Who’s Running This City Anyway??

Who’s Running This City Anyway??

Two stories over the past two weeks have called into question over “who really runs the city.”

An anonymous source leaked to the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier of a heated email exchange between Mayor Quentin Hart and councilman Tim Lind over the process of hiring a part-time communications director. By all accounts, Hart followed the rules, and had authority, to hire a part-time position…without seeking the city council’s approval.

While that was going on, the city of Muscatine has themselves a soap opera brewing. Their city council has filed impeachment charges against their mayor, Diane Broderson. Broderson filed suit against the city council for attempting to strip her powers as mayor over a similar situation: the appointment of board and commission members.

Yes, Hart and Broderson are facing elements of racial and gender factors (Hart is black, Broderson is female), but the crux of this is usually a long-running issue: who has more power…the mayor, the city council, or the city manager/administrator.

When I moved to Davenport in 2015, it’s city administrator Craig Malin resigned as former mayor Bill Gluba was canvassing votes for Malin’s ouster over the planned move of Rhythm City Casino to a location near the intersection of Interstate 80 and 74. The fiasco cost Gluba dearly, as he lost to Frank Klipsch in the mayoral election that fall.

This is not a surprise. Nor should it be.

Local governments, much like Congress, can turn citizens into power hungry egomaniacs hell-bent on forcing their own personal “Manifest Destiny” once they get elected.

I don’t much know about Muscatine (only what I have read), but I do know Waterloo. It’s my hometown.

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Mayor Quentin Hart of Waterloo, Iowa. (Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier)

From what I can gauge with Waterloo (and I could be wrong), there is a city councilman, Steve Schmitt, that has ran for mayor several times and have lost each time. Hart was a city councilman until he ran and was elected mayor. The problem is that Schmitt has a reputation of questioning the mayor’s office and the competency of Hart and his predecessor, Tim Hurley, That has only intensified with Hart now in the mayor’s office.

Last summer, Schmitt engineered a council vote to reject footing the bill for Hart to attend a mayor’s conference in Washington, D.C.. Hart had to pay for the trip out of his own pockets, along with a little help from a Kickstarter campaign from several of his supporters.

This isn’t the only time Schmitt has placed himself as a “wannabe” mayor. He acts like a mayor, talks like a mayor, tries to do business as a mayor….but he isn’t the mayor. The mayor has authority, and that authority is being undermined. The email flap between Hart and councilman Tim Lind has exacerbated matters.

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Mayor Diane Broderson of Muscatine, Iowa (Quad City Times)

In the Broderson matter, the Muscatine city council has worked feverishly to strip all of Broderson’s authority as mayor, citing “habitual neglect” of her “fiduciary duties.” This stems from last August when the city council began the process to change the appointment authority for boards and commissions to a nominating committee, and the ability to appoint and remove the fire and police chiefs to the city administrator, subject to the approval of the city council.

A nominating committee comprised of two council members, the mayor, and the city administrator or appointed staff member was created to review applications for boards and commissions and bring recommendations to the city council for approval. Previously, the mayor held appointment and removal powers, subject to the approval of the council.

A letter was sent to Muscatine citing that the changes could be in violation of the Iowa Code. According to the Code, a city with a population of 8,000 or more should appoint three civil service commissioners to handle the appointments if there is a paid fire and/or police department.

Upon learning of the city council’s attempt to strip her powers as mayor, Broderson filed a suit against the city council to block them from moving forward with their plans.

And all we care about is what is going on in Washington, and there is trouble in our own backyards. 

As Strother Martin said in “Cool Hand Luke” “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Since when do city councils, school boards, or any other elected forms of council decided that they know how to run a city better than a mayor, city administrator, or a city manager?

Quentin Hart and Diane Broderson has to be thinking to themselves what Bill Parcells famously said about coaching and running a football team:

If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.

These are power play moves in politics. When voters keep re-electing people, the less likely those incumbents are willing to upset the status quo. When someone new arrives and attempts to change the culture, there will always be pushback.

But these pushbacks that are being waged at Hart and Broderson looks like a Sunday School picnic where everyone wants to hand out a slice of pound cake, but they’re unwilling to slice an equal amount of cake to share.

But, what do I know? No one is going to read this blog. I talk about topics no one cares about…unless if it’s about protest marches and building walls.

“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid

“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981.

Every five years, or a quinquennial, I pull out the old newspaper clippings like clockwork.

The gravitational pull of an unsettling anniversary continues to bring new angles and perspectives that percolate.

Age and time can do that to a person.

Over the past week, a popular question was asked on social media:“What was the first major news story you were aware of as a kid?”

Many responded: the JFK assassination, the September 11th attacks (15 years coming up), Challenger (30 years ago this past January), among many. Some also had local stories that were the first big news story that they remembered.

For me, it was, and always will be July 12, 1981.

Thirty-five years ago this evening, Waterloo, Iowa police officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice were gunned down during a noise dispute at a home.  A manhunt followed as the suspect, James Michael “T-Bone” Taylor, was on the loose and was eventually captured.

Taylor was and will always be the first major news story I remember vividly because that week was surreal and scary.

Page A3 of the Waterloo Courier, July 13, 1981, on the story of two Waterloo police officers slain.

To write a personal account of the story reinforces the impact that the case has in my life and the history of my hometown.

Several things have happened in the past five years since I wrote “The Longest Week” on July 12, 2011.

In March 2014, Taylor and former Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Marvin Messerschmidt died within a week of each other. Messerschmidt was the officer who chased down Taylor in a bean field outside of LaPorte City. Taylor stumbled to the ground, Messerschmidt apprehended him, ending the largest manhunt in Iowa history.

On the morning after Taylor’s death, I received a phone message from Adam Amdor. Amdor formerly worked at KWWL-TV (he currently works in public relations). Everyone’s friend Paul Yeager suggested to Adam to reach out to me.

Adam wanted to link my story to KWWL’s website story on Taylor’s death.  I was caught off guard by his request. After thinking it over (quickly), it was a story that needed to be told, for educational and historical purposes. I am a strong proponent of using history as a form of education. I called Adam and left a voice mail, giving my permission to link my post.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of reaction, comments, or something trollish.

It didn’t happen.

What did happen was that people read the post to get an understand the events of that hot humid week in July 1981 in the eyes of a five-year old kid. To this day, it is the most read blog post on this site.

The Taylor story stands out as a moment that remains a permanent fixture in the Cedar Valley.

———————————–

“Hi, are you the one who wrote about T-Bone Taylor?”

The Facebook message blinked across my screen two weeks after Taylor’s death.

“Yes, I am the person who wrote it.”

Her request was simple. She was attempting to write a book about the slayings and the eventual forgiveness of Taylor and the families affected.

I consented to help, but I acknowledged to her that I did not know all of the details of what was said and done, outside of what I remembered and the recollections of my father. Remember, I was five years old. Five year old kids see everything and asks a lot questions that adults do not feel comfortable answering, especially at that time.

We traded information on what we gathered. I felt that she has some salient material to go with, especially the time period from the trial until Taylor’s death. That angle was one of great interest to me.

After a month or so, due to personal issues, she abandoned the project. I never heard from her after that. It was unfortunate, but as the cliché goes “life gets in the way” and it does.

—————————–

Once in a while, I’ll glance at the post, and the late Randy Brubaker comes to mind. Brubaker was the Des Moines Register’s news desk editor. Randy passed away from heart failure in May 2014. Bru grew up in Waterloo, and he knew all about the Taylor case.

“Bru” sent me an email days after the original post in ’11. Bru said that it would be a good idea to pitch the story to the Register’s editorial board because it was one of the biggest stories in Iowa over the last 50 years.

