Category: Dallas County

The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!

What are you doing on Monday evening, Sept. 11? I would like to personally invite you to Perry to the historic Hotel Pattee at 7 p.m. for the debut of Dallas County, my latest non-fiction Iowa history book. It’s all here—drama, crime (Bonnie and Clyde), politics (Dallas County made President Harry Truman the original Comeback Kid), romance, tragedy, mystery, action, adventure, sports, food, agriculture, architecture, science, business, biography, comics and more—all told through more than 100 vintage photos and short stories in 10 chapters.

During this fun event at the hotel (click here for all the details!), I’ll take you on a time-traveling virtual tour of fun, surprising and sometimes shocking Dallas County history highlights. Stick around for the book signing after the program, and then stroll through the iconic Hotel Pattee to tour some of the guest rooms that will be open that evening. Every room in this grand boutique hotel features unique décor that tells the stories of Perry, Dallas County and Iowa history.

I’ve specifically asked that the luxurious Louis Armstrong Suite be open that evening. (In case you’re wondering about the Iowa connection, Louis Armstrong performed in Dallas County in 1954 at the legendary Lake Robbins Ballroom near Woodward and stayed at the Hotel Pattee.)

If nothing else, stop by on Sept. 11 for the homemade cookies the Hotel Pattee’s culinary team is preparing with some of my favorite recipes!

Dallas County Iowa hiistory bookExplore forgotten Iowa history
I am so excited to bring you this new hardcover, illustrated book, which is the first in-depth, non-fiction history of Dallas County, Iowa, in nearly 80 years!

No Iowa county has influenced American history more than Dallas County. It propelled Harry Truman to an unlikely victory in the 1948 presidential campaign, following a fiery speech he delivered to 100,000 farmers on a sweltering September day at the National Plowing Match near Dexter. Just 15 years earlier, a shoot-out near Dexfield Park marked the beginning of the end for infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and the notorious Barrow Gang.

Dallas County, located just west of Des Moines, has produced several major-league baseball players (among them Bob Feller and Hal Manders), a US congressman (David Young), and Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and University of Iowa football legend whose grandfather George Clarke, of Adel, served as Iowa’s governor from 1913 to 1917.
Today, Dallas County is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

My 128-page book from Arcadia Publishing (order signed copies here) is filled with intriguing black-and-white, vintage photos on nearly every page, along with stories from Adel, Perry, Waukee, Granger, Woodward, Dexter, Linden, Minburn, Dawson, Dallas Center, Van Meter, Redfield, Bouton, surrounding rural areas and ghost towns.

Alice Nizzi, spaghetti, Waukee, Iowa, food, Italian, history

Alice Nizzi, owner of Alice’s Spaghettiland, an Italian restaurant open from 1947 – 2004 in Waukee. Source: Waukee Area Historical Society

Here’s a quick list of highlights that make this Dallas County book unique:

1. Many of the images have been donated from private collections.

2. In the early 20th century, Dallas County was one of the biggest coal-mining areas of Iowa. Much of this history, from Waukee to Woodward, is shared in this new Dallas County book. You can also get the inside story in this guest blog post I wrote for Hometown Heritage in Perry. 

3. At least two circuses once made Dallas County their home base, including the famous Orton Bros. three-ring circus, where Five generations of the Orton family thrilled audiences for years. The Yankee Robinson Show, a Midwestern traveling circus, made its winter quarters two miles southeast of Granger. The spacious area also provided a place to bury deceased circus elephants. Granger may be the only Iowa town to claim an elephant graveyard.

4. Minburn’s legendary Singing Wheels roller skating show debuted in 1950 and ran through the early 1960s. Local children, high school students from the Minburn Roller Club and adults all participated in the Singing Wheels’ summer performances, which included a new theme every year, eye-catching costumes, and choreographed routines. These shows attracted thousands of people to the Minburn roller skating rink.

5. The Lake Robbins Ballroom, which opened on November 11, 1931, near Woodward, is still a popular entertainment destination and is one of the few remaining ballrooms in Iowa. The legendary Louis Armstrong performed at Lake Robbins in 1954 and stayed at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, where the most luxurious suite in the hotel is named in his honor.

6. Granger became the focal point of a successful New Deal program inspired by Monsignor Luigi Ligutti, who had served Assumption Church in Granger since 1926. Ligutti felt coal camps were an unsuitable environment for children and looked to the land to address the miners’ economic and social challenges. The 225-acre Granger Homesteads, built in 1935, included 50 modern homes, along with approximately four acres each for raising crops and livestock. In 1936, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Granger Homesteads and praised the success of the project.

7.  The KKK was active in Dallas County, especially Perry, in the early 1920s. Almost 15,000 people witnessed a KKK parade and semi-public meeting in Perry on May 31, 1924.

8. Dallas County is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

Bonnie and Clyde shootout Dexter Iowa Dallas County 1933

While Bonnie and Clyde escaped, Clyde’s older brother, Buck Barrow (shown lying on the ground), was mortally wounded during a shootout with law enforcement during the early morning hours of July 24, 1933, near Dexfield Park in southern Dallas County. Buck would die a few days later at Kings Daughters Hospital in Perry. Source: Dexter Museum

Click here to order your signed copy today! Priceless memories of Iowa history make a great gift, too.
• Series: Images of America
• Hardcover: 128 pages
• Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (September 4, 2017)

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Ultra-Local Eating: Jennifer Miller Guides CSA, Iowa Food Cooperative

Jennifer Miller could hardly believe the question. “When will your bananas be ready?” inquired a central Iowa woman who was buying fresh produce through Miller’s Clarion Sage market garden and community supported agriculture (CSA) business near Waukee.

“People are disconnected from where their food comes from,” said Miller, 30, who noted the woman seeking locally-grown bananas is a well-educated business professional. “I’ve even had people look at our heirloom tomatoes and say, ‘I don’t want those,’ because they think they are GMOs.’”

This disconnect isn’t all that foreign to Miller, who grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. “I had no contact with agriculture in Highland Park,” said Miller, who serves as the Iowa Food Cooperative’s member services coordinator.

Miller did have a connection with Iowa, though, through her paternal grandparents, who lived in the Clarion/Rowan area. Her decision to move to Iowa in 2010 was spurred, in part, by a health challenge and new-found passion for healthy eating.

Miller was diagnosed a number of years ago with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder where consuming gluten can damage the small intestine. “I started caring more about cooking and healthy recipes, because I just wanted to feel better,” said Miller, whose gluten-free and vegan recipes on her blog caught the attention of Martha Stewart Living editors, who invited her to develop recipes for them. “That’s what got me into food and agriculture.”

Food can be so much more interesting
After moving to Iowa, Miller got involved with community gardens in the Des Moines area and became a marketing/communications specialist Iowa Food Cooperative, which operates like an online farmers market. In 2013, Miller and her partner, Cody Kilgore, moved to an acreage on the southwest edge of Waukee’s city limits in Van Meter Township so they could operate their own farm.

“It felt like coming full circle,” said Kilgore, who was raised in rural Missouri, worked in the corporate world for nearly 30 years and was ready for a career switch.

The couple planted garlic in the fall of 2013 to start their Clarion Sage market garden. The goal? “We believe in ultra-local and want to feed the community around us,” said Miller, who noted that Clarion Sage primarily serves families within a five-mile radius in southern Dallas County.

Today, Miller and Kilgore raise a wide array of vegetables and herbs, including lettuce, squash, cabbage, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes and more, including heirloom varieties that can’t be found in most stores. They offer an online ordering system for added convenience.

“Food can be so much more interesting,” Miller said. “Whether you’re sharing a family meal, providing snacks for your kids or making a favorite recipe, one thing’s for sure: the starting point for all these is good food.”

Iowa vegetable farm

Jennifer Miller displays one of the unique lettuce varieties she grows at Clarion Sage Farm near Waukee.

Six lessons learned about farming and food
As their business evolved, Miller and Kilgore have adjusted their marketing plan to adapt to the often surprising—and sometimes frustrating—buying patterns they’ve observed in the market. The Clarion Sage market garden and CSA have taught them six key lessons, including:

1. Farming is more than production. Raising an abundant crop is just step one, said Miller, who has learned that that marketing and sales are equally important.

2. Mentors matter. “I didn’t grow up gardening, so working for various produce growers in Iowa and beyond taught me so much,” said Miller, who is grateful for leaders like Angela Tedesco who started Turtle Farm near Granger, Jill Beebout from Blue Gate Farm near Chariton and other local food proponents who have mentored her along the way.

3. Buying local adds flavor to life. Clarion Sage’s customers appreciate the “know your farmer” philosophy. Most buyers tend to be in their 30s and 40s with families, or they’re retired and have an interest in good food and time to cook. “Every week we offer our customers about $30 worth of fresh vegetables,” Miller said. “We focus on staple items like lettuce, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes, with the opportunity for more exotic options like stir-fry greens, kale and eggplant.”

