Keokuk- My Hometown
Refections on life in a river town 1960-2010
Keokuk, small midwestern city located in the extreme southeast corner of the state of Iowa. Named after the Indian chief who lived in the area at the time of the expansion of the white settlers and explorers. He was friendly with the new people and eventually moved to Kansas where he died.
John Jacob Astor established the American Fur Company around 1827 and by 1847 or 1848, Keokuk was incorporated into a city. Being next to the Mississippi River was tantamount to trading when riverboats traveled to the bottom of the rapids located at the settlement of Keokuk. Travel further up river was made almost impossible by these rapids, so a land route following the river headed north until a navigable part of the river was located. Growth continued for many years and Keokuk became a pretty but bustling river town.
Notable early citizens included Orion Clemens, the brother of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Samuel himself lived in Keokuk for awhile and worked as a printer. Howard Hughes father lived here for awhile as a child and young adult (he was born in Lancaster, Missouri). His son, Howard Hughes, the multi millionaire, was actually baptized at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Keokuk. Conrad Nagel, the actor, was born in Keokuk, as was Elsa Maxwell, a gossip columnist and inventor of scavenger hunts in New York City.
Local stock car racers Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott, Don White, and Dick Hutcherson were well known on the racing circuit in the 1950’s and 60’s. They were all born in Keokuk.
In 1913 a lock and dam was built here to help with navigation up and down the river. A hydroelectric power plant was also built at the same time, it was the largest in the world at that time. In 1957 the locks were expanded to accommodate full length tows and barges making locking through much faster. Tours through the power plant were given and then stopped after 9/11. As a youngster we would go there almost once each summer and take the tour.
With the construction of the lock and dam and the power plant, Keokuk became a magnet for industry because of the cheap, nearby electrical system. Many industries located along the banks of the river, and many more were established further inland.
Life in Keokuk
So I moved to Keokuk in the early 60’s, starting the first grade at the beginning of the school year. I left in 2010 after living there almost 50 years and saw a lot of changes all around. I lived in the North part of town, I guess it was north, others lived in what they called West Kay, or West K, for west Keokuk. I just looked at a map and agree it was a western part of town. The folks who said they lived in West K always said that, never ‘I live in Keokuk’, or south of Main St. Always found that kind of funny and just a little irritating.
Ok, if you followed Main Street to the East, you would cross the river into Hamilton, Illinois. If you went down 7th street to the South, you end up in Missouri. Not much there in Missouri, about 3 miles further down the road is a small town called Alexandria. When I first got into town, there were about 15,000 people living in the city of Keokuk. The city has a Main Street where most of the businesses were located, several nice parks, large swimming pool, a country club, Jr and Sr high school, Catholic grade schools (2) and high school, lots of churches, lots of taverns, and a lot of manufacturing facilities. Now this was in the early 60’s when I got there and it is quite different now.
So lets move on to living my youth in Keokuk…
Every summer the Street Fair would come to town thanks to the local Jaycees. There were many rides to go on and games to play with music shows at night. The fair would set up on Main Street usually from 7th St. to 17th St. for a week and it was the event of the summer for all of us. As a kid it was actually pretty cool, to walk around for a few hours during the day, never seemed to be any danger at all of the criminal element. Then at night with the music playing, the bright lights and the hundreds, maybe thousands of people, it really became a small world of its’ own. They had the guy riding the motorcycle in ‘The Circle Of Death’ or some such name, where the guy would ride around and around on the walls of the huge cylinder set up. One year the big feature for us was the guys doing dives from a real high platform into water, and the dives were really good, too, twists, double flips, backward and forward.
Me and my brothers would save our money to buy tickets for the rides, there was the double Ferris wheel, always a roller coaster of some sort, and then the usual carnival rides with a new one featured almost every year. I always liked the bumper cars and the Tilt A Whirl. The people who ran it always had a special day for kids, $5 for ‘All you can ride tickets’ or something to that effect. We would spend all week there just hanging out with our friends.
Sadly , this perfect summer ritual would come to an end, not just for this summer but forever. I read somewhere that Keokuk had a street fair since 1898, but things would soon change. One year for whatever reason, the ‘World’s Largest Street Fair’ was moved from Main St. south one block to Johnson St., and for us kids used to the fair on Main St. this just didn’t seem right. It had lost the luster of being on Main St. among all the shops and it actually seemed smaller. Later on it would be held on Main St. again, I took my oldest daughter there in the early 80’s and we walked from one end to the other, she loved the swings that went around and the inflated house that kids jumped around in.
It was moved for several years to the Victory Park area next to the waterfront. Bad move, as all the river bugs, Mayflies (or Morman flies as they were called) would be attracted to the lights at night. They would be very thick swarms around each light above every ride and in the morning there would be millions of dead bugs on the ground. Also the fact there was less room for the rides, so the whole Fair became even smaller.
Eventually the Street Fair stopped coming to town, I guess most people did not mind traveling to St. Louis to go to Six Flags or to the Adventureland amusement park in Des Moines. Nicer places and open all summer.
After that, smaller carnivals came to town and parked in the mall parking lot for a few days, or some other location on the outskirts of town. This was just not the same as the ‘World’s Largest Street Fair’ on Keokuk’s Main Street.
George M. Verity
On the waterfront in Keokuk in Victory Park there is an old paddlewheel boat called the ‘George M. Verity’. It is dry-docked and you can take tours through the museum mainly in the summertime. It was originally called the SS Thorpe and was owned by the Armco Steel Corporation. In 1961 it was decommissioned and put out of service and ended up in Keokuk as a river museum piece. There are a lot of exhibits to be seen in the boat as you go from the engine room, up through the galley, the sleeping quarters and the bridge at the top where all the controls for power were located. It is an interesting piece of history, the information in the boat is naturally river related and pertains to the Mississippi River and the connecting rivers.
As a boy growing up in Keokuk, we used to go down there once or twice a summer and pay the admission and spend a couple of fun hours exploring the ship from top to bottom. There was so much to learn and we would imagine ourselves as crew members, pulling levers, pushing buttons, calling orders and just plain having fun. As Keokuk was not a huge tourist draw, we were generally alone on the boat, but sometimes tourists would be there and we would actually act as tour guides if they were okay with it. They sold souvenirs, candy bars and had a soda machine, so for about a 25 cent admission and a little change we felt like we had it made.
