Bizarre Stories from Storm Lake Papers

by Tim Moyer, Senior History Major

I wanted to contribute to our class on Storm Lake history with an amusing blog post. Over the course of the year we have been looking through the various papers in town and the surrounding area for notable stories from 1880 to 1940. While doing that research, many of us have discovered some fairly strange stories. Some of these came from Storm Lake or the surrounding area, while others on national or international topics were run locally.

A story from 1890 found by Laurel Myers recounted the tale of John Cahoutic, a Scott County man, who claimed that he was being haunted. At night spirts rapped on his windows, stole his chickens, and other bothersome things. To combat this spirit, Cahoutic and John Bernard patrolled the property with guns. One night, Cahoutic thought he finally saw his tormentor and fired. Instead of a ghost, Cahoutic shot Bernard three times, twice in the arm and once in the abdomen.

Two stories dealt with prohibition. I found one from 1930 that involved the arrest of a Newell man, Soren Peterson, for possessing alcohol. Peterson had offered to sell (illegally) some alcohol to a police officer, Deputy Sheriff Roy Gaffin. Even as he was being arrested, Peterson asked what happened to a previous gentleman, who had asked him for alcohol. (This was Gaffin in disguise; Peterson had been thoroughly fooled.)

Piper Nicely found a story three years later describing the breakdown of how counties had voted on the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which showed, for the first time ever, Buena Vista County voting to become a wet county.

Another odd story I found, reporting news elsewhere in the state, was in 1909 when Charles Hickman smelled gas in newly-dedicated Bohemian Turner Hall in Cedar Rapids. When Hickman found the source of the smell–a stove–he (for some reason) lit a match. Guess what happened? Hickman was seriously burned as a result.

Also in 1909, in Davenport Township, Miss Johnson, whom the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune described as the “prettiest teacher in the township,” won a slander case against Harry Martin, winning $1 in the process. The story gives no indication why this specific amount was awarded to Miss Johnson, nor how she had been slandered.

Sam Sutton ran across a story from 1895 of residents, presumably of Dubuque, complaining that it had become nearly impossible to walk around town without the risk of being hit by a cyclist. “There is no place beneath Mrs. Partington’s ‘blue banister’ unless it be on the child-catcher of a trolley car, where the pedestrian is safe from the flying wheel.” Those are some strong words about cyclists, but as Sam mentioned in her note on the story, the feelings remain the same as we at Miami deal with errant cyclists and scooterists all the time on campus.

Caitlin Zawodny read a story in 1919 about the dangers of practical jokes. In Manson, the jokers dressed a dummy in white and suspended it with strings to make it a giant puppet, to scare their target. As a result, the man who was pranked went into convulsions. The article ended with a warning of the dangers of jokes like this one.

Joe Yeager found two stories, both in 1939. One was about a fisherman who had reeled in a bag of stolen items that a thief had thrown into the lake to evade capture. The second was about a farmer preparing to plant spring crops in a field and instead finding it covered in dead turtles. The turtles had died as a result of a flood that had just hit the area.

The last four stories take place beyond Iowa. The first was in Louisiana in 1909. Two men had bet how long a decapitated turtle head would stay alive. The man who claimed to have won the bet said he had guessed 24 hours. At the time of inquiry, it had lasted 25 hours, and the head appeared to continue to live, with opened eyes, trying to bite the other betting man. I have so many questions.

The other story I found was published in three consecutive issues of the Storm Lake Pilot in 1888. It told of a twice-married man from Austria, who had left his family and moved to New York, and who had married a third time. It wasn’t until his second wife came to visit did the trio realize that the man had married his daughter on accident.

Sam Sutton found another odd story where, in Cincinnati in 1895, a man discussed how he trained cockroaches to fight each other in a ring of sand.

The last nugget, found by Paida Hakutangwi in the 1900 papers, described an Englishwoman of Lincolnshire wading into lakes to “farm leeches,” by removing those that had attached themselves to their legs.

All of these stories struck those who found them as bizarre. We are left with more questions than answers.

Childhood in Storm Lake History

by Caitlin Zawodny, Sophomore Diplomacy and History Double-Major

Growing up, my favorite thing to do was explore. I would run around the grassy areas around my apartment building, pretending like I was an adventurer discovering an unknown area, a top secret agent saving the world, or a wizard at Hogwarts. My imagination guided my play; Clifford Estates in Guangzhou, China, was my playground. It was that community and environment that shaped so many of my beautiful childhood memories.

As our class delved deeper into the history of Storm Lake, I knew I wanted to focus on an often ignored aspect of history: children’s history. In these time periods and trends that we are studying, what role did children play? Focusing on the years 1898, 1919, and 1940, it was fascinating to see the multitude of organized opportunities for children in Storm Lake and in nearby towns, and how this differs from what children do today.

I believe as historians, it’s equally important to learn about church picnics, high school athletics, and local traditions, as it is to study dates and historical figures.

