A Little Help In Remembering a Dark Week in Iowa Sports

This week marks an anniversary Iowans have not forgotten without sadness: the tragic death of Chris Street.

The start of the new year has been quiet and busy, but 2013 will mark some important events in history…particularly here in Iowa.

Last week was the 30th anniversaries of the spectacular Simpson’s Furniture fire in Cedar Falls and the slaying of Black Hawk County public defender Alvin Davidson in front of the Brown Bottle restaurant in Waterloo.  Both incidents happen on the same day (January 10th).  Later this summer, July 20th, will be the 30th anniversary of Steven Hadley walking out of the John Deere (now Veridian) Community Credit Union and disappearing with $1.3 million in cash.  The Hadley embezzlement case was the biggest white-collar crime in the Cedar Valley before last year’s Russell Wasendorf’s PFG collapse.

But this week will mark a sad anniversary in Iowa sports history, and this is where I will need some help from my fellow alumni from East High in Waterloo.

January 19th will mark the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Iowa Hawkeyes standout Chris Street in a car/snowplow accident outside Coralville.

Twenty years.

Fellow Wartburg grad and friend Jesse Gavin is the sports director at KCNZ radio (1650 “The Fan”) in Cedar Falls.  He is trying to locate former members of the 1990 East High boys hoops championship team to talk about their Class 3A semifinal game versus Street and his Indianola Indians as part of a story he is doing about local Cedar Valley sports ties to Street.

A good number of you know most or all of the players on that memorable Trojans championship team (Mike Davis, Cortez McGhee, Mike Roby, Brian Ross, Rodney Wallican, etc.) and probably still stay in contact with them.

If it’s not too much to ask from my fellow East High friends and classmates, could you help Jesse out by reaching out and asking some of the guys from the ’90 team to contact KCNZ and talk to Jesse about the semifinal game and the buildup to that highly anticipated matchup against Indianola and Chris Street?  It would be a great way for him to not only know what it was like to play against Street but also know about that great championship season for the Orange and Black.

Thanks in advance everyone for helping if you can with this story!


Jesse Gavin, sports director, KCNZ The Fan 1650

Email: Jesse@1650thefan.com

Local Dialing Area: (319) 277-1918
Toll Free Phone: (800) 913-9479


Sage Advice

Unlike my generation, our parents generation are the last ones to be able to remain with one employer for an entire career.

Thursday, December 22, 2011 will be another day for my mom.  She’ll head into work, order parts for the 2012 combines, review the plans, and then send them to the engineers for their final sign-off or make changes. 

When 4:00 p.m. comes, she’ll pick up her purse, lunch bag, and a few things, and head out the door…for the final time. 

Since the day I was born, all I have ever known about my mom is that she worked for John Deere.  She’s been there since January 1972, four years before I arrived with small fanfare at on New Years Day 1976.  Nearly 40 years she has been with one employer. 

Think about that last sentence.  She’s one of a rare breed that stayed with one employer most of her working/career life.  Not many people today will have the luxury and the fortunate opportunity to stay at one place. 

My mother and I had a long discussion last year about our futures.  Now that I’m working again, my mother is preparing to leave and is in search of doing something to stay busy, possibly volunteering.

For as much as my generation vent our frustration about trying to find that “perfect job (or career)”, my mother has been through the roller coaster ride of nearly 40 years at one employer.  When she graduated from college, the career that she was aspiring was not available at that time, so she took a job with John Deere and gradually moved up the “career” ladder.

The problem was, as she pointed out, her “job” was never a “career” in her eyes. 

"The Waterloo Boy" was one of John Deere's first well-known line of tractors.

She was growing frustrated with my inclination to be defensive when someone tells me “…you need to be a (fill-in-the-blank).  I think you are perfect in it!”  It was already hard enough being told throughout my 11 years in the workplace that not having a business degree like everyone else was not going to land me a job.  I was growing tired of being told to go into this job and that job because it’s either the “in” thing to do or because it’s easy.

“Have you ever stopped yourself and asked ‘what do you like about yourself?'” my mom asked. 

“I don’t know.  If I don’t figure it out now, I may never land a job.”

“I’m not talking about a job.  The last time you were between jobs, you were looking for a “job” and never took the time to reflect on your life’s goals.  You were scared and wanted to get back on your feet.  Now that you are between jobs again, stop thinking about “a job” and treat this break as a journey to find your calling.  Not your father’s calling, your friends, or someone else’s calling.  Your own.  It may take longer than you expect, but you let your fears and apprehension get in the way of being yourself.” 

She was right.  I have gotten in the way of being open-minded about what new avenues to take, resorting to being told what to do and what industry or career to go to because “everyone else is doing it.”

In this world of experts, self-help books, and surveys dissecting the difference between Generation X and Y, our parents, outside of our friends, might give us the best advice about how to navigate the troubled waters of life.  Old fashioned?  Yes.  Sometimes out of touch?  Of course.

We tend to take our parents’ experience in the workplace for granted.  They have seen the transformation of the workplace from typewriter to computers and from board meetings to videoconferences.  They have also witness or being subjected to the culture of office politics, which can be cruel and unforgiving.

