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Understanding History in Siouxland, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, Council Bluffs

14 Jan

The Union Pacific Railraod Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa resides in a former public library, possibly a former Carnegie Library of which many were built around the country in the 19th century seen Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum houses the history of the company as it relates to the community of Council Bluffs, and the railroad company in general. No affiliation to the business, it celebrates the life work of one General Grenville M. Dodge who settled in Council Bluffs and helped build a railroad empire. One of the interesting aspects to me about the museum is the video animated actions of recreating General Dodge and a ticket seller who through interactions with the motion of visitors helps tell the story of the railroad.

Animated characters bring to life history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Animated characters bring to life history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Animated characters bring to life history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The hand gestures may be slight but bring to life the figure before one at the museum. The figure also goes through head motions, again slight, reinforcing that you are interacting and listening to someone tell a story, this story about General Dodge and how the Union Pacific Railroad came into being. The animated ticket seller also seems a little creepy, but fun as he tries to engage a passerby once the motion detection is set off and the seller awakens.

Animated characters bring to life history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Animated characters bring to life history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Animated characters bring to life history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having previously visited the museum I found other forms of media now utilized to help tell the history of the railroad which helps make it more entertaining to learn history about the area and community itself as it is growth is entwined with that of the railroad company and the expansion of the westward territories as America grew as a nation and its citizens began having means to visit other parts of the country and explore their nation with the advent of “public” transportation.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Media presences helps visitors understand history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Media presences helps visitors understand history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Candidate Frenzy in Siouxland, Democratic Hopefuls Make their Pitch

8 Jan

Former vice-president and 2020 presidential Democratic candidate hopeful JOE BIDEN begins his 18-stop “No Marlarkey Bus Tour” at the Biden campaign office in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa, and will campaign in western Iowa after the Thanksgiving holiday Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

With the new year beginning here in Siouxland as it is elsewhere, every four years the state of Iowa is blessed in being the first in the nation with its political caucus involving presidential politics. With less than four weeks remaining to make their pitch to the residents of Iowa why they should become a party’s nominee 2020 presidential Democratic candidate hopefuls are crisscrossing the state and Siouxland itself in making yet another pitch. This happened in 2015 with a large Republican field. And it’s a point of pride with Iowans that they are able to get some personal face time with national candidates wanting to tell their stories and why they should be selected to serve.

U.S. Sen. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful waves to people who waited the better part of an hour as her campaign schedule ran behind while trying to campaign in a number of Iowa counties before stopping at a small winery in Ida Grove, Iowa Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 after the most recent Democratic presidential debate held in December. Klobuchar is making a three-day 27 county bus tour through Iowa.

 

Entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate hopeful ANDREW YANG, center, gives a thumbs up for a supporter’s selfie as a CNN camera person does a sound check for a live broadcast interview at Yang’s campaign office in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Retail politics demand that candidates spend time with possible future constituents. It’s still a bit of a norm in the day and age of social media and the internet where everything is uploaded to and shared with the world. Depending on one’s definition of world, being a community, state, nation or a select sphere of people who believe in the same norms and policies.

Former Congressman JOHN DELANEY (D-MD), left, and 2020 presidential Democrat nominee hopeful campaigns during a breakfast stop at the Horizons Restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020.

 

U.S. Sen MICHAEL BENNET(D-CO), left, and 2020 presidential hopeful campaigns at a local brewery in downtown Sioux City, Iowa Saturday evening, Nov. 8, 2019.

Ans for all the caterwauling that other states and pundits make about Iowa getting a personal and up close look at potential candidates,  people in Iowa take the challenge and responsibility seriously. Asking tough questions about how and why a particular candidate might be worthy of their support. Unlike attendance at large “big-city” rallies or high end dollar fund raisers and dinners, the people meeting these potential Presidential persons are moms, small business owners, folk who live in a rural setting most often and in communities on average no larger than 3-5,000 people, and many times maybe only 1,200 people who live in a small town. They represent a microcosm of American life with all the ills of a larger society but often times without the benefit that is afforded to larger communities because “rich” people don’t live there and individually these folk have no sway or lobbying power than the more “affluent” try to affect to curry favor.

U.S. Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-PA) and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful campaigns at the Woodrow Wilson Junior High School gymnasium in Council Bluffs, Iowa Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. All candidates are in a push to visit the state of Iowa with roughly one month left before the Iowa caucus event, Feb. 3, 2020.

