On Monday we woke early and continued our westward travel toward Omaha, my hometown and residence of family and close friends, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the country. As we inched our way through the entire state of Iowa, we were alerted (thank you Janie!) to the fact that the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is located just a quick exit off Interstate 80 in West Branch, Iowa. Knowing we might not find ourselves driving through this part of Iowa again anytime soon, we headed off the highway to add another Presidential Library to our list of trip attractions.
Neither Bob nor I knew much about Hoover’s life or presidency. When we visited the FDR Library earlier in our trip much of the information on the Great Depression was centered on the Hoover administration’s inability to effectively deal with the failing banks. Of course the Hoover Library presents a slightly different view, while at the same time acknowledging how the depression was largely blamed on Hoover. After visiting both libraries, we feel comfortable that Hoover was probably just in the presidency at the worst possible time. In fact, for several years prior to becoming president, then Secretary of Commerce Hoover vigorously warned congress and president Coolidge that stock market speculation and valuations along with extremely liberal bank lending policies were seriously jeopardising the economy. Of course members of congress, Coolidge, and the big banks felt differently. Well, someone has to be the fall guy. Who better than the president! Guess our society has to go through this every 75 years or so!
His accomplishments and contributions to society included organizing and implementing enormous humanitarian relief efforts both at home and abroad during and after both world wars, served as head of U.S. FDA during World War I, initiated the groundwork for public works projects such as the Hoover Dam, served as Secretary of Commerce, reorganized the Executive Department for the Truman administration, and signed the bill founding the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1930. Hoover was also one of only two presidents who donated his presidential salary (Kennedy being the other). We were very glad we stopped for this lesson in American History.
As we entered Omaha we noticed a sign off the side of the Interstate which read “Scenic View”. Having grown up in Omaha I was curious what that view could be. This is what we found:
We arrived in Omaha Sunday evening and were warmly welcomed by our friends Janie & Al Murow (travelled with us early in our trip to Sedona & Scottsdale). We settled into our room with an adjoining 2 sink bathroom (so happy!).
On Tuesday I had a fun lunch with my friends from childhood, Marcy (been friends since 5th grade, attended U of Texas with me, and stood up in each other’s weddings), Julie (my sister-in-law who I’ve known since 1st grade), and Janie (known since I was 3, attended U of Illinois with me, and stood up in each other’s weddings; our grandparents and parents were friends). We enjoyed our salads at Cheesecake Factory and caught up on each other’s lives. So nice to be together!
Tuesday afternoon included a stop at Borsheims, a jewelry store founded in 1870 and has been a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway since 1989. And yes it’s located in Omaha, Nebraska! The store keeps an inventory that includes more than 100,000 pieces of jewelry and watches. Just envision a department store of jewelry. You can’t come to Omaha without a stop here. Afterwards a much-needed stop for a manipedi.
Tuesday night we got a quick tour of Daniel’s new loft (Daniel is Janie & Al’s oldest son, also brother to Rebecca who we met in Washington D.C. and older brother of Aaron who we will see on our way through Southern California later in our trip). Daniel is a hard-working attorney in Omaha and now the proud owner of an amazing loft downtown. We had dinner in downtown Omaha at Wilson & Washburn named after early Omaha’s prominent madams Anna Wilson & Josie Washburn. They are popular for their beet burger and other menu items which include beets. (Yes this is Nebraska and no this is not a typo error. Omaha sure has changed from their days of only serving corn-fed beef!)
On Wednesday morning we both had much needed hair appointments and then flu shots at Walgreens. I took a walk with Janie in her neighborhood, and then a quick lunch with the guys back at the house. Bob and I went to the Omaha JCC to visit my brother Mark along with my niece Rachel. Julie also met us there with their dog Charlie. Only family member missing was my nephew David who was busy at work. Mark is the JCC Executive Director and Rachel the BBYO/Teen Director. It was fun to see them at their work, and of course it is always nice to visit and get caught up with family.
Next stop was to spend time with Marcy, her son K.C., and their dog Jasmine. K.C. was proud to show off his new tattoo, earned for excellent behaviour over several months. Way to go K.C. We all had a great time and delicious dinner at Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill. We hope it won’t be too long before we see our family and friends again.
We left Omaha early Thursday morning and headed to Rapid City, South Dakota. About 250 miles outside of Omaha we came upon “The World’s Only Corn Palace” in Mitchell South Dakota. The Corn Palace is a multi purpose arena decorated with corn art. The murals and designs covering the building are made from corn and other grains. The exterior corn murals are replaced and redesigned each year with a new theme created by local artists.
The Corn Palace is currently under construction. We observed a worker creating one of the murals with ears of corn:
We continued on our way and came upon this: