Category Archives: Town Sign Project

The Town Sign Project Vol. 6

On Saturday I decided to look for Town Signs for THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT in the Story County area. Here is what I was able to track down:


Roland, Iowa
Roland, Iowa

McCallsburg, Iowa
McCallsburg, Iowa

Zearing, Iowa
Zearing, Iowa

St. Anthony, Iowa
St. Anthony, Iowa

Bangor, Iowa
Bangor, Iowa

Clemons, Iowa
Clemons, Iowa

State Center, Iowa
State Center, Iowa

Colo, Iowa
Colo, Iowa

Collins, Iowa
Collins, Iowa

Maxwell, Iowa
Maxwell, Iowa

Cambridge, Iowa
Cambridge, Iowa

Zook Spur, Iowa
Zook Spur, Iowa

Xenia, Iowa
Xenia, Iowa

A few things of note from this collection:

Roland has a “nicer sign” than the Roland Rocket sign, but if you think I’m going to choose a nice sign over a sign that celebrates one of the greatest Cyclones of all-time, you don’t know where you are.


Roland Town Sign
Velkommen to Not Making the Cut Sign!

Zearing used to have a sweet sign:


Zearing, Iowa

Then they replaced it with the lameness that is their current sign. This is the worst sequel since GREASE 2.

Bangor isn’t a town. I’d say it is a place where an agriculture company stores trucks and a park with a creepy swing set.


Abandoned

I literally couldn’t find anything that said Bangor. There were the remains of a sign post that may have held a sign at one time in the park. There is a Bangor church and cemetery just outside of what I would consider Bangor.


Bangor Friends Cemetery

I just can’t figure out why there are several signs directing people to Bangor, but nothing telling you that you are in Bangor. I don’t know another unincorporated town that gets that much love!

Zook Spur and Xenia are both ghost towns. The best way to describe them is that there are maybe 3 or 4 houses that are closer together than is normally the case in the country. Zook Spur is just south of Madrid. Xenia is just east of Woodward. I wish somebody cared about Jordan enough to put a sign up around there. Unfortunately, Jordan wasn’t too tough to not die.

I don’t know that I’ll have time to go sign hunting again this weekend. I start a bunch of consecutive weekends of graduations and birthday parties and more graduations and Mother’s Days this weekend. But we’ll see. We will see.

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When I road trip on SaturdayS I listen to NPR. If you’ve spent time in a car with me on a Saturday morning, you already know this fact.

If you know that fact, you also know that one of the purposes of this here blog is for me to store things that inspire me, so that I can reference them again at a later date. Sort of an online idea box.

While I was cruising around the back roads of Story County (I was desperately looking for a Bangor sign) I was listening to the conclusion of THIS AMERICAN LIFE. The episode began with the story of a group of students of color, mostly black, that were painted as anti-Semitic by the media after a field trip to see SCHINDLER’S LIST went awry.

While this story was fascinating and scary, it isn’t the story that hit home hardest with me. That was the last story of the show.

The last story of the show was about the experience of a man, who’s sister was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, visiting the 9/11 Memorial a few days before it opened to the general public.

Part of it I found really poignant and I think it will strike a chord with anybody that he been through tragedy, which means pretty much everybody.

I think now of every war memorial I ever yawned through on a class trip, how someone else’s past horror was my vacant diversion. And maybe I learned something, but I didn’t feel anything. Everyone should have a museum dedicated to the worst day of their life and be forced to attend it with a bunch of tourists from Denmark– annotated divorce papers blown up and mounted, interactive exhibits detailing how your mom’s last round of chemo didn’t take, souvenir T-shirts emblazoned with your best friend’s last words before the car crash. And you should have to see for yourself how little your pain matters to a family of five who just need to get some food before the kids melt down. Or maybe worse, watch that pain be co-opted by people who want, for whatever reason, to feel that connection so acutely.