I sent an email to Randy Evans, who was on the editorial board until his retirement about a year ago. That idea didn’t go anywhere, but it was worth pitching a story.

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When I wrote the original story, the one thing I never did was to pull out the old clippings, take a picture of them, and post them. I decided to do it for this post. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has several more archives of “the longest week” (front page headlines, the manhunt, and the timeline).

I don’t know why this story continues to be a major part of my life.

Maybe I do know why. I lived through that week. My grandparents and father had an indirect connection to it. I remember the weather, the sense of fear, the surrealism of the events.

The best answer for it?

It was the first major news story I remembered as a kid, and it’s the one I can never forget.

It’s Never Boring When You Have Topics to Write About

It started with a cause and a passion…five years later, a blog proved that it’s never boring in Des Moines, Iowa.

Today is the fifth anniversary of “Des Moines Is Not Boring”, a blog dedicated to touting and showing everyone that Des Moines is not boring…ever. The brainchild of Pete Jones has expanded over the years, with featured writers and topics, but the premise remains the same, which is there is plenty of events, activities, and things to do in Des Moines.

If Forbes and other publications have acknowledged that Des Moines is a busy place, then DMINB is doing their job.

Congratulations DMINB on this special day. From one local blogger to another, a tip of the fedora for a job well done and continued success.

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No visit to the Iowa State Fair means not seeing the new tractors and combines for this John Deere guy. Remember my friends, nothing runs like a Deere.

For the first time in 12 years, I didn’t go to the Iowa State Fair. From a physical standpoint, I’m dealing with some pain in my right leg which makes walking or running unbearable at times. It was sad not being able to see some of the new things at the fairgrounds, but missing one year isn’t the end of the world.

Neither is missing a cold glass of cherry phosphate…and fried cheese curds…hot beef sundae….pork chop on a stick…sweet potato fries…JR’s mini donuts…you catch my drift?

If you have never heard or read anything from noted sports writer Wright Thompson, this week might be a good time to read some of his stuff. On Wednesday, his story on Dan Gable‘s fight to help save wrestling is required reading. To be honest, Thompson did a better job of telling the story and the life of Gable than the old SportsCentury episode did a decade ago.

As a native of Waterloo, Gable is one of the most recognizable faces that represent my hometown, along with the Sullivan Brothers, NFL great Reggie Roby, among a few others. However, Gable, with Bob Siddens, Jim Miller, Dave Natvig, Bob Buzzard, and others, put Waterloo on the map as the hotbed of prep wrestling in Iowa.

Picture of Dan Gable when he prepped at West Waterloo High for legendary coach Bob Siddens from 1964-66. (courtesy of DanGable.com)

For many sports fans, the return of football is much like the sports version of New Year’s Day. Friday will mark the return of prep football in Iowa, as Week 0 opens up for 54 teams, most of them in the 8-player class.

Where did the summer go? Sly and the Family Stone must have taken it with them.

Which brings me to do some shameless plugging, if you don’t mind. Good friend Marco Santana of the Des Moines Register profiled DM Webcasting earlier this week. I happen to know Greg Goaley and Pete Tarpey. So does everyone’s friend Paul Yeager.

Getting to do games with this guy on Friday nights…priceless. It’s time to “…go back, Jack, and do it again…” on August 30th.

This will be my fourth season working with Paul covering the CIML, notably Dowling Catholic and WDM Valley football and our third year webcasting high school football on the internet.

DM Webcasting is behind the live online streaming of both schools’ home games. Paul will handle the play-by-play duties, I’ll do the game and score updates on Twitter, Seth Drury has the sideline report, and we’ll make sure coach Andy Pollock knows how Aplington-Parkersburg is doing in their games.

In case you didn’t figure it out…there will be a heavy Wartburg presence in the pressbox.

UPDATE: Today, The Des Moines Register announced that they will carry a live feed of all the games this season, via DM Webcasting, on their website. That’s a big news for high school football fans across the state.

