Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Churdan Quasquicentennial

I attended Churdan, Iowa’s 125th Anniversary on June 30th. I missed the Centennial in 1982, for whatever reason, so I made an extra effort to go “back home” this time. My wife, Kim, and I left Council Bluffs at 7 am in order to arrive in time to watch the parade at 9:30. After pulling into Churdan precisely at 9:30, we spent 15 minutes searching for a working restroom, before spotting the porta-potties on Main Street, then walked a couple of blocks to the parade route.

No parade yet, so we continued another couple of blocks thinking we would find my mom along the route. Instead we ran into my cousins from Cedar Rapids, so we waited with them.

Apparently the 9:30 start time was for the Kiddie Parade, which always precedes the main parade. No one nearby recalled seeing it, unless it happened to be the little red electric kiddie car and four bicycles decorated with crepe paper streamers that went by earlier. The main parade began just after 10 am at the high school, went south on Head Street, past main street, then made a loop back up Livingston Street, toward the high school. It was one of the better Churdan parades I’ve seen, lasting about an hour, and included the usual church and community group floats, the Churdan Town and Country Band, fire trucks from all the nearby towns, antique cars and a few teams of horses, all led by the American Legion color guard.

There were no Boy Scouts, however. When I lived in Churdan in the 1960s, we Cub Scouts marched right behind the Boy Scouts and American Legion at the head of the parade. I was told there are no Scouts in Churdan now, probably due to a combination of not enough boys and too many other activities. There were only seven graduates in the Paton-Churdan Class of 2007. There were 29 in my Class of 1975.

After the parade we walked back to Main Street, where several vendor tents were set up – mostly folks from out of town – selling wood crafts, t-shirts and other wares, most of which had nothing to do with Churdan. Except for the little Churdan Quasquicentennial booth full of Churdan post cards, posters, t-shirts and a set of video CDs, which I purchased.

The Churdan General Store, City Hall and Library were all open with many historical displays. The General Store was brought to this location for the Centennial and sits next to the basketball courts.

The basketball court is the former outdoor roller skating rink, where I used to spend many Wednesday and Saturday summer evenings skating with my friends. The water fountain appears to be original and still works. The Churdan Depot sign was probably removed from the old depot prior to demolition. The depot was located behind the rink.

The Beer Garden was a fenced off section of Hill Street, out in the full sun. Since there is no permanent drinking establishment (bar) in town anymore, the beer garden was the only place for the half dozen patrons to get a beer. Although there may have been more customers throughout the afternoon, I suspect the vendor probably did more business selling pop and water during the day, but the street dance was yet to come that night.

After finally meeting up with my mom, the three of us walked a couple of blocks to the old Picht House. You can get almost anywhere in Churdan by simply walking a couple of blocks. Only three houses to the west was the white house that I lived in from about 1960 to 1967. The Picht House was purchased by a former classmate of mine who had been working hard over the past year renovating it into a sort of bed & breakfast and local gathering place, furnished in turn-of-the-century antiques. Last century, not this century. Upon completing the self-tour of the house and snacking on some homemade desserts, we walked back to Main Street thinking about lunch.

Tuesday’s Coffee House is one of the best things to happen to Churdan in the last few years. It’s the only local eatery in town and serves a variety of sandwiches and drinks, including… gourmet coffee. Lattes in Churdan! Who’d a thunk it? I was first in Tuesdays a year ago during its previous ownership and I found it a very quaint little place that served up a good lunch and a great cup of coffee. A farmer friend of mine mentioned that Sumatra was his favorite. I remember going into town with my granddad to the café where the local farmers gathered. They would sometimes sit all morning drinking coffee on a single dime. Modern farmers are now likely to pay a buck fifty for a single cup of Sumatra. Tuesdays is under new ownership this year and they provided the same quality of food and atmosphere. Service was a bit slow, but considering that the local population had more than doubled for the weekend and I’m sure they hired some temporary help, there were no complaints. They also sell Irish gifts, Churdan souvenirs and a few items made by local artisans. I heard later that they ran completely out of food late in the afternoon and had to close early.

As we read over the schedule of events, Kim mentioned that she had never played Bingo. So off to the Community Center we went, already very late. But the eight or so players were already playing the last game of the day. Outside the back door, a large group of people gathered around the excavation of the time capsule that was buried in1982. After several good-sized holes had been dug, the big white ice chest was finally unearthed and taken to the high school to be opened at the Alumni Banquet. The items are now on display at the Library.

