Monthly Archives: October 2008

Everyday People column: First and last deep sea fishing trip

Fishing 1 1998 Fishing 2 1998 Fishing 3 1998 Fishing 4 1998 Fishing 5 1998“A seat in this boat was not unlike a seat upon a bucking broncho…. The craft pranced and reared and plunged like an animal. As each wave came, and she rose for it, she seemed like a horse making at a fence outrageously high. … Then, after scornfully bumping a crest, she would slide and race and splash down a long incline, and arrive bobbing and nodding in front of the next menace.” – Stephen Crane in “The Open Boat.”

Stephen Crane’s words are quite appropriate for an experience my son and I had recently off the coast of Ponce Inlet, Fla.

I was in the Sunshine State on a working vacation and my son Dane, 16, (pictured above) accompanied me. Dane and I like to fish together. So, to add a little adventure to this trip, I decided we’d go on a deep-sea fishing trip aboard a charter boat.

Both four-hour and eight-hour sessions are offered.

I made reservations for a four-hour excursion aboard the Sea Love on our last available afternoon. Unfortunately, the day dawned cloudy and windy with thunderstorms in the forecast.

When we checked in at the Sea Love’s dock a little past noon, the woman who had taken our reservation a day earlier had bad news: “We’re not going anywhere today. The ocean’s too rough. There are eight-foot swells out there.”

I’m sure “eight-foot swells” meant something to her but they meant nothing to me.

I’m very determined (my wife says the word stubborn is more appropriate). And, as we drove away, I remembered another nearby charter operation, the Critter Fleet. I decided to see if they still had plans to sail that afternoon.

“I don’t suppose you’re going out today,” I said to the clerk.

“Oh, yes we are!” she said. “It’s $30 apiece.”

My persistence had paid off!

“We’re using the biggest boat, the Super Critter,” the woman said as she imprinted my MasterCard.

I thought about buying Dane a souvenir T-shirt at that time as a remembrance of this father/son adventure, but I decided to wait until after we got back – it would mean more then.

“Be ready to board at five before one,” the woman behind the counter said.

I checked my watch. It was 12:15 p.m.

On retrospect, signing up to take a four-hour fishing cruise despite “eight-foot swells” was a mistake. But going back to the car and eating submarine sandwiches and drinking pop while waiting for the appointed hour of departure also was not the brightest thing Dane and I have ever done.

At five before one, my son and I were standing on the dock with nearly 20 others, anxious to board Super Critter. Most of the other people were men, but there were two or three couples and at least one family – mom, dad and two sons.

(I later would see one of the boys, in his early teens, lose his lunch not once, not twice but three times. He may have done it more but those were the only instances I was unfortunate enough to witness.)

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this,” the first mate told us before we were allowed on board. “It’s choppy out there today. If you think it’s bad on the lower deck, it’s twice as bad on the upper deck.

“If you get sick, don’t throw up in the bathroom. Don’t throw up in the trash cans. And don’t throw up over the railing of the upper deck – you’ll hit someone below you. Throw up over the railing of the lower deck – you’ve got the entire Atlantic Ocean.

“You won’t need to know this,” he continued. Then he proceeded to tell us where the life jackets were kept, and he demonstrated how to use them.

The waters were calm and the ride was peaceful. That is, for five minutes, until we left the inlet.

As we headed 12 grueling miles out to sea, Super Critter was met with resistance and loped over each wave. It also took some side hits that made it sway from side to side.

I hate to put Stephen Crane to work again, but he said it best: “A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that, after successfully surmounting one wave, you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.”

Super Critter’s diesel engine roared and revved that afternoon, allowing the boat to do battle against the monster ocean. Even as we sat in the dayroom, I could smell the engine’s exhaust, and it heightened the queasiness building in my stomach.

I looked at Dane. He was expressionless and pale. We were two seasick sailors.

Some of the fishermen used the time we spent traveling to our fishing spot playing cards, laughing and drinking beer. I envied them.

One couple sat in front of us and played Euchre with two young men. But only five minutes into the game, the young woman hurried outside to the railing – and it wasn’t to watch for sharks.

After she emptied her insides, she spent the rest of the afternoon lying on a bench in the dayroom.

Not yet to our destination, my sickness was building. I thrust a spearmint-flavored cough drop into my mouth in an attempt to take my mind off my churning stomach and a headache.

I normally have a cast iron stomach, and motion seldom makes me ill. The only carnival ride that has gotten to me has been the Galleon, that big “boat” that swings like a pendulum.

As we reached our destination, I was feeling like I was on the Galleon. And I remember thinking to myself: If this were a carnival ride, it’d be over in two minutes. But this experience – and the illness – will continue about three and a half hours more.

The boat still heaved to and fro even after its anchors were dropped 50 feet to the ocean bottom. But it was time to fish, so we moved outside to the railing with the others.

Waiting for us there were poles and bait – cut up pieces of squid and dead sardines, both fairly aromatic.

Handling the fishing rod while deep-sea fishing often takes two hands. With both hands on the rod, we were unable to hold onto the railing, so we’d lean against it to avoid being jostled about by the rocking boat.

I didn’t fish very diligently, and I didn’t catch anything. Dane caught a couple of small fish. I snapped his photo, but he’s pale and there’s no smile on his face.

“I paid sixty bucks just so you and I could be sick,” I said to Dane.

The best thing that happened all afternoon was the captain’s voice booming over the intercom at about 4:30: “Bring ’em out of the water, folks. It’s time to head back in.”

Although Dane and I never lost our submarine sandwiches overboard that day, our stomachs didn’t return to normal for 24 hours.

Even now, whenever I get a whiff of diesel fumes or put a spearmint cough drop in my mouth, I have flashbacks of that day of fishing hell.

I never did buy Dane that souvenir T-shirt, either. It would have just served as another reminder of something we’re trying to forget.

Only one aspect of that fishing expedition makes me smile: We signed up for four hours instead of opting for an eight-hour cruise!

Copyright Feb. 25, 1998. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.


Posted by on October 26, 2008 in Uncategorized


Everyday People column: An unwelcome furry visitor

My wife says I screamed that Tuesday afternoon in March. Maybe so, I hate rodents. Especially the ones that move quickly. But I prefer to think of what I did as bellowing – not screaming. That sounds more manly.

It all started with a call to my cell phone. I was in Davenport, about 20 minutes away from my rural home.

I had been in the big city to participate in a ribbon-cutting at a car wash. I’m one of the DavenportOne Diplomats. You know, the people in the red jackets who serve as greeters at special events and cut red ribbons at grand openings.

I answered the cell phone, and the voice on the other end was that of my son, Dane. He was home on spring break from the University of Iowa.

Dane is a rather laid-back kid who doesn’t get excited much about anything unless it’s a new CD or a tune he’s taught himself to play on his guitar or that moronic show, “Southpark,” on cable.

But there was a hint of excitement in his voice this time.

“Hello,” I said, after switching on the cell phone.

“Dad. This is Dane.” His voice is unmistakable, but he always says that when he calls.

“Hi, Dane,” I answered.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“In Davenport, but I’m headed home,” I replied.

“There’s a squirrel in the house,” he said.

“What? Are you sure? Where is he? What’s he doing?”

“He’s just sitting there looking at me.”

Dane had been viewing TV in our living room, he told me later. He had heard some noises elsewhere and looked to his right at the French doors separating our living room and dining room. There, sitting up on its hind legs watching him through a pane of glass, was a black squirrel.

“What should I do?” Dane asked.

I thought for a moment. Then it came to me. My wife will know what to do!

“Is Mom home?” I asked, my fingers crossed.

“No,” he said.

I thought a moment more.

“OK,” I said. “You’ve got to try to get him out of there. Squirrels can climb curtains and rip them to shreds. Get something to prop the front screen door open. Then try to chase the squirrel out.”

It was a good plan, but I knew the odds of it working were remote.

But Dane said, “OK.”

“I’m on my way,” I said, as I switched off the phone and pressed a little heavier on the accelerator.

My mind was racing. I pictured our drapes and upholstered furniture shredded to pieces. “Who can I call to help Dane until I get there?” I wondered.

Then it hit me. My wife works just 10 minutes from home. I picked up the phone and called her.

“Can you go home right away?” I asked. “There’s a squirrel in the house, and Dane needs help. I’m headed home from Davenport.”

“I’ll leave right away,” she said.

That’s one of the things I love about Sherry. When something needs doing, she pitches right in and does it. No whining.

Her favorite slogan is Nike’s “Just do it.” And those are the words she lives by.

I think it comes from being raised on a farm. Sherry’s not afraid of a little work or a little dirt – or a little squirrel.

When I pulled into our driveway, the front door was still propped open. I hoped to find my wife and son sipping on Cokes and laughing about the now-ended ordeal.

But the ordeal had not ended. They were conducting a room-by-room search. My son was carrying a quilt, somewhat like a bullfighter carries a red piece of cloth.

“You gonna warm him up if he’s cold?” I asked him jokingly.

He wasn’t amused. He’d been on Squirrel Patrol 20 minutes and counting.

My wife was carrying a fishing net and had an intense look in her eyes, like a determined cop on the trail of a fugitive.

As for me, I immediately remembered the Chevy Chase movie where a squirrel leaps out of a Christmas tree and digs its claws into Clark W. Griswold’s chest. So I went and got a broom – for protection more than for any other reason.

The three of us searched the basement. Then the second floor. As they headed back to the first level, I lagged behind. I thought their searches had been too superficial.

