We started 2012 with Laughing Laura in Lansing and continued smiling through last week’s visit with Lu Happel at Ced-Rel Supper Club where she’s kept bar patrons happy for 50 years.
Yep, 2012 was a fun year for Ramblin’ Eastern Iowa. And now, as I’ve done for years, it’s time to reflect and prepare for a new year. I’m looking forward to 2013 - that’ll be the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Lincoln Highway Association, a perfect excuse to travel Iowa’s old Highway 30, part of our nation’s first transcontinental route.
I’ve already done plenty of that in the past. My 30th anniversary book, "Ramblin’ Reflections of Hidden Iowa," (available at The Gazette for $30) has several Lincoln Highway stories including Lowden’s Lincoln Hotel, the Youngville Cafe west of Cedar Rapids and the old Indian Head neon sign at King Tower Cafe in Tama.
Among my stops in 2012 was the Trojan Inn cafe in Toledo where Mary Ann Gardner, whose family opened it 50 years ago, still dishes up words of wisdom as well as good food.
In 2012, we ate a breaded pork tenderloin at Joensy’s in Center Point, talked to Marjorie Lewis in Strawberry Point who’d made 400,000 pounds of potato salad in 13 years, and visited the Churches of Marion Food Pantry in Marion.
In Cascade we met Gordon, the yellow lab "Dog Father" who sired 396 pups, in Swisher the Dance Mor ballroom celebrated 80 years, and in Cedar Rapids, Dana Sindelar relaxed in her hammock stretched between Catalpa trees.
In Robins, Ray Sullivan, 82, built his own casket from a walnut tree of the same age. After that story, he says, that fact appeared in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper column. Ray adds he’s not planning to use it any time soon.
Unfortunately, people I’ve talked to passed on in 2012. Most recently that includes Dr. Alfred Brendel, Owen Jones and Chet Ehrenberger.
Doc Brendel was one of the last Linn County doctors to make house calls. The Central City man had been county deputy medical examiner for 36 years and attending physician at the county home. He was 96 when he died on Nov. 20.
I met Owen Jones in 2004 when he made sure I knew about Williamsburg’s Eugene Ely, the first man to land an airplane on a ship and take off from one. Owen became a regular caller, sometimes just to chat. In 2007, at 85, he had compiled a history book about Williamsburg that sold more than 500 copies. In 2011 he wrote about Iowa County’s one-room schools. He died Dec. 2 at the age of 90.
Chet Ehrenberger of Cedar Rapids was a firecracker (he was born July 4, 1926) when I visited him in 2001 to talk about the rope tail he put on his wife’s (Vicki) minivan to complete its Holstein cow look and in 2006 about his life as a euphonium player with 60 years in the municipal band. He was 86 when he died on Dec. 10.With that, so long 2012. hello 2013.