Are you interested in health statistics? What about information like rates of high school drop outs? Statistics on a broadly defined range of health related issues are published every two years in the e-book Iowa Health Factbook. A collaborative effort between The University of Iowa College of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Public Health, the publication first appeared in 2001. Currently 2013 is the most current year (this kind of statistics takes a while to collect and process so there is always a lag in reported results), but a new edition should be coming out soon.
The Iowa Health Fact Book provides a wealth of information pertinent to the health of Iowans. Much of this information is broken down for each of Iowa’s 99 counties and includes such data on disease incidence and mortality, health and social behaviors, health resources, and environmental factors.
A useful tool for anyone doing research about the state of the state it also could be useful as a specific instance for people doing research outside of Iowa too.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.
Often when you’re driving around the highways and byways of America, you see things you don’t understand. See this collage from an old Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum which included a photo of me in Brandon. This is the story of one of those things that doesn’t have a clue in its actual location, no sign, no information, nothing.
The cowboy is near the McDonalds/Love’s gas station just off Interstate 80 just outside Newton, Iowa. (Note: be careful turning around to get to the drive thru window it’s a horrible turn.) You might know Newton from the Maytag appliances (no longer there), the amazing Maytag Blue Cheese, the Iowa Speedway or their amazing public library. Drive around town if you stop they also have a wonderful collection of downtown murals and a huge lizard statue outside the public library.
The upshot is it was originally in front of a cowboy restaurant in Oklahoma that had some connection with Love’s gas stations. When the restaurant closed down they decided to move it to an active location and randomly picked the Newton location as it was freshly opened.
August 2014 was first Mary Ingalls Society Pageant in Vinton, Iowa. Below is the link to the podcast I did about attending. I’ve added the highlights of what is talked about in order to help you find a particular part if you are interested. I’ve also added some links to some additional information you might find useful. Also see my podcast on Mary Ingalls and the School for the Blind.
From South take left branch of 218 don’t go straight through town.
Parking situation around school
People came early and stayed in their seats
Founder’s Room returned to original purpose as historical room. It has since been restored and reorganized and is the ground floor presence of the museum. You can see Mary’s records there. The main museum Third Floor hasn’t yet been restored from storm damage.
At What Cheer Flea Market, I found a very interesting book. It’s a text book about Iowa government and has quite a bit on one-room schools. The author is George Chandler then the Superintendent of city schools in Osage, Iowa. Below are some selections from this 1898 book (which is in the Public Domain).
The selections below (which I’ve marked with the page they came from) explain how the governance of one-room schools in Iowa operated. Your state probably had a similar set of guidelines. How similar depended on your state and their attitude towards education. Within the text below in several places I’ve added an Editor’s Note in square brackets [Ed. Note: xxx] to help clarify some point or to offer commentary or ask a question. All such notes are my own and not found in the original text.
Chandler, George. Iowa and the Nation. Chicago: Flanagan, 1898.
From Chapter 2 “The Township – Continued”
School Township – The school township is a division for school purposes, and its boundaries must always
be the same as those of some civil township. The public schools are free to all residents of the state between the ages of 5 and 21 years. Each school township is a school district, and the business connected with the management of its schools is done by a board of directors.
Sub-districts – Each school township is separated into as many sub-districts as may be necessary, and a member of the board of directors, called a sub-director, is chosen from each sub-district by its qualified voters. The sub-directors of a township are chosen on the first Monday in March of each year for a term of one year, and all the sub-directors of the township constitute the board of directors.
Township Meeting – On the second Monday in March, the qualified voters of the school township meet to transact business of a general nature connected with the management of the schools in the township. If it is necessary to build a new school-house in the township, the money must be raised by a tax voted at this meeting. If any school property is to be disposed of, the sale must be ordered at this meeting. [Ed. note: this doesn’t give an indication of what happens if an emergency arises if, for instance, a school burns down midyear and must be replaced.]
Board of Directors – On the third Monday in March, the sub-directors meet and organize as a board of directors by choosing one of their number president. They then proceed to the transaction of such business as may come before them. They allow all just claims against the district [Ed. note: meaning debts or bills], hire teachers, estimate the amount of money to be raised for the support of schools and provide for building and repairing of schoolhouses. They make such regulations for the good of the schools of the district as authorized by law.
Officers of the School Board – The president presides at all meetings of the board and of the school township, signs all orders for the payment of money from the district treasury, and all contracts made by the board. At the regular meeting of the board held on the third Monday in September of each year, a secretary and a treasurer are chosen for one year. The duties of these officers are such as their titles indicate.