I even opened some closed bedroom doors and checked out the rooms.

“Think about it,” my wife yelled on her way down the steps. “Why are you looking in those bedrooms? The squirrel can’t open doors.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said and headed downstairs.

As I approached the kitchen, its door slammed shut.

“Don’t come in,” my son yelled. “We found him.”

There was a commotion in a distant corner, and I slipped into the kitchen. The squirrel was running along the tops of the cupboards and my wife was on a chair trying to net him like a fighting catfish.

My son was standing 5 feet away watching all of this, holding his quilt.

“You don’t need my help,” I said as I passed through the kitchen. “I’ll hold the back door open for you.”

Moments later, they had him. He had gone into a corner. My wife had gotten him in the net, and my son had thrown the quilt over the top of it so the squirrel couldn’t get out.

As the three of them – Sherry, Dane and the squirrel – paraded by me near the back door, the squirrel started going wild in that net, doing flips.

I think he was looking at my chest, just hoping he could dig his claws into it.

And I couldn’t help it, I screamed. I mean bellowed.

Copyright April 25, 2001. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 26, 2008 in Uncategorized


Janet Guthrie’s had one adventurous life

Janet Guthrie as she looks today. (Photo courtesy of Sport Classic Books)

Janet Guthrie as she looks today. (Photo courtesy of Sport Classic Books)

Long before the December 1975 phone conversation that led to Janet’s biggest adventure — a shot at Big League racing — she had experienced a lifetime of adventures.

Janet was born March 7, 1938, in Iowa City, the oldest of Lain and Jean Guthrie’s five children. Her family moved to Miami when she was a youngster when her father, a pilot for Eastern Air Lines, was transferred there.”

Janet was adventurous by nature. Maybe she inherited that from her father, who was raised on an Iowa farm.

“My father was always drawn to flight, and experimented,” Janet writes in her autobiography, “Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle” (Sport Classic Books, 2005). “Chickens that he tossed from the top of the windmill fluttered to the ground unharmed. Cats sent aloft on his kites were agitated by the ascent, but returned to earth astonishingly calm.”

Janet’s love for adventure surfaced early. She learned to ride the bicycle she received for her fourth birthday in just two hours — with only a push to get her going and without training wheels.

When the Guthries moved to a primitive house deep in the woods of Dade County, instead of worrying about the prowling panthers and slithering snakes that lurked nearby, Janet shinnied up pine trees to listen to the ocean breeze. She also looked forward to weekly trips to the library, where she checked out adventure books. Never mind that most of the heroes she read about were boys.

Janet’s parents enrolled her in a private school, Miss Harris’ Florida School for Girls. She started in the second grade and attended the next 11 years, mostly on a confidential scholarship.

“Poor was a concept that did not apply,” Janet says of her upbringing. “Being short of money was not the same thing.”

While some girls Janet’s age longed to become cheerleaders, “I longed to go play in the clouds. From books, I knew what that would be like,” she says.

In 1953, Lain Guthrie gave in to her begging and taught his 15-year-old daughter how to fly a Piper Cub. She soloed a year later.

Janet made her first parachute jump at age 16 after nagging her father until he gave in. She had practiced her landings by jumping off the roof of the family’s house.

At 17, Janet earned her private pilot’s license at a grass airstrip where she worked to pay for flying time. That fall she entered the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering. She didn’t go straight through college, however. Adventure called.

Janet took a year off at the end of her sophomore year to earn a commercial pilot’s license and a flight instructor’s rating. She then spent a couple of months hitchhiking around Europe before returning to school and graduating with a physics major in 1960.

Janet’s next adventure took her to Long Island, where she hired on as a research and development engineer for an aerospace firm. There was only one problem: She wasn’t flying, and she missed it.

Janet considered buying a half share in an airplane. Instead, she saw a classified ad for a car whose style she loved, a Jaguar XK 120 M coupe. A gray 1953 was for sale for $1,200 in Manhattan.

Now, thanks to a modest lifestyle and loans from both a bank and a finance company, Janet would buy the Jag. Her adventurous spirit had taken her from airplanes to sports cars.

Janet and her Jag competed at gymkhanas and hill climbs before she attended a driving school and dove headlong into sports car racing.

In November of 1964, another opportunity for adventure briefly presented itself. NASA was looking for candidates for its Scientist-Astronaut Program. Janet applied, and her test results advanced her to the second round of evaluations. But she and the other women applicants were rejected the following year.

Janet’s sports car racing adventure continued, and she became a full-time racer in 1972.

There were successes, but “at the end of ’75, I was completely out of money. I had no house, no jewelry, no insurance, no husband, no savings. I was in debt, and I had one used-up race car,” Janet recalls.

Racing had been Janet Guthrie’s obsession for 13 years, and, she says, “the prospect of giving up loomed like a kind of death.”