4. Catering to consumers can be tricky. While the Clarion Sage CSA is right on Waukee’s doorstep, some consumers don’t want to drive to the farm to pick up vegetables. Some feel they don’t have time, while others don’t like the way the gravel road makes their vehicle dusty. When Miller tried offering delivery, some consumers still rejected this option, citing a lack of time or interest in preparing fresh food. Even full-color newsletters filled with cooking tips and recipes failed to gain much traction with these types of consumers, said Miller, who plans to start selling her produce at the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines.

5. Urban sprawl is relentless. High-density residential projects are planned for the area near the Clarion Sage’s market garden. “We’re in the bullseye of urban sprawl, which is a challenge,” said Kilgore, who also works as a wedding photographer.

6. Local food pairs well with global flavors. Miller loves ethnic cooking, from Latin American to African. “If you want to add more vegetables to your diet, look to other cultures that don’t have an abundance of meat protein,” said Miller, who encourages people to try vegetables like Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes (known for their smoky, complex flavor), fish peppers (which pack more heat), Merlot lettuce (whose dark red leaves offer a mellow flavor) and fingerling potatoes (which taste great fried or roasted).

Food is one of the best parts of life, added Miller, who loves the creativity involved in growing and marketing a crop. “You see a crop through from beginning to end, and you’re producing something that can feed and sustain people. That’s amazing to me.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator. If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Iowa Underground – How Coal Mining Fueled Dallas County’s Growth

There was a time when Dallas County was one of the most important coal-mining counties in Iowa. While this way of life vanished decades ago, the memories live on, from rooms at the historic Hotel Pattee in Perry to the coal-mining museum in the Waukee Public Library to the many descendants of mining families who still live in the area.

From Moran to Woodward to Waukee, Dallas County thrived with the increased demand a century ago for coal to power train locomotives and heat businesses and homes. Coal was a relatively cheap, plentiful energy source. With ample supplies of coal, Dallas County became a land of opportunity for immigrant miners from Europe and beyond.

Coal mining started in the Van Meter area as early as the 1870s. By the early 1900s, coal was discovered in Des Moines Township east of Woodward, leading to the creation of the Scandia and Phildia mining settlements. After the Phildia mine was abandoned in 1915 and the Scandia mine closed in 1921, miners moved on to the Moran mine, which opened in 1917 west of Woodward.

It’s not on most maps today, but there was a time when Moran was a bit of a boom town.Another mining town–Angus–was an even bigger boom town north of Perry. The Angus & Moran Room at the Hotel Pattee in Perry recalls the history of these areas, which are now little more than ghost towns.

Shuler Coal Mine and employees shown here on September 13, 1939, in Waukee, Iowa. The mine was open from 1921 to 1949. Source: Waukee Area Historical Society

Living with danger
On the opposite side of Dallas County, coal mining also transformed the Waukee area in the early twentieth century. The Harris Mine opened on September 20, 1920, just two and a half miles northeast of Hickman Road in Waukee.

By 1921, the Shuler Coal Company of Davenport, Iowa opened a coal mine on Alice’s Road, one mile east of the Harris Mine. At its peak production, the mine employed more than 450 men.

The Shuler Mine became one of the largest producers of coal in Iowa, and it had one of the deepest mine shafts–387 feet deep. The mine produced coal for Iowa State University, as well as for local railroads, businesses and homes.

The miners worked in the Shuler mine with the help of more than 30 mules, bringing up hundreds of tons of coal per day and millions of tons of coal over the mine’s 28 years of operation. The miners’ work day often started at 6 a.m., and they wouldn’t return home until 4 or 4:30 p.m.

Mining was dangerous, dirty work. Miners used dynamite, as well as heavy picks, to break coal loose from the coal veins. When the siren blew, it was a sign that a miner was in trouble, or there had been a cave-in.

“I can remember the whistle blowing in succession to let people know there had been an accident,” noted Angelo Stefani, whose uncle was killed in a mining accident. “I can also vividly member women coming out of their homes to see what happened. They were hysterical.”

Alice Nizzi was the founder and owner of the beloved Alice’s Spaghettiland, an Italian restaurant open from 1947 – 2004 in the Waukee area. Source: Waukee Area Historical Society

Life in Waukee’s coal mining community
The Shuler mining camp was home to Italians, Croatians and people of other ethnicities. Most families lived in small, simple houses with no running water, but they often raised chickens and tended enormous gardens where they grew a variety of vegetables.

