Iowa Heroes and HamletsHighways and Byways, Day 21: Waterloo, IA to Iowa City, IA
In Waterloo (pop. 68,653) this morning, we made a stop at one of several places named for the city's most famous sons, the five Sullivan brothers. In January, 1942, less than a month after they lost a good friend in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the five brothers all enlisted in the U.S. Navy with the stipulation that they serve together. Ignoring its loosely enforced policy of separating siblings, the Navy assigned all the Sullivans to the cruiser USS Juneau. In the midst of the Guadalcanal Campaign, the ship was hit by torpedo fire in November of that year and sank. All but ten of the ship's crew of 700 perished, including all five of the Sullivan brothers.
|The Five Sullivan Brothers: (L to R) Joe, Frank, Al, Matt and George|
Our next stop was to be an odd but interesting site in the small town of Gladbrook (pop. 941). For Patrick Acton, creating scale models of famous structures from matchsticks has been a lifelong passion. We came across his reputation and a small museum housing some of his work when researching places to visit in Iowa. Alas, however, we were not destined to see these amazing creations on this trip as the museum is only open in the afternoons, which did not fit in our schedule. Maybe we can catch some of them next time we're near a Ripley's Believe It Or Not location.
If we couldn't see the marvels in miniature, we'd have to settle for a curiosity of another size. There weren't any letterboxes to search for, so we tapped into the Roadside America app again and discovered that we were within reasonable range of Iowa's Largest Frying Pan in Brandon (pop. 307). Well, why not? It's not exactly Claes Oldenburg, but it was less than two miles from the interstate, so away we went.
Built of recycled scrap metal in 2004 by local citizens to promote the town's semi-annual Cowboy Breakfast, a fundraising project for the local community center, the pan has become a symbol of the town. When they decided to build the pan, it didn't occur to the citizens to determine whether there were other similar pans elsewhere. Later when they discovered that a pan in the state of Washington was a measly three inches larger, the Brandon pan was dubbed "Iowa's Largest Frying Pan." To date, no one has disputed this claim.
At the public library in the town of Hiawatha (pop. 7,113) a bit further south, we found a very clever letterbox on the library shelf. We suspected an 'inside job' because the 'box' was not only shelved among the other books, it had a bar code and was listed in the library's catalog.
|Very clever and well-executed library letterbox|
In the afternoon, we finally made it to West Branch (pop. 2,310) and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. Given Hoover's place in U.S. history and the perpetually dismal ratings of his presidency, we expected a modest preservation or recreation of his birthplace. What we found instead was 187 acres of "commemorative landscape" including 31 meticulously maintained historic structures, a half mile of boardwalks and a quarter mile of white picket fences to keep painted and in good repair.
|Historic street at Hoover National Historic Site|
|Grave site of Hoover and his wife|
|The cottage where Hoover was born (which he himself made provisions to preserve)|
More Photos from Today
|Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, Waterloo|
|A replica of part of the USS Juneau's hull and a Mustang bomber escort in the Veterans Museum|
|Hoover grave looking upon his birthplace in the distance|
|Kitchen in Hoover birthplace|
|A replica of the Hoover outhouse|
|Classroom in the Quaker schoolhouse that Hoover attended|