Time has passed and the weather and floods have eroded the once mighty and proud structure, but she still stands and as far as I know is still open for tours. She has gotten paint jobs over the years, the inside is fixed up a bit so maybe the old boat has a few years left in her. Regrettably, my daughter went to Keokuk a few years back and had a friend from out of state go with her, my daughter wanted to show her friend around town and the Verity museum was on the list. They drove down to the boat, there was a sign showing days and hours when the museum was open, it was supposed to be open when they were there but the gate was locked and there didn’t seem to be anyone around. They tried a couple more times later in the week and found the same situation when they went back.
If you are noticing a pattern here of a small riverfront town slowly fading away, you are correct, and the more you read, the more you will see of the things that led to my children leaving, my present wife’s children leaving and in 2010, my wife and I moving also. Could it have been helped, was there a way to save the town, preserve the small town wholesomeness that was there when my family moved there in 60’s? Was it even there then? All I really know for sure is that there came a time when I thought that the essence of the small town had been lost, maybe I just grew up, or there were a lot of changes in the wind that contributed to it’s sad state of affairs today.
Let’s Go Shopping
In the mid 1960s, Keokuk tore out 6 square blocks of old buildings near the riverfront. These buildings were up on the bluff overlooking the river and they were generally decrepit and they were on Main St., the first thing one saw as you came into town from the Illinois side. Urban blight it is called today, but truthfully, I don’t think it was that bad. Of course the plan was to not just leave a huge empty space but to build a new, modern shopping center downtown and watch the town’s economy grow.
So the new, modern Keosippi Mall was built with a lot of fanfare and ribbon cutting and celebration. It was what everyone had wished for, except the folks who lived in the houses on that property that were kicked out because of eminent domain. But to be fair, these properties needed to either be totally renovated or torn down. The new mall was great, clean, large, had a friendly atmosphere, lots of parking and created a large number of retail jobs that were actually fought over to get.
J.C. Penney was at one end, Montgomery Ward was at the other and in the middle sat F.W. Woolworth, the king of five and dime. Other stores included a Pizza Hut, cafes, women’s clothing shops, men’s clothing, Singer sewing center, jewelry store, a bank, Radio Shack, a theatre, two shoe stores, music stores, book store, a drugstore, a fabric store, an ice cream parlor and other small local business stores who came and went. At one time there was a silkscreen shirt shop, a head shop, a fast food sort of place that made all kinds of baked potatoes, I never tried that place, a video rental shop and on and on. The mall was a very successful enterprise being that its location was at the center of many small rural towns located in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. They got the farmer’s business and the city dweller at the same time. Going to the mall was a treat for everyone within 60 miles. There were no malls close by, the nearest was Springfield, Illinois,100 miles away and St. Louis, 140 miles.
When I was a kid of 12 and 13, on Saturday mornings me and a friend from across the street would get our lawn mowing money, our newspaper delivery money and our allowances together and head to the mall. We did this in the summer and in the winter, it was a mile and a half there and a mile and a half back. Our first stop was Keasling’s Drug store on 14th and Main, we would stop in and look around, never really bought anything but a good chance to get warm or cool off or just rest up. We would look at the comics and other kid stuff and then head down Main to our next stop at 10th and Main. The Western-Auto store was a great destination because they had bikes and toys, in the winter around Christmas they had a lot of bikes and toys and gifts for kids. So we always stopped there to check out the latest Matchbox cars, board games like Risk and Battleship, plastic model cars and trucks and baseball gloves.
Moving on from there we would hit Gate City Seed, a local shop that sold garden seeds and garden tools and decorations, in the Christmas season they had a huge candy section of mostly home made goodies that you could buy. They also sold bird seed, bird houses, chimes and garden plants. They had a talking Mynah bird that was in a cage and this was the only reason we stopped there. We would whistle, he would whistle, we would say ‘Hello’, he would say ‘Hello’, lots of fun, the owners didn’t care as long as we behaved ourselves. After several visits, the workers there got to know us and always said hi as we came in. On our next stop, just a couple doors down was Stan’s Pastry shop, where we would get something sweet to munch on and savor the wonderful bakery smells.
Finally on to the Keosippi Mall, our first stop would be the Woolworth’s store to buy a box of Cracker Jacks, we would spend time in the store because they had an outstanding toy department and the best plastic model selection in town. When it came to plastic models me and my brothers were good at the building, painting and displaying them. Pop used to build wooden model sailing ships that were museum quality and I guess we picked our skills up from him. I liked the drag strip cars, one brother was into the funny cars, another brother liked tracked military vehicles like tanks and halftracks while yet another brother liked the semi trucks. After we had checked everything out, we would go to Montgomery Ward and head to the small lunch counter they had set up and order a coke. We would eat our Cracker Jacks and drink the coke and then explore the other shops in the mall, looking at records, books and anything that caught our eye.
We would usually head home from a different direction than the way we had come. Sometimes we would stop at the public library and browse the books. The library was a modern very nice structure that had been built in 1962, it was very bright inside and comfortable. It was a gift from the Huiskamp family in Keokuk. I never saw the old library, but from what I heard it was a huge improvement. We would walk different ways home but a favorite path was along Grand Ave. Grand Avenue was where the rich people lived in very nice, large houses with big trees and grand views of the Mississippi. It stretched for about ten blocks, then you entered Rand Park, then another six blocks on the other side of the park.
Rand Park was pretty much in our backyard, we spent a lot of time there and I will talk about it later on.
All those trips to the mall was fun, I even worked there in 1973-74. One of my kids worked for awhile in the mall at a drugstore. Later the mall declined to the point that it was just an empty shell with two or three stores and perpetually empty.
So what happened ? A mall opened in Burlington, Iowa in 1977, and another in Quincy, Illinois in 1978. Neither mall was much larger than Keokuk’s, but they were new and people flocked there instead of Keokuk. The opportunities to shop at these malls made the traffic slow a little in the Keokuk Mall. The real slow down in traffic to the mall occurred in the 90’s and 2000’s when a super mall in Iowa City was built. Known as the Coral Ridge Mall, it was opened in 1998 and attracted over a million shoppers in it’s first month. A decrease in sales in adjacent counties and cities was noticed almost overnight as shoppers made their way to the new mall.
Another reason was the construction of the ‘Avenue of the Saints’ highway which is the old Highway 218. Upgraded to 4 lanes and pretty much a freeway with no stops between cities, it greatly increased the motor traffic in southeast Iowa. The new highway made a previous 3 hour trip in 90 minutes to Iowa City, you could leave in the morning and shop 4 hours at the mall, get a meal and be back before supper most days. Also the new highway extended down to St. Louis, and the same long day of driving was reduced significantly.
I remember clearly going to these malls for shopping rather than to Keokuk, the selection was better and it was just a nice day trip all around. Nice roads, nice scenery and a new, shiny shopping experience. I remember driving the twisting 2 lane highways at 55 MPH behind a semi going 40 up the hills and no place to pass them, upgrading to 4 lanes was a gift from heaven to most of us. And then the 55 MPH speed limit got thrown out and you could race along at 70 most of the time with no slow downs and stops in little wore out towns along the way.
So by 2000 – 2001 the Keosippi Mall had pretty much seen it’s better days and store after store gradually moved away. Every now and then a business would claim the potential of a new store opening in the mall, and a lot of fanfare would ensue with a grand opening and then sooner rather than later they would depart for greener pastures. A popular pastime with new owners is to rename a dead horse and hope that it comes back to life, so in the 2000’s (no one really remembers), the Keosippi Mall was renamed the River City Mall and nothing happened as was pretty much expected.
The new owners faced foreclosure on the property in 2011 or so and it was listed for $350,000 for awhile before being sold on an online auction in 2013. Since then, no noticeable improvements have been taken, and it is in it’s final state of dying a slow death on Main Street in Keokuk.
If you search online, you will see stories of the mall, criticisms, and even a store directory that boasts about 25 stores there. In fact there are like 3 businesses in the mall, a General Dollar store, a cinema and maybe a clothing store. Click here for an example of false or outdated advertising: http://www.nofocus.com/rivercity/ it says from 2006, but even at that date the place was a ghost mall.
So now, in the end, there is a farmer’s market that takes place on Saturdays in the parking lot, and Eagle Days in January has a booth in the mall to put the average soul to sleep quite quickly.
One last note, online shopping surely did not help this mall save its neck, yet other malls in other cities thrive yet still today, with new stores opening all the time. Where I lived after I moved from Keokuk was a large metro area with several malls and any day, at any time, these places were teeming with customers.
The Civil War Re-enactment
One of Keokuk’s famous people is Samuel R. Curtis, a mayor of Keokuk in1856 after serving as a Colonel in the Mexican – American war (1846-1848). Later he was promoted to General in the Union Army, and after defeating the Confederate forces in the Battle of Pea Ridge, was promoted again to Major General. He later was elected to Congress. He is buried in Keokuk.
So the folks in charge of tourism in Keokuk decided to have a re-enactment of the Battle of Pea Ridge and invited re-enactors from across the nation to participate. So in 1988 the first ‘Battle of Pea Ridge’ re-enactment took place in Rand Park in Keokuk over the course of three days and much planning to a resounding success.
Many re-enactors showed up, dressed in civil war uniforms, pitched tents in the park and put on a grand show on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Several hundred men ( I am remembering over 500) would show up. Also included were the vendors of everything civil war related who pitched tents and had a thriving business for the weekend. The motels were full of visitors from far away and the crowds were very large to see the cannons blasting away and the soldiers firing their guns and rushing towards their opponents. The city had many other things going on during the weekend, including dinner with ‘President Lincoln’, concerts with a civil war era band, speeches by re-enactors, food, dancing, a military style ball and other things through the years.
Over the years I went to see the battles in the park, it was exciting to see the men riding their horses at top speed firing their guns, and then the loud report of the cannons going off. And they were loud, if I happened to be at home, the windows rattled every time they shot off a cannon. I took many a photo and some video, too. I always enjoyed taking my kids up there and they found it to be interesting and educational. You could tell the re-enactors took it all very seriously and that they had a good time, too. I never heard one negative comment come out about the event in all the years it was put together.
Later on, the event producers decided to include other battles, like the Battle of Belmont and the Battle of Wilson’s Creek to appeal to more people and attract more tourist. But I think that they actually missed the point in the whole bigger picture. And here in lies the rub. It was basically the same thing every year, didn’t matter if you called it a different battle, or changed the campgrounds around or had the band play a different tune. What you saw in 1990 was generally the same thing you saw in 1999 and 2005. It sort of got stale, everything stayed the same, and the only connection Keokuk had to the original Battle of Pea Ridge was the guy in command. If the re-enactment was held on the actual battlefield, it would have been a bigger and more relevant event.
It was a successful venture for many years, I enjoyed it, but you still saw the same thing every year, yes it was good, but after awhile, even I stopped going. When a friend from out of town came to visit in 2010 (and I hadn’t been to the re-enactment in several years) at the time of the re-enactment, I said, ‘Lets go see it, you will enjoy it’. I grabbed my camera and went to the park and was disappointed. Much fewer re-enactors dressed up like soldiers, went from over 500 to less than 100, the tents set up for the sutler stores went from 35 or so to about 3. Very sad, it was almost an amateur high school production, I was actually embarrassed by it all. And my friend, well they said it was interesting and all, but you could tell it was a letdown from my buildup that I gave the whole thing.
And so in 2015 the last re-enactment was held, the tents came down for the last time and another Keokuk staple lost its sheen. And it will be missed. I have no clue how the city could have made it better, it was a good idea that turned into a great idea but then its time was done and we moved on to better things.
Rollin’ on the River
Now here was something I never really did get. A blues type music festival held on the riverfront with ‘stars’ from around the country playing their music for a couple nights. I actually only ever went twice, the ‘stars’ were generally musicians or bands I had never heard of, it was kinda high priced for ‘stars’ I had never heard of and it was advertised as the great music festival of the year in the state of Iowa, let alone the midwest. OK, kinda harsh, but most of the people that I worked with and knew felt the same way. They had little knowledge of the ‘Blues Legends’ that were coming to town, and most of them stayed away from the event because of prices and well, it was at the riverfront, not the best location for music IMO and several others opinion.
Started in 1988 and then officially called ‘Rollin On The River’ in 1990 (BTW, Rollin’ on the River is a rock song done by Creedence Clearwater Revival), it claims to have attracted many a famous blues artists and lays claim to the ‘Longest Running Blues Festival’ … in the tri state area… What a joke, like there is another blues festival somewhere nearby… So why do I bother with writing about it ? Well, I went twice to see and hear some ‘great’ blues music and for the price was sorely disappointed.
One year (2001?), one of the main acts was Mick Taylor, former guitarist for the Rolling Stones. So I paid for my ticket, was offered drinks at incredible inflated prices (where did they think they were? St Louis Fox Theatre?), and waited for the opening act to take stage, and waited and waited. The openers were a motley crew of unknowns who were forgettable and out of tune. So then I waited for Mick and waited and waited and waited. Finally Mick took stage and played a terrible 5 song set of forgotten tunes without a sound check so it basically just sounded like a bunch of noise. He acted like he would rather be anywhere else but on that stage in Keokuk, and after he left the stage, the applause was for an encore but that didn’t happen. There were maybe 100 people in attendance.
Several years later I again went and got in free, there was no one at the gate to take my money, and I actually waited around for a few minutes for someone to show up. Some friends from out of town wanted to hear some ‘Blues’ music at the ‘Festival’ and I warned them it did not seem to be as cracked up as it was advertised. They said, ‘How bad could it be?’… So I met them there after getting in for free and they had this look of ‘What were we thinking’ on their faces and they left shortly after to hit some bars. My impression was not much different from the first time I went, lousy setup, high prices for unknown mediocre acts and low attendance.
That was just my experience, I know the people who put this show on every year try their best to give it the best face possible, and I imagine the rare act pulls in to put on a terrific show, yet to me it was ‘why bother with that’, when I can travel a few hours to St. Louis and see a world famous act put on with incredible professionalism for a few dollars more. And that is what I did almost every year while I lived in Keokuk.
Now on the other hand, the local bands in town were pretty good. Whether I saw them at a school function or a bar or in the park (‘Art in the Park’ was held every year until someone just cancelled it, too), those bands tried very hard to put on a good show. Best memories are of Craig Moore, Slink Rand and Ilmo Smokehouse (these guys were out of Quincy but still ‘local’ as far as I was concerned, Dennis Tieken was great). Other bands were in the mix in the 70’s and 80’s and even up to now the garage band music scene is still alive in Keokuk. I was always waiting to hear that one of the bands or musicians made is really big, but not yet (although Richard Page of the band Mr. Mister was born in Keokuk, he only lived there a short while). Even one of my brothers was in a band for a short time.
The most memorable and successful band was called Gonn, with Craig Moore heading up the group. They released a couple of singles in the 60’s and some albums later in the 90’s. There were the ‘original members’ and then a whole cast of others who came and went. Keokuk has made a huge deal out of the band, and the people associated with the act probably just love it, the others who went to see the band in its heyday were basking in memories, but if you ask any one not from the area about Gonn, you will probably be greeted with a blank stare.
So the music scene in Keokuk was great, and still is, and they like to take pride in former bands who ‘almost’ made the big time, and every now and then hold a concert in Rand Park to bring back the good old times.
The Bluegrass Festival
So Keokuk had a bluegrass festival for a couple of years that I found very enjoyable. I really don’t remember if I had to pay admission or not, it may have been free. It was in Rand Park near the garden area and although the groups who performed were not national headliners, they were always good. I used to listen on the radio on Sunday mornings (if I was at work) on KOKX they had a bluegrass show for about an hour and I really liked that. I went to the park and saw the group Fragment play and was impressed, very well put together. I actually bought a Fragment CD, they were from Vienna, Austria.
But it was only lasted for two years I think. I guess there was not enough draw to keep it going. Nearby in Kahoka, Missouri, a bluegrass festival was held every year, but I am not sure if it is still around. A google search showed nothing for 2017.
Keokuk Pow Wow
In the early and mid 2000’s an Indian Pow Wow was held in Rand Park and lasted a couple of days. Lots of dancing and exhibits and vendors selling crafts. It was always fun to go through and look at all the stuff for sale and then watch the dances and listen to the music. It was a very laid back affair, located near the pond and the Chief Keokuk statue.
The one bad thing I remember about this was when I went there with my wife one time, we got a soda and decided to sit in the shade at the bottom of Keokuk’s statue, on the little steps that were at the base. We were just minding our business, enjoying the day, when some young guy pulled up in a golf cart, in a big hurry, and pretty much demanded we remove ourselves from the statue premises as we were disrespecting the spirit of Chief Keokuk. Well, we had been there for at least 15 minutes, surrounded by all these Indians in their traditional dress, and not one of them said a word to us. And by the way, the guy who told us to move wasn’t even an Indian. I told him ‘You gotta be kidding’, and that we weren’t disrespecting anyone, just quietly sipping our drinks and enjoying the Pow Wow. He just stood there, like some wanna be Nazi, so we said thanks for ruining our day and told him we were not ever coming back and left. What a way to treat tourists. I grew up in that park and you almost had to climb the statue’s steps to read the inscriptions on the tablets on the side of the statue. If the organizers felt so offended by a person’s presence on the statue, they should have just posted a sign or roped it off. What a bunch of jerks.
So anyway, the Pow Wow ( also called ‘Medicine Eagle Gathering of the People’) fizzled out and died, too. I seem to remember a conflict with the town and the Indian council over something or another and the Indians pretty much said, ‘screw Keokuk and bye’. Too bad, except for the one time with the golf cart guy, I enjoyed it.
Let’s Eat !
Yeah, let’s go out to eat in Keokuk.
Whenever I recall the days of growing up in Keokuk, I am always reminded of the places to grab a meal. And at one time the choices were numerous. They still are, but when you look at the list of restaurants in town, delete the fast food chains, the list narrows considerably. Being that I haven’t been back to my stomping grounds in a while I will assume the choices are still there to have a variety of meals. A quick check on the web will steer me in the right direction of what is available.
Anyway, let me start with my first recollections of dining out in Keokuk.
A humble enough beginning is the Knotty Pine Restaurant located across from the long gone Knotty Pine Inn. First place my family stayed at when we reached Keokuk, way back when. The Inn changed and the restaurant is now Ogo’s I think. I was so young that maybe I have my locations wrong, Nevertheless, a fine little dining establishment.
Keasling’s Drug Store Diner. Located next to the Keasling’s Drug Store, you could drop in there and grab a burger and fries and a cherry Coke long before cherry Cokes became the norm. Used to go there every now and then to have a quick lunch. Handy to the junior high school that used to be across the street. Every time I see a movie or TV show with an old time diner with the teens having fun at the booths, I am reminded of Keaslings.
A & W. Am I correct in thinking that at one time there were two A & W’s ? One was located at Belknap Blvd and Main street and was there forever, but I distinctly recall another somewhere at 15th or 16th street on Main also. It was on the south side of Main and seems like it was gone by 1966 or 67. Whatever, the food was great and I remember my dad going to the drive-in one and getting a glass gallon jug of root beer and picking up some vanilla ice cream and having root beer floats on a Saturday night. Later when the jug was empty, you could take the jug back and get it refilled at a great discount, which we always did. Loved the tacos, chili dogs and the breaded tenderloins. When this place closed I was saddened.
Grand Lunch. Wow, what else there to say. Best tenderloins in Keokuk by far. Best bowl of chili in Keokuk by far, best French fries in Keokuk by far. I loved going here for a lunch or supper or even later in the evening between barhopping. This was a local, classic place that never got old and again, was saddened to see it close. Hardly anyplace in town later on even came close to measuring up to this ‘greasy spoon dive’.
Burger Chef. Chain fast food place that was in Keokuk in the 60’s. Later bought by the Hardees people. Cheap burgers and fries and a drink, less than 50¢. After the high school games we would stop here for the obligatory meeting with friends. Located at 11th and Main I do believe and now home to Subway.
There was a place that served take out chicken and pizza, and it was located where Sites gas station is now (13th and Main). The box that the pizza came in usually tasted better than the food, but it was there and we got food occasionally. Went out of business in the late 60’s or early 70’s.
Happy Joe’s Pizza. Took the place of Burger Chef and operated for several years until it closed. Was OK pizza, remembered it was the first place I ate a BBQ pizza. Went downhill pretty fast in Keokuk, food got worse and not kept clean.
Kentucky Fried Chicken. Loved to eat here until the place started to serve food that was ‘corporatized’. When they opened it was the place for chicken on a Friday or Saturday night. Operated at 9th and Main for a long time. New place opened next to Henniges factory with a Long John Silvers inside the place as well.
Georges Pizza. Another fun place to go for a slice of pizza after a high school game. Pizza was pretty average but the place was fun to eat at. Every seat was booth. I remember this place still being open into the late 70’s or so and then gone. Located between 4th and 5th on Main Street. Interesting sidenote: It was always said if you turned your drink glass upside down on the tabletop, you were interested in buying drugs…. Haha.
Country Kitchen. Opened around the same time as the Keosippi Mall, it was a low priced restaurant that served a decent meal. Only restaurant I was ever in that you ordered your food with a phone that was at every table. It was located across from the mall and was pretty much the first business you saw coming into Keokuk from across the Mississippi River bridge. Remember once reading a newspaper article about someone getting stabbed in the head with a fork one night while dining in this place. Other restaurants have made use of this space since Country Kitchen departed and none seemed to do any good.
Harold’s Steakhouse. Located in the basement of the Hotel Iowa ( I think, also location of Verity Room Restaurant), it was Keokuk’s one fine dining experience. Ate there once, enjoyed it a lot. Later on, through different avenues became the Hawkeye Restaurant.
Cassano’s Pizza. Located just north of the site of the present day Burger King, this abysmal failure was only around for about a year or so. I remember my mom saying ‘Let’s go there and celebrate someone’s birthday’. So we piled into the car and went inside and my first impression was all the Indian motif decorations on the wall, in an Italian restaurant. Didn’t make much sense. My mom ordered spaghetti and commented later is was noodles with tomato soup on top, absolutely awful. The pizza was incredibly thin and very lean on toppings and that was my one and final visit to eat at this hole. Sidenote: Once, when I was driving by there I actually decided to stop and get a can of Pepsi, I recalled that was how they served their drinks, you ordered your drink at the counter by the front door, and they gave you a can of soda to take to the table as you waited for the horrible food. I walked in and requested a can of Pepsi, and they asked ‘what else’, I said ‘just the soda please’, and they informed me that they couldn’t do that, it was against company policy. I said ‘You have got to be kidding’, they said nope, and I left and watched the place go down in flames later on and just laughed. Actually have ate at other Cassano’s Pizza Parlors and they were OK, Keokuk’s franchise was a pitiful, embarrassment of a joke.
Holiday Inn. Yep, there was a restaurant in the Holiday Inn for awhile. I worked there as a dishwasher for awhile when I was in high school. Good food I guess, the management said I got 1/2 price off the food since I was an employee, but everyone else who worked there just ate for free and laughed. I ate many a choice steak and many bacon and egg breakfasts while I was employed for free. Thanks !
The mall food shops. Remember the Carousal ? Little joint that served hot dogs, popcorn, drinks and such… Woolworths had a diner that seated around 75 people and I ate there a few times, typical diner fare. Montgomery Wards also had a smaller diner towards the back of the store and I went there with my friend on our Saturday tour and got a soda many times and talked to the waitresses… Pizza Hut opened in the mall, don’t remember when, don’t think it was at the same time as the mall opening but it was there in the early 70’s. Went there many times and always enjoyed it. We used to steal the glasses they served the sodas in, they had ‘Pizza Hut’ printed on them, once we ordered a pitcher and walked out with it. Wow, we thought we were cool… Someplace I never ate at and only saw a couple of times was the Baked Potato fast food place in the mall. It wasn’t there very long and really no wonder why, what a completely stupid idea… Diamond Dave’s Mexican Restaurant took the place of Pizza Hut when Pizza Hut moved out of the mall. I only ate there about 3 times and that was enough, was not impressed to ever go back. Although a lot of business was seen at this place, and many people talked highly of their food. My kid ate there once when she was in HS and evidentially got food poisoning as she laid sick in bed for the next 2 days. Yuck.
Across the street from the Dairy Queen and a little south, used to be a burger joint way back in the late 60’s, served a 15¢ burger and they were quite small, like today’s sliders. We would order 4 of them and swallow them.
Beef Bread and Brew. Steak place that I only ate in about three times, in the 2000’s. Seemed a little wore out by then, good service and the food was alright, still grillin away in town I guess.
??? Across the street from Beef Bread and Brew was a restaurant that had many names and served many different dishes. I remember Pizza Plus, and a Italian theme, and a Mexican menu at one time and they all seemed to fail. I think the name of the Mexican was Papa Chicos. Seemed like they were all high priced and the food was just standard fare. Papa Chicos moved to where Ogo’s is located now I think, and the locals sang their praises as authentic, delicious Mexican food. I went a couple times and it looked like a worn out, dirty, not very appetizing dive, and after ordering and eating the food was sorely disappointed. I had been to fast food places that served better Mexican. So anyway, another failed restaurant at that location was Longneckers (I think the spelling is right), they closed shop there and tried to open a restaurant on a barge down by the riverfront and went nowhere fast.
Tip n Buds. Ate here several times. Known as a Keokuk landmark for it’s bar and restaurant. Well, my few visits were not the best I am sorry to say. I realize that it has many reincarnations since the original Tip n Buds shut down. As I look on Google maps I see an awning with the name ‘Tip n Neckers’. Above the awning is a sign that reads ‘Stoplight Jones’, kinda confusing what it is called now. A google search shows a bar/restaurant called ‘Dr. Getwells’. I can’t recall eating there when it went by any other name than Tip n Buds. To the point… I once walked in with my family and we ordered food and it was pretty standard fare, asked for more napkins, and the waitress went to the back and retrieved a box of packaged napkins and opened it and roaches ran out in every direction from that box. Needless to say I never wanted to go back there again. Years later my mom wanted to go there so we did with nothing wrong, and again the food was pretty standard. While I was looking at the menu, I noticed the Thursday night special was BBQ Ribs. Yum, I love BBQ Ribs. So a couple weeks later I dropped in on Thursday night and ordered the ribs. First off, it was prime dining time and I was the only one there, for the whole time I was there, that should have told me plenty. Brought out a drink and salad and then the ribs, which were ribs that had been obviously baked in an oven and then put on a plate with some BBQ sauce poured on top. I asked ‘if these had been BBQ’d’ and the waitress said ‘I don’t know’. Wow, what a letdown, they tasted exactly like they were cooked – awful. I asked if they even had a BBQ grill set up in the kitchen or outside and got the same blanket answer. Never ever went back, and it was no surprise they closed the doors to that joke of a place.
The Cellar. Pretty good bar food, at least they seem to make an effort. Nice enough location and the town drunks pretty much leave you alone. Ate there number of times and still give it a 4 out of 5 rating. Needed to upgrade restrooms only real complaint.
Between 4th and 5th on Main Street and next door to Streeter’s was a place that opened in the late 2000’s. Can’t remember the name mainly cause it was opened and closed so fast. Surprisingly it was a brand new building, very nicely done, and a very nice location. My mom asked me to take her there one time soon after they opened and we walked in and were seated. We were promptly waited on and got our drinks and our order of a couple of pork BBQ sandwiches was placed. Then we waited and waited and waited. For a sandwich which seemed to be their specialty, and which takes at the most 30 seconds to put together (a bun and pulled pork meat), it seemed like they had to go to another restaurant to get it. Finally after 30 minutes (I am not kidding), the sandwich was delivered and was actually quite good. The waitress didn’t say anything about the time it took, rather just ‘enjoy the meal.’ Later a brother dropped in town and said let’s go eat lunch at this place because he likes BBQ, and saw it was new. I warned him about the last time I went with mom, and I said it could have been that it was new and all. We picked up mom and went there again, this is a good 3 months later, and no kidding, I think it took longer. My brother was amazed that it took so freakin long and said if this is how they operate, they wouldn’t last long. And sure enough, it closed for whatever reason. I mean, if I was a professional in the downtown area, and wanted to eat a quick lunch on my 30 minute lunch break, this was obviously not the place to go. Sorry, huge missed opportunity there folks.
Meyers Courtyard. Hands down the best place to eat in Keokuk on Wednesday or Friday. Best fried chicken every Wednesday night and best fried catfish on Friday night. Now these folks really cared about the food, can’t go wrong here. The price was right, the location was kinda homey but extremely relaxing, and you always seemed to meet someone you knew there. I wish I could go there this week, but since I live so far away it will have to stay a wish until I visit Keokuk again sometime. This is the place I went to most often in Keokuk to eat out.
Hawkeye. Great steaks and other food, just didn’t like the price, kinda high end but definitely worth it. Seemed to be where the businessmen took the out of town visitors to eat.
Sonic. Didn’t want to mention any chain places but these guys get the exception. Went there three times, screwed up my order three times, even after I told them they screwed up my last order and told them to double check the order, they managed to screw it up. Never went back, too high priced and their TV commercials are about the most stupid thing on television today.
Chuck Wagon. Never ate here much until around 2001 and used to like coming back here now and then. Loved the mural on the wall, maybe it was a photograph, whatever, cool as hell and the food and prices were actually reasonably good. Closed later on and became a Mexican place and they were pretty good, too.
I Love The Nightlife
Grand Theatre. Loved watching movies here, everywhere else seemed so generic…
The Draught House. Great pizza and great atmosphere. Best place to be on a weekend till it burned down.
The Palace. Need I say more ? Everyone who lived within 50 miles of Keokuk in the 70’s and 80’s went here at least once to go disco crazy and meet new friends.
Double Eagle. The ‘rock n roll’ bar as opposed to the ‘disco bar’ at the Palace. Lots of fun memories here, playing pool and meeting other friends. We used to start here and down a few, and then go to the Palace to dance with the locals.
In The Mood. Located in the basement of the Hotel Iowa for a few years, this was the main competition for the Palace. Smaller, yet comfortable, had a loyal customer base and seemed like I always had a good time there.
The Cellar and Harringtons. Two long standing taverns which served food and drinks and have a great atmosphere.
Sky-Lark Drive In. Went here many times, saw many a movie here. I liked it when they would show four movies in one night and you didn’t leave the drive in till early the next morning. I remember the speakers on the window, and later on you tuned in to a radio frequency on your car radio to hear the audio.
Dragging Main Street. For hours and hours… Gas was 45¢ a gallon and everyone was out having a good time. Park in the Mall parking lot next to Main and watch the cars go by.
Other Things To Do
Head up to Nauvoo on the beautiful Illinois River Road and look around at the Mormon village, maybe buy some delicious Nauvoo Blue Cheese, take the tour through Joseph Smith’s house and relax in Nauvoo State Park. Eat a fine meal at Hotel Nauvoo (really fine meals to be had here).
Go up River Road in Iowa to Montrose and then ride back (sorry, never found much to do in Montrose except the Watermelon Festival every year). I lived on that River Road about a year and still remember it as one of the best places to be.
The Landing or Mark Twain Landing in Monroe City, Missouri was a fun waterpark that we used to go to a lot. About an hour and a half drive and they had a wave pool and water slides, lazy river and food and it was fairly modern. had good times there
7 Ponds. 7 ponds was another water park above Burlington. Kind of a primitive set up but boy did they attract the folks back in the day. One or water slides and a beach, canoe rentals and camping, too. Now just a memory.
When we were kids, me and my friends would go to Rand Park and get cooled off in the wading pool there. Gone a long time, used to really enjoy that.
The big casino outbreak in the 90’s really caused a stir as Keokuk got a casino riverboat and everyone thought it would be the first of many improvements to the area. Sad to say the boat only lasted a year or two and then moved on. I did go to the casino once, I was given a complimentary pass when they first opened, which gave me entrance and a free meal. I couldn’t believe that the idiots who managed the boat even considered an entrance fee. Go to any casino in Vegas and walk right in, free. The meal was a classic wholesale slop, everything seemed to come frozen off a truck and microwaved. There seemed to be nothing fresh. After that unappetizing meal, we went to the casino and watched a bunch of people gamble at the machines and tables. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed with the whole thing. I think you had to even pay for parking, but I may be wrong. I bet my obligatory $5 and lost it in 20 seconds and left and never went back. Sidenote: Many years later went to the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington and decided to try my luck there just for laughs (I was on a date and it seemed like fun). First of all, you are allowed to smoke in the casinos at the time, so there was a blue cloud of tobacco smoke hanging over everything. Second, just trying to figure out how to play a slot machine took the better part of 15 minutes, and third, while playing the slot machine, I seemingly won, bells, lights, whistles and the such, until a worker came by and said that the machine was broken and turned it off. WTF ? I kid you not. I went to someone who looked important and asked what that was all about and he concurred with the help, so I told them I won at the slots and wanted my winnings which he again said I did not win. I told him that really sucked and I was leaving and never coming back, and they didn’t care. Goodbye $20 in 5 minutes. What a waste of time, Burlington seems to have little to offer almost as much as Keokuk.
Almost every Thanksgiving, Pop would load us up in the car to visit relatives in St. Louis. We would travel down the Illinois side of the Mississippi and then cross the river at Louisiana, Missouri. Traveling South on Hiway 79 for about 10 miles, we would roll into Clarksville, Missouri. On the northern edge of town was a small restaurant, where we would usually stop for a break, get a drink and sometimes eat. It was about halfway between Keokuk and St. Louis. But the thing that most captivated our eyes and imagination was the Sky-Lift attraction across the street.
You rode the Sky-lift chair to the top of the lookout hill, it was advertised as the ‘highest point on the Mississippi’, once you got to the top, there were a variety of things to see such as the ‘crooked house’, ‘water flowing uphill’, ‘Boot Hill Cemetery’. There was a small train on tracks that the children could ride, a five story lookout tower that gave a magnificent view of the surroundings, you could see probably 50 miles into Illinois and up and down the river. A little village was there with several old style shops like a blacksmith shop and several concession stands. There were attractions where you could put a coin into a machine which caged a chicken, which would light a light or ring a bell, the chicken would peck at a tiny piano, which would make chicken feed come out a chute, so he could eat. All of it was rather corny but so much fun. They also had a petting zoo.
The Sac and Fox Indian nation in Oklahoma considered this a sacred site, they used to live in this area, but were forced onto reservations in the late 1800’s. One of the attractions at the Sky-Lift was an old Indian burial site, you could actually see the bones buried in the earth where they were found. The Native American Indians complained that this was a great disrespect to them and the owners were forced to close this portion of attractions down in the early 70’s.
The Sky-lift opened in 1962 and closed in the 90’s. It attracted upwards of 100,000 people every year at its peak, not bad for a small town of 450 people on the river. We used to beg our parents to ride the Sky-Lift and in 1969 finally got our wish.
So in June 1969, we went to Clarksville and rode the Sky-Lift, it was a very fun day. We went to the Kentucky Fried Chicken and loaded up on a bucket of chicken and went to a small park on the riverfront in Clarksville and ate our lunch and then headed for the Sky-Lift. Pop took some movies and photos which even today brings back memories. I went on the Sky-Lift again in 1975 with my wife and that was the last time I went through Clarksville till 2002, when me and my brother did a detour off of Hiway 61 to visit the place once again. The Sky-Lift was closed of course and looked in disrepair as did the whole town. Just a quiet little town fading from view.
We also took a short drive down sometime that summer to Hannibal to see the Mark Twain home and we also went through the Mark Twain Cave. I have been through the cave 10 times or so, always found it fun to do, took my kids there as they were growing up. The only problem was the price, first time I went in the mid 60’s it cost around $2, every time after that the price would go up. Last time I was in the area in 2013 I suggested that we stop and go through the cave, but after looking it up online and seeing the price was $19 each, we just decided to skip it.
Living in Iowa we were only allowed to purchase sparklers, snakes and those little things you throw on the ground and pop. But… about 4 miles away was the Missouri border across the Des Moines River bridge were it was wide open legal on all kinds of top shelve fireworks. So me and my brothers would make the bicycle trip down 7th street, starting mid June heading for Black Cat heaven.
Black Cat fireworks seemed to be the most popular in the stands set up just across the border, each stand had huge signs proclaiming the best prices, best selection, best deals and so on. We naturally found out soon enough that most of the stands had the same prices and so stopped at the first one and loaded up. Our favorite was bottle rockets, all stands would give you a gross of bottle rockets with each $5 sale or so, we ended up with a few hundred by the time each of us made our purchases. In the 60’s we could still get M-80’s and Cherry Bombs which were expensive but the ones to have as they were super loud and could still detonate after being thrown in water.
Then there were all the other cool fireworks that were sold, the ones that flew up in the air and just exploded loud, exploded with a display of sparks and such, the ones that sat on the ground and shot out sparks and fire, the ones you lit on the ground and then little wings on the firework would cause it to spin into the air and explode, or not explode. The list seemed endless and we became experts on what to buy and what to stay away from. Some of the ones looked cool and all, but when lit were pretty useless in our demand for loud, bright and exciting. We would usually get a few smoke bombs, whistling rockets, green, red and silver sparklers to round out our big fireworks buy.
After the buy we would go down under the bridge and set a few bottle rockets and firecrackers off and then load up our bike racks with the loot and head home. We knew we were breaking the law by bringing the fireworks into Iowa, but we never once got stopped, we never even saw a cop. I don’t think they really cared as long as you didn’t get out of hand. On July 4th (and the week prior), it was pretty much non-stop firecracker bangs all day and night. I never saw a cop arrest or warn anyone.
After a while the M-80’s and Cherry Bombs became illegal to sell and buy, but we always would hear of this place or that who would sell them to you under the counter, I never tried and really, once off the market never saw them again.
