Friday, December 21, 2001

OK, Everybody. Give Me The Good Stuff From 2001

It all started one day at lunch. Our group had already settled the latest football and basketball controversies, and we had completed the usual review of the goings-on at the morning newspaper.

So I had a suggestion.

“Can someone mention five good things that happened in Des Moines in 2001?’’ I asked. “I thought about asking for 10 good things, but figured that would be too tough a challenge. If you have trouble coming up with five, we can extend the area to Des Moines and the suburbs.’’

For a few seconds, there was complete silence.

“Can I have a couple of days to think about it?’’ one guy asked, with at least partial seriousness.

Finally, another man said, “Well, Ryerson quit. And so did Townsend. Those are two good things right there.’’

As far as I know, that guy was totally serious.

Keep in mind the lunch group that day was made up mostly of (a) people who are retired from the Register newsroom and (b) people who often wish they were retired from the Register newsroom. All were, or are, very intelligent reporters and editors.

I guess it came as no surprise that the names Dennis Ryerson and Mike Townsend were immediate nominations to the list. Mary Stier, the Register’s publisher, made a lot of people happy in the newsroom Sept. 17 when she announced to the staff that Ryerson, the paper’s editor, would soon be leaving town.

While referring to the “Five Good Things That Happened in Des Moines’’ list, someone pointed out that Ryerson’s exit from the paper could maybe be counted as two things.

“His mismanagement of the news staff was one,’’ the guy said. “But now readers no longer have to fall asleep reading Ryerson’s ‘Editor’s Notes’ on Saturday mornings.’’

Townsend, the managing editor, preceded Ryerson out the door earlier in 2001.

Townsend, you will recall, was the man who, unbelievably, asked, “Who is that old guy laying on the floor?’’ when retired sports columnist Maury White collapsed in the newsroom, then later died.

But enough of that. We’re in the holiday season, so let’s quit talking about former editors of the paper, and turn this into a more upbeat project.

After our lunch that day, I sent e-mails to people who regularly read this website, asking them to give me their lists of good things that happened around here in 2001.

It turned out that a number of folks had thoughts on the subject.

The Iowa Barnstormers (they shut down operations), the Kruidenier Trail around Gray’s Lake (it’s new) and certain sports talk-show announcers who had their microphones taken away from them turned out to be popular nominations.

Bob Modersohn, a veteran writer and photographer in the Register’s newsroom, turned in this list:

1. The new Kruidenier trail around Gray’s Lake is popular with lots of folks of all ages and types.

2. The Des Moines Menace hosted the PDL Final Four tournament and announced plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Urbandale (it will be one of only four in the U.S. and should draw teams from the around the world). In the first month that skyboxes were offered for sale, 14 of 18 were sold.

3. Riverfront development is again on city planners’ agenda. Folks want to be on the water. Let’s put them there.

4. Progress on the Des Moines Events Center was stalled. I don’t think we need it.

5. Arena football is gone, if only temporarily.

Steve Deace, a sports talk-show host at KJJC/KLRX-FM, submitted these five:

1. Marty Tirrell getting booted out of town.

2. Vision Iowa approving the funding of the Iowa Events Center.

3. The Jock (radio station) getting rid of Jim McBride as its owner

4. The Register adding a voice of sanity (see that as the end of the lunacy that was Rekha Basu) to its editorial page in David Yepsen.

5. (tie) Des Moines leading the nation per capita in pregnant women who smoke, and
The 89-year-old woman on Fleur Drive who stood up to the City Council last spring by throwing her leaves into the street in protest of the city’s high waste removal prices.

[Note: Tirrell’s sports-talk career in this area started at KJJC (The Jock), and ended at KXTK. I hear Tirrell now “does the Boston Celtics’ halftime and postgame call-in shows. A spy tells me Tirrell “flies under the radar in Boston—unlike here, where people actually paid attention to him.’’]

Deace added, “The item about Des Moines leading the nation in pregnant women who smoke is pure sarcasm, that’s all. I had a hard time coming up with five.’’

I asked Deace if, because Basu is coming back to town, he wanted to revise his list in any way. No, he said, leave her name in there.

At first, Alberta Hansen said, “The only good thing I could think of about Des Moines that happened this year is the opening of the Gray’s Lake walking bridge, park and beach area.

Then she thought more about it.

“I have quizzed all of my friends about the good things that have happened in Iowa in 2001,’’ she wrote. “They couldn’t come up with much, either. I am glad that Hickman Road is four-lane to Adel, but that opened last Thanksgiving, and it is personal because I drive it frequently.