 

Businessman and investor TOM STEYER and 2020 presidential Democrat nominee hopeful campaigns at the Sioux City Convention Center in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

 

South Bend, IN, Mayor PETE BUTTIGIEG, and 2020 presidential Democratic nomination hopeful, listens to a woman’s issue dealing with Social Security as he meets Iowa voters in an intimate setting at Cronk’s Cafe in Denison, Iowa Nov. 26, 2019.

The people only have their own dreams and dreams for the children to have a better life. A hope maybe that their children might pursue some kind of career that would keep them nearer home and not have to move away to a larger city to pursue work options and make enough money to survive, get married and start a family on their own. So the folk of these small Siouxland and other communities in Iowa feel they have a vested interest in being picky about who might represent them and others like them in the next election. And not all candidates make the cut, some falling by the wayside between the start of their campaigning in ernest and and their failing in having the funding to continue. But most try. And I find it interesting that since 2015 and the large Republican field then with the large showing of Democratic hopefuls this election cycle, running for the highest office in the nation seems to have become a bit more democratic in and of itself. Candidates can survive for a period of time on smaller donations and not just being bankrolled by wealthy individuals and corporations and others who more than likely have a more selfish interest in who gets elected. And so it goes, until Feb. 3 in Iowa, when everyone gets together in their local caucus and chooses who they would like this time to represent themselves and the candidates go forth hoping they will become the chosen one.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

U.S. Sen. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful laughs along with the audience during an introduction as he campaigns iat The Fruited Plain Cafe in Sioux Center, Iowa Saturday, Dec. 21 2019 after the most recent Democratic presidential debate held in December.

 

Former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate hopeful JULIAN CASTRO speaks on the campus of Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019 as he campaigns in western Iowa.

Enjoying Christmas’ Past in Siouxland, Old Dominion Dance, Omaha, NE

25 Dec

It’s always fun to encounter something new and this Christmas season I came upon a group that celebrates Christmas through bringing to life Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol”. The Old Dominion Dance group enjoys the holidays be reliving the past. The group’s founder, Emily Mayes, said the group;s Fezziwig Ball held at Lauritzen Gardens is a chance for people who enjoy dance and a family night out to come participate and dance and participate in a Dickens’ Christmas party.

Young participants socialize before dancing during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Emily Mayes, center, began the Old Dominion Dance group that embraces English country style dancing done during Fezziwig Ball at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The dance group focuses mainly on English country dances and takes some time to teach the simple dance steps (it’s very much like attending an American square dance get-together) and then participate. The group later performs short skits based on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. The ball itself is based on Ebenezer Scrooge’s visit from the Ghost of Christmas’ past. It was fun watching people socialize and participate in an event that celebrates kindness, friendship and the spirit of Christmas. Something one might think is in short supply these days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

People pose for a portrait during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Participants dance during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Participants dance during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Participants dance during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Participants dance during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Participants dance during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Participants dance during Old Dominion Dance group’s Fezziwig Ball that encompasses English style country dance at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Walking Piece of History in Siouxland, the Meridian Bridge, Yankton, SD

11 Dec

in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it nice when local communities help visitors learn a bit more history about itself and its residents. Various Siouxland communities do this and Yankton, SD recently installed signage at the Meridian Bridge, previously a double decker vehicle bridge, now a pedestrian walkway over the Missouri River.

A sculpted art piece at the foot of the pedestrian Meridian Bridge in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Meridian Bridge was formerly a double decker vehicle bridge but is now a pedestrian walkway over the Missouri River in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Of course not all “residents” appreciate the signage or the history, but just enjoy the structure itself.

Pidgeons take a short flight before returning to a resting spot on the Meridian Bridge in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pidgeons find a resting spot on the Meridian Bridge in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A short walk from the downtown area of Yankton and some eateries, a nice walk is always pleasant and doesn’t hurt the appetite either.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A sign posting at the Meridan Bridge gives a visitor a little background about the area and the Missouri River seen in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A sign posted at the Meridian Bridge gives a little background about an earlier politician seen in Yankton, South Dakota Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Holiday Season Begins in Siouxland at the O’Connor House, Homer, NE

27 Nov

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The holiday season in Siouxland has begun as a number of small town museums and places have put up their Christmas decorations for visitors to once again stop by and enjoy a bygone era at the O’Connor House in Homer, NE. And nothing says holiday to me than seeing a plate of Gingerbread cookies, even though adults were not allowed, as they were made the children only, not including those young at heart either. An annual event, different people or organizations help sponsor the various decorated rooms of the O’Connor House, home to an early settler of the area.