We’ll make our season debut next Friday as Valley hosts Waukee at Valley Stadium. I hope you can tune in, watch, and enjoy the broadcast, because as we all well know, “there is no cheering in the pressbox. If you want to cheer, buy a damn ticket”, as the great Duane Schroeder famously said.

Just a Senseless Beating Death?

The Black Church pushed for racial equality. Are they ready to take on the taboo issue of same-sex equality?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names (slurs) will never hurt me…”

That may be true, but it shouldn’t be a precursor to murder. 

The discussion over the beating death of Marcellus Andrews of Waterloo has brought up a litany of angles and different perspectives over whether or not Andrews was gay (his sister said he wasn’t, per the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier) to the ever-ending list of violence among youths, particularly on the east side of Waterloo.

As a native of Waterloo, I didn’t feel comfortable coming out right away and offering any opinion or comment.  Stuff like needs several days to simmer before knowing what the details are and writing an opinion.  This I can be sure of:  something did happened between Andrews and his murderers that provoke the deadly beating.  That is a fact. 

Was it a hate crime?  Andrews’ family sides with the Waterloo police by saying it wasn’t a hate crime.  Others will beg to disagree. 

But, to disagree with the family’s, and the police department’s, assertion that it was not a hate crime, would imply that others think they know more about Marcellus than Marcellus’ family does.  Is it fair for me, or anyone else, to make an assertion that Andrews was gay and that his family is covering up the fact or are in denial of that notion? 

That’s about as reckless of an assertion to make, and a terrible one at that.  His family knows Marcellus more than Des Moines Human Rights commissioner Rudy Simms, One Iowa, and I combined.  Even if they were to ever admit that Marcellus was gay or exude behavior that would be type-casted as gay, his family isn’t going to tell you.  That’s their right and their privacy.  

So, what about the words that were used towards Andrews when he was confronted and then was beaten up?  Were they just words, or was there an intent to say something about him prior to beating him, causing his death?  Today, insensitive and derogatory words to describe an individual have become a flash-point of discussion and debate.  Do these words define a person is a hate-monger, racist, misogynist?  The easy answer is yes.  But, is it as clear-cut as we want to make it out to be?

That depends on who you ask.  The African-American clergy and their parishioners are not going to come out and support gays and lesbians in public.  Some of them won’t admit in private either.  Which is why individuals who have never lived in Waterloo are having a difficult time understanding why the black community have refuse to accept it was a hate crime, with respects to the LGBT community and culture

That is what makes the Andrews beating death a conundrum:  was it a hate crime or another sad case of black-on-black street crime?  

The African-American community is religiously conservative when it comes to gays and lesbians.  Progression has been made for the LGBT to gain acceptance, but the wall that has been constructed by the black church and black community is one that will take so much more significant time to tear down the brick facade, chip by chip

The Longest Week

The Longest Week
Downtown Waterloo

My grandfather was watching a television show on a late humid-soaked Sunday night, July 12, 1981.  My grandparents lived in a well-kept home where my mother and her siblings grew up in on the east side of Waterloo, Iowa, near downtown.  As he was getting ready to go to bed, Grandma and him heard several loud “bangs”, to which they thought a car had blown out its tires. 

Little did they know, the epicenter of the biggest story in Waterloo history would be in their neighborhood.

The events that took place two blocks from their house began “the longest week” I will always remember. 

Thirty years ago today, in the late evening of Sunday, July 12, 1981, Waterloo police officers Wayne Rice and Michael Hoing were gunned down by James Michael “T-Bone” Taylor.  It is an unpleasant anniversary, but an important one in the eastern Iowa industrial city I called home for the first 22 years of my life. 

Waterloo Police Department (Iowa)
Image via Wikipedia

This is an anniversary that will continue to reopen raw emotions and reactions for the families, the citizens, and everyone who was affected and lived through this period.  I am writing this based on the solely on the facts and my personal recollections of what that tumultuous week was like in the eyes of a 5-year old. 

To explain what took place, this is an excerpt from State (of Iowa) v. Phams, courtesy of FindACase, with some edits by me.    

Shortly before midnight, July 12, 1981, Officers Hoing and Rice were called to the house located on 1027 1/2 Franklin Street on a complaint of loud music.  That night, Joseph Phams, and his brothers Johnny and Thomas, Thomas Ketchens, and James Michael “T-Bone” Taylor were in the house.  Taylor was recently released from a federal prison in Missouri. 

After the music was turned off, the officers left the front yard area and returned to their squad car. Angered by the police intrusion, James Taylor, Thomas Ketchens, and Phams’ brothers, Howard and Johnny, the individuals in the house began yelling and cursing at the officers. Both officers returned to the house and placed Johnny Phams under arrest for disturbing the peace. Johnny Phams protested the arrest and began struggling with officer Hoing. Defendant (Joseph Phams) then burst through the front door, knocked officer Rice to the ground, and began struggling with him. Sometime during the struggle defendant got up and began hitting Rice on the head with a chair.

James Taylor, who had been standing near a car by the porch, ran to where officer Rice and defendant were struggling on the ground. Taylor struck Rice several times with his fist and, after two or three attempts, removed Rice’s gun from its holster. While Taylor was attempting to remove the gun, Rice was struggling and wiggling his hips, but apparently defendant had him pinned. When Taylor got possession of the gun he yelled “move.” Defendant rolled off Rice and Taylor fired two fatal shots into Rice’s chest. Taylor then ran to where officer Hoing was still struggling with Johnny Phams, and shot that officer (Hoing).  Hoing died hours later.

Officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice (Black Hawk Co. Sheriff’s Department)

The following morning, my dad received a call that something bad happened.  As a probation officer, the last thing you want to hear is that one of your clients got into trouble.  Nevertheless, he rushed off to the office, as the news spread on KWWL-TV and on local radio of the slayings.  The Phams brothers and Ketchens were arrested.  Taylor was on the run.

It was no secret that the relationship between the African-American community on the blue-collar east side and the Police Department was at times layered with distrust, hostility, and disdain towards each other.  It was like that for a long period of time.  Some of that acrimony still lingers today in the fabric of Waterloo.  There were some talk that if both officers didn’t walk back to the house, the incident would have not happened.  I can’t substantiate or verify that claim.  I was too young, at age 5, to understand how contentious the climate on the east side was then.

Waterloo was under martial law, from the way I saw it.  Waterloo Police, the Black Hawk County Sheriff, and surrounding area law enforcement agencies canvassed the Cedar Valley, in search of Taylor.  Governor Bob Ray dispatched a National Guard helicopter, and Cedar Rapids Police/Linn County Sheriff lent their helicopter to search from the air.  The week was muggy and hot, filled with fear. 

The city was on edge, not knowing what was going to happen next.  That was when things became surreal. 

On Tuesday the 14th, a call came in that Black Hawk County Supervisor Carroll Hayes was involved in a shooting incident.  Hayes was getting in his car and his gun, looped in his belt, fell out, discharged, struck Hayes in his spleen and the bullet went through the roof of his car.  Black Hawk Sheriff’s Deputies William Mullikin, John Sewick, and Mark Johnson headed out to Hayes’ residence, about 10 miles south of Waterloo and 5 miles east of Voorhies. The squad car had it’s lights and sirens on speeding down the blacktop roads. 

Gertrude Vance and her husband, Robert , was driving from the opposite direction.  Gertrude Vance makes a left turn at the intersection and into the path of the deputies.  The cars collided, with the Vance vehicle rolling down into the ditch.  Mullikin and Robert Vance were killed. 

The manhunt for Taylor was suspended for the day as authorities rushed to the accident scene to mourn a loss of another officer. 