The most difficult year to research by far was 1898. Publications such as the Alta Advertiser and the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune did not report much about children’s organizations and recreational opportunities. One exception I found was published in the Alta Advertiser on June 10th, 1898. In Alta, the Methodist Episcopal and the Presbyterian Church celebrated “the Sabbath dedicated to the children” and had numerous festivities for children of the church: class songs sung by the children, activities for them to partake in, and recitations led by different classes. Donations raised during this event would be allocated towards young people who were unable to pay their own educational fees.

Like in 1898, in 1919 much of children’s recreational activities were centered around the church. On September 11, 1919, the Alta Advertiser published a notice alerting local parents of a Sunday school picnic open to all children of the church and their friends. They were encouraged to “fill up their lunch basket, and come for a good time. All kinds of games and sports were being provided.” That year also revealed the institutionalization of youth recreation as seen by the advancements and formations of clubs. On October 31, 1919, the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune reiterated “the value of clubs” and how they were necessary for introducing socialization and patriotism to future generations. These clubs were also meant to help fight against high illiteracy rates in the United States due to the impact WWI had on education.

Twenty-one years later, this advocacy for clubs comes to fruition with the Storm Lake community’s local Boy Scout troop being mentioned in the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune’s February 8, 1940, publication. February 4th to the 8th celebrated Boy Scout Week, and Storm Lake mayor, Bert Marchant, asked residents to rally around the local troop. The Scouts proved to be incredibly popular in Storm Lake, and saw the establishment of the Sea Scouts as well. The Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts gave Storm Lake boys an opportunity to learn valuable skills while having fun. Although there is no longer an active Sea Scouts presence in town, Troop 0103, Storm Lake’s local unit, still stands strong.

On Monday, March 28, 2022, our class had the honor of talking to Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, the president of Buena Vista University. One thing Dr. Lenzmeier mentioned that stood out was the community’s need for a recreation center, and how past attempts between Buena Vista University and the Storm Lake community to create a joint recreation center have failed. A recreation center would allow the public to come together as a community and practice skills, host events, and exercise. A strong sports culture already exists in Storm Lake, as seen by the SLHS boys soccer team aiming to make state this past season, or the passion and desire of the SLHS girls tennis team. Would the establishment of a recreation center create more opportunities for students in sports, especially starting at a younger age?

All of these topics centered around children and recreation originated from one question: what did people do in Storm Lake in the past, and what is there to do now? Sometimes when studying history, it is easy to focus on the past and forget about the present. And obviously, analyzing trends of clubs and activities for local youth in the nineteenth and twentieth century does not clearly reveal what the children and teenagers of Storm Lake do for fun today. When thinking about my childhood, I remember the local ice cream shop, the lake where we would rent out canoes and spend dry summer afternoons, and the best picnic spots in town. Often, these stories are the ones overshadowed in the news by more serious topics despite bearing equal value to me, personally (though I believe the Family and Friends section of the Storm Lake Times Pilot does a phenomenal job at highlighting these stories). I believe as historians, it’s equally important to learn about church picnics, high school athletics, and local traditions, as it is to study dates and historical figures.

These are the details that transform a town into a community.

Seeing the Everyday Superheroes

by Alex Dyer, Senior Political Science Major

“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if we could become something more. So that, when the time came, we could fight the battles that they never could.”

Nick Fury, The Avengers

While this quote is from the recent hit movie franchise starring Marvel superheroes, it could easily apply to the community coalitions that formed in response to challenges facing the Storm Lake community. While I may love cheesy superhero movies and special effects, there is also something to the idea that our stories reflect a bit of truth in everyday life. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to study the heroes of yesterday and today.

The old team was the trifecta of Mark Prosser, Bill Kruse, and Bob O’Brien, who dealt with the changing work force and expansion of non-English speaking education within Storm Lake Schools. Art Cullen describes “that Prosser, along with Bill Kruse, former superintendent of schools, and Bob O’Brien, then manager of IBP (later Tyson), formed a triumvirate of calm guidance that kept the lid from blowing off Storm Lake.”

While those three may not be as super-powered as Iron-Man, Captain America, or Thor, they brought a certain set of skills and networks to the table as they worked through a make-or-break time for the town. This took years of work. This progress also included setbacks and obstacles similar to any hero’s journey, for example the IBP raid of 1996, and by no means is the mission complete. All residents continue make personal decisions on a daily basis to improve the town for the better.

Our class has studied and written greatly on these changes, but we also have had the chance to speak with residents on the largest threat to the community over the past two years: Covid-19.

When the pandemic erupted, a new team of stakeholders had to meet and navigate the pandemic as the virus went through the meat packing plants. The coalition included figures like BVU President Brian Lenzmeier, Superintendent Stacy Cole, Chief of Police Chris Cole, and public health officials. Whether it was the sharing of spaces, like residence halls when hospitals were overflowing, or sharing knowledge on how the virus was spreading, the group of local actors informally met to problem-solve through a very dangerous time.

