An amazing night in a small Iowa town

Main Street was blocked off for a concert and the all-school reunion last weekend in Marcus, Iowa.

Last weekend Marcus, Iowa, doubled (maybe tripled) in size.

A group of Marcus residents worked for a year to plan an all-school reunion, a Marcus family sponsored two bands that played at the end of Main Street under the stars and the alumni came back home from all over the country.

On top of all this, the town also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Marcus Community Fair, a three-day event that included an alumni baseball game, a 5K memorial run, loads of 4-H animals, a parade with lots of candy for the kids, rides, games and all the stuff that makes up the best small-town fairs.

My brother Ken (third from right) played in the reunion baseball game of two teams that used to play on summer nights against other small town teams.

Marcus has about 1,000 residents and I grew up on a farm about five miles north, where I lived until I was 18 and went away to college. I moved to the East Coast when I was 22, so for 30-plus years I’ve returned annually — most often during fair time.

I want to thank the people of Marcus for working hard to create such a memorable event for so many of us — a night that ran so smoothly without long lines or traffic jams. The weather, which has been very hot and unpredictable this summer in the Midwest, even cooperated with a cool breeze, low humidity and stars.

I feel lucky to have grown up in a town like Marcus — a town that has such heart and pride, a town that continues to fight to stay alive despite the demise of the family farm and a way of life that’s quickly disappearing.

It was difficult leaving Marcus this year. I knew this was possibly my last visit to my parents’ home in town. My dad turned 85 while I was home, and my mom passed away two years ago. The house is becoming more and more of a challenge for him.

By this time next year, my father may be living with my sister and her husband in a different small town. And I know that would be a good thing, especially during the long Iowa winters. His house in town — which once belonged to his grandparents — will be emptied (quite a project, to be sure) and sold.

Classes have reunions during the fair, and they have fun riding in the parade. They used to get squirted by water hoses, but that got out of hand and was stopped a few years ago. My sister Nancy is on this float (second from right).

And after more than 100 years, there will be no more Meylors in Marcus. There will be no place to call home in a place that has always given me strength and roots.

It reminds me of the first time I went home after moving to New Jersey with my husband. It was September: my first vacation from my new job and a trip by myself because we couldn’t afford two tickets.

I remember seeing the Iowa countryside from the airplane for the first time in my life. The checkerboard of golden fields was so beautiful that I was crying like a baby by the time I landed in Des Moines. I’m sure the people on my flight thought I was coming home for a funeral, and my sister, Nancy, must have thought I was a blubbering fool.

So, that’s why I want to thank the people of Marcus. You gave me — and some 800 other alumni — a night to remember. And even if there’s no Meylor house on a tree-lined street near the high school, Marcus will still be home to me.

A good dozen are missing, but these are the Meylors that gathered at my sister's house this year.

40 thoughts on “An amazing night in a small Iowa town

  1. Julie: I wish more people felt your attachment to their home town. There is no other connection as heartwarming in your life than coming home to people you have known all your life. I sorry to see that your Dad will be leaving Marcus. We will miss him greatly.

    1. Hi Arlene, I met you at the historical society’s fair booth. It’s not a done deal with my Dad yet. I’m sure he will change his mind a few times … and, believe me, it will be much harder for him to leave than it was for me. Thank you for visiting my site. I write about growing up in the Midwest — a LOT. 🙂

  2. Beautifully said. It was great weekend! I also send my thanks to all who worked so hard to put it togehter and make it run so well.

  3. Thanks so much for this beautiful little story ..I left home in 65, and have returned as much as possible, surly to every reunion (of any kind) and this year I brought my daughter..I loved every minute,like I always do..The people of Marcus are family and I treasure all the memories that I have growing up there.

    1. I do know the Rae name — would have been great to meet you and your daughter. I knew this piece would ring true for many of us who left Marcus physically, but never mentally. Thanks for your comments!

    1. Thanks, Paula. It was such a great time — from the baseball game to the Boy Scout pancake breakfast! 🙂 Thanks for asking about my dad, too. I think it will be even harder for him to leave Marcus …

  4. This makes me cry and I didn’t even grow up in Marcus! Julie, you have an amazing talent and I love to read anything you write. Even more than that, you’re an amazing friend. So fun seeing you and everyone else this weekend….we always just pick up where we left off. Thanks for our 30+ years of friendship!