At 3pm, we went to the football field to watch the Farmall Promenade. They are a group of farmers from the Nemaha, Iowa, area who “square dance” while driving Farmall tractors.

The four men drive Farmall Hs, while their “ladies” drive the slightly smaller C models. I have to wonder about Nemaha women, though, as these gals had hairy legs and three of them were sporting beards.

They put on a very fun show for almost 90 minutes, making their tractors dance through actual square dance routines. It was fast paced and there were no collisions.

The Alumni Banquet was an All-Class Reunion. We arrived early, so I could wander the hallways to see if anything looked familiar. The lunch room was only thing that brought back memories, such as conversations with the cooks: “No spinach, please.” “Just take a little, you need to try it.”

Social Hour rooms were organized by class. The Art Room served as the gathering place for most of the 1974 through 1979 classes. I walked in to see six people sitting at a table. I saw them earlier, so I knew that four of them were one family. The other two appeared to be a couple, so I estimated that there were approximately two former students there representing six years of graduating classes. Things appeared to be off to a rocky start, but soon two more people came in and the room filled over the next hour. I visited with several people from my childhood, grade school and Cub Scout days, most of whom I had not seen in 35 to 40 years. I only saw three people from my actual class and I was disappointed that there weren’t more. The majority of them still live in the local area, or at least within an hour’s drive. My experience with class reunions is that the locals rarely attend. It’s the ones that have moved away who tend to return to relive some part of their childhood. I still had a good visit with lots of folks and even Kim stayed occupied with another alumni-spouse, with whom she shared a lot in common.

My family moved from Churdan to Paton in 1969 (still the same school district) and then to Jefferson in 1972, which is where I graduated. I probably had more opportunities in Jefferson, but after attending school at Paton-Churdan for nine years, I still feel tied to that community in many ways. Since I’m not an actual alumnus, I was somewhat apprehensive about my reception to their banquet. But money talks in Churdan, too. I just flashed my nine-dollar dinner fee and they welcomed me with open arms. In fact, only one person even mentioned my apparent trespass. When he saw me in the registration line, he said, “Hey, what are you doing here? You didn’t graduate from here!” I said, “Hi! Nice to see you too, Dad!” By 8:30 pm, the program of activities showed no sign of weakening, so we crept out the side door to begin the two and a half hour drive back home. It’s not over yet, though, I still have six DVDs to watch.


A rootdigger said...

I linked you. I love your humor and style. I had family from Paton.
Vogels for one and others.
I was able to visit Churdan for the first time three or was it four years ago. We had coffee in the corner place. At that time they had license plates on the floor. I was fascinated by the castle display in the front of the store. Good cookies too.

Across the street was a grocery store. I went in, but I couldn't remember any names to ask the clerk about. I really wanted to know where to find the old Fred Meyer place. Sons Ferris and Kenneth, etc.

But well. If I didn't do my homework before I left home, I didn't get to do more!. We had cemeteries to visit and a trip to Farnhamville as well.
The day went so fast. I had been running out of time, so I couldn't explore Churdan any more than that. I had no clue that Churdan was an Irish or Scottish town?

I had hoped to come for that event, and somthing at Farnhamville too, but I didn't make it back there. Let us know if anything big is coming up.

4starcashier said...

I loved the Churdan Quasi...though I had to work most of the time...I did help out a little bit at the Churdan Memorobilia booth next to the Post Office on Friday...as one of the residents of Churdan caught me when I was uptown...then I helped at Tuesday's for a little bit also. The parade was very good...and I got some video of the cool motocrossers and some other pictures if you would like to see them! My Email is Nkbush@wccta.net...TTYL!

A rootdigger said...

I know I would love to see your stuff four star cashier. I will email you soon.

A rootdigger said...

4 star, I tried to find your blog. But it was no go. I do hope Chugiak blog takes you up on your offer. Feel free to try your welcome at mine anytime! Nice to run into you.
I hope I am not beeing too 'out of line' here. Sorry, if I am.

Brad said...

Rootdigger thanks for finding my writing somewhat tolerable. My dad worked for Kenny Meyer for a few years. At least for awhile, they lived across the street from the Picht house. Don't know if that helps, or not. The corner coffee place is called Tuesdays - it had a new owner last year - not sure if it's still open. Thanks for stopping by.