Black Hawk Co. Sheriff Deputy William Mullikin (Black Hawk Co. Sheriff’s Department)

Wednesday, July 15, was the funerals for Rice and Hoing. Both services were held on opposite ends of Waterloo:  Officer Rice at Sacred Heart, Officer Hoing at Grace Baptist.  Rev. Dale Rausch of Sacred Heart offered these words for a shell-shocked and bewildered community: 

“…we should not yield to pessimism…we can come out of this tragic week with greater strength, pride, and responsibility.” 

-quote taken and written by Jack Holveson, Des Moines Register, July 16, 1981 

On Thursday, a witness came into the police department.  She was an elderly lady whose vision wasn’t very good.  She thought she spotted Taylor near her home.  My dad, his boss, and a few others went over to the station.  The police put together a lineup and asked her to point him out. 

They brought in a police lineup, and out of nowhere, one of the officers told my dad to stand in the lineup.  My dad looked at him and asked why.  The officer didn’t give a reason and repeated his request.  Dad’s boss told Dad to go ahead and do it.  Dad was angry about it, but proceeded to walk to the other side of the glass and stand.  The elderly lady kept looking at dad and saying “I think that’s him” several times.  Dad started to sweat and became uncomfortable. 

Dad and Taylor had nearly the identical skin complexion, however Taylor was more muscular and he had a t-shaped scar on his left cheek, hence his nickname of T-Bone. 

The police kept asking her several times “Are you sure?”  Just as she was going to say “yes” for the 5th time, she remembered something.  She pulled out her purse and reached inside.  A pair of glasses were in her hands as she struggled to put them on, so she could see who she was looking at.  She peered intently at dad and uttered “I’m sorry.  That’s not him.”  Again the police asked the lady is she sure.  She repeatedly said yes and described that Dad didn’t fit the profile or even look similar to T-Bone in the face. 

Dad walked out of the police station, trying to make sense of what took place. 

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Law enforcement officers filing out of a Cedar Falls church after receiving word that Taylor has been captured outside of LaPorte City. They were attending the funeral of Sgt. Mullkin. (Waterloo Courier file photo)

On Friday, the funeral of Deputy Mullikin took place in Cedar Falls.  Officers from across the state returned to Waterloo to mourn the third law enforcement officer to lose his life in the line of duty.  During the service, a phone call was received by the dispatcher at the police station.  Two women out in rural LaPorte City ran into Taylor on a farm.  A helicopter was canvassing the field and confirmed that Taylor was running and ducking from being seen.  

The report was relayed to the church.  Each officer bolted out of the church in waves.  A photographer was stationed in front of the church and took an unforgettable picture of law enforcement officials racing out of every door in the church heading to their squad cars, from the front and the back. 

(Photo courtesy of Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Department)

Back out in the farm field outside of LaPorte City, officers armed with shotguns, swarmed all over the place, feverishly trying to find Taylor.  Taylor was crawling on the ground, to keep from being seen.  The crops were high enough to give him an advantage.  

Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Marvin Messerschmidt notices the crops moving.  He walks towards it, shotgun cocked, and Taylor sprints out.  Messerschmidt gives chase through the soybean crops after Taylor. Taylor trips and falls.  Messerschmidt towers over the fugitive and says “Are you Taylor?”  T-Bone looks up, and says “Yes.”  The other officers wrestles the gun out of his hands, handcuffs him, and escorted him out of the field and into the cruiser to head back to Waterloo. 

The largest manhunt in Iowa history was over. 

Waterloo Courier photographer Roy Dabner arrives quickly and takes a picture of all four officers escorting Taylor out of the field.  That photo, and the picture of the officers rushing out of the church, remains a permanent fixture in my mind.   