    1. Ohhhh, now you’re going to make ME cry. It’s true. Whenever I see you, there’s none of that weird getting to know each other stuff. (And this next image just came to me.) I guess when you’ve run through a dorm complex in the middle of the night enroute to a guys’ floor to steal their thingamajig (what the hell was it?) or bumped all night long at a Rawson dance or held a “Sistahs” blood ritual after a night at the Q with someone, well, I guess it makes it that much easier to “pick up where we left off.” Thanks for visiting my site!

  5. I am adding this note that I received from my cousin because it was so sweet of her:

    I am dale brady’s sister – Linda
    I probably was your baby sitter back in the day!
    Dale forwarded your website to me and I was so glad to read everything!
    I remember your parents as sweet, hardworking,fair,smiling, and full of love
    of family and faith in God.
    I enjoyed your poems- i too remember Milo Miller- I didn’t have much
    interaction with him- I too was a farm kid- but have heard many stories.
    I too had bittersweet feelings after I left Marcus after my dad’s funeral-
    there was no reason to return- except to bathe in the memories that arise as
    you drive around town and then visit the cemetery.
    I thank God often that I was raised in our small town by people like your
    parents and mine- that taught me the value of a dollar, that nothing is
    sweeter than the smell of new mown hay,and that a good work ethic is
    something to be proud of!

    Thanks For sharing
    Linda Brady Christensen

  6. And this is from Linda’s brother, my classmate, and fave person, Dale Brady of Mason City:

    Thanks for sharing! Your articles are spectacular. I forwarded the link to my sisters, Evelyn & Linda and brother Scot. The girls said to tell you how much they appreciated them. Both said that everything you wrote had them in tears & we all can relate to what you wrote. It is quite different going back when you don’t have a parent or sibling living in Marcus. Meg & I still have Pedersen’s, but both my sisters find it harder & harder to come back with out a place to stay.
    Your article about Milo Miller was very touching. I knew that he carried around graduation pictures of several Marcus girls, but didn’t know you were one of the select few. Keep up your love of writing it is much appreciated by those who love to read.
    It was great to see you, & I am very glad I stopped over to see your Dad & family on Saturday. That weekend seems like a whirl wind & ages ago already, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
    Julie -Thanks for doing Marcus PROUD!!!
    Sincerely, Dale

  7. Awesome story, Julie! Your fellow townies will be proud to see it in the Register — and it will make an awesome keepsake for your family and friends!

  8. Julia and Dan S………..can’t wait to see your latest piece in the DMR on Sunday. Just told my mom and you could hear her light up in her room at 9 p.m. tonight knowing that the wonderful piece you wrote is going to be in the state paper for all to see. I sent out your FB link to a 100 friends tonight to spread the word……….thanks Julia for stepping up and being the next wonderful writer from MARCUS, IOWA…….even though my mom’s days are limited reading your stuff will always make me think of my mom and bring tears to my eyes….HATE YOU FOR THAT……in a good way……..but man I hate to always be crying over my computer. You have a gift and I am glad you are so desirous to share it with all of us!!!!!
    You know the Cherokee paper has an opening for a new GREY MATTERS writer….even though you should change the name to something more fitting I would love to see you share your stories with us through that means if so inclined…..HINT HINT!!!!
    Dan Steffen………my brother Kurt has some amazing pics and video from the Marcus Fair. If you aren’t friends with him on FB request him on FB and enjoy his pics……….his pics and video of the FLIPPERS are really nice.
    FYI…….rumor is that Remsen is wanting to bring the gang back for their big anniversary in 2014 or 2015……..stage and all……… it and am so proud of the FLIPPERS……….

    Julia………I think there is a great story to be told about Conrad and Randy and The Fabulous Flippers. Two local boys returning home and making a wonderful weekend extra special……….another HINT HINT…..NIGHT!!!!

    1. Phil, Thanks for stopping in and inviting your whole crew along! 🙂 I’m glad your mom got to hear the essay. She is a special lady — a kindred spirit! I’m working more than full time already, so no time for more columns now, but I would love to do something like that when I retire. Right now I’m tied to the weather news as we wait to see what Irene is going to do. If it heads up for RI, my company is going to be very, very busy with claims! I’m sure there’s a great story behind the Flippers, but I’m not a reporter anymore, just someone who writes down their thoughts. So someone else will need to take on the Flippers! Thanks again for your kind words and passing on my blog to others.