Dr. Kyle Glienke from The Storm Lake Times

Since then, Iowa has even named and embraced the hero mythology with the “Iowa Hospital Association Hospital Hero,” being given to Dr. Kyle Glienke and Dr. Garrett Feddersen for their service and “leadership in Storm Lake during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Maybe I’m overthinking as I cast regular folks as the superheroes in the drama of daily life. Maybe I’m overplaying the heroics of what is happening in Storm Lake. But I think a point of this class is to find the stories within history, and to connect our interviews with newspaper articles. This class is designed for us to find and showcase the interesting aspects of Storm Lake and then take those skills to other fields of study. I think there is something to be said that the heroes we create reflect ourselves. The people in Storm Lake might not fight evil scientists or stop incoming asteroids daily; but I sense a hero’s journey that occurs within everyday residents.

Dr. Whitlach, or “Doc,” brought in a great final piece to this heroic puzzle. Actually, he identified many heroes: the thousands of workers of town and their working in the face of adversity. Workers in the meat packing plant “were doing everything they could to keep the supply of meat heading to the grocery stores,” even when health risks became outright dangerous, as the numbers of cases rose and the number of closures trickled. Likewise, “anyone working in a hospital” demonstrated heroism when the limited resources and personnel put hospital staff in tough decisions and straining circumstances.

Buena Vista Regional Medical Center - Storm Lake, IA
Heroes at the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center

“It was bad everywhere, but in rural America, with sometimes limited medical personnel and limited resources, it was a strain on everyone.  Even at a big hospital like where my son is on the staff, it was an incredible strain on everyone,” he recently wrote to me. Combined with limited resources and “only… a couple of beds in ICU,” this meant that local medical officials needed to stretch themselves thinner and thinner as the pandemic progressed.

Doc’s point of highlighting the unnamed heroes of Storm Lake reinforces the idea that heroes can be anywhere and anyone, and you don’t need a special title or red cape to save the day.

Alex Dyer is a Political Science and Educational Studies student who greatly enjoys studying educational finance. Following graduation in May of 2022, Alex will be attending graduate school at John Carroll to pursue teaching in the social sciences and continue research on educational policy. Outside of classes, Alex is involved with Miami’s band as a saxophone player and plays broomball in his free time.

Researching My Midwest

by Rachel Mancuso, Junior History Major

Here in Ohio, people seem shocked when I tell them I am taking a class on Storm Lake. I start off by telling them the class is called “Researching Midwestern History,” and then I nod after they say, “That’s about as Midwestern as you can get.” Well, yes. Yes, it is.

So what are these “Midwestern” values that seem to get thrown about? For me, it’s about doing a favor for your neighbor. It’s about saying hi to the guy you saw yesterday that’s new in town, and giving a nod to someone driving by, even if you have never met them.

In one of my other classes this semester, we talked about how Americans have moved away from the “front porch” tradition and have slowly become more enclosed in their own homes. Now, let’s look at Storm Lake. From the other blog posts this semester, we have seen the community routinely reach out to one another and help. During COVID, one resident even went to nearby Lakeside to pass out some food. From interviews that I have conducted, as well as research from others, we have learned that Storm Lakers often have helped refugees.

One of the most significant ways in the recent past has been via the dual language program. When I spoke with Peter Steinfeld, former director of the school board, he said, “The idea that we had…about 5 years ago was to build that program slowly and add a grade each year.” This program has been many years in the making. In fact, it was so popular that parents were requesting more classrooms. The problem was that the SLCD did not have enough qualified teachers to provide for the rising demand. From a podcast with Stacey Cole in 2020, we learn that “the project-based program integrates reading, writing, science, and social studies, and allows students to engage in Spanish instruction 50-percent of the time, and English the other 50-percent. At least half of the students involved are those from Spanish-speaking households.” I would like to pause here to give Stacey Cole and her team props. This program was developed in the midst of COVID-19.

Let’s go back to the idea of “Midwestern.” When you think of a sleepy little small town in the rural Midwest, the typical image is white, with one type of family. Storm Lake obviously breaks this stereotype. Spanish is the first language spoken in the schools. As previous blog posts have discussed, Tyson and IBP before it have been a great pull for immigrants to the area. It has been amazing to learn about how the community grew with these immigrants. In a way, Storm Lake has echoed the history of Chicago. It grew stronger as its social environment changed.

So why did I take a class on Storm Lake? I love the Midwest. I grew up here, and I never want to leave. A class titled “Researching Midwestern History” seemed like fait accompli.

So why did I take a class on Storm Lake? I love the Midwest. I grew up here, and I never want to leave. A class titled “Researching Midwestern History” seemed like fait accompli. When I began to learn about Storm Lake, it reminded me so much of the town where my grandparents live—Othello, Washington. (But that’s another story.) As I cap off the semester with one of the last blog posts, I would like to list some of the things that I have learned throughout the class.

  1. Art Cullen is not Mark Twain reincarnated.
  2. When you are a part of a community, you help one another out.
  3. It is always good to welcome new people into your life.