Independent Districts – Cities, incorporated towns, and villages having not less than 100 inhabitants may be organized as independent school districts In districts composed of cities of the first class and cities under special charter, the boards of directors consist of 7 members, and in all other city and town districts, of 5 members, 1/3 of the number as nearly as possible, being chosen every year. In all city and town districts, a treasurer is chosen annually by the qualified electors, at the time of the election of directors. The secretary is chosen by the board of directors at the September meeting, and he cannot be a member or employee of the board. In such districts, the directors are chosen on the second Monday and their term begins on the third Monday in March.
Rural Districts – By the provisions of a former law rural independent districts were formed in district townships, each district having a board of 3 directors, one being chosen on the second Monday in March for a term of 3 years. [Ed. note: This would remain the law all through the age of one-room schools and one-room school district decisions, including tax, curriculum, etc. were decided by these very local, three person boards. My great-grandfather served on his local one. It was nearly 50 years after this book that the so far unstoppable serge of school consolidation began by requiring all schools to be part of a K-12 district. One-room school districts were forced to become part of an independent school district with a high school, mostly in some nearby town. This took decisions (and money) out of immediately local hands. While it didn’t necessarily mean one-room schools had to close (a handful of public one-room schools in Iowa are open yet), when these larger school districts were given the choice to continue to use the money to keep one-room schools open or to take the money and spend it on something they wanted, guess which option won and schools were closed.]
School funds – The money for the support of schools
is kept in 3 separate funds in each district. These are known as:
the teachers’ fund (which is used for the payment of teachers)
the schoolhouse fund (used in building and repairing schoolhouses and purchasing school grounds);
and the contingent fund (which is used in the purchase of supplies and the payment of incidental expenses of the school).
Nearly all of the money needed for the support of any school is raised by a tax levied on the taxable property of the district in which the school is located. [Ed. note: I replaced pairs of commas with parenthesis and bullets in the second sentence because it was visually confusing. I hope this is easier to read. ]
Teachers’ Fund – The teachers’ fund is derived from the semi-annual apportionment which includes the interest on the permanent school fund of the state, fines and forfeitures of various kinds, and a country school tax of not less than 1 mill, nor more the 3 mills [Ed. Note: A mill is 1/1000th of a dollar and is often used as a rate of taxes on accessed value of taxable property], on a dollar which is levied by the board of supervisors on the taxable property of the county. The money paid by nonresident pupils as tuition for the privilege of attending school in which they do not reside also forms a part of this fund. In addition to these sums, the directors of each district on the third Monday in March, or between that time and the third Monday in May of each year, vote to raise a tax for teachers’ fund upon the property of their district, not to exceed 15 dollars for each person of school age, except as provided for in the next paragraph.
Contingent Fund – The contingent fund is raised by taxation on the property of each school district, and is estimated by the board of directors at the time of estimating the teachers’ fund. The amount raised for contingent expenses cannot exceed 5 dollars per pupil, except in thinly settle districts where that amount and 15 dollars per pupil for teachers’ fund is not sufficient to maintain the
schools for six months of 20 days each as required by law. Seventy-five dollars contingent fund and 270 dollars teachers’ fund, including the semi-annual apportionment, may be raised for the support of each school in the state every year.
Schoolhouse Fund – The Schoolhouse fund is derived from the tax upon the property of any district in which a school house is to be built or repaired. This tax is voted by the electors of the sub-district or school township, and property of the entire township. At the sub-district meeting held on the first Monday in March, the electors may vote to raise a certain sum of money for the erection of a schoolhouse. If the electors at the school township meeting, the following Monday, refuse to grant any or all of this amount, the tax is levied on the property of the sub-district, not to exceed 15 mills on a dollar of valuation. As a rule, the tax for schoolhouse purposed is levied upon the property of the whole district and expended in the different sub-districts as occasion may require.
I have previously posted several reports on the sad state of the local newspaper preservation service in Iowa. Funding to this important program has been slashed and basically all progress has stopped on this process which is designed to insure Iowa’s history (personal, community, and state) aren’t lost forever. Today I’m sharing with permission a post from State Historical Society of Iowa’s Preservation Program that gives a current report on the situation. I made a few minor edits, mostly to correct formatting errors that arose from copying and a few other format changes. – SSU
Iowa Newspaper Preservation 2014
Over the years I have worked with many of you on preserving your community’s weekly newspaper through Iowa’s (SHSI) Newspaper Preservation Co-op Project and HRDP grants. I’ve enjoyed our conversations and partnerships in working to save Iowa’s fragile treasurers. To bring you up-to-date on the current status in the Preservation Unit, I would like to share the following information:
1) The Society is continuing to collect newspapers on a weekly basis.