There are three recording booths for people to tell their own stories of the day or remembrances of loved ones who were lost. A man exits one of the confessionals, sees me, shakes his head and says, “Amazing idea.” I enter, sit down, and stare at the screen and say Shari’s name and how I was 3,000 miles away that morning and didn’t even know she was working there until I got the call at 6:00 AM, and that I wish I had seen her more in those last years and remembered more about her and had something better prepared to say, and that I wished my kids would have known her, and that she’d think it’s pretty f*cking weird that I’m here talking about her to an invisible camera in the bowels of a museum dedicated to the fact that she was killed by an airplane while sitting at her desk. And at some point, the timer is up.

When this story was over, I just sat in my car. In Bangor, Iowa. Realizing that the way I look at certain museums has been changed forever.

The Town Sign Project: Vol 5

On Friday and Saturday of last week I did a little bit of Town Sign harvesting. The full story will follow the new signs, but I’ll just say that I on both trips I made some (by my standards) pretty cool discoveries.


Elkhart, Iowa
Elkhart, Iowa

Huxley, Iowa
Huxley, Iowa

Cooper, Iowa
Cooper, Iowa

Jamaica, Iowa
Jamaica, Iowa

Dawson, Iowa
Dawson, Iowa

Angus, Iowa
Angus, Iowa

Rippey, Iowa
Rippey, Iowa

Berkley, Iowa
Berkley, Iowa

On Friday after I clocked out and put down my axe at the Computer Mine I traveled down to Rocket Fizz in Ankeny. I have been in Elizabeth’s debt for something like 4 months. I have owed her 2 Pepsi’s in glass bottles. My usual source in Boone has dried up lately, so decided it was best I get to Ankeny’s leading proprietor of craft sodas to end this problem.

On my way back to Boone, I swung through Elkhart to harvest their town sign. Until Friday, the only thing I knew about Elkhart was it was the home of this gross dude I knew from my ill-fated time in the Jaycees. After my trip on Friday, now I know that and that some person has a working pop machine in their front yard:


Dr. Pepper

Based on its (ahem) rustic appearance I didn’t throw any money into it, but I believe it works because the sign attached to the front reads:

If you have any problems with this (unintelligible word) please call (redacted) or come to the door. Money or pop will be refunded.

Some day, I will save up my quarters and give this machine a shot.

I have nothing really to say about going through Huxley. It is a speed trap masquerading as a town. The only reason I acknowledge its existence is because the Baier fam lives there.

I had an eventful Saturday morning, but I’ll leave those events for a future entry in An Artist’s Notebook. It will be sufficient to say that I met Teresa and Mom in Jefferson at A&W for lunch. After we parted way, I headed south to see what I could see.

The first town I came across was Cooper. Cooper doesn’t have what I would call a conventional town sign, so I snapped a picture of the sign that welcomes people to Cooper on the bike trail that cuts through town. I really enjoyed cooper, mainly because of this sign:


Government - Alternate

Cooper really seems to have a sense of humor. According to the census, they are down to more like 30 citizens now.

The other town I really want to point out is Angus. Angus is a ghost town now. Only, as near as I can tell, the only thing left of it is a cemetery a sign and marker that reads:

Whiskey Row in Angus

In the 1860s, when Angus had a population of about 7800, sixteen saloons were on this road which is the Greene-Boone County line. Several of the bar rooms were centered on the county line, hence in case of trouble patrons could move from one side of the barrom to the other side and avoid arrest by the officers of the first county.

Although Angus once had almost 8,000 citizens, within 100 years it was completely gone.

Reminder, you can look at all the THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT pictures by clicking on the link below:

THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT

I hope to be on the prowl for more signs this weekend!