“I think it was nice that our capitol was revitalized with gold leaf. Finished this year, I think. Of course, both teams (Iowa State and Iowa) going to bowls is good news, probably everyone said that.

“Iowa had the Quad Cities voted on the most polite list in the U.S. What were they thinking when they made N.Y. best? They finished the HouseBarn in Manning, Ia. I believe it dated from the 1700s in Germany. It was dismantled and shipped over and is now open in Manning. They brought three young men over to lay the thatched roof. It is huge.

“Iowa State did a play on the lives of about nine men and one woman who served in World War II. One of the men was black, and of course everything was segregated then. The men all were from Iowa farms and small towns. Students spoke the words of these men and women. My grandson, Jeff Hansen, portrayed Robert Houser, who retired as head of Principal. The play was very interesting.“

”The lodge at Jester Park was rebuilt after their fire. The small towns of Perry, Marshalltown and Storm Lake are working on assimilating their ethnic populations, with some success.

“The government continues to buy up land when it becomes available in the Loess Hills, with the plan to make it a National Park sometime in the future. Valley West Mall updated and Von Maur built garages to add parking to the overcrowded lots during shopping periods. No doubt it is partly because of the new mall slated for West Des Moines.’’

Chuck Offenburger, former “Iowa Boy’’ columnist from the Register who now lives in Storm Lake and writes columns on his website, submitted this list:

1. The 2-mile Kruidenier Trail, with that wonderful bridge that swoops out over Gray’s Lake, was completed.

2. Construction was completed and the scaffolding was removed on the State Capitol building.

3. The Iowa Barnstormers folded.

4. Sally Rezabek, former basketball starter and student newspaper editor at Buena Vista University, got hired in the Register sports department and, will be the best player on the department’s hoops team.

5. My wife’s sister, Chris Burt, the prettiest unmarried woman in Des Moines, got hitched to Tony Woods, the best-dressed clothing salesman at Badower’s.

Rev. David Mumm, pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines, wrote: “The top of my list would be that Mt. Olive Lutheran Church purchased the Johnston Ev. Free Church facilities, built a new child-care center and opened the Open Arms Child Development Center.

“Another on my personal list would be Dowling winning a second consecutive state football title. Beyond that, I’m not sure what I’d put on my list.’’

A high-profile sports administrator from Central Iowa submitted this list:

1. The autumn weather was unbelievable.

2. “Sports experts” Jack and Alex were taken off afternoon drive-time on KXNO.

3. The downtown Farmer’s Market….good in any year.

4. The re-opening of the Fleur and Sierra Theaters.

5. Energy costs dropped and so did the Barnstormers II.

This list is from a man who has worked in big-time university jobs around the nation:

1. Our son completed his first year of sobriety—in a long time—as a member of the Des Moines AA organization. Des Moines is blessed with one of the finest AA groups in the nation, and we really appreciate that very much.

2. I played golf on Dec. 3 and 4, 2001 in Des Moines. One day of golf in December in Des Moines is worth six months of golf in Florida.

3. We saw Iowa win a football game in the stadium when the Hawks beat Indiana. The fans were unbelievably courteous and enthusiastic. The same day we saw Randel El play—and he is very special, a lot of fun to watch.

4. A member of our family who lives in Des Moines came through very dangerous surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals because they had surgical expertise without equal in the midwest, and that includes Mayo. Terrific!

5. So far (Dec. 5) every day in 2001 in Greater Des Moines (all of Iowa) reaffirms the fact that this is a great place to live. Not because of corn production, soybean yields, pig farms or downtown rehabilitation projects, but because it has more nice people, on a per capita basis, than any other state in the nation. The only state that is close is Hawaii—provided you don’t count tourists.

Here’s my list:

1. Megan, our granddaughter, has responded wonderfully to medication and is making outstanding progress after being diagnosed with leukemia on Jan. 1, 2001. She gets healthier and prettier every day.

2. My mother celebrated her 89th birthday, and is still going strong. She will turn 90 in two months.

3. The 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard had a perfect record over the skies of Iowa, Iraq and Kuwait.

4. The oncologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists and endocrinologists in Greater Des Moines were, again, special people in 2001.

5. Any restaurant with a “No Smoking’’ sign on the wall in 2001 was my favorite.

[Happy holidays to everyone].

Vol. 1, No. 12
Dec. 21. 2001