Christmas trip taught a lot!

We ventured to Des Moines, or “Of the money!” (rough translation!), that oppulent corner of Iowa, for four days, including Christmas, without realizing we would be invading the most capitalistic corner of that corn-crop state among great herds of deer, homes “to die for,” and the workplace of our coach, Dave Allison of the American Hockey League’s Iowa Stars!
All this admiration arose from viewing Des Moines’ gorgeous $12-million arena and matching airport, where you can be served meals overlooking the games.
Then you learn there is no reason for other industries here where banks and other financial houses dominate the scene.
The Stars’ home rink seats 15,000 fans, but it only was about half-filled when they defeated the Chicago-based Peoria Rivermen 3-2.
Fully half of the whole show for us was Dave and my daughter Marion’s own home on the rim of probably a former lake bed. Other great dwellings are going up almost as fast as you can count.
The Allisons overlook a scene that soon might be filled with three-storey, four- or five-bedroom houses, including double garages and huge basements. But that’s the style down there!
You only can begin to judge what you see from the real estate pages where housing goes up over $300,000 (U.S.) per unit, so drop that paper before burning your fingers. Impressed yet?
But you can see much more than house on lots that were once farm land. There are huge windows, terraces and balconies on every classy domicile.
So why is a backwoods boy ogling all that wealth? While the hockey game scenery adds up to a memorable experience, it was great to have all three daughters, plus three granddaughters, around, including a second Iowan daughter, Sara Ann, and her husband Ted Aarstad, from Sioux City and my youngest girl—and chief aide—Carolyn.
It also was wonderful to find a corner where folks know how to live in meaningful ways. It makes you want to learn their business trade better.
Crossing Minnesota with Northwest Airlines, a variety of things catch the eye. For instance, almost every traveller pulls a suitcase on wheels. And numerous men were much shorter than the giant Scandinavians of Minnesota legend who populated that state.
In fact, under five-footers were frequently seen.
Among Dave’s hockey helpers there is an engaging sports fisherman who knows Rainy Lake and hopes to buy a summer home here.
The Wells Fargo names appears on that arena, as well as downtown business, and this is historic because that company had stage coaches helping develop the West before train travel.
You order a Star burger to eat in the Des Moines arena after you leave the security checking at the airport, which almost can make you wish you never came because you must shed your jacket, belt, shoes, wrist watch, and any electronic devices such as hearing aids, phone, or radio. Then try to remember everything later.
(The detector zinged at my wallet before I remembered to remove some “Toonies!”)
There were black porters helping at the airports who reminded me of similar helpers on our old passenger trains, although the former spoke better English.
Some airport helpers came from Ethiopia and one who enjoyed me remembering its former ruler, Haile Selassi, pushed my wheelchair because my canes slowed me down.
It was a wonderful weekend all told and I hope to travel that way again. My only previous trip to Iowa was by car and today the gasoline cost might compare to an airplane ticket.
• • •
But I arrived after the two Gregs (Madill and Ross), friends of Dave, had come and gone with their little hockey players from Fort Frances, who made quite a impression while gaining the thrill of their young careers at Des Moines.
• • •
Our own up-and-coming politician, Big Al Bedard, may be practically unstoppable now that his daughter has given him a computer for Christmas.
• • •
A Meals on Wheels volunteer from the Oddfellows said he recognized me from having two sons deliver the Winnipeg Tribune for me as agent there many years ago. So I asked the ages of his boys today and learned both are now in their 50s!
I would be delighted to identify my benefactor, only he insisted his name not go into the paper.
While I always honour this request, I feel somehow cheated for being unable to give credit where credit is due, if you recognize that old phrase!
• • •
Here I’ll pay my respects to the late Lou Farago, who was vice-principal in Fort High during my time as a spare teacher.
We never had a more physically active teacher than Lou, who also alternated between here and Rainy River and was incredibly active in between, especially at tennis, which he played somewhere at times in the southern islands during winter holidays.
And Lou was equally renowned for his regular embarrassments, which provided lots of laugh. At one noon luncheon, he told the new school superintendent, a stranger to Lou, to leave the school restaurant and later shouted at a policeman to remove his locker-sniffing dog which was searching for marijuana!
• • •
It was great to have George Armstrong’s memory revived when I met one of his former employees, David Westram. I hope we never forget George—one of our all-time best money-makers with his gravel pit, trucks, and ready-mix cement.
Between George and older J.A. Mathieu, the lumberman, they helped our town prosper along with our paper-making.
• • •
While the Iowa hockey scene is certainly impressive, I cannot help but compare it to our own game and new rink back in the early ’50s when we owned the proudest sports town anywhere—and winning the Allan Cup can never be topped.
• • •
Apparently “Nutty” has found a girlfriend, undoubtedly because of his hoped-for career as Hollywood’s next animal movie star. Although, maybe a cat got him—the little beggar!
“Nutty” has not been around all through the holidays, so I suspect he has been overeating on all those gifts he gets. Perhaps I don’t recognize him in his new figure, possibly looking more like a young wolf than a squirrel!
If he ever gets back into shape, “Nutty” may bring his girl over to meet me before he commences his celebrated film career because he will need a manager.

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