Work wasn’t always steady. Dallas County’s coal mines often closed in the summer, when demand for coal dropped off in the warmer months. Miners would often work for local farmers or do odd jobs around the community to help pay the bills.

Some of the miners’ wives, especially those in Italian families, worked at local restaurants like Rosie’s and Alice’s Spaghettiland near Waukee to supplement the family’s income. Alice Nizzi (1905–1997) opened Alice’s Spaghettiland in the Shuler mining community just north of Hickman Road in 1947. The restaurant’s waitresses were required to wear white, starched uniforms. Alice’s became a destination and Waukee-area institution for decades until it closed in 2004.

The Waukee Area Historical Society hosted a fundraising dinner in the spring of 2014 featuring Alice’s spaghetti and Italian salad. Hundreds of people now attend this fun event, which has been held each April for the past few years.

wine, Waukee, grape, Italian

Terzo Fiori (left) and Pete Nizzi enjoyed tasting their homemade wine. Excitement spread through Waukee’s mining camps when grapes were imported from California and shipped by train in two boxcars so families could make their yearly supply of red wine.

Remembering the grape trains
For Italian families in the Shuler mining camp, one of the highlights of the year was the arrival of the annual trainload of grapes for making homemade wine.

“Excitement spread throughout the camp when the train arrived, and most of the people from the mining camp came to help unload the box cars,” said Gilbert Andreini, whose memories are recorded at the coal mining museum at the Waukee Public Library. “It was like a celebration.”

The end of an era
By the time the Shuler mine closed in 1949, Iowans began looking to energy sources other than coal for home use, such as electricity, natural gas and heating oil. In addition, the railroads were converting from steam to diesel engines, reducing the need of coal for locomotives.

While Dallas County’s coal mines have vanished into history, those who grew up in the mining camps will never forget how these areas grew into close-knit communities. Everyone knew everyone else and helped each other out, recalled Bruno Andreini.

“I’m very proud of those times. Anyone from that community is like a brother or sister to me. Even though we were poor, we had things that were far more valuable than money.”

Note from Hometown Heritage
I originally wrote this as a guest blog post for Hometown Heritage in Perry. Here’s a note from Hometown Heritage:

If you’d like to meet Darcy, hear more of her stories, and enjoy some Dallas County-inspired snacks, Darcy will be speaking at Hotel Pattee on September 11th, 2017, from 7 – 9 pm as part of Hometown Heritage’s fall programming series. For more information on this, please visit our website.

You can also learn more about Darcy on her website (www.darcymaulsby.com), and her new Dallas County book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator. If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Coming Soon–“Dallas County,” a New Iowa History Book!

No Iowa county has influenced American history more than Dallas County. It propelled Harry Truman to an unlikely victory in the 1948 presidential campaign, following a fiery speech he delivered to 100,000 farmers on a sweltering September day at the National Plowing Match near Dexter. Just 15 years earlier, a shoot-out near Dexfield Park marked the beginning of the end for infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and the notorious Barrow gang.

Dallas County, located just west of Des Moines, is a study in contrasts, from its key role on the Underground Railroad in the 1850s to the revival of the KKK in the 1920s. Dallas County has also produced several Major League Baseball players (including cousins Bob Feller and Hal Manders), a US congressman (David Young), and Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and University of Iowa football legend whose grandfather, George Clarke of Adel, served as Iowa’s governor from 1913 to 1917.

I’m very excited to announce that “Dallas County,” my third Iowa history book, will be released by Arcadia Publishing on Sept. 4, 2017! This will also be one of the publisher’s first books to be available in a hard cover version for $26.99. Want to know the story behind the cover? These dynamic ladies of the Van Meter Matrons Club (founded in 1909) socialized while improving their knowledge of Iowa heritage and current events. When the group celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1959-1960, historian Hazel Lauterbach said the group “helped me be a better homemaker, citizen, and community member and has taught me the true meaning of teamwork.”

Discover the fascinating stories of Dallas County, which is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

More details coming soon!

Want more Iowa culture and history?
Read more of my blog posts if you want more Iowa stories, history and recipes, as well as tips to make you a better communicator.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Growing with Grow: Iowa 4-H Leader Guides 100-Year-Old 4-H Club for 50 Years

With more than 50 years of experience leading the century-old Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club in Dallas County, Iowa, Lorna Grow knows what it takes to help kids succeed. It doesn’t mean giving everyone a participation ribbon.

