Friday, May 4, 2018

Visiting "Iowaville"


I grew up just south of this small town and spent a large chunk of my life in it but these days I find myself going many years between visit. The reason is years ago, even before my time, a new straighter road was built south of town so unless you had a specific reason to go into town, you could drive right by it without going in. Back then, there were lots of reasons to go into town. There were grocery stores, gas stations, businesses of many different types and even a school. The school closed down many years ago and everything left except for the one business that remains constant which is the gas station out by the "new" highway which is outside of town. Above you can see what remains of the original paved highway which was the main drag through town that went from Sunrise to Sunset avenue depending on which direction you were driving. The road is now gravel and one kicks up dust driving the main drag, just like in a country western song.


Years ago when the town was thriving, there was a railroad going through which was the case for many of the towns in this part of the world. But the trains stopped coming even before my parents times and it has been downhill ever since. Above is the train depot on Main Street which comprises two or three blocks, depending on how one frames your reference point. One block is just going up hill from where it intersects the old highway and goes by a defunct gas station, an old folks home, a private residence and Bell's Garage. The latter is probably the only building on Main Street that is original to the time when trains came through town. It hasn't functioned as a Garage in a couple decades and the owner is probably not much longer on this earth. Many residents of "Iowaville" are licking their lips anticipating the death and hoping there is an auction of the contents of the garage afterwards. I know if it happens, I will be there.


The reason for my detour through town, the first in a couple years, was to see a new building going up in the first proper block of Main Street. A classmate of mine and her brother, a year older than me, are building a restaurant. Rumor has it that it will be a cook your own steak kind of place. I've been around this town for more than four decades and we haven't been able to keep a restaurant open all that time for more than a couple years at a whack so it will be interesting to see what happens. I hope to stop by and cook a steak though before they close it.

The picture above, taken in block two of Main Street, has two meaningful stories. The library is where I was allowed to fill a grocery sack full of books to check out while everyone else had a five or six book limit. The librarian new of my love for reading and the fact that my parents couldn't bring me to town every few days to get new ones so I had an exception to the rule. Later after I had read every single book in the library that was appropriate for my age, the librarian got special permission from the next county over to let me check out books there by the sackful. That kept me occupied until I left for college. Someday, I want to stop by when the library is open and see if the selection has changed any.

The other picture pertains to the water tower in the city park behind the library. It held no special meaning to me until recently. When I was in high school, a boy ahead of me a few years got drunk one night and tried to climb the water tower unsuccessfully. He was so unsuccessful, that he fell off and was injured but lived to tell the tale. It was folk lore in our school for many years afterwards. Just a couple months ago, the same boy, now a man, died of pancreatic cancer. He cheated an early death once but didn't escape it when it came back for him.


East of Main Street, closer to Sunrise avenue and Sunnyside Cemetery, is the hill where our school was built. In my parent's day it was the entire school. In my day it was only the middle and high school. The elementary classes went to a school building in a town five miles on down the highway. A few years after my younger brother graduated, our entire school system was merged with the school system in the county seat and they tore our building down. It stood three stories tall and made of brick, right behind the basketball/tennis courts covered in vines in this picture. The peak of the house in the background is within the footprint of the old school. The man who lives there now was a young boy that used to ride my bus in the years before I graduated.

8 comments:

Kelly said...

Sadly, this is the story of many small, rural towns in the US. I know Arkansas has its share. Your water tower story brought back a memory I'd totally forgotten!! Not of a fall, but of an attempted climb.

I hope the steak house thrives. Perhaps if it's reasonably priced and good enough, you can help to keep it in business!

Ed said...

Kelly - Although I eat only the occasional steak, I'm one who likes to grill my own instead of buy it from a restaurant. So they probably shouldn't count on me keeping them in business!

Bob said...

I had a terrible experience in one of those cook-your-own-steak places 35-ish years ago. My girlfriend and I had broken up and some friends fixed me up with a blind date. We cooked our own steaks at this place and hours later I became deathly sick. I never went back to that place and I have scarcely ever eaten another steak. And I got back with my girlfriend and married her.

Ed said...

Bob - What a first date story!

Vince said...

Wow !. I looked it up on the google earth. And all it could find was the graveyard. There isn't hide nor hair of a town.

Ed said...

Vince - Of Iowaville, all that remains is a graveyard. I use Iowaville in a more generic sense in this post (which is why I put it in quotes) to disguise the actual name of the town to remain somewhat anonymous in case others use search engines to stumble upon my blog. This allows me to be more free in what I write about.

BrightenedBoy said...

It's sad to think how many small towns have been hit badly by outsourcing and shifting socio-economics. It makes you wonder what we can do to bring back that kind of middle-class lifestyle where anyone who's willing to work can have a well-paying job.

Ed said...

BrightenedBoy - In this particular town, the loss of the railroad in the 30's or 40's really cut the town off at the knees. Then in the early 80's when the farm crisis lay siege to the surrounding area, that was really the death blow. That is the time I came of age. As the farms left and business dried up, working people moved out. The school merged with another in the 90's which caused those with families to leave. Now all that remain are the elderly and those who commuted to neighboring county seats for work.