Thursday, September 30, 2010

Here's Looking At You 1939-40 Camera Technology

This Perfex 44 range finder camera sits on an antique store shelf in 42N country's Bentonsport, Iowa. I didn't notice the price but the buyer would get the 35mm film camera, a leather case and the original camera box. While the product line struggled according to the data I found (see link above) the camera featured hotshoe flash mount technology some 30 years before Leica added one to their cameras.

This Perfex model was made in 1939 through 1940. Like many cameras in its day it took some time to manually focus, set the aperture and shutter speed, then snap the photo, and have it developed. Last weekend my Nikon digital SLR camera introduced in the fall of 2008 quickly snapped the portrait of the 70 year old distant relative in just a few seconds with instant confirmation of the image. Oh the irony. Know that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chris Moon At Mason House Inn November 13-14

Ghost hunter Christopher Moon is scheduled to visit the Mason House Inn in Bentonsport, Iowa during November 13-14.

He will be conducting Ghost Hunting 101/Ghost Hunting 102. In these seminars, students learn how to use the tools of the trade, how to capture and analyze evidence, as well as learn about experiences and theories from a true-life, veteran paranormal investigator.

The structure is the oldest steamboat hotel on the Des Moines River. It was built by Mormon craftsman in 1846 before leaving for Utah. For more information and reservations call 800-592-3133. Know that. 

Mormon Trekkers Went This Way in Iowa

Within the lower tier of counties in 42N country's Iowa is this roadside marker. Immediately this historic story teller stands out because it is not a DOT-type sign but a huge chunk of pink granite, looking just quarried with a plaque. In fact the monument marks the trek of Mormons nearly 160 years ago and was placed at this location in 1917.

Mormons massed in nearby Nauvoo, Illinois before heading west to their destination in Salt Lake City, Utah. These pioneers took a few routes through Iowa before unifying just east of Council Bluffs on the Missouri River.

The inscription reads, in part, "We cross the prairie as of old, the Pilgrims crossed the sea, to make the West as they did the East, the homestead of the free."

Located at this place was Brattons Grove, junction of the Mormon and Dragoon trails. While prairie flowers still bloom thanks to cooler temperatures and plenty of water, the march of the Mormons across Iowa was documented to be harsh travel. Mud, insects, weather and the onset of an winter made at least one expedition (hand carts) through Johnson County, located further north, dangerous. Travel at this location seemed so peaceful today. Know that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cedar Falls Sweets Still Tumble From Candy Machines

Look around many long established retail stores and you might still find candy machines belting out a mouthful of sweets for 25-cents a turn. The price is not the same as a couple generations ago but the treats and experience are the same. This machine, located in downtown Cedar Falls, Iowa, sells candy coated gumballs called Dubble Bubble, a product from Tootsie Roll Industries.

In a few stores down from Dubble Bubble are these two 25-cent machines which dispense m&ms and some type of gummy cylinders. Notice the placement of the machines near the inside entrance of the store and the height of the glass containers - all directed at the target consumer - a kid. These time tested candy machines are still part of the modern retail environment, are fondly remembered by kids of all ages, and are hopefully around for a long time. Know that.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grain Processing Mills Ready for Fall Harvest

In many 42N country small towns local grain mills are ready to process the 2010 crop. Here in the southern portion of Iowa City (41°38'N, 91°33'W), near the municipal airport is a complex of grain storage bins and mills. This site is repeated all over the Midwest to the point where you hardly notice the structures. But venture outside the region or into urban areas and you will not see these iconic structures.

Some of the bins hold the harvest for later transport to distribution centers or local business consumers. Some of the bin contents are milled per individual specification for livestock feed like in the photo above. A stat that I found regarding the annual harvest of 12.1 million bushels of corn use in North America is: 
  • 44% livestock feed
  • 30% fuel production (ethanol)
  • 15% exports
  • 8% making food starches and sweeteners
  • 3% making corn flour, grit, meal and beverage alcohol. 
Nationwide, the corn harvest through September 20th is 18% complete. Know that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guardian of Iowa City

The entrance to 42N country's Iowa City Municipal Airport is guarded by this static display from over a half century ago. Flying just a few feet above the ground is a Korean War vintage F-86 Sabre fighter. Some 9,500 of these jets were produced in the 1950s and only 15 remain flyable today. 