Also: never underestimate the power of a newspaper in a small town. This has been consistently mentioned in my interviews as well as in other materials in class. If there’s one thing that I have learned, it’s that the Cullen family will always get the story out. Don’t worry—the town will always have a newspaper. Although it is now down to one, the legacy of the Pilot-Tribune lives on in the new Storm Lake Times Pilot. I believe that both papers share a true love of writing and journalism. The power of the pen lives on.

Rachel Mancuso is a junior History major from Cleveland, Ohio with an interest in Midwestern history. She plans on going to law school after college. She is also an intern with the Office of Institutional Relations on campus. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys reading, cooking, and hiking.

A Longer History of Refugee Support

by Hayden Uribes

When most of the residents of Storm Lake think of refugees, they no doubt think of the Hmong and Tai Dam who fled Southeast Asia following the Vietnam war. What they’re less likely to think of are Franco-Belgian refugees following WWI, Armenians, and victims of mid-century fascism. Yet those are all refugee groups whose fates have been tied to the citizens of Storm Lake. Today, the Hmong and Tai Dam of Storm Lake are a vital part of the town’s community, workforce, and business superstructure, and on some level it seems that the acceptance of these refugees may stem from a century-long tradition of support for refugee populations.

In 1914 German troops to marched through the sovereign state of Belgium, allowing the German Empire to invade its long time enemy, France, by bypassing its militarized border, leading to a series of atrocities commonly reffered to as the “Rape of Belgum.” This officially resulted in the death of over 5,520 people, with another 6,000 or so having been killed in unofficial mass shootings by lower level German Officers and over 120,000 Belgiuns being essentially enslaved in German factories. To the south, the German Empire’s allies, the Ottoman Empire, began a campaign of nationalist extermination against an ethnic and religious minority scattered throughout their empire known as Armenians. Numbers are hard to come by, as the Ottoman government is thought to have fudged the numbers, but commonly accepted numbers exceed a million casualties, and over 600,000 Armenians reduced to refugees.

While all of this was happening in the Old World, the citizens of the New World watched on with a combination of fear, disdain, and sympathy. While few refugees had ended up within the United States, a great many languished in refugee camps across Western Europe and the regions that make up modern day Turkey and Armenia. Fortunately, organizations like the Red Cross acted to provide these refugees with food, clothing, and other necessities to survive until the establishment of general peace in Eurasia, and the people of Storm Lake seem to have been happy to help.

We know Storm Lakers were amicable to helping these refugees mostly because of newspaper articles covering fundraisers. For instance, in a 1917 article in the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, a local Red Cross chapter led by “Mrs. Parish” requested donations of clothing, primarily meant for French and Belgium refugee children. In another Tribune article, the Methodist Episcopal Church is recorded as having donated funds to refugees from the Armenian genocide, and only about a year after it was created. Even decades later in the prelude to the Second World War, when Japanese forces were invading large chunks of China and committing war crimes on  a daily basis, there are articles in the Storm Lake Register calling for donations to support refugees of the conflict.

As these articles reveal, of course, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies in Storm Lake. There was some level of nativism. In the first article, for instance, the author claims that donations would be given to locals before foreign refugees. Regardless, in both cases there’s compassion shown to outsiders, people whom the citizens of Storm Lake had never met, and in most cases never would meet. That compassion seems to have survived to the present day.

On some level, there’s a tendency for historians discussing Storm Lake to begin its history of support for refugees in the eighties, but this aspect has been present for over a century, and is arguably a part of the town’s cultural tradition.

“They Come, They See and Go Away Conquered”

by Logan Kronstain, Senior History Major

As our research on Storm Lake reaches its end, many of the students have been hard at work making their final discoveries on the town, past and present. In my own work, I found a truly unique opinion column from nearly 140 years ago that reflects aspects of the town today.

The column, “They Come, They See and Go Away Conquered,” published on September 24, 1885, in the Storm Lake Pilot, is a tourist’s op-ed about the qualities of Buena Vista County. The author, “Tourist,” describes how easterners have an idea of the West that is not as grand as the reality found, and he sees Buena Vista County as unrecognized for its many qualities. He blames this on its obscure location, having only had a railroad for three years (as of 1885), but he highly describes the rich prairies in the area. Interestingly, the author agrees with a transplanted farmer from Illinois, who expected rural Iowa to resemble Illinois within a few years’ time. He predicts that, as the area grows, it will not lose its fundamentals and morals that make it such a special place.

Storm Lake in 1909, reflecting the tranquility of the anonymous tourist’s visit 24 years earlier.

I have found that, over the course of this project, the residents of Storm Lake today, while not necessarily having that verbatim outlook on the future of their county, do share that same optimism and faith in what lies in the town’s future.

