A Brief Visit to Iowa

September 21, 2015

A Brief Visit to Iowa

In Winterset, Iowa, I stand in front of the covered bridge,
featured in the movie The Bridges of Madison County.

I grew up in Iowa, a child of the midwest. Although, my mailing address has not been in the zip code of the “tall corn state” for decades (…more on the reason for that here.), a part of me remains an Iowan at heart. (To read an earlier Iowa post, click here.)


In fact, while growing up, my four children considered my, almost involuntary, urge to utter a simple “hi” to all I encountered, a bit strange (among other things  :o)). It was not long after our daughter began her college career at Iowa State University, that she called me one day exclaiming, “I get it now! The way you act, is the way people just ARE in Iowa!”

Recently, returning and gazing upon the agrarian tapestry of a landscape, I felt an inexplicable sense of calm. I always enjoy all that my home state has to offer, and this brief visit did not disappoint.


The Visit
It would be a quick two day visit to Iowa. Dale and I headed to the center of the state
to see my mom.

My mom taking a well-deserved break from the day’s cooking.

Carefully planning out how our time together would be spent, first on the list was a family get-together with aunts, uncles and cousins. My mom, an excellent cook, prepared a tasty chicken recipe (the recipe is included below) and yummies.  My Aunt Liz, also an excellent cook, prepared delicious pies for the feast.(See the recipe for one of those pies below.) It was a nice evening of food and family fun.


Aunt Liz, the artist of pies!

John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Winterset
Nothing says Hollywood quite like Winterset, Iowa. Yes, that’s right, I said Winterset, Iowa!  Winterset is the birthplace of “The Duke”, John Wayne. Winterset is also the setting for the 1995 film, The Bridges of Madison County (Read more about that here), and had town locations used in scenes for the 1971 movie Cold Turkey (Read my earlier blog post about my Cold Turkey connection here, and about all of this movie’s locations here.)

Winterset, Iowa’s pretty town square

The John Wayne Birthplace Museum
I loved our visit to the John Wayne Museum!
It was a treasure trove of John Wayne’s personal items and movie memorabilia.

This impressive sculpture, donated to the museum by the Wayne family, stands outside of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum.

A museum plaque proudly proclaims the only John Wayne museum in the world. 

Museum tickets serve as our admission to John Wayne fun.

A self-guided tour at the museum began with a short film highlighting
John Wayne’s movies. Wayne made over 175 films during his
Hollywood career.

To read more on John Wayne and his career, click here and here.

I fell in love with this beautiful Andy Warhol print of John Wayne
hanging in the 

An interesting museum item was John Wayne’s customized
1972 Pontiac station wagon.
The car’s roof and the doors were manufactured a bit taller than the standard height, for 6-foot-4-inch Wayne.

To read more about the car’s addition to the museum, read here.

Dale and I stand near a “wax” John Wayne with my mom and uncle.

Amusingly, John Wayne’s address/phone book includes Ronald Reagan’s California information listed on the the same page as the
washing machine repairman. 

My Very Most Favorite John Wayne Films,
Listed in Order and Shown From My Private DVD Collection
Of the 175+* John Wayne films, I have my favorites, and then  I have my very most favorites. Seeing some of the props and costumes from these faves at the museum was great fun.
*(The exact number varies from 140-250, according to the source. Among his early films , John Wayne was a singing cowboy called Singin’ Sandy Saunders!)

The Quiet Man (1952)


McLintock! (1963)


Hatari! (1962)


Donovan’s Reef (1963)


North to Alaska (1960)


Hellfighters (1968)


And let me add, although not a movie, the classic TV episode from
I Love Lucy
“Lucy and John Wayne”
Season 5, Episode 2


For a list of most John Wayne movies, and a brief synopsis, click here.

 The Quiet Man
The Quiet Man is the favoritest (my own creative word choice) of my most favorite John Wayne movies. So much so, that a couple of years ago Dale and I traveled to Ireland to see for ourselves the Ireland of director’s John Ford’s vision, as seen in The Quiet Man. (You can read about that trip’s beginnings here.) It was a treat to view a special corner of the museum dedicated to this outstanding movie.

Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne’s friend and co-star in five films, including The Quiet Man, is listed as a distinguished benefactor of the museum.
O’Hara spoke at the museum in 2013.  


A movie poster for The Quiet Man hangs high on the museum wall.

The Quiet Man statue, featuring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, at the museum has a larger “cousin” in Cong, Ireland.  Cong served as the location site for the film.

To see The Quiet Man statue in its full-size form, and read about my
Quiet Man trip to Ireland, click here.