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Lorna Grow has led the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club near Dallas Center, Iowa, since 1966.

“You gain confidence when you achieve,” said Grow, 84, a retired teacher who has guided Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-Hers since 1966 when her oldest daughter, Glenace, joined the club. “I expect high-quality work from my 4-H kids, and I coach them to help them learn.”

With her high-energy style, quick smile and lively personality, Grow is a hands-on instructor, whether she’s helping the kids refinish furniture, re-cane vintage chairs, bake a pie from scratch, sew on a button, hem pants, sew flannel-lined, zippered gun cases or complete basic home repairs like fixing a hole in the wall. While she coordinates 30- to 45-minute educational workshops that are held during the club’s meetings on the first Monday evening of the month, Grow doesn’t stop there.

“Because I’m retired, I can devote additional time for extra activities,” said Grow, a great-grandmother who marches in local parades with her 4-Hers, helps her club sponsor a county-wide cooking challenge for 4-Hers and their friends, inspires 4-Hers in design-a-room competitions, works with them throughout the Dallas County Fair and supports them at the Iowa State Fair.

Whenever there’s a local 4-H activity going on, Grow is there, said Aleta Cochran, county youth coordinator for Dallas County Extension. “The kids love Lorna. She always supports the kids, listens to them, encourages them and helps them grow.”

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Refinishing furniture and chair caning offer Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club members like Isabel Simpson the chance to learn skills they may not learn anywhere else.

A century of believing, a future of achieving
Grow has been involved with 4-H since 1943, when she joined the Union Lassies 4-H Club in Indianola. The all-girls club followed the traditional three-year program rotation of food, clothing and home improvement.

The club that Grow would become most affiliated with, however, is the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club in Dallas County. This group dates back to 1917, when a 4-H club led by Mrs. A.J. (Mary) Hayes was founded at Sugar Grove No. 9, a one-room country school near Dallas Center. This 4-H sewing club had 10 members, met weekly and wore blue uniforms with white caps. The entire club traveled to the Iowa State Fair by car (quite an outing in those days) and marched in the state fair parade behind the 168th Infantry.

The club evolved in 1922 into the Oblegro (Observe, Learn, Grow) Club. After an A.B.C. Club was organized in 1929, the two clubs joined and eventually became the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club, named after the local township. From 1918 through about 1965, the Dallas County Farm Bureau sponsored local 4-H clubs, which were separated into girls’ clubs and boys’ clubs.

“We are the oldest documented 4-H club in Dallas County,” said Grow, who added that 4-H clubs began to integrate in the 1990s. “I think the club’s founders would be surprised their group is still going all these years later when so many other 4-H clubs have died out.”

sugar-grove-4-h-1966-1967-low-res

Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club members, 1966-67

Today, the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club includes 42 boys and girls in grades 4 through 12 from Dallas Center, Adel, Van Meter, DeSoto, Perry, Grimes, Johnston and Urbandale. While it can be challenging for kids to find time for 4-H, due to busy schedules packed with sports, dance lessons and more, Grow refuses to schedule meetings on Sundays. “That’s family time,” she said.

Families are the key to success with any 4-H activity, she added. “I have wonderful 4-H kids because I have wonderful parents who care about their kids.”

Learning skills for life
These parents value the life lessons that 4-H teaches, including decision-making skills, goal setting, leadership and teamwork. To enhance the learning, Grow assigns older 4-Hers to help mentor younger club members.

 

 

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Members of the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club, along with club leader Lorna Grow, represented 4-H in this 2015 parade.

The Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H members have also gained a new appreciation for history by helping plan the club’s 100-year-anniversary celebration, which was held Sept. 24, 2016, at the iconic Lake Robbins Ballroom near Woodward.

During the program, club members performed some of the songs that earlier generations of 4-Hers enjoyed from the 4-H Song Book. “The emphasis on music back then reflected people’s desire to get more culture into the rural areas,” said Grow, who added that the Adel Live Wires 4-H Club had an orchestra at one time.

Club members also researched local 4-H club record books dating back to the 1930s, when club projects included altering dress patterns and answering roll-call questions like “my favorite radio program.” Club members also scanned photos of previous generations of 4-Hers, including a group of girls showing off their baked goods for the 1934 Achievement Day. “Back then, you had to go through Achievement Day to have your project qualify for the Dallas County Fair,” Grow said.

