second front door added to the south, fish-scale shingles and fretwork added to the gable and a cupola with bell placed on the roof.

Alterations to the framing made when the front was rebuilt seem to have been responsible for the fact the center section of the front was no longer secured to the rest of the building as it should have been and was beginning to move out and downward. 

The sag now has been corrected, the wall pushed back into place and everything bolted together. That's Andy at work here; Willie was under the building.

The wooden ramps leading to the two doors, starting to deteriorate after 40 years, have been removed. 

In the spring G.M. & Son will be back to install new concrete ramps. We also plan to have the brick platform in front of the church and the brick sidewalk that leads down to Puckerbrush School from it replaced with concrete at that time. This part of the project will be funded in part by a gift from the Coons Foundation. Last year, part of that gift was used to pave the parking area adjacent to the Lewis Building in order to improve handicap accessibility.

These brick areas, constructed from vintage pavers, were atmospheric --- but hazardous to our guests who have difficulty walking. We'll reuse the pavers elsewhere on campus, but not in high traffic areas.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Exchange Block's rear wall will rise again!

Chariton received some very good news on Wednesday involving a derelict building on the west side of the square --- a $75,000 Main Street Iowa Challenge grant that, with local matches, will fund rehabilitation.

The rear wall of the building --- south half of a double-front structure built in 1883 as the Exchange Block --- collapsed a couple of years ago. Although the balance of the building is sound, the alley side has been hanging open while ownership and financial responsibility cases made their way very slowly through district court.

The grant, which goes to Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street, will be matched by the city of Chariton and financial commitments made by the owners of the buildings that flank the wounded structure. Total investment in the rescue phase of the project is estimated at $155,000. Without the grant, most likely the city would have ended up bearing the entire cost of either repairing the building or demolishing it and shoring up the structures on either side. The previous owner lacked funds to do either.

The project will involve rebuilding the rear wall of the building, providing access to its second level via a rear stairway and balcony that will serve both halves of the Exchange Block (divided on that level by a wide central hall) and necessary repairs to the roof and other elements of the building. The long-term goal of rehabilitation is to create a "white box" commercial space on the first floor and return the second floor to use as upper level housing.

It is believed that failure to deal with roof-drainage issues allowed water to penetrate the brick rear wall of the building, dissolve mortar and result in the collapse.

The grant was one of 14 awards by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) totaling $933,300 announced at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden on Wednesday. All will help fund comparable projects --- fa├žade upgrades and restoration, upper floor rehabilitation, building stabilization and repairs and remodeled spaces for expanding downtown businesses.

“The Main Street Iowa Challenge grants have proven to be catalysts for the revitalization of Iowa’s historic main streets,” said IEDA Director Debi Durham. “These projects demonstrate the ongoing financial commitment the people of our state – both our elected officials and private citizens – have made to the revitalization of our historic downtown districts. Rehabilitated downtown buildings create opportunities for new business and new residences in the core of our communities.”

The grants are administered through IEDA’s Iowa Downtown Resource Center and Main Street Iowa programs. The estimated total project cost of the 14 bricks and mortar projects is over $2.7 million. Chariton was eligible for the grant only because it is a Main Street Iowa community.

The Challenge Grant program is funded through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. Since the first appropriation in 2002 through 2016, approximately $6.8 million in state and federal funds have leveraged over $45 million of private reinvestment. Over the life of the program, 138 projects in 49 Main Street Iowa commercial districts across the state have received funding.

A majority of the grants announced Wednesday were for $75,000. The other recipients were Des Moines, Ames, Burlington, Grundy Center, Jefferson, LeMars, Manning, Marion, Mount Vernon, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, Washington and Woodbine.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The best taco soup in the whole wide world

I think this is the third year the Lucas County Historical Society has prepared and served taco soup during the annual November Soup and Bread Tasting Fair fund-raiser for Lucas County Health Center Volunteer Services, held yesterday.

Volunteer Services coordinates most of the volunteers who help keep our organization afloat, especially during the May-September tourist season; this is one way we can show our appreciation. And although many of our board members help out, office manager Kathleen Dittmer is the historical society's chief cook and coordinator.

So we decided as the event was winding down last night to share the recipe --- and here it is. This is the basic recipe that serves 10. To serve more --- and we do --- just multiply it.

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion (chopped)
1 package dry taco seasoning mix
1 package dry Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
1 can pinto beans with juice
1 can whole-kernel corn with juice
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can water.

Brown the ground beef and onions, add the seasoning and dressing mixes and stir well, then add the rest of the ingredients, stir, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour (the longer it simmers the better it gets). Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and taco chips.

We serve a mild version of this soup, but you can turn the heat up by using one of the hotter varieties of Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis and adding other seasonings. We also substitute ground turkey for some of the ground beef in order to lighten the product up a little.


If I'm counting right, nine or ten soup and bread combinations were available at yesterday's fair, In addition to our own soup, I especially liked Volunteer Services' Italian vegetarian, Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street's chicken and dumplings and Homestead Assisted Living's smothered baked potato soup. Carpenters Hall provided ice cream. Martha Milnes was on hand with her world-famous homemade Swedish rye bread (the best I've ever eaten), so I sneaked a couple of slices of that without actually sampling the broccoli-cheese soup that accompanied it.

Various organizations handle the preparations in their own ways. In some cases, volunteers prepare the soup at home, then carry it in roasters to Carpenters Hall. We divided the meat and onions among three cooks (keep in mind we're preparing to feed a couple of hundred people) --- Lucinda, Kathleen and Ann --- who prepared the meat and onion combination at home, then refrigerated it. Beans that needed it also were drained and rinsed at home.

Then Kathleen, Ann and I met at Carpenters Hall at 8 a.m. yesterday with two roasters and all of the intredients to assemble the soup. I am an accomplished opener of cans, so did that. It simmered all morning, then was ready to serve at 11 a.m.

Kathleen watched the soup throughout the day; Kay, Rex, Jim, Ann and Kathleen served it. All in all, it was a great day. Thanks to all who helped out.

From left, Kathleen, Kay and Rex.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Waking with Randy Rainbow & manageable scandal

Well, Tuesday was a mixed day newswise. In Australia, voters endorsed gay marriage resoundingly.

In case you've not been following the news down under, the vote was commissioned by the Australian government before the issue was tackled legislatively. Among the electorate, 79.5 percent of eligible voters participated, 61.6 percent endorsed gay marriage and 38.4 percent opposed.

The vote was non-binding, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now has promised that same-sex marriage will be the law of that land before Christmas. Opponents, of course, are scurrying to protect the endangered rights of florists and bakers to discriminate.

Neighboring New Zealand, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013, foresees a drop in tourism now that its gay neighbors will be able to marry at home.


Out in California, the early-week mass shooting claimed only four lives, hardly worth reporting.


And if Facebook is any indication, we're already gnawing at each other about how best to greet during the joyous season now approaching. So let me be among the first to wish you happy holidays.


Meanwhile, I've been watching and listening to Randy Rainbow's nostalgic trip down memory lane, back to those good old days of manageable scandal. Perhaps you'll enjoy it, too.