Nov 21 2012


Published by at 10:11 PM under Comm 300

Denison is like every other small town in Iowa. The difference is that author Dale Maharidge spent a year there and wrote their story. The plot of this story is to peek into the lives of some of Denison’s most noticeable people.

There is the night man, who tootles along in his wheelchair. The old man still remains one of the few blacks in the community and recalls times prior to the Hispanic influx.  More notably, the story follows Mayor Ken Livingston and Dick Knowles, his adversary. Their battles over Streetscape funds and the future of Uptown are insightful.

Meanwhile There is La Maestra, Georgia Hollrah and her ESL class. There is Crawford County Sheriff Tom Hogan and his recollection of the eleven rail-car bodies found years ago. The arrival of the Hispanic community, the pros and cons of Wal-Mart, and the key figure meetings at Cronk’s café  are all here. It is the dream of the golf course and the nightmare of businesses lost. Yet more interesting then the aforementioned, it is Denison’s underground story.

It is the notorious Al Capone and prohibition. It is the ghost of Leslie Shaw and his dealings with Teddy Roosevelt and William Bryan. There is the maximum $100 fine for being naked as Maharidge recalls the story of two workers who knock at the door of one prominent local man. As his wife answered the door the conversation begins on page 137:

“Uh, Mrs.______, you don’t have any clothes on! “

It’s okay. C’mon in.”

This is the small town story of Denison, Iowa. Author Dale Maharidge comes to understand that Iowa towns have a peeking order, “It was a ‘clean’ town, and residents didn’t mind telling visitors they were better than Denison, a ‘dirty’ town where animals were killed and Latinos lived…” (P.100) Shopping in Omaha, Farmland, The Des Moines Register bias, and Book Em’ Danos all have a contribution to Denison’s future and its community standing.

The book is divided into self-explanatory chapters. Obviously Uptown is about Uptown Denison. La Maestra tells of the teacher is anther example. For this book, I find it works nicely and presents the reader an impartial look at the town.

“It’s a small town. People aren’t friendly?”According to the night man, “ A lot less friendly than you would think.”(P.134)

Meanwhile the “… Latinos saw as a golden chance at a new beginning.” (P.88)

As far as emotional involvement from Maharidge, there is none. The West Coast girl is a Latina high school student from Pomona who shares her thoughts on the areas white and Latino crowds. Even as the lonely widow attempts to seduce ‘the writer’ he slips away with only her story. No kiss and tell here.

All in all, Denison, Iowa by Dale Maharidge is an easy read with some fun tidbits about the town. I found Donna Reed’s classmates thoughts about the late star intriguing. If you ever get a chance drive through the old Wal-Mart parking lot (across from the new Wal-Mart Supercenter) and ask a resident if it was worth it. I’m sure you’ll get some sort of answer.  If you’re from small town Iowa, where’s your town in the pecking order?

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