While those early 4-H members used to meet in club members’ homes, today’s Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H members meet in the basement of the Dallas Center Church of the Brethren. They also gather once a year at the Dallas Center-Grimes school to cook a meal and host an appreciation dinner for parents and guests. “We’ve served everything from Mexican to Chinese and prepare a four-course meal, including appetizers,” Grow said.

The learning opportunities that Grow offers 4-Hers are exceptional, emphasized Cochran with Dallas County Extension. “Lorna has done so much for 4-H. A volunteer like her is priceless.”
Grow said she’ll continue to serve as a club leader until she’s no longer effective. “Why do I keep doing this? Because I’m having fun. I love watching these kids grow and develop skills that will benefit them throughout their life.”

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

4-h-2015-nov-pie-baking-sales-jacob-storey-low-res

Members of the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club, like Jacob Storey, enjoy hands-on learning for pie baking and other skills.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Style at a Classic Iowa Ballroom

There was a time when THE hottest place to be for New Year’s Eve was at one of Iowa’s ballrooms, which could be found across the state in cities, small towns and even in the country. While most of these iconic places are gone, Lake Robbins south of Woodward carries on a proud Dallas County tradition since 1931.

Here’s a glimpse of what makes Lake Robbins such a remarkable piece of Iowa history (photos courtesy Lake Robbins Ballroom):

Ringing in the New Year. The legendary Lake Robbins Ballroom opened Nov. 11, 1931, and soon became one of the hottest entertainment venues in Dallas County. With its 10,000-square-foot white oak dance floor (which is still in place), spacious interior and music from popular dance bands of the day, the ballroom became a destination. The photo at the top of this blog post which shows people dancing was likely taken on New Year’s Eve, circa 1933. Notice what appears to be confetti on the dance floor.

 

lake-robbins-lake-low-res

The beginnings of Lake Robbins. Located southwest of Woodward, Lake Robbins started as a natural pond. In the 1920s, Riley Robbins and his son, Mervin, built a man-made lake dredged out by teams of horses. Robbins built an eight-sided cabin with a boardwalk to the edge of the area that would become the famous Lake Robbins Ballroom. A drought in 1936 decimated the lake, which was not rebuilt.

 

 

 

 

lake-robbins-exterior-and-cars-low-res

One of Iowa’s last ballrooms. Lake Robbins has always been in the country, and there’s only one way to get there—an unpaved country road. While the ballroom has always had a simple exterior, the magic occurs inside. Through the years, countless married couples first met at Lake Robbins. While many Iowa towns used to have ballrooms, Lake Robbins is one of the few that remains.

 

 

 

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Soon-to-be-married dance champions. While they were not yet married when this photo was taken in 1938, Jacob Cushing of Adel and his future bride, Florence, won a dance contest at Lake Robbins Ballroom. The event was sponsored by Chaplin Gas & Oil. This photo was taken by Edmondson Studio in Perry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating the good times. Young people from Dallas County and beyond flocked to Lake Robbins Ballroom, which was one of the few places in the country that had electricity in the early 1930s. Some say future president Ronald “Dutch” Reagan patronized the ballroom when he was a broadcaster at WHO Radio in Des Moines. Lake Robbins was inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Music Association in 2007.

 

 

lake-robbins-poster-low-resLet’s have a party! While some Lake Robbins performers slipped into obscurity, others became stars. Herbie Kay’s orchestra from Chicago that played opening night in 1931 featured 17-year-old vocalist Dorothy Lamour. In 1936, Lamour moved to Hollywood and made a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Another Lake Robbins singer, Perry Como, had huge hits in the 1950s with “Magic Moments” and “Catch a Falling Star.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Kip Shannon’s 80+-year career. While she didn’t work on the opening night (Nov. 11, 1931), 23-year-old Coloma “Kip” Shannon stopped by the new Lake Robbins Balloom with her family. She got a job selling tickets there soon after and also handled practically every job at the ballroom during her career, which spanned nearly 80 years at Lake Robbins. Kip died at age 105 in 2014.

 

 

 

 

Today, owner Lyn Wilkinson carries on the Lake Robbins Ballroom Iowa legacy, caring for the beloved ballroom that she has owned since 1993. Stop by this remarkable venue for an evening of music, dancing and an unforgettable piece of Iowa history.

Want more Iowa culture and history? Lake Robbins Ballroom will be featured in my upcoming book, Dallas County, a pictorial history from Arcadia Publishing, which will be released in the summer of 2017. In the meantime, check out my top-selling “Calhoun County” book, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa, as well as my “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press. Order your signed copy today!

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 


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