Last week I reminisced about the beginnings of The Iowan magazine and the place it has in my heart. It started in Shenandoah in 1952 and is still published today. As I thought about its early days, I got in touch with several dear friends who were involved in The Iowan’s history.
Chuck Offenburger, who now lives near Jefferson, Iowa, with his wife Carla, is one. Chuck was part of the large Offenburger family in Shenandoah, and several members of the family worked for the Evening Sentinel newspaper as sportswriters while they were in high school. Chuck’s older brother Tom, one of those sportswriters, spent a summer or two of his college years writing for early editions of The Iowan. Tom went on to a career in journalism, including service as press secretary to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., during the last three years of King’s life.
Chuck well remembers the beginning of The Iowan, and watched as it grew and developed through the years. He wrote for the magazine from 1998 into the early 2000s, after he left his long-time position as a feature columnist for the Des Moines Register.
“The Archie family of my hometown of Shenandoah made a major investment in Iowa life and culture when they founded The Iowan back in the early 1950s,” Chuck said. “David Archie had come home from Princeton, and he became the young editor of the start-up magazine. He gave its coverage a spin toward culture, art, history, business and higher education – and those were all important parts of life in the state that weren’t receiving regular statewide media coverage then.
Chuck continued, “Over the decades, The Iowan has had a great tradition of commissioning some of the leading writers and reporters of Iowa to do stories. And maybe even more memorable, they introduced top-quality color photography, which had been very rarely used in publications in Iowa before The Iowan started up. Plus, the editing has been top-notch. So that magazine has a very strong legacy as it approaches its 65th anniversary.”
Another of my good friends is Blaine Barton, a long-time photographer in Shenandoah and an early photographer for The Iowan.
From nearby Fairfax, Missouri, Blaine had followed his interest in photography through military service. After his discharge, he came to Shenandoah and spent some time working with Stern Studio. That led to him also working for The Iowan.
Blaine reminded me that the basement of the Evening Sentinel housed equipment for processing photographs and getting them ready for publication. The Iowan used many photographs of interesting areas in the state of Iowa, and from the beginning publisher David Archie wanted many of these to be in color. Most pictures in publications in that time were still black and white.
Blaine would make four copies of each negative of a photograph and take them to a company in Pella, Iowa, to be treated with different dyes and chemicals that would create a color negative. That would be returned to Shenandoah and used in publishing the color photographs in the magazine.
"The Iowan magazine is a great thing and I think every state should have one,” Blaine says as he thinks back over the decades the magazine has appeared. “The pictures and colors are fantastic. The whole magazine is well done."
The last time I saw David Archie was in 1980. By then, he had moved his headquarters for The Iowan from Shenandoah to Des Moines. He asked me to come and speak to a gathering of The Iowan’s boosters.
Early in the afternoon that day, David and his wife greeted my husband Robert and me at their home on the west side of Des Moines where we had tea and great conversation. Then they took us to The Embassy Club in downtown Des Moines for dinner, a delightful meal featuring wonderful conversations about days gone by.
We then drove to the downtown Des Moines library, a beautiful building on the banks of the Des Moines River. The old building featured stained glass windows picturing flowers, grains, and happy people. Marble floors were arranged in decorative patterns. A central atrium lifted up to a balcony in the second floor that at one end of this balcony was a large meeting room filling that evening with friends of The Iowan.
David introduced me. I love telling the story about how David came to Shenandoah and how he made his dream come true with the creation of The Iowan. It was a memorable evening and was one of the high experiences in my life.
David Archie died in January of 1997, still in Des Moines. The Iowan has continued to thrive. Ownership of the magazine has changed hands over the years, from the Archie family to Mid-America Publishing, to Pioneer Communications, and now to Heuss Printing Inc., in Ames. Each company has maintained the high standards and excellent reporting that has been a hallmark of The Iowan through the decades. I know that Shenandoah’s office David Archie would be proud.
Autumn in Iowa is apple time! I love making fried apples with freshly-picked apples from Mincer’s Orchard, located at the entrance to Waubonsie State Park south of Sidney.
8 large cooking apples
½ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Wash and slice apples into ¼-inch rounds. Melt butter in skillet. Add apples and half of the sugar, and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until apples are tender. Sprinkle cinnamon, salt and remaining sugar over top of apples and mix well. Cook over medium heat for an additional 5 minutes. Serve.