2) In 2009 we lost our funding for preservation microfilming; however, two hundred and seventy-two weekly newspapers continue to be sent to us each week with the expectation the SHSI’s will preserve them through filming. We are now faced with a backlog of 1200 newspaper bundles stored on shelves and pallets throughout the Historical Building waiting to be microfilmed.
3) We severed our filming and storage contract with Heritage Microfilm a number of years ago because their business model began operating out of Mexico [Ed. note – and generally started to behave unprofessionally]. We immediately brought Advantage Information Management in Cedar Rapids under contract to handle all duplication, scanning and preservation microfilming needs of the Society.
Looking to Local Organizations
For now our only hope for newspaper preservation beyond talking with legislators, is to turn to local communities-the genealogical societies, foundations, libraries…for help. Since we have a signed contract in place with Advantage, any newspaper titles filmed through the SHSI are filmed under the state contract. Your cost of $200 per bundle covers the creation of:
Two master films
1 service copy back to SHSI
1 service copy back to the organization paying the costs
If you choose digital images instead of film for your copy, the cost is adjusted upward from the film cost. This “next step” of digitization can easily be accomplished once papers have been microfilmed because the digital files will be created from the microfilm duplicating master.
What the Iowa State Historical Society Can Do Right Now
The State Historical Society of Iowa’s responsibility covers:
Assuring the bundle is as complete as possible
Issues are arranged chronologically
Transport of bundles to Advantage
Long-term storage and maintenance of the master films which are managed by SHSI and Advantage
Some of you may remember the letter, reading very much like one, I sent three years ago. Sadly, times haven’t changed. But many of you have stepped up and helped your community out. Thank you so much for the financial support in saving your treasures. Please feel free to contact me with any questions and concerns. The State Historical Society of Iowa has the largest collection of your historic newspapers preserved on film. We will always see our mission to collect, preserve and make accessible Iowa’s historic resources.
You might have noticed by now that while I’m usually interested in just about anything historical, I’m especially interested in things with Iowa historical connections and I recently came across one.
Gone With the Wind Fandom
I’m not a huge Gone With the Wind fan, it may be because we had to watch and be silent when we watched it with my mom once a year every year (they used to play it as a two night extravaganza mini-series on broadcast TV every single year when I was growing up in the pre-DVD, pre-VHS era). It may be that even from an early age that I rebelled against the insidious myth of the lost cause, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the movie. I do have a sort of fondness for it. I have some fan-like reactions. It’s not that I didn’t like Scarlet and Rhett or before this was even a fan term “ship” them enough to write a short sequel while in high school where they get back together [having heard the highlights of Scarlett from my mom I think family would have been better off making mine the official sequel 😉 ] and having heard about THE DUMP apartment in Atlanta I now really want to see where Margaret Mitchell lived. I also went to see the movie in a real theater when it was in limited release so I could see it on the big screen as intended for once (they really do have an intermission so people don’t have to miss any of it), but I’m not that big a fan. My mom not only loved to watch the movie, she also read the book and when Scarlett came out shut herself in her room with the door closed for two days straight to read it (and she NEVER did that). SHE is a big fan of GWTW, but I at least have enough interest so when a link for “20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Gone With The Wind” popped up in my Facebook feed I clicked on it and I’m glad I did.
Iowa Connection to GWTW Movie
It turns out there is an Iowa connection to the movie (and I don’t mean that libelous and inaccurate description of the Prisoner of War facility at Rock Island, Illinois that appears in the book). Howard Hall was the patriarch of the last of the three families to live in the historic Brucemore Mansion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (FYI the second family had a brother who went down on the RMS Titanic). If you tour Brucemore and its grounds today, Hall is the one that built the secret Tiki bar in the basement (it fake rains just like the one at Disneyland), but they only sometimes let you get into it now. Hall was fascinated by movies. He even had a series of pet lions, one of which was related to the roaring lion of MGM films. Hall also took home movies and having gotten behind the scenes filming of Gone With the Wind, he filmed that. The house and contents was left to the National Historic Trust in 1981 at his wife’s death and they only got around to working through the film collection in the 2000s.
Mental Floss says this about the clip:
“Howard Hall was an Iowan business magnate and film enthusiast. At some point during the filming of the barbeque scene, Hall was allowed access to the set. There, he filmed the famous cast and crowds of extras lolling around Busch Gardens, where the scene was filmed. The film lay inside Hall’s Brucemore Mansion until the 2000s, when it was discovered amid other home movies when the estate was turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.”
