This Is My Hometown & A Piece Of My Past.

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I may have been born in Virginia, started school in Hawaii, and lived all over the place, but nothing changes the fact that Ottumwa Iowa is where I grew up. I have made memories all over the United States and usually share those on my blog, but I haven’t shared much about my hometown. Now that I am home for the Holidays, I thought it’d be fun to go out and share a little piece of my past with you.

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I spent most of my elementary years at Iroquois Point Elementary School in Ewa, Honolulu, Hawaii and Nansemond Parkway Elementary school in Suffolk Virginia. When I moved to Iowa, I attended Pickwick Elementary school. Now this school just sits there empty. It was closed down. I had so many memories flashback as I drove by.

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Not too far from my old Elementary school is my Grandma’s house. I used to love going over to my grandmas to swing in the backyard or to play my grandpa’s piano. My grandpa built a swing that had two seats hanging from a pole and you could spin around and around and around. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen. Unfortunately the swing broke after my grandpa died and no one has fixed it.  I’ll have to dig up some old photos of it. My mom grew up in the house. My grandma has been living in it for about 50 years.

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Down the road from my grandmas house is her favorite place on earth. St. Patrick’s Catholic church. After my grandpa died, she had to learn how to drive. She would drive only to church and back (.4 miles). Now she gets a little further going to the mall, Fareway, or McDonald’s…all in a mile radius. This is the church I was confirmed in and where you’d find me every Sunday with my mom at 10 am.

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Down the road from the church is South Side Drug. (Also in my grandma’s mile radius) You’re probably thinking “what’s so great about a drug store” but let me explain. It’s not just a place to get your prescriptions.  When I was a little girl, my brother, grandpa, and I would ride our bikes there for the best cherry cokes in town. My favorite food as a kid was maraschino cherries. He used to order extra cherries in my drink and I’d get so excited. They also have the best malts in town

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Ottumwa is divided by a river.

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Once you cross over the river from the south side, you’ll be in the downtown area. It’s full of history. Ottumwa was proclaimed the “Video Game Capital of the World.” Pretty cool!

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One of the famous areas downtown is the Canteen Lunch Alley. It’s been around since the early 1920’s. Have you ever seen the sitcom Roseanne? The Canteen was the model for the show’s Lanford Lunch Box restaurant. Sounds pretty random, but Roseanne Bar was married to Ottumwa native, Tom Arnold, who went to high school with my mom. My Grandpa, a former cop, arrested him once for walking around town in his underwear.

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They are famous for their lose meat hamburgers and homemade pies. My mom bought some for her and my dad and I dropped some off for Jeremy’s parents.

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Also located downtown, my high school, home of the Ottumwa Bulldogs! I have so many memories in this place. The school was built in the 1920’s and still looks the exact some. Of course there have been a lot of remodels done to keep it up.

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So many of my favorite teachers still work there. My favorite place in this building is the auditorium, not only because we got to skip classes during assemblies, but because it’s where I found my passion for the stage. Theater was the best part of my high school years.

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Our stadium, Schaefer, is still located in the same spot down the road from the high school.

<3

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Across the street from the High School is (was) El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant. This was the place to go for the best Mexican food. It burnt down this year unfortunately. I used to meet my friends here for dinner parties or just for the heck of it! Best salsa in town.

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Another great spot downtown to eat is the Hotel Ottumwa! My mom and I would go here after church every now and then. They have amazing homemade chicken noodle soup and the best ranch. This is where a lot of wedding receptions and parties take place in Ottumwa.

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The City Hall of Ottumwa is one of my favorite buildings. I love the Renaissance style of the building. It was built in 1910. I want to gut it out and make it my home. I would add black shutters and some French style balconies.

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Across the City Hall is a land mark, the Wapello County Court House. My aunt works there. It was built in 1984 after the first court house was burnt down. A giant Indian statue used to be on top of the courthouse until a huge storm knocked it down last year. They plan on putting it back up, soon. To me, it looks naked without him.

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The City Hall, library, Courthouse and other historic buildings surround the town square. This is where a lot of concerts and ceremonies take place. There are a lot of buildings downtown that are just as historic and beautiful.

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The churches in the downtown area are absolutely beautiful. A lot of them resemble castles.

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One of the most famous places in Ottumwa, Grahams Ice Cream! You can have the coolest ice cream shop, place it right next to Grahams and people will still walk right on by to stand in the longest lines at Grahams. Every summer the lines wrap around the building, cars are parked all the way down the street because the ice scream is simply the best. They always have fun flavors of the week. My favorite is pistachio. I always make sure to stop there when I’m in town in the summer. My mom would go to Grahams when she was a little girl, too. And the price is half of what you’d pay anywhere else.

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Closer to my house on the North Side of Ottumwa has one of my favorite streets, Vogel. I’m obsessed with the brick road and the character each house has.

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At the end of Vogel street, the old Hospital sits. My mom was born on the 6th floor, and she never fails to remind me every time we drive by. Unfortunately the building won’t be standing for long. It’s on the bulldozer list.

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Ottumwa has a ton of farmland. I thought this house was so cute. I loved how the logs were stacked on the porch for the winter. It looks like something out of a movie.

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Jeremy’s parents live on a farm about five miles outside of the city. The land goes on for days. It’s so fun to let Grumples run around out there.

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This was just a small tour of my hometown. I’d be here all day if I mentioned every little part. I’ll try to add some more next time I am in town. It was a great place to grow up. Just like every town, it has it’s ups and it has it’s downs. It’s only as beautiful as you make it. It may not excite you as much as it excites me, but if you are having a hard time enjoying your city, go out and explore it’s beauty. Most likely you’re living in a wonderful place

Comments

  • M. Roberts

    wow…. what a nice blast from the past! I grew up there. Graduated in 1985. It has sure changed since then that’s for sure. I was back 5 years ago and noticed it was very run down. Thank you for posting this.

    Reply to M. Roberts
  • Anna V

    I love this journey through your hometown. I live in a larger city in Iowa, about two hours away, and I love ‘exploring’ the smaller towns through blogs like this!

    I knew that Tom Arnold was from Ottumwa, but I did not know that the Canteen was the idea behind the Lunchbox on Rosanne – very interesting fact.

    Since you are from Iowa, I’m wondering if you are familiar with Maid Rite? They are another ‘loose meat sandwich’ shop that originated in 1926, a year before the first Canteen opened, and originated in Muscatine Iowa (about an hour and a half from Ottumwa).

    It seems like Iowa was the heartland for the original ‘loose meat’ sandwich – I wonder if anyone else ever had the pleasure of having one of their amazing creations outside of the Midwest? I assume that both Maid Rite and the Canteens are strictly regional.

    Reply to Anna V

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