For instance, I had the pleasure of interviewing the Reverend Dave Kebschull of St. Mark Lutheran Church last week. He provided a similar analysis of Storm Lake has had the “Tourist”; again, not in recognizing Buena Vista County as a farmer’s haven, but in expecting the town to hold on to its unique values and aspects that set it apart from most other towns in the nation.

I’m originally from the East Liverpool, Ohio, area, a small town situated on the banks of the Ohio River in Appalachia. The town was once dubbed the “Pottery Capital of the World” for the tens of pottery firms it once held and the massive industrial output it produced. If you’re familiar with Fiestaware, this is where it came from. But those days are long behind the people who still remain in East Liverpool, as the population has declined by more than 16,000 people since its peak in 1970. Today it has around 10,000 residents. 

In East Liverpool, you are lucky to find anyone who speaks so optimistically about the area. Whether it be the local economy, the condition of the roads, things to do, or most importantly, its future, there’s not a general air of positivity hanging over the former Crockery City. 

Examples of the Fiestaware product line, produced in the East Liverpool, Ohio area.

That’s not to say that there aren’t people who care for the town. The new mayor has worked hard to bring in new businesses, and just the other day, a downtown revitalization concept was drafted by an outside firm. 

However, it’s undeniable that many locals still see this as a dream rather than a reality. If the 1885 tourist had visited this town, he may have sung similar praises for it as he did for Buena Vista County. But today, they’ve gone down entirely different paths, which has resulted in this continued optimism for Storm Lake’s identity, while a crisis has formed in East Liverpool. One could argue that the community fabric in Storm Lake is stronger than ever. Community dialogues happen frequently as the town understands how immigration can be so important to a rural community.

I find it interesting that the aspect of Storm Lake’s relative obscurity despite its remarkable qualities is reflected both in 1885 and in 2022. Of course, Buena Vista County’s agricultural prowess was indeed realized after the tourist’s column, but it only recently has come under examination due to the Tyson plant birthed from that power, and the unique demography it brought. This particular project, however, has certainly reflected the unique aspect of the community members just the same as the tourist did all that time ago. As a diverse city of all sorts of backgrounds comes together to foster a safe community for all, another distressed small town such as East Liverpool could look upon the successes of Storm Lake and find optimism.

What would a tourist think of Storm Lake if they had visited today? Are the morals the same? Yes, I believe that Storm Lake is still holding on to its morals, even as they have undeniably have changed over the course of 140 years. Are the fundamentals still there? Of course, this rural town in Iowa still takes pride in its community fabric. Is it still such a special place? I don’t think you can question that, not one bit.

Logan Kronstain is a senior majoring in history. He is particularly interested in international geopolitics and geopolitical history, in addition to local history. After graduation, he plans to enter the workforce as a paralegal before a potential career in law. Logan is a member of the Miami University Pep Band, amongst other clubs, and enjoys visiting local parks.

The Wa Tan Ye Club

by Tim Bredemeier, Junior History Major

We all know that Storm Lake has a rich culture of service through its many clubs and groups. It also has a long history. Through my research this semester, I have come across one such organization, the “Wa Tan Ye Club” (WTY) founded in Mason City, Iowa, in 1921. (You may have heard of it from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. Willson was born in Mason City.) Its name apparently comes from that of a Native American leader of the Ioway Indians and translates as “One always foremost” (this according to George Catlin in the 1840s).

The original announcement as it appears in the Register

In Storm Lake, the first record of WTY comes in the Register of January 25, 1923. It was composed exclusively of women and was meant to promote them in business, as well as to advocate for women’s rights. The article explains that the club’s guiding principle is service to the community, and it speaks favorably of the women’s business organization. When flipping through old newspapers, an article like this instantly caught my eye. I had not expected to find an article, in a rural town like Storm Lake, on women in business following World War I. I decided to research more into the club in the following weeks. The short article in The Storm Lake Register is the first we had read of WTY, but it is far from the last, as the club wasted no time making friends and enemies within the community.

This devotion to service is exemplified through various activities covered by Register. The first of these community service events came three months after the club’s founding. The club donated to the juvenile library fund at the Storm Lake Public Library. An article makes note that this is the first substantial funding that the library had received. Clearly, the club was making its presence felt early on in its existence.

There are many incidents throughout the rest of 1923 that the Register and other newspapers cover where the library was able to purchase new wings, books, and other additions with the donation. It also participated in a fundraiser to place flags along the streets of town. Finally, it hosted the Rotary Club for a hotel luncheon.

WTY’s commitment to service as traced through the newspaper archives of 1923 shows a commonality with the community service organizations of today’s Storm Lake. One such example of this is SALUD!. It is an organization dedicated to diversity that promotes inclusive dialogue and leadership through its continued events and service. To say that SALUD! and WTY are exactly the same would be misleading. However, there are some interesting things to consider.