The jacket in the center above, with the shoulder patch, was worn in the
John Wayne film Hatari!, filmed in Africa.
In addition to being a fun script, the scenery and wildlife in Hatari! make this film always enjoyable to watch.

Houston, one of the locations used in the film, Hellfighters, was my home for sixteen years, adding a special personal connection to an already entertaining film.  John Wayne’s character in this movie was based on Houston’s real-life oil well fighter, Red Adair.


This red hard hat was worn by John Wayne in the Hellfighters.

One day, while living in Houston in the early 1990’s, I was in line at the grocery store.  In front of me was an elderly man, short in stature, speaking jokingly to the cashier; a real character, to be sure, with a twinkle in his eye. I thought he looked vaguely familiar. When he had left, and I took my turn with my groceries, I quietly asked the cashier about his last customer.  The cashier said that he was a frequent customer, Red Adair. Of course, I replied, as I had seen photos of him in the newspaper. I could not help chuckling to myself, thinking of the considerable height difference between Mr. Adair and John Wayne, who portrayed him in Hellfighters. :o)


Red Adair (second from the left) stands next to John Wayne during the making of Hellfighters in 1968.
This photo is from the NY Times article, here.
To read an article on Red Adair, click  here.



This letter was written by Lucille Ball in 1981 to celebrate the opening of John Wayne’s birthplace and early boyhood home. This house is just around the corner from the museum, and is featured below.

To watch the funny I Love Lucy-Lucy and John Wayne episode, click here.

John Wayne’s Birthplace and Early Boyhood Home


John Wayne was born in 1907, in this neat little house as
Marion Robert Morrison.
He was 13 pounds at birth, and delivered by a female doctor.


A photo of a young Marion Morrison (John Wayne) above, with his younger brother, mother, and father. A young Morrison took his nickname Duke from the name of his family’s Airedale, standing next to him in this picture.
This Morrison Family portrait was taken during their relatively short time attempting to farm in Mojave Desert in California.
Note the guns around his parent’s waists, used as protection against poisonous snakes.

The Morrison Family Kitchen

For more information about the new John Wayne Birthplace Museum, click herehere and for articles on the museum click here and here.

To view an interesting John Wayne biography, click here.

For fun John Wayne trivia, click here.

Clint Eastwood was here!
Upon finishing our enjoyable self-guided tour at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, I asked one of the museum staff for a good place to eat in Winterset.  She recommended
The Northside Cafe, and told me to be sure to sit on the fourth stool from the front, as that is the exact spot where Clint Eastwood once sat. I was convinced!

I was excited to be in front of Winterset’s Northside Cafe



I sit on the fourth seat from the door, the exact same one that Clint Eastwood sat on in the 1995 movie The Bridges of Madison County!
Okay, so I am not a big fan of the film, but it is still fun to check out the
movie’s locations.
I also met a man sitting on the stool next to me who met his Maryland wife while he was stationed in the Army in 1973!

I enjoyed the Iowa Tenderloin at Northside Cafe!,

I take in the beauty of the Roseman Bridge with my mom and uncle.

 Roseman Bridge was the real star of the movie 
The Bridges of Madison County.

 We were happy to be able to peer inside the Roseman Bridge.
Cars are no longer permitted to drive though it.


Our Winterset visit concluded with a trip to the Montross Coffee Shop, found in back of the Montross Pharmacy.  It was a step back in time,
as I sat at the counter sipping their speciality soda, the Green River.
It had a nice lime flavor, but was a bit too sweet for me.)

To view a short video on Madison County, click here.

Bar-BQ in Des Moines
It was our last night in Iowa, and we had barbecue on our mind, and in particular,
Smokey D’s BBQ.   It was a good choice!


Guy Fieri, of the Food Network show Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives, had visited Smokey D’s since the last time I had been here. This autographed poster of Guy is now proudly displayed in the restaurant.
Whenever visiting a new city, I google the city name and Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives for suggestions on where to eat. 

To view the 2014 episode that features Smokey D’s BBQ , click here.


Everything was delicious at Smokey D’s!  The ribs… perfect,
the cucumber & onion slaw yummy, and the fries done just right.

To view the Smokey D BBQ menu, click here.
Beware, reading it may make you hungry!

My mom, uncle and me, after a satisfying meal at Smokey D’s BBQ. 

Clear Lake, Iowa

It had been a fun, short visit, but it was time for Dale and I to head out of Iowa.  As we pointed our car north, we looked forward to meeting my friend, Jodi, just off the highway in Clear Lake for a quick visit. We rendezvoused at The Surf Ballroom, and while there we had a look around. The Surf Ballroom, a blast from the past, is best known as the final show venue for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper/Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson, Jr.  Tragically, they all perished in an airplane crash in an nearby cornfield, not long after their 1959 performance.