How Can You See More?
I contacted Brucemore for a follow up since this clip in 2008 and they said sadly they weren’t able yet to get it in a format for sale like they hoped and was discussed in the clip, but they did have it available to view in its entirety at Brucemore.
Learn more about Brucemore here (they also have a building that was once a combination book bindery and squash court, how can you NOT want to see that?): http://www.brucemore.org
UPDATED May 3 2016 about Brucemore: Genny Yarne, a tour guide at Brucemore, wanted me to include some extra information to clarify what I said above. https://www.brucemore.org/history/architecture/tahitian-room/ “Howard chose the basement as place to establish the Tahitian Room and Grizzly Bar. Howard used these rooms as casual places to relax with his guests and sometimes screened his home movies in the Tahitian Room, which included vacation footage from Florida as well as more unique scenes, such as some shot behind-the-scenes on the set of Gone with the Wind. . . . The room also has a special feature: water can be circulated onto the tin roof to simulate the sound of raindrops. Visitors can hear the rain during the Nooks and Crannies Tour and the Tahitian Party.”
The Tahitian Room and The Grizzly Bar (a log cabin bar from the big woods up north) are once again on the standard tour. The name of the Tiki bar is the Tahitian Room (Tiki is a kind of bar). They have started to let it “rain” again during the special “Nooks and Crannies Tour” and during the “Tahitian Party.” I’m glad they’ve brought back my favorite parts of the tour.
Since I was doing an update, I also confirmed my links and replaced one that no longer was active.
One of the subseries of my Trundlebed Tales podcast is a series about travel and hobbies called Travel Times. Sometimes I interview someone, but sometimes I just talk about something I know about and this is one of the later. Today you get the inside scoop of eating at the Amana Colonies in Iowa. It’s right off I-80 so anytime you passing through the state, plan a stop.
Utopian NOT Dystopian
Right now Dystopian fiction, stories about what happens after we destroy the world and how every thing will be a whole lot worse, are the literary trend (which is historically true in bad economic times), but in other, more hopeful days Utopian worlds were not only the rule in fiction, but people believed they could be created in real life. There were several attempts at Utopian colonies in North America, but one of the most successful was the Amana Colonies. The colonists came from Germany, started in New York, but later permanently settled in Iowa starting a cluster of villages that straddle two counties. Such colonies normally fall apart as the second generation comes up and is not as committed to the ideals, but that didn’t happen in Amana’s case. They began in 1714 in Germany and it took the Great Depression of the 1930s and the overload it produced on their system designed to help even outsiders in need that ultimately made it obvious they couldn’t continue. Rather than give up entirely they stopped the practice of providing members with what they needed, broke up the communal kitchens, and formed a corporation. In 1932, the former practitioners became share holders in the various Amana businesses. While there are private businesses in Amana a good deal is still owned by the shareholders.
While the Amana Colonies were still a Utopian colony, women assigned to cooking cooked in large communal kitchens strategically located throughout the group of communities. The food was German in origin. It was served family style (meaning full serving dishes were put on the table and passed, rather than individual portions being plated up) and there was lots of chance for refills if any of the serving dishes turned up empty. Today at the Amana Colonies the traditional restaurants still follow those same practices and hungry Iowans can tell you.
Although a combination of recent historical factors have driven several of the restaurants out of business from their high point, today three traditional style Amana restaurants remain:
At these three restaurants you can still order by the plate, but if you’re going to have the Amana experience go with someone else and order family style. Although the meat is very good, unless you have a huge appetite or just plan on taking the meat home with you, I’d see if you could get the sides alone. They are always more than enough to fill me up.
Other Things To Do in Amana
There are other restaurants in Amana, not the original type, but range from coffee houses that offer Italian style sodas to Breweries.
Amana is also a center for unique shopping opportunities. All sorts of unique stores are scattered throughout although the two best known are the Amana Woolen Mill (which still sells fine wool goods) and the Amana Furniture Store (which specializes in very fine wood furniture and wooden clocks). I myself always like to stop at the Kitchen store, but there are many all around town. There are also many small museums dedicated to individual parts of the Amana story, like the communal kitchens and the entire experience at the main museum.
Recognizing their current circumstances (high end chains in nearby Coralville, etc.) Amana makes sure to have an event going almost every weekend so there is plenty to do. Before you leave town be sure to drive by their famous Lily Pond.