  9. Thank you Julie for this wonderful article. It makes me glad to be a part of this small town, and yes, it was an amazing night and weekend. I just wish it wouldn’t have flown by so quickly.
    Your dad is such a very special guy. He has been such a big part of the Historical Society and he has spent countless hours working on the displays, fixing up the building, and the list goes on. Marcus and the Historical Society owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

    1. Thank YOU and the committee for all the work you did! I was amazed by how smoothly the reunion dinner went! My class members headed down on the late end, and we walked right in with no line at all. Amazing! So many people were there — I even heard that one of our BVM sisters from Holy Name was in town. I wish I would have known — we would have loved to see her! Thanks, also, for your kind words. I hadn’t even told dad about the article yet, so I don’t know if he was at the meeting last night or not, but I HAVE to call him tonight!

  10. Julie,
    Enjoyed your aricle.
    Like you, I have many precious memories of farm life around Marcus. The Bird, Meylor and Seggerman families were big families
    in our part of the world. It was good to see how these families
    blossomed. Thanks to the local people for all their efforts.

    1. Hi Bob! Yes, and it was great to see all those Meylors, Birds and Seggermans and everyone else that weekend! I heard that one of the Holy Name BVM sisters was at your mom’s house that weekend — one of the ones that taught me and my class. Is that correct? We were wishing we would have known. We would have loved to visit with her. Thanks for stopping by — AND your funny stories!

  11. Julia, Bob sent your interesting article on to me…I’m one of the Colliins Clan and a shirt-tail relative of the Meylor Clan. The BVM that was in Marcus was Ann Daniel O’Neill who taught at Holy Name from 1968–72. Sister lives over at our Motherhouse in Dubuque. She enjoyed her visit back to Marcus. It was good to connect with relatives and friends.

    Donard Collins, BVM

    1. Hello Sister Donard! So glad you stopped by my blog and thank you for your comments.. Several former students from Sister Ann Daniel’s 8th grade class of 1971 were in town. We learned that she was visiting after the fact. We would really love to have her address, if that’s possible. It would be nice to reconnect with her. JMS

  12. The address is: 1150 Carmel Drive, Dubuque, IA 52003-7998. I’m sure she would like to hear from you. She was thrilled that she met as many former students as she did. You are always welcome in Dubuque.

    Donard Collins, BVM

  13. Your story brought a tear to my eye, Julie! I, too, wish I grew up in a small town like Marcus. Mine was a small town but lacked the humbleness. Your story was a great portrayal of a very special piece of your life. Thanks for sharing!

  14. What a great article, you have captured the evening and entire weekend immaculately. So many folks have no clue what “Small Town America” is all about, thanks for giving a lot of them a sample of our “Great Secret”.. We’ve been in Marcus for 36 years, your family are some of the nicest folks we’ve been acquainted with, here, or anywhere.

  15. Thanks for stopping by, George. Weekends like that one are all about the hard work behind the scenes for weeks on end, and then making it all look so effortless. I’ve never introduced myself, but I think I’ve seen you and your wife walking on the track, which is one of my favorite early-morning places whenever I’m back. I know my dad will miss Marcus, but he’s moving to another nice, little Iowa town. 🙂

  16. This post is still getting a steady stream of traffic. I’d love to get some feedback if you’re checking out my site. Thanks!! Also wondering if this article was linked from/to another site, which might be where the traffic is coming from. Please speak up … would love to know who’s visiting!

  17. Hi I got this site from the Marcus Blog. My name is Jackie Johnson and my grandpa (Dale Dorr)lives just a few houses down from your dad’s home. I enjoyed your essay and will print it out for my grandpa.

  18. An amazing night in a small Iowa town Between Land and Sky I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re amazing! Thanks! your article about An amazing night in a small Iowa town Between Land and Sky Best Regards Yoder Schaad

  19. Update: This article did appear on the guest editorial page of the Sunday Des Moines Register soon after it appeared here. In an all-mixed-up jumble of sad and relieved feelings, my father did sell his home and leave his hometown of 86 years and now lives with my sister in a town nearby. And so it goes.

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