Let’s start with the similarities. First, both were groundbreaking organizations that challenged the status quo. In the case of WTY, it was a women’s business organization attempting to gain traction in a male dominated business world. It was conceived merely three years after women even received the right to vote. To say that they were swimming against the stream would be an understatement. WTY’s very creation was rejected by certain community members. One such example of this rejection came in The Storm Lake Register. In the article a female resident advocated for women to maintain their homemaker role in the man’s household. However, WTY’s creation allowed women in business to become a topic on the mind of Storm Lakers. One can only assume that through its various community service efforts, a dialogue began to emerge about the rights of women in Storm Lake. SALUD!, as you likely know, is also very involved in the community, as it attempts to create a dialogue of acceptance surrounding members of the Storm Lake community.

A picture from a SALUD! board meeting taken from

At the same time, WTY and SALUD! Have some glaring differences that need to be addressed. First, WTY likely gained its name from a band of Iowa Native Americans. Women in WTY chose to take the culture of the Natives and use it to their own image. This is the exact type of stereotyping that an organization like SALUD! would seek to dissolve through its service. (It’s also why the scene from The Music Man involving WTY has been removed or modified in recent productions.)

The problems of WTY and SALUD! are quite different. For WTY, library funds and Rotary luncheons were of the utmost importance. Through these donations and conversations with prominent men of Storm Lake, WTY was able to break down the barriers for women in the community. However, it’s less likely that you’d see SALUD! accomplishing its goals through raising funds for American flags like WTY did. (I could be wrong on this assumption.) Instead, SALUD! accomplishes its goals through anti-bias training, open conversations, and meeting basic social needs where gaps present themselves.

To say that these clubs are the same would be an overstatement. However, it certainly is clear to see how these two organizations grow from similar roots. The Wa Tan Ye Club, despite its shortcomings, was a groundbreaking effort in Storm Lake. As the community has grown, the challenges WTY faced have begun to be addressed. Thus we have seen a decline in its membership statewide. However, organizations like SALUD! have taken up that mantle in solving new problems that the city, state, and nation now face. As Storm Lake grows in its diversity, so too does its need for a powerful voice. SALUD!, like WTY, continues to create an environment for change.

Tim Bredemeier is a junior history and integrated social studies education major. He enjoys film and music as well as American and local history. He is a member of the Miami Council for the Social Studies and the Honors History Colloquium on campus. In his free time, you can find him in downtown Cincinnati at the local sports game or playing games with his friends. After graduation, he hopes to work as a high school social studies teacher or an archivist in Cincinnati.

From Farmland to Property Development: Multifamily Real Estate Needs in Storm Lake

by Sam Sutton, Senior Finance Major

For this post, I decided to step away from the usual topic of farming or immigration and discuss…real estate! How fun! Actually, as the only business major (finance) in our class, I do enjoy the thrilling world of housing, land value, and interest rates. What might Storm Lake reveal on these subjects? 

Recently, our class spoke with BVU President Dr. Brian Lenzmeier. In that discussion, one of my classmates asked if there was a particular issue that continues to frustrate him as president. President Lenzmeier singled out housing as the subject that especially frustrates his students (and, by extension, him). “Upperclassmen housing is not where it needs to be,” he said, noting that the market in Storm Lake is so tight that there is no apartment-style housing available. I researched and found that the university offers traditional campus housing and also a number of suites that house six persons per unit (3br, 3ba) for upperclassmen. While students are for the most part required to live on campus, there are many exceptions that make it likely for them to live off campus, too. 

This prompted me to look at the city’s housing trends and how the university affected them (and related industries). Storm Lake is a renters’ market. The percent of population in Storm Lake that rents housing is 48.3% while the national average is around 36%. So why has a developer, BVU alumnus, or even a community member not taken advantage of this opportunity in the market, especially with a generally hot real estate market?

Most people think about buying in the market today, especially with such low interest rates. According to, the median sold home price in Storm Lake was $170k while the national average in 2021 was $453k. This significant difference is most likely due to the types of homes in Storm Lake versus the U.S., along with other factors. Similar to real estate market trends, the Storm Lake market has increased through the Covid pandemic and hit an all-time high in Winter 2021-22.

As a sort of real-world test, I searched for available apartments to rent. I could only find about 10 units for rent online. According to a report from 2017 by Maxfield Research & Consulting, the rental housing vacancy rate in Storm Lake is around .5% while market equilibrium is 5%. Although this data is a few years old, the trends seem to be similar today as they were then. It confirms that there is a high demand for rental housing in the Storm Lake area. 

There is great opportunity in the Storm Lake renting market, especially with all of the industries in the area and new plants coming such as the Platinum Crush project, which is expected to create 51 jobs nearby. The U.S. Census Bureau reported Storm Lake’s population in 2020 was 11,300, which was a 6.3% increase from the decade before. (There are certainly many more undocumented residents.) With this new project, the 51 jobs created will increase the population by .5%, and it does not factor in the extra family members brought in with the new jobs, typically 2-4 people per job. 

When researching about talks of new housing developments in the area, I found a couple news articles on the development of single family homes. A 170-unit rental townhome community, Sunrise Pointe by Kading, is set to open this coming summer. However, there is obviously still a need for more rental housing, not only for college students, but for members of the working community as well.

The need for affordable housing has caught the attention of the city and has resulted in a $150,000 available grant for the creation of many different housing choices, including multi-residential and rental homes. On March 31, Storm Lake Radio reported that the City of Storm Lake is now accepting housing grant proposals, due in May. However, it seems that not only is the city trying to push for more housing developments, but also the state has taken an interest. Developers, such as the Kading Group, which is finishing the Sunrise Pointe community, have been asking for approval from the Iowa Economic Development Authority for workforce housing tax credits and tax abatements on multi-residential developments. These tax credits and abatements are great incentives for developers and have historically been used to stimulate new construction.

Why am I trying to promote more investment in Storm Lake multi-residential real estate? Other than these obvious “data driven” reasons to invest in a development in Storm Lake, there are also other reasons that make it a gem of a place to invest. The city is a diverse community of welcoming people and has great opportunities and programs such as the school district’s dual language program. With much of the county centered around Buena Vista University, Tyson Plants, the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, etc., it creates multitudes of stable jobs in the area. Finally, through all of our class interviews with former and current citizens of Storm Lake, the consensus is that it is a great place to live, raise a family, and perhaps even invest.

Sam Sutton is a senior from Bowling Green, Kentucky, majoring in Finance and minoring in Accounting and History. Outside of class, she is a part of the Miami University Varsity Swim team, is a member of the Asset Management Club, and she enjoys traveling and going to the lake. After graduation, Sam will be working at Fifth Third Bank in their Commercial and Credit Leadership Program. 

A Century of Algae Blooms

by Piper Nicely

I am a proud resident of Toledo, Ohio: the Glass City; home of Tony Packo’s, Libbey Glass, Jeep, and Corporal Maxwell Klinger from M*A*S*H. But if you look behind the historical buildings, quirky arts district, and beautiful waterfront, you can see that Toledo houses its own troubles, specifically with our water.

Downtown Toledo is located along the shores of Lake Erie, a lake that feeds into 31 different water treatment plants on Ohio’s North Coast. My family, like the majority of those living in Toledo, gets our water supply from this lake. But now, even eight years later, I still remember waking up to a note left on the faucet by my father, the words capitalized and underlined, warning me not to use the water.

On August 2nd, 2014, a highly toxic algae bloom took over Lake Erie, rendering its water unusable for over half a million people relying on it as their only source. Ohio declared a state of emergency, and within hours bottled water sold out in stores. The news ran stories showing the lime-green water of the lake, and the people of Toledo watched in shock as we were left without water for what seemed like an eternity.

Luckily, the order not to drink (or come into contact with) our water came to an end after three days, but the paranoia and public interest it caused would last for years.

Even though I was only 11-years-old at the time, the algae bloom has stuck with me. It is a topic that still horrifies and fascinates me after seeing what damage it can cause.

Now, in our class some time back, we read Art Cullen’s Storm Lake. In it, Cullen discusses algae blooms, even comparing the issue to the water crisis in Toledo. This immediately caught my interest, of course.

As it turns out, Lake Erie and Storm Lake have something in common when it comes to these polluting events: agricultural runoff.

Agricultural runoff is when water from farm fields enters bodies of water due to irrigation, erosion, rain, or snow. As the runoff flows, it can pick up natural and synthetic pollutants, depositing them into waterways and causing “overfeeding.” This takes place when nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon from fertilizers are brought into the water, creating a perfect environment for these harmful algae blooms.

We work with historical newspapers in this class, so I began digging into some of the archives, searching for any information I could find on algae blooms in Storm Lake to see how long this has been a problem. In my research, I found troubles with water pollution and algae spanning back to 1912. Seeing over a hundred years of environmental concern was absolutely mind boggling to me, and a lot of the information I found was alarmingly similar to what we hear today.

An article from a 1912 edition of the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune gives a sanitary analysis on the water of Storm Lake. The conclusion was less than good. State Chemist, C.N. Kinney, found “high organic content” in the water and stated that it is “alive with animal organisms as well as considerable algae.”

In a 1933 edition of the Storm Lake Register, there is an article devoted to the state conservation board meeting with citizens to discuss algae in Storm Lake, its causes, and its effects. Chief speaker of the evening, William Woodcock, a member of the board, brought up a few causes of the algae growing in Storm Lake. The first was sewage disposal, something that Toledo is also guilty of, where the city was emptying its sewage into the lake. This causes another unwanted spike of nutrients for the algae in the water, allowing it to grow out of control.

The second he mentioned was agricultural runoff, something to be expected with rural communities. The article reports that Woodcock “declared that washings from barnyards and soil erosion contribute to the pollution of the lake but that nature can handle that much contamination were it not for the sewage effluent which, he says, is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’”

But now nearly a century later, the camel’s back is far more than broken. It may even be beyond repair.

This has been a problem happening for so long, and yet it only continues to worsen with the onset of modern agriculture. Industrial farms and mass agriculture are exacerbating this problem more than ever. The runoff from fertilizer used to produce large crop harvests, or the waste from mass cattle, pig, or poultry farms, is far more than our waterways can handle. We see one crisis happening after another, from algae blooms making our water toxic and undrinkable to the onset of invasive species that harm the local ecosystem even more. Both Lake Erie and Storm Lake have had to deal with an increased amount of zebra mussels, a creature that disrupts our local ecosystems and harms native species.

In the grand scheme of things, there is no simple fix. Solutions like dredging and planting cover crops are expensive and stand little chance against decades of pollution. For now, though, we can only take small steps: planting the cover crops we can afford, looking into the treatment of our waste and the chemicals in the fertilizers we use, and bringing awareness of the situation to communities struggling with algae blooms and other damaging effects of water pollution.

Cullen’s recent editorial, “The River is Dead,” has a haunting message. But he’s right. It is hard to look at the world around us and see any positives coming from our current environmental situation. Whether it be growing up in a city where, at any moment, your water supply could become poisonous, or watching the slow decline of your local lake due to pollution, we all feel the effects.

And this is not a new problem. Storm Lake has been dealing with algae blooms for over a century. If it really were a problem people wanted to solve in 1912, then it wouldn’t be a problem we need to solve today. What will future generations say of ours?

Storm Lake and Lake Erie are central to our local community cultures. Both Toledoans and Storm Lakers have seen firsthand the devastating effects pollution and algae blooms can have on our waterways. It is a problem spanning centuries with no simple solutions or quick fixes.

Now is the time to look for bold long-term solutions, to look for ways to help our waterways so that, a century from now, those looking back on our newspapers will no longer see our problems reflected in their world.

Piper Nicely is a freshman journalism and creative writing major from Toledo, Ohio, with interests in cultural studies, politics, and environmentalism. Outside of class, she is involved in Miami’s League of Geeks as a member of the Role Playing Guild and enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with friends and family.

Advertising hardship, then and now

by Gina Roth
Freshman Journalism Major

Our job as students in this research seminar on Storm Lake, in part, is to digitally dig through old newspaper archives from Buena Vista County. As a collaborative project, each of us students is responsible for specific years between 1880 and 1940. I started my work focusing on 1893.

As I pored over digitally scanned pages of the Alta Advertiser, I searched for information on farming, interpersonal relationships, and immigration…something that I could compare to life in town today, to create some sort of trend line of events. I began noticing a pattern of what seemed to be strange behavior. The Advertisements.

In my own life, I have seen oodles of ads, likely millions in my 18 years. But these that I saw in the archives felt off-putting, even non-capitalistic. These ads were begging for shoppers.

This ad (to the right) was mind boggling to me. “We hope all who owe us will make payment as soon as possible” nearly reads as a threat, and the fact that the ad opens with an admission of struggle? It didn’t read like anything I had seen before.

At first I brushed this off as just a struggling shop from, oh, hundreds of years ago, but then I started finding more ads, and from different places. Though none were as up front in their struggles as this Brown Bros ad, they still fit the same profile. There was a woman offering her goods in exchange for chickens and bread, saying that she couldn’t afford to keep the store open any longer. There were stores posting their closing notices. These were businesses clearly struggling to stay open. 

You don’t really expect businesses to advertise hardships, especially going as far as admitting to a floundering bottom line. Intrigued by this, I decided to cosplay as a business-school student and look up good advertising practices online, to understand this article. One of the first things that came up was to “create positive associations.” Hm. That advertisement didn’t seem very positive.

As someone who greatly prefers ancient history to modern history, I didn’t really know the reason for this behavior. Until I showed Dr. Offenburger my discovery, and he just nonchalantly threw out, “Well 1893 was a depression year, so…”

Yeah, I probably should have thought of that.

But now I had a starting point, the beginning of the trail that I could follow back to modern America.

There have been 24 recessions, depressions, and panics since the Panic of 1893, spanning one to ten years each. It should come to no surprise to anyone that we are currently in the Covid-19 recession.

So, the next question: are small businesses handling this economic hardship in a similar way or not? 

Turns out I didn’t have to look very far for my answer. As I was scrolling through Instagram recently, this ad (right) came up in my feed, almost miraculously.

Is this ad exactly like the Brown Bro’s ad of 1893? Of course not, however the overall effect of the ad is similar. The point of both pieces is to make the consumer feel sorry for the business and appreciate its sacrifice in providing good service.

But were the businessmen making these strange ads in 1893 really desperate, or were they ahead of their time?

I can only conclude two things:

  1. From old newspapers to new social media, eerie similarities in economic recessions reverberate; and
  2. Whether history repeats itself or not, I should not go into advertising.

Gina Roth is a freshman majoring in journalism and individualized studies. She likes to focus her second major on researching underrepresented voices in history, just like the voices of Storm Lake. She also enjoys painting, drawing, writing, and getting lost in the forest.