From left to right, Waterloo Police Officers Tom Shimp and Larry Coffin, State Trooper Marv Messerschmidt and Waterloo Police Officer Mark Shoars, lead James "T-Bone Taylor" out of the bean field after being captured. Messerschmidt is credited with capturing Taylor, who was hiding in the bean field. (Roy Dabner/Waterloo Courier archives)
From left to right, Waterloo Police Officers Tom Shimp and Larry Coffin, State Trooper Marv Messerschmidt and Waterloo Police Officer Mark Shoars, lead James “T-Bone Taylor” out of the bean field after being captured. Messerschmidt is credited with capturing Taylor, who was hiding in the bean field. (Roy Dabner/Waterloo Courier archives)

“T-Bone” Taylor was tried and convicted for double homicide in Council Bluffs, as the trial was moved because of publicity.  Currently he is still in the Men’s Reformatory in Anamosa, serving two life sentences.  Officers Hoing and Rice are memorialized every night as softball teams take the field at the Hoing-Rice Complex.  Mullikin’s widow established a scholarship in her husband’s memory one year after his death.

The house, that was tucked on the corner of Franklin and Courtland Streets has long been destroyed.  However, every time I drive past there to head to my grandparents’ house or to another destination in town, that deserted spot is an automatic reminder of that night and that week in July 1981. 

It was bizarre, surreal, and tragic. 

The longest week. 

Michael Hoing’s son, Travis, and his niece, Melody, places a wreath at the memorial for Hoing and Wayne Rice at Hoing-Rice Softball Complex. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier)

Still Standing

Venerable Sloane Wallace Stadium in Waterloo.

Leonard Raffensperger, Jerry Moses, Reggie Roby, Howard Vernon, and Jim Miller 

George Dutcher, Jim Berry, Don Perkins, Kelly Ellis, and Courtney Messingham

Those names roll off of my tongue like the staccato of a Tommy gun. 

Mike Woodley, Mike Allen, Glen Strobridge, and Forry Smith

All of these individuals and images have one thing in common…they stood inside of the quiet, quaint, worn facility nestled in a west-side residential area cornered by W. 5th, W.6th, Western Ave., Johnson Street, and Pleasant Street in Waterloo, Iowa.  

To some, it’s a run-down stadium.  That’s what some out-of-town schools and fans referred to it as.  That’s true, but that excuse was used to deflect fear from the raucous and passionate crowd from across the field. 

To those in the Cedar Valley, namely to the residents of Waterloo, it is simply known as Sloane Wallace Stadium.   

Russ Smith, Rick Coleman, Kevin Evans, Benny Walker, Bob Hogue, and Bob Bakken.

Don Perkins led the West Wahawks to great success in the 1950. (Courtesy of Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier archives)

The ol’ girl is showing her age.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s symbolizes how important she is to the good folks of Waterloo.  The memories, the history, and the stories that continue to be told over and over. 

Last week, Jim Sullivan of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier wrote a three-part series on Sloane Wallace’s glorious past, its current status at the home for soccer and Gilbertville Don Bosco High’s home football field, and it’s future. 

Growing up, I listened to KWLO, KCFI (now KCNZ), and KBBG to hear the Trojans, Wahawks, Sailors and Tigers.  Kerry Burt (yes, that Kerry Burt) of the Wahawks and Taras Walker of Columbus would run to the left, run to the right, and run up the middle on Sloane Wallace’s beautiful manicured, never sloppy green field.  The drainage system, according to urban legend, was so good, it was scary. 

What was noticeable was that there was no track surrounding the field.  It used to be, but it was all cinder. 

I was born into a family of East Trojans.  Four of my uncles were wrestlers.  A few of them were coached by Dave Natvig.  My dad, who was a native of Texas, came to the Cedar Valley in 1972, to attend college at UNI.  There wasn’t a day go by if he wasn’t hearing a story about a certain football team who hasn’t lost a game for six years (East), a certain wrestling team that haven’t tasted defeat since 1968 (West), and a wrestler who nabbed a gold medal, without surrendering a point (Dan Gable).  That was unheard of.  But that was the “Waterloo” way. 

