From On-Ur-Wa RV Park – Onawa, Iowa
On this beautiful Saturday in Iowa, we decided to explore the city we are calling home till August 5. Onawa is the county seat of Monona County, Iowa and is located in the heart of the nation’s “Corn Belt”. Agriculture is the base of this area’s economy and as of 2000 census had a population of 3,091.
Onawa is an Indian word meaning “wide-awake”. The city is noted for its wide streets. In 1857 when the city was mapped out, all the streets were 85 ft wide with the Main Street, Iowa Avenue measuring 150 ft wide, the widest main street in the USA.
Located on the eastern edge of the city is the Monona County Arboretum which dates to 1974. Today it is home for many trees all of which are of considerable age, height and good specimens of their particular species.
We then visited a unique museum complex comprised of 3 separate museums all connected by a common sidewalk. Admission to all of these museums is free with donations accepted. It was comprised of “The Monona County Veteran’s Memorial Museum”, “The Kiwanis Railroad Depot Museum” and “The Monona County Historical Museum”.
The Veteran’s Memorial Museum has a very extensive collection of uniforms, photographs, newspaper articles, personal flags as well as other personal memorabilia from all the wars donated by county area residents.
There is a central pentagon-shaped granite marker that weighs in excess of two tons and is topped by a genuine M1 Garand rifle, with a vintage helmet, replicating a battlefield grave marker. A set of dog tags and a religious cross hang from the rifle. Inscribed on panels on the five sides are names of Monona County’s KIAs, MIAs, Combat Wounded, POWs and those who were killed in non-battle situations while serving their Country.
On large plaques, each representing one of the wars from the Mexican War through the current day War on Terror is the names of over 6,000 Monona County Veterans in alphabetical order. There is also outside exhibits which include a M60 A3 Armored Tank, an A7D Corsair II Fighter Jet, a Huey-Helicopter from the Vietnam-era and a ship’s anchor.
This museum provides a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made for the freedoms we enjoy every day and take for granted. In the words of Winston Churchill, “a Country that is not reminded of its past, is doomed to repeat it.”
Next door is the Railroad Depot Museum which is located in the 3rd Chicago & Northwestern Depot Station built in 1902 at Onawa. The railroad era started in Onawa in 1867 when a line from Council Bluffs to Onawa was built by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.
In this museum is a nice collection of railroad memorabilia including model trains, telegraph equipment, menus from passenger train dining cars, railroad lanterns and more than 800 other items showing the history of the railroad in the Onawa area.
Behind this restored Depot Station is an 1875 Church, an 1862 School, an 1866 Eggleston log cabin, a Fire House/Jail, an early Blacksmith shop and a Chicago & Northwestern Caboose.
The 3rd museum in the complex is the Monona County Historical Museum. It captures the essence of early Monona County with rooms fashioned to look like the homes of the past. Hanging among the exhibits is authentic period clothing. In another room of the museum is antique farm machinery, tools, plows, a buggy and sleigh.
The museum features an Eskimo Pie display with an original dipping machine, a copy of the contract between Mr. Nelson and Russell Stover and the packaging of the product over the years. This exhibit is included as Onawa is where the Eskimo Pie was created.
Eskimo Pies are the oldest of the ice cream novelties still available in their original stickless chocolate coated squares of ice cream. They have since 1934 offered stick Eskimo Pies which look like standard ice cream bars.
It was in 1920 that Christian K. Nelson working in a confectionery store became inspired by a little boy’s indecision between a chocolate bar and an ice cream sandwich. When questioned the boy replied, “I want ‘em both, but I only got a nickel.” Nelson soon found a way to combine the two ingredients into what would become the world’s first chocolate-covered ice cream bar.
It took Russell Stover; the candy entrepreneur, to teach Nelson how to improve the chocolate’s clinging ability with cocoa butter. It was Stover who came up with the name “Eskimo Pie” over “I-Scream-Bar” which Nelson had called his invention. They tested the market in Des Moines in the summer of 1921 when they put 250,000 bars on the market and sold out within 24 hours. The rest is history.
I would recommend this museum complex to all that are in the Onawa area. These local volunteers have done a fantastic job in all 3 museums telling this county’s heritage and history in three unique ways.
To end our day, we went to eat at Pop & Docs across the Missouri River in Decatur, Nebraska with our friends who have joined us on our exploits since we arrived. It was a birthday celebration for Rudy as he turned 64 today. May he have many, many more birthdays as wonderful as today.