I discovered the jet on this site in the late 1970s. On one occasion some anti-war vandals sprayed orange paint on the jet during some protest during that era. Today the newer paint scheme looks good while the whole display could use a good washing. 
Photos displayed here are from the latest 42N camera upgrade and were taken by the junior team member on a shakedown tour of Iowa City sites (airport and grain mills.) Know that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Late Summer Quiet in Joetown

As summer winds down this week, shadows become long. Pleasant Hill Cemetery in 42N's unincorporated Joetown, Iowa remains noisy as its crickets and the wind. Located on Angle Road this area is known for Amish neighbors and the Joetown Garage. Know that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Trip to Atypical Iowa

Think of 42N country's Iowa and visions of rolling corn fields come to mind. Part of the state's northeast landscape lies in the so-called, driftless zone where glaciation (roughly 8,000 to 12,000 years ago) did not flatten everything in sight. Between the towns of Peosta and Balltown is this small valley which is rimmed by dolomite cliffs, which is typical geology for the region.  

Balltown, Iowa sits atop a ridge overlooking the Mississippi River valley. Artist Irma "Amy" Potter painted this vista a year ago last August at age 83. Compare the painting to the real view from this afternoon (below.) 


Tractors near the center of the photo harvest corn with a two or four head picker. Look at the other fields, they appear green. Perhaps the farmer needs the grain for cattle feed instead of waiting for kernal dry down.

The next stop of non-typical Iowa came about 10 miles southeast of Balltown along the Mississippi River. Mud Lake offers a camp ground, marina, boat sales and a great bar and grill. There you can watch small boats launch out of a protective harbor into the Mississippi. Sit there long enough to enjoy an adult beverage or two, and you may also spot trains running along the river on the Wisconsin side (this photo is looking from Iowa towards the Cassville, WI direction.)


Continue watching long enough and you may see tow barges hard at work - even on a holiday. This tow pushed two empties (not beer cans) upriver. But that does bring to mind that Wisconsin enjoys beer with higher alcohol content while Iowa is still a 3.2 percent regulated state (aside from specialty beers.)

A few miles further southeast from Mud Lake is an Iowa state preserve that features Indian mounds. This particular area is close to Iowa's Effigy Mounds known for bear and bird shaped mounds. Here the Little Maquoketa River Mounds contain rounded mounds atop a steep hill overlooking the so named river. A journey to the past begins with a stepped trail going up several thousand feet I am sure. 


At the top of your Mount Everest trek is this fenced area which protects the round and elongated mounds. If you can still derive oxygen from the hilltop atmosphere you will be rewarded by a relatively quick descent accompanied with seasonal mosquito attacks.

Finally today, leaving the driftless area and traveling west on Highway 52 brings you to the small town of Luxemberg, Iowa (42.60 N, 91.07 W). A few weeks ago the area experienced violent thunderstorms. Lightning struck and destroyed this church's steeple. Members of the church say the lower portions of the building only sustained some water damage. The congregation does not plan to replace the steeple.

All in all a very diverse Iowa terrain travel day - and all within the famous 42N latitude. Know that.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Big Sky Over A Lone Tree

Corn is drying in 42N country. About ten miles north of Frytown in rural Johnson County, Iowa a lone tree (not the town of the same name) breaks up the horizon. Sometimes in 42N area cornfields, trees grow near fence lines or water sources. Sometimes they are left to mark a pioneer cemetery. This tree, out in the middle of a field deserves investigation. Know that.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cleared for Take-off at CID

Traveling from 42N country by air begins at CID Cedar Rapids. Years ago the air facility was rebranded as the Eastern Iowa Airport to help identify with regional travelers. Last year air service from CID to St. Louis ceased after 52 years including many with TWA. This year the main runway is being reconstructed with arrivals and departures being handled on other long stretches of concrete. This shot was taken last month on a day when more families seemed to be flying than business travelers. Know that.