East's Lew Montgomery wowed the crowds at Sloane Wallace, and then later at Kinnick Stadium. (Courtesy of Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier archives)

October 29, 1993 marked the final home game for my senior class.  It was also the final game for East at Sloane Wallace.  Earlier in the year, after several years of debate, it was announced that both East and West will play in a new facility out by Central Middle School (formerly Central High).   

That night we played Dubuque Wahlert.  After a thrilling win over West, a heart-breaking loss at the gun to Dubuque Senior, and a homecoming loss to Cedar Falls, we were not going to leave the ol’ girl with another loss.  With :32 left in the game, score tied 20-20, Wahlert set up for a FG.  They made it and won the game 23-20. 

Personally, it was the worst feeling in the world.  It felt like we let the east side down, and the city down.  There should have been a joyous send-off, not another crushing last-minute loss. 

Today, Don Bosco High of Gilbertville and the soccer teams at East and West call Sloane Wallace home.  As long as Sloane Wallace is still in use, the wrecking ball will not be swinging any time. 

Fractured Lives

I was going to post a topic that merited a discussion, but I have something a lot more important to roll out this afternoon.

In the past, I have written about mental illness and suicide, and the ongoing misunderstanding and handling of individuals who are affected by mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar depression, among a few others.  I have also disclosed my personal battle with depression.

 

Jeffrey Krier battled mental illness. A judge rejected his family request to have him committed. As a result, he shot and killed a Keokuk County sheriff's deputy on Monday. (Photo submitted to The Des Moines Register)

On Monday, Jeffrey Krier, who had a long history of mental illness, fired upon Keokuk County authorities, killing deputy Eric Stein.  Krier’s family went to a judge to commit him to a facility, and the judge rejected it.

This tragic incident reminds you of another well-publicized tragedy involving mental illness.  I don’t have to remind you what it is if you live here in Iowa:  the death of Coach Ed Thomas.  In January, Jared Lee Loughner walked up to a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona and fired upon a crowd who were there to talk with U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  Six were killed.  Loughner had a history of mental illness.

Last week, unbeknownst to everyone, another incident took place in Waterloo.  Police was called to a disturbance at a home.  A young man fled the scene and a car chase ensued.  The chase ended on the 4th Street bridge in downtown Waterloo, when the young man jumped into the Cedar River.  He floated down the river for 10 blocks before rescue crews were able to pull him out near the 11th Street bridge.

The kid’s name is Clifton Jenes, age 19.  Clifton is the son of Kim Sanders.

Kim Sanders is my cousin.

Clifton have battled mental illness for years.  His father committed suicide in 1993.

 

My cousin Kim and her son Clifton.

It is no surprise that there is a stigma in the black community in respects to mental illness.  The black community has a strong distrust of physicians and medical professionals.  Mental health is a “taboo” subject.  We prefer to “pray it out” than seek help.  Yes, faith is an integral part of our community and lives, but faith alone isn’t enough.

The suicide rate among black men has doubled since 1980, making suicide the third leading cause of death for black men between the ages 15 and 24, according to a column by the website Healthy Places in 2008.

It’s not a rosy picture at all.

Rather than hide it, Kim went public about Clifton’s battle with depression.  It’s an encouraging sign for me, because the more we learn about how devastating mental illness can be, the more people are willing to understand it, talk about it in public, and seek help.  I’m hopeful that this will signal a trend in the African American community, and at large, to not dismiss mental illness and sweep it under the rug.

I’m treading on thin ice here because my family is very private when it comes to talking about them in public.  There are lines I do not cross when it comes to putting my family in a public blog.  It is why with Kim talking about what her family has went through, I can write this without worrying about the reaction towards it.

I can’t say this enough, probably because there is someone out there I know, or don’t know, who doesn’t think it will happen to them or to someone they know.  Know what the signs of mental disorder is.  If someone isn’t “themselves”, depressed for longer than 2-3 weeks, or is thinking about what life would be like if they weren’t here, don’t screw around and make guesses.

Call for help.  Offer support.  Don’t dismiss it.