It was a beautiful autumn day, as I stood outside The Surf Ballroom,
unlike the blizzardy night when Buddy Holly last played here.

To read a fun article about the Surf Ballroom owners, click here.


 The Surf Ballroom houses a museum of fascinating musical artifacts,
and is free to the public, although a donation is requested.

It was great fun meeting up with my dear friend, Jodi.
Isn’t she adorable?

To read about how I first met Jodi, please click here.
To view a few of Jodi’s beautiful paintings, click here.

A local newspaper tells locals of the terrible plane crash of February 3, 1959.

A poster advertises the Winter Dance Party, featuring Buddy Holly,
Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

Jodi, Dale, and I found Don McClean’s, signed photo of interest.
It reads,
To The Surf-This is the temple to Buddy Holly music-
There are ghosts here.
Don McClean

McClean wrote his hit song American Pie about Buddy Holly’s untimely death (Holly was 21) with his lyrics Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie…
the night the music died.

To read the complete lyrics to McClean’s American Pie, click here.


McClean wrote, in 1994, the beginning lyrics to his popular song, American Pie, on the celebrity wall, in the dressing room next to the stage.

To read, in Don McClean’s own words, about how he came to write on
The Surf’s wall in 1994, read here

It was most likely due to McClean and his song American Pie in 1971 that interest in the long forgotten Buddy Holly was rejuvenated.
In 1978, the movie The Buddy Holly Story was released, due to this renewed interest. Gary Busey received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film.

To read more about Don McClean’s American Pie, click here.

To hear the song American Pie, click here.

I stand on the same Surf Ballroom stage that Buddy Holly once played on.

Surf performers look out from the stage to see images of Buddy Holly,
Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. 

Dale is happy to find Three Dog Night had signed (above his head) the dressing room’s celebrity wall.

IMG_7852A Brian Wilson illustration, of The Beach Boys fame, as well as his autograph, are framed in the door behind us.

IMG_7853.jpgJodi and I pose in front of the many autographs in the Surf Ballroom celebrity dressing room.

Jodi and I giggle in front of The Surf Ballroom’s unique pineapple walls.

      IMG_7869 IMG_7871.jpg IMG_7872
As our time spent with Jodi (and Iowa) came to an end, she treated us to lunch, including fantastic in-house made root beer, at Clear Lake’s historic
Barrel Drive-in.

Two Great Recipes from Two Great Ladies


Mom’s Italian Chicken Bake

PAM cooking spray
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup+ another 1/4 cup Italian salad dressing in bottle
1/2 package Italian Salad Dressing Mix in packet
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese-optional

Using a plastic ziplock bag, marinate chicken in dressing for 3-4 hours.
Grease with PAM  a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.
Place chicken in the greased the baking dish.
Drizzle with a little dressing; sprinkle with Italian season mix.
Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes.
Uncover; sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.
Bake uncovered for about 10 minutes longer, or until chicken juices run clear and chicken is done.
4 servings.

Aunt Liz’s Cherry Chocolate Pie

Pie Crust: Pastry*, Oreo, or Pecan Sandies

For Pecan Sandies Crust
1 row of of package of cookies, about 20, to make a heaping 2 cups of crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
3-5 Tbsp. melted butter

Crush cookies, combine with sugar and melted butter.
Press into 9 inch pie plate.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees; it will feel soft when first out of oven,
but will firm up as it cools down.
Cool crust completely before filling.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 tea. salt
1 can of cherry pie filling
1/2 tea almond extract

Optional Garnish:
Whipped Cream

Put the three filling ingredients in a microwave-
safe bowl.
Slowly melt.
Add cherry pie filling and almond extract.
Pour into cooled baked crust.
Chill 2-3 hours until firm.

Garnish, if desired, with whipped cream,
and cherries.

*Aunt Liz’s Pie Crust

1 cup flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup cold butter

Add flour, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl.
Add cold butter and use fork to cut into the flour until the mixture is coarse crumbs.
Squeeze together with hands, being careful not to overwork dough.
Roll out.

Thanks so much for reading. :o)


I attempt to post my blog bi-monthly, so look for my next post around October 6

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JOHN WAYNE                                                                                                                IMG_7684

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6 Responses to A Brief Visit to Iowa

  1. Jennifer Sharpe says:

    Great Annette. Love Jenny x

    Sent from my iPhone



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