They still sell fireworks in Missouri and they are still just across the bridge, and they are still fun. It has been a while since I have lit a firecracker and now understand that sales in Iowa are legal again starting in 2017…cool…
And drugs… Keokuk, like most American cities, has seen the trafficking and use of drugs. They were probably around since the early 1900’s, but like the rest of the nation saw a surge in the late 60’s. Smoking the occasional joint of marijuana was replaced in the 80’s with the line of coke and then in the 90’s was again replaced by the bump, and another bump, and another and another of meth.
The folks who were into the meth scene (and probably still are), we called them tweakers, meth heads, powder heads, scratchies, losers and more correctly, addicts of the worst kind. It seemed that the town went from very little use of meth to almost everyone. I personally saw the users at work who would stay awake for days and then crash for days and finally crash their sorry existence through the continued use of the drug. I saw many folks lose their employment from using the drug, missing work after an extended binge, or just the plain weird actions they had going on in the workplace.
My own personal experience was the tweaker who lived down the road from me, who extended his passion for meth into a wholesale marketplace for meth operating from his front yard full time one summer. Every ten minutes or so a car would pull up and park, the person would go see the bum in charge, get his bindle of meth and then leave. This went on 24/7 and all summer long. As many as 60 – 80 cars a day. The place was also the hanging around station for all the lesser bums who would stick around for a free bump of meth, so inevitably you had 15-20 shabby looking souls also on the 24/7 shift.
The cops came almost twice a day for whatever reason and of course the bum and his trolls would sit and stare at the cops and laugh when they left. Noisy, smelly, trashy, they ruined the property in a matter of weeks (they only rented the place). Soon one of the hanger on bums moved in next door, good Lord, now we had two of these creeps in the neighborhood. And then down the road a little further we discovered another meth dealer. It was all to much really. A constant stream of traffic that never ended and the bums were up all night making noise while their brains fried away on meth. Finally they all got busted and some were sent to prison, and others to the county jail and things quieted down considerably. And this was just my neighborhood, many others existed along the many streets of Keokuk.
Later on, I read in the paper that one of them had died, presumably from his years of sniffing and or shooting that poison into their bodies. He was only 55 years old. As I was in the cemetery one day, I actually saw the gravestone. What a POS these folks were. I still see one individual on Facebook (he is younger than me, but looks 20 years older), and he has not improved his condition 1%, still a bum and still using drugs I imagine. What a waste of time and money. The absolute worst that Keokuk has to offer.
And of course comes the realization that all this meth could be a cause for the cities decay and decline. I saw a LOT of drug use in Keokuk, hard core use, and I never saw one drugged out addict that had a clean yard, a nice house, any kind of future. They all seemed to live hand to mouth, day to day. I am sure the people looking to invest in a future in Keokuk saw this too, and turned around and left to find their lives elsewhere. I did. My whole family did. They regard Keokuk as a wore out town, going nowhere, with absolutely no future. Of course some things come along and everyone looks to the bright side, but then it gets dark all over again, and reverts to the same old small town mentality that pervades like a cloud from Roquette descending over the town.
Remember the businessman, Ken Hendricks, the billionaire from Beloit, who was going to resuscitate one of the factories in town creating a wind turbine plant, and the millions he was going to pump into the economy, and the many jobs it would create ? And then he fell off his roof and died and the corporation that he headed took one look at Keokuk and cancelled all his plans. What did they see ? The same as what I saw ?
Keokuk’s population continues to decline as the outside investors see the ever increasing relation between a drugged out workforce and a viable profit to be made.
The Keokuk train depot, down by the riverfront, is one bright spot that has made a possible resurgence of pride in the town. After being placed as on The National Register of Historic Places, the donations and volunteer work on the depot has turned a forgotten decrepit building into a showcase and gathering spot for many local receptions, reunions, wedding parties, and the likes. Will it draw tourists and their much needed cash ? Hard to tell, old depots can’t really be described as much as a tourist draw, but with enough promotion and advertising, social media posts and other things, it can’t be ruled out as a possible lure to outside visitors. But it has to be handled properly and with earnest, with a passion to make it worthwhile to have a visitor come see and then possibly buy a souvenir or stay in a motel to see other stuff in the community.
The inside of the depot is really something to see, all that wood on the ceiling and walls !
Used to head over to Wildcat Springs on our bikes to explore the place in the summer. Follow the creek back in the woods, look for geodes (and found plenty), look for wildlife and just have fun. At one time, someone had hung a rope on an overhang, and we used to swim there, swinging on the rope into the water.
Went there many times after childhood to just enjoy the scenery.
And in conclusion
So that is it for now, I’m sure I will add to this as others may comment on it, or more memories of different aspects of life in Keokuk pop into my head. I have enjoyed writing this. I am just looking at the way it was and the way it is today.
The last time I drove down Main Street, which has been some 4 years ago, it takes on a deserted look, all the retailers have left for greener pastures or have been slowly made irrelevant by Wal Mart and online shopping. I remember a thriving business district with a mix of local businesses and corporate giants, all with a loyal customer base that seemed like it would never end. Now I see a bunch of tired, neglected storefronts trying their best to stay alive, selling used furniture and other discounted items and to be truthful, not having much luck. Even the mall’s flagship store is a Dollar General for goodness sakes.
Once you move off Main Street, you see the houses in such a state of disrepair, and the junk laying around and the other signs of neglect. The streets that I had around my house back in the day, I had to go slow as to not ruin the suspension on my vehicle, I complained to the city to try and fix them, it never got done when I lived there and they are that much worse now. As long as people keep moving away, the tax base gets smaller and smaller and before long there is no money to fix anything.
Before I moved away, I was at work one day and talking to a recently returned Keokuk native. She grew up in Keokuk and moved away to the south, married and had kids, lived in a new subdivision in a house that was built in the late 90’s. Modern, clean, everyone worked on their yard, kept their house in shape, the vehicles they drove were all newer, looked good and ran right. For whatever reason, I think it was a better paying job for the husband, she and her family returned to Keokuk and bought a house and settled in. At least the parents settled in. The children, who had never seen Keokuk, were horrified by what they saw, they complained to their mother that they now lived in a ghetto, and were actually afraid to venture past the backyard of the house they were living in. She told me this, and was rather embarrassed that it had that effect on their kids. She said herself it was like moving from 2008 to 1978, and she wondered what had happened to the town she grew up in.
I wondered too, what happened ?…. Will the last person leaving town please turn out the lights…