The Town Sign Project: Vol. 4

On Saturday I took a small road trip west of Boone to collect some more signs for the TOWN SIGN PROJECT. Here is what I got:


Ogden, Iowa
Ogden, Iowa

Beaver, Iowa
Beaver, Iowa

Grand Junction, Iowa
Grand Junction, Iowa

Churdan, Iowa
Churdan, Iowa

Jefferson, Iowa
Jefferson, Iowa

Paton, Iowa
Paton, Iowa

Dana, Iowa
Dana, Iowa

Alleman, Iowa
Alleman, Iowa

Full disclosure, the Alleman sign picture wasn’t taken on Saturday. It was taken a long time ago and I never posted it.

Fun Facts

Ogden has no affiliation with Thornton Wilder. (I’m hoping at least one person is sitting at their computer and giving that joke a slow clap. I’m hoping at least two people are Googling Thornton Wilder right now.)

If you had ever been to Beaver, you would know why they lack the civic pride to put up a real sign. Which is kind of sad because you could do a million fun signs with a name like Beaver. I have it on good authority that trains have to slow down when passing through Beaver, otherwise the 2 buildings in town that haven’t fall over… will fall over. After my post last week comparing Garden City’s creepy horror movie vibe to Beaver’s I was approached by Michelle and Elizabeth. Michelle badly wants to visit Beaver. Even after I shared with her some of the horrifying images from my old photo project “The Beaver Machete Massacre”, she still wants to visit it. Elizabeth has actually been to Beaver, but the trip scared her children badly. They continue to have nightmares and their future therapy bills will be monstrous. While I was in Beaver, I did have a truck follow me around the town. Maybe the Beaver sign should read:

“Beaver, You’re Not Welcome – The Opposite of Small Town Hospitality”

Out of this collection I like Grand Junctions sign the most. Jefferson’s the least. Jefferson is obviously missing a golden opportunity by not having a picture of their fuzz blasting cats. I suppose now that they aren’t going all Rambo on their feral cat population, it is a lost opportunity.

But imagine a picture of Clint Eastwood holding a .44 Magnum on a criminal cat. Then the words over it:

“Welcome to Jefferson – Go Ahead. Make Our Day”

I was actually impressed by Churdan. They had quite a bit of photogenic things in that little town.

Paton has a nice and boring “Welcome to Paton” next to their “business district”. It has a scrolling message board and everything. Boring.

Dana is what Beaver should strive to be, if Beaver had any kind of pride at all. I mean any pride at all!

The Town Sign Project: Vol. 3

On my recent sojourn to Marshalltown, I was able to collect a few more signs for the TOWN SIGN PROJECT.


Mackey, Iowa
Mackey, Iowa

Story City, Iowa
Story City, Iowa

Randall, Iowa
Randall, Iowa

Jewell, Iowa
Jewell, Iowa

Radcliffe, Iowa
Radcliffe, Iowa

Garden City, Iowa
Garden City, Iowa

Gilbert, Iowa
Gilbert, Iowa (Side 1)

Gilbert, Iowa
Gilbert, Iowa (Side 2)

Most towns have multiple town signs. I only pick one for the project. For example, Story City has a couple nice, brand new looking signs. BORING! I almost fell asleep looking at them and I was driving at the time. I’m sure I’m not able to find all of the town signs in the towns I’m tooling through. My preference is old decrepit signs like the Garden City sign.

I should point out that Mackey isn’t really even a town any longer, but somebody put up a sign to mark where it used to be. I’m not above photographing town signs for towns that don’t exist any longer. I’m looking forward to my dance with the Zook Spur sign at some point in the near future.

You can review other signs that I’ve harvested for this project by clicking on the link below:

TOWN SIGN PROJECT

I hope to more than double the current number in the next month or so.

NOTE: The Gilbert sign was taken on a different road trip.

I’m Not Complaining, I’m Just Being Honest, I Promise That I Will Not Beg for Respect, No!

The world was not ready for these ROAD TRIP pictures on Monday. It is highly doubtful that the world is ready for these ROAD TRIP pictures now, but I can’t hold them back any longer.


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This is not an endorsement of Rick Young for Hardin County Supervisor, although he has a sweet website.

I took a little ROAD TRIP on Saturday on the way to Marshalltown to meet some fellow miners for supper. On the way there I decided to head north a little bit before heading east and to pursue some signs for THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT.

I left Boone and went through the remains of Mackey. Took a few moments in Story City before heading north and spending quite a bit of time in the fascinating town of Randall. One of the fascinating things I found in Randall was the Dodge truck. I find it fascinating that on the hood ornament was the Star of David. I wonder when they took the religious symbol out of their marketing.

I looked into this and found the following:

1. The Dodge brothers were not Jewish. It is not a Star of David.
2. But nobody seems to know what it means. It might represent the Greek letter delta or it might be a masonic symbol or it might have to do with medieval mysticism.
3. It was not done to taunt Henry Ford, who was a noted anti-Semite as has often been theorized.
4. They symbol disappeared from Dodge cars when the 1939 model was introduced. Hmmm… what was going on in the world in 1939.
5. The Dodge brothers both died in 1920 as victims of the influenza epidemic of that year. They took the truth of the symbol with them to their graves.

Here endeth the lesson.

The small world picture is of Randall. From Randall I headed north. I stopped briefly at Little Wall Lake to take a couple of self-portraits. I also took a couple lake pictures, but they did not please me.

After Little Wall Lake, I spent a few minutes cruising Jewell. Just to the east of the Jewell town signing (heading north of 69) is the fascinating remains of the animal sculptures. They’ve sadly fallen into a degree of disrepair. I could analyze this piece of of art for days.

It feels like the kind of tableau that should be in any respectable roadside curiosity book about the great Cyclone State!

There are a few more images from this ROAD TRIP in the hopper. You’re welcome America!

The Town Sign Project Vol. 2

I haven’t made much progress on THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT lately. A disturbing amount of towns don’t have signs. That lack of town pride disappoints me. Gets me right in the feels. The negative feels. Here are 7 more town signs that I have reaped in recent weeks:


Bouton, Iowa
Bouton

Woodward, Iowa
Woodward

Leon, Iowa
Leon

Osceola, Iowa
Osceola

Kelly, Iowa
Kelley

Sheldahl, Iowa
Sheldahl

Slater, Iowa
Slater

Obviously Sheldahl has the best sign out of this collection.

Jesse assisted on a couple of these signs.

Introducing… The Town Sign Project!

Because I don’t have enough photo projects going on I have recently decided to start a new photo project. It is a project that I have started in the past and then quit. n

Maybe I’m like Hollywood and I’m out of ideas, so I just reboot old ideas? Maybe I just never gave this idea its proper attention. Who knows? We’ll see if I make good on it.

This idea is mostly influenced by an old Welcome to Boone sign that I remember from youth. It had a man catching a fish on it. It could also be 100% a false memory. But my dream is to some day make a self-published coffee table book that nobody will buy. Dream big, I say.

Jay, Willy, and Joe were photo assistants at various parts of these photos. Well maybe not Jay. Pretty sure he was asleep in the bacxkseat.

Here are the first few signs I have photographed:


Pilot Mound, Iowa

Dayton, Iowa

Harcourt, Iowa

Boxholm, Iowa

Keystone, Iowa

Newhall, Iowa

Atkins, Iowa

Scotch Grove, Iowa

Stanhope, Iowa

As with many photo projects, it isn’t until I get back and start editing and curating images that I realize what style I think fits my vision for this project. Now that I’ve seen what I think works, I may have to go back and photograph some of these signs again.

I will also add that if you come across an interesting sign, text me a picture. I need my scouts everywhere.

What is interesting to me? I’m sure you’ve picked up on what I like by now. I like decrepit and falling apart. Or I like funny. Or I like original. Classy doesn’t really work for me. I’ve never been on too good of terms with classy.

For example, the nice stone signs on US30 as you enter Boone do nothing for me. The ugly sign on the corner of US30 and South Story Street is better. Although still pretty lame.

You have your assignment. Start lighting up my phone!