Our parents do know best.  We have to give them time and the space to convey it to us. 

This Christmas will be different.  For the both of us. 

Mom in Brazil Day 2 – “Who’s Tom Brady?”

On Tuesday, Mom called around 4:00 pm (6:00 in Horizontina).  She was changing clothes before being picked up by her colleague Molly to head to her house for pizza.  Molly works for Horizontina and is from the states.  She’s been at the plant for three years now and have been helping Mom get used to the culture.  Molly is going to ask the hotel to see if there’s any way to turn up the heat a little bit, so that Mom won’t be bundling up like an Eskimo tonight in her hotel room.

My sister and I asked Mom to describe exactly what she is doing with her counterpart (in supply management) at the Horizontina plant.  Supply management, in the best way possible, sources out parts for tractors, combines, and other machinery that Deere builds and ship out for sale and use.  For example, Deere is looking for tires to put on the combines.  Supply management goes out and finds a manufacturer who can build the type of tire that Deere needs for their combines, for a fair and reasonable price.

If a part does not pass quality tests by Deere, the manufacturer either has to fix it, or face losing the account with “the Big Green.”  Here in America, John Deere can get parts from all over the world, but they mostly get them from companies here in the U.S..  In Brazil, they do the same thing, as what Mom and Supply Management does, but the Brazilian government has a 60/40 rule in place.  Sixty percent of parts made to build Deere machinery in Horizontina has to be from companies in Brazil (locally).  It’s to promote and encourage customers to buy locally and nationally-made products, like tractors and combines.

One light-hearted moment was when I was giving Mom some interesting facts about Horizontina.  When I told her that the most famous person from the small city of a little over 18,000 people was supermodel Gisele Bundchen, her response was “Yeah, someone said that to me today.  I don’t have a clue who she was.  Then I was asked if I knew Tom Brady and I said ‘I think so?  Doesn’t he work at Deere and Company?'”

Then Mom said that Tom and Gisele came to Horizontina last week for Gisele’s birthday and Brady threw a party for her, though her birthday isn’t until July 20th.

Mom in Brazil – Day 1

Several tractors and combines that were made in Horizontina, Brazil.

Mom arrived in Sao Paulo Sunday morning, then took a connector flight to Passo Fundo, and arrived in Horizontina after a three-hour road trip.  When she made it to her hotel room, it was dark outside.

This afternoon, my sister decided to order an international long-distance bundle from the phone company, which would give her the opportunity to conduct a three-way conversation between Mom, her, and I.  Crafty little sister I have.  I prefer to do email.

Anyway, Mom talked about how she ended up getting a crash course on Brazil.  Today is the first day of summer here.  Down there, today is the first day of winter.  The equator flips the script on seasons.  The northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun as the southern half tilts away.  Horizontina is two hours ahead of us, so when we called at 4:30 pm, it was 6:30 pm and already dark.  Mom was bundled up in her room with two comforters.  It was currently 30 degrees outside. The hotel has no heaters and no air conditioners!

She went on to describe her first day at the Horizontina plant.  The plant employees works from 8:30 to 5:30 Monday thru Friday, as they planned and assembled tractors and agricultural machinery for farmers across South America.  She’ll head back to the plant tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday, before leaving Friday morning.

I did some researching of Horizontina.  The population (circa 2004) is 18,046.  The majority of the citizens of Horizontina is of German, Polish, and Italian decent who arrived in the region in the late 1920’s.

What I didn’t know was that someone famous hails from Horizontina.

Ooh la la! It's Mrs. Tom Brady!!

Yep, Gisele Bundchen, supermodel extraordinaire and married to Tom Brady, the star quarterback for the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Not too bad for a small town to have one of their own recognized all over the world.  It reminds me of those who have hailed from Waterloo and have made a name for themselves, for good or bad.

Most notably the Sullivan Brothers, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, singer Tracie Spencer, congresswoman Michelle Bachman, NFL star Darren Sproles, baseball umpire Don Denkinger, and football referee Larry Nemmers.

Mom and I will talk, on email, Tuesday after she finishes up her second day at Horizontina.

A First for Mom

John Deere plant in Horizontina, Brazil.

This afternoon, my mom will be boarding a plane heading to Brazil for a business trip.  As a 35+ year employee of John Deere, they felt that Mom should go on this trip before she retires early next year, not just for the work, but also for the experience.  Deere has a plant in Horizontina, which is in the southwestern part of Brazil.  She traveled a lot when my sister and I were smaller, but that started to decrease as we went through high school and college.

This will be the first time that she will travel outside of the U.S. for Deere.  She’s excited, I’m excited, but it’s a “guarded” sense of excitement.  Back in April, everybody’s friend and news reporter Paul Yeager chronicled his wife Amy’s trip to the Netherlands for John Deere.  Her business trip was “extended” after a volcano erupted in Iceland, nearly shutting down all of the major airports in Europe.

It’s likely that no volcanoes will erupt down in Brazil, but you pray and hope that everyone has a safe trip down there and back.

Of course the one person who isn’t happy about seeing “Nana” go is my 6-year old niece Kadren.  Nana and her are buddies and Kadren hates it when Mommy, Daddy, or Nana goes out of town for more than 2 days.  But she’s smart enough to understand that Mom is going to South America for work and she’ll return one week from today.  So, the only way we’ll stay in contact with Mom is by email.  The IT guys were kind enough to make sure that Mom can dial up her laptop and check email messages.  Phone calls will be too expensive.

Miss Kadren at her daycare graduation in '09.

I would be at the Quad Cities Airport today, but I already spent several days earlier this week seeing Mom before she leaves this afternoon. So, I already got my fill of getting my behind whipped in Wii by Kadren, going over some stuff with Mom (you know, “just in case”), and doing family time.

Mom will fly out of the Quad Cities to Chicago O’Hare for a 4-hour layover, then a 10-hour flight to Sao Paulo, then another flight to Passo Fundo, and then a road trip to Horizontina. All of this by Sunday night.

The Mockery of a Review/Wishing Amy Home

How effective are “performance reviews”?  Do these reviews give you a clear indication of how well you are doing at work?  Is it another way for your boss to find ways not to reward you with a raise, or is it merely taking little incidents, and building them up as a way to run you out of town?

Does anyone really get this high of a mark on their reviews?

Samuel Colbert from the Wall Street Journal, via Yahoo Finance, didn’t mince words with his opinion of performance reviews:  they are a sham and useless.

He has my attention, and my support.  I have never been a fan of performance reviews.  No matter how great you are at your job, someone is going to nit-pick on something that you are “lacking” in.

At my last job, I never received a performance review.  This was after I was told I was going to have one after the first six months on the job.  For that matter, after 2 years being there, I guess they didn’t feel it was worth giving me one.

No matter if you work on one area that you needed to “improve” in, a new problem pops up that they want you to work on, if you’re going to get a promotion or a raise.

Colbert offers a few alternatives that businesses and companies should start doing if they really want to get the most our of their employees, as well as give the employees a reason to feel wanted and not be belittled.

Paul Yeager, host of IPTV's "The Iowa Journal"

I’m going to jump off-topic here and ask you to read “Public Paul and Media”, a blog written by my friend Paul Yeager.  Paul is the host of the IPTV program “The Iowa Journal” and I’m blessed to call him a great friend since our days at Wartburg College.

Paul’s wife, Amy, is stuck in Holland, on business for John Deere due to the ever active volcano in Iceland.  Her chance to head home has been scuttled several times since the volcanic activity started last week.  Paul has been writing about the difficulty and the anguish of Amy not being able to come home and the effect is having on their family, including their two sons, Noah and Levi.

Noah will turn 4 years old in a few days.  They hope that things can clear up out in Iceland and the rest of Europe, so that Amy can come home for Noah’s birthday party.

If there is one small gesture I can ask of all of you, please follow Paul and say a little prayer so that Amy and the many thousands of travelers can get home, once the volcano ashes finally dissipate and it’s safe to fly again.

All that the Yeager boys want is Amy home, and nothing else.


Downtown Waterloo

I felt somewhat guilty for missing CIB on Friday, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to head back to my hometown of Waterloo for a few days.  As a volunteer and board member for the American Diabetes Association, I offered to drive home to represent the ADA at the 3rd annual CultureFest at the Waterloo Center for the Arts (or commonly known by the locals as the Rec Center).

It also gave me a chance to visit my grandparents and take my grandpa out for his birthday.

Going home can be refreshing and also melancholy at times.  Many of my Des Moines friends have a misconception about Waterloo, even when I describe to them what it’s like to live there.  It’s a blue-collar industrial town that is seeking a new identity, and trying to hold on to the past.  The past is one of the glory days when Rath Packing Company, Chamberlain, and John Deere was at it’s high point.  The past also has it’s low points with the riots of 1968, the fractious strife between the lower and middle class blue-collar east siders and the upper and middle class white-collar west siders, and the large reduction of the industrial section. John Deere is still strong, but it’s much different today.

Since moving to Des Moines after college in 1998, the transformation of Des Moines from what it was to it’s current state is nothing short but astounding and pleasing.  Meanwhile, it’s a longer process in Waterloo.  There are some talented individuals who are working hard to cultivate the image from a “rough town” to a town with plenty to offer.  There are signs that things are moving forward in Waterloo.  The riverfront on the Cedar River is being developed as the Phelps Youth Pavilion, the Public Market, and other small projects have been created.

However, the mentality for most in my hometown remains stuck in the past.  And frankly, it’s in the way of progress.  Having a fatalistic view of “things will never change” or “I’m happy with the way things are” have become a major factor in young professionals moving out Waterloo after graduating from either high school, Hawkeye Community College, or UNI.

Individuals like Aaron Buzza, Chassidi Ferguson, and others are committed to push and sell Waterloo to new residents and encourage life-long residents to change their attitude and adapt to the future.  Time will tell if the older generation is willing to move away from being stuck in neutral and open up to new possibilities for my hometown.