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A volunteer gives a history of this room decorated for the Christmas season at the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Volunteers staff the various rooms to give visitors a bit of history of the house and the family that lived there, a sort of controlled chaos as dozens of folk pass through to enjoy the holiday spirit and decorations and revisit or visit for the first time a bit of local history.

Visitors read about the deaths of a number of the O’Connor children at the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The family enjoyed many Christmases before the deaths of a number of the O’Connor children as they reached young adulthood. The house still retains a wood stove in the kitchen where the Gingerbread cookies and other goodies are baked. Sometimes damp wood can fill the home with a bit of smoke when the stove is first fired up at the beginning of the day. Not overwhelming, but definitely a reminder of what life might entail in the 19th century.

Still, the home is solidly built by Cornelius O’Connor himself and has a cozy feel even in the 21st century when too many of us take for granted how truly blessed we are with out modern conveniences and the chance to peek into history without actually having to live it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A volunteer reads the history of this particular bedroom decorated for the Christmas season at the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Decorated for the Christmas season, the O’Connor House, built in the 1870’s by Cornelus O’Connor and situated near Homer, NE Sunday Nov. 10, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Historical Women in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Park, Nebraska

25 Nov

Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park near  Ft. Calhoun, NE is a look at western frontier fort life as settlers and others were moving westward looking for a new or better life and the men who worked to safeguard that passage west. The fort, while not home to women in particular, was supported by women married to some of the soldiers or nearby settlers that acquired land to work and helped build communities. The park’s welcome center contains information that helps explain the times and the fort’s purpose.

The Welcome Center seen during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

“Conquering” the western frontier wasn’t only a job done by men, even though most of history would have people believe that. Men could not have accomplished as much as they claim had in fact that women were not involved. The simple fact, without women, there would be no men.

So it was fascinating and interesting to talk with women re-enactors at the Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park near Ft. Calhoun, Ne. Women in those days played the supporting role for men going West. They maintained the families and home fronts and saw to it that many basic needs were met. And in doing that also found ways that enriched their lives in small ways as well.

Marilyn Jones, center right, gives step by step instructions to a park visitor curious about the lace weaving technique she is demonstrating during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Marilyn Jones demonstrates a lace weaving technique during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Marilyn Jones demonstrates a lace weaving technique during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Women also provided a different skill set for practical means such as quilting, mending, weaving that applied to day to day life. They helped the new frontier much like the old frontier thrive. And made a rough existence a bit more palatable to men living there and raising their families. While women were not permitted on the fort grounds, they helped out in many ways that sustained fort life.

A view of the parade and mustering grounds during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors even got the chance to learn about the mundane tasks of frontier living such as doing laundry during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors even got the chance to learn about the mundane tasks of frontier living such as doing laundry during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life must have been difficult for both sexes during those frontier days, much like it is today, although for different reasons reflecting the time period. Yet one makes do and tries to find some joy in life even in the little things. Making the best of what must have been impossible situations now and again, but still finding some joy in it all.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Weaver Donna Jones, right, talks with visitors about the 100 plus years old looms she is using for her weaving projects such as the rugs seen next to the young boys and what life was like in early frontiers day during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Park visitors take a break on benches outside of soldier quarters during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors talk with a re-enactor at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park during July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Families and visitors explore the grounds and an “early frontier” garden plot during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the grounds area and a tribute seen during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History Comes Alive in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska

19 Nov

Visitors head into Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park for July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The history of Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This summer I spent part of a day reliving history at a Nebraska Historical Park in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson, which according to one living history participant and re-enactor, was the largest fort in the U.S. during its days of use on what was then the frontier.

I find attending such places and events informative and fun. As well as fascinating because of the people who help make history come alive for us regular folk who get the chance to understand a bit more about those folk who came before us. While those volunteering their time to portray actors can’t provide all the answers, they can help people appreciate what history says about a place and possibly give us direction where to find more information about a place’s history.

Visitors assemble for a program about the creation of the United States and a firing demonstration of muskets and canon as each state’s name is read and when it entered the Union during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes the people who portray historical characters are themselves rascals who give a nice dimensional look to an era we can only read about now.

 

Blacksmith Tom speaks with visitors during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Two “regimental officers” talk about life at the fort in early frontier days during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors check out the Trading Post cabin outside of the Fort during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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