Then her phone rang. “And someone I had never heard of, Rolla Vollstedt, said, ‘How would you like to take a shot at the Indianapolis 500?'”

Janet Guthrie’s biggest adventure ever was about to begin.

Copyright March 17, 2006. In 2006, Janet Guthrie was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. I am honored that she selected me to write this profile about her for the induction ceremony program.

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Posted by on October 24, 2008 in Uncategorized


Janet Guthrie: “A racer right through to my bone marrow”

Janet Guthrie (Photo courtesy of Sport Classic Books)

Janet Guthrie (Photo courtesy of Sport Classic Books)

When the world first heard of Janet Guthrie, she was already an experienced racer with a desperate need to advance.

“I was a racer right through to my bone marrow,” says Guthrie,

who is being inducted April 27th into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (IMHOF) in Talladega. “I was a racing driver who happened to be a woman. I knew that didn’t make any difference, (but) nobody else seemed to at the time.”

Guthrie’s big break — an invitation to make a qualification attempt for the 1976 Indianapolis 500 — came in late 1975, after she’d already competed in 120 sports car races over 13 years. The quiet young lady with a wide smile, a former aerospace engineer with a degree in physics, was a good driver; she had won her class twice in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

But she was also dead broke.

“I had no house, no jewelry, no insurance, no husband, no savings. I was in debt,” she says. “I had one used-up race car, and I was saying to myself, ‘You really must come to your senses and make some provisions for your old age.'”

Then the phone rang. It was Indy team owner Rolla Vollstedt, whom Guthrie had never heard of. He asked her if she’d like to take a shot at the Indianapolis 500.

“All that followed was due to Rolla Vollstedt,” Guthrie says. In fact, her fabulous autobiography, “Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle” (Sport Classic Books, 2005), is dedicated to him, among others.

Guthrie drove in her first Indycar race at Trenton in early May 1976. Then it was on to Indianapolis, where most of the drivers and crews, and some spectators, chose not to welcome with open arms this single, five foot-nine inch, 135-pound female driver.

Vollstedt’s car had not made the field at Indy in 1975, even with experienced open-wheel driver Tom Bigelow behind the wheel. Guthrie also could not make it go fast enough to qualify in 1976.

But another opportunity had presented itself. Guthrie had received an offer to try to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race.

“The day after the last day of qualifying at Indianapolis, I was on my way to Charlotte, where it was just like Indianapolis all over again,” she says. “People said, ‘She’ll never make the field.'”

But she did make it, qualifying right behind Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott.

Then some folks said Guthrie would be worn out after 40 laps in a stock car with no power steering, and she’d have to pull in. They were wrong. They didn’t know this soft-spoken, modest woman who liked classical music and ballet was also very, very determined.

“I finished 15th,” Guthrie says. She had become the first woman to qualify for and compete in a modern day NASCAR race.

Guthrie drove in some more NASCAR and Indycar races in 1976. The next year she became the first woman to qualify for and race in the Daytona 500.

In May 1977, Guthrie and her crew overcame one frustrating problem after another to put a prototype car in the field at Indianapolis, making her the first woman driver to qualify and race there.

In all, Guthrie competed in three Indianapolis 500s — her best finish was ninth in 1978 — and in 33 NASCAR races between 1976 and 1980. Guthrie’s top NASCAR finish was sixth at Bristol in 1977.

Her life and racing career are both well detailed in her book.”This book puts you inside a driver’s mind and in the driver’s seat and explains the excitement a lot of people have found in Nextel Cup and, to a lesser extent these days, Indy cars,” she says.

It also teaches us something about perseverance and determination.

Copyright 2006. This article appeared in Stock Car Racing magazine.

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Posted by on October 24, 2008 in Uncategorized


Forget the good ol’ days: These are pleasant potties!

Remember the days — long before the interstate highways — of traveling to grandma’s house on two-lane ribbons of asphalt?

The route wasn’t very direct, you slowed to a crawl every time you came to a small town or drove through a large city and, when nature called, some of the restrooms you were forced to use at gas stations along the way were often less than pleasant places to spend time. They sometimes were at gas stations where you had to track down a door key or wait your turn to get in, which wasn’t much fun when you had consumed one too many bottles of Dr. Pepper along the way.

Remember the condition of many of those restrooms? They were often small and dingy. Sometimes the ceiling light was burned out, and you felt your way around using the little daylight that slipped through a tiny, frosted glass window.

The toilets and urinals were often filthy. In worst cases there was no hot water or soap, and the cold water faucet had leaked for so long there was a rust mark below the drip, drip, dripping stream of water on the porcelain sink.

The white or pastel blue cotton towel-on-a-roll was wet to the touch; that’s because the roll had long ago come to its end and everyone with wet hands was using the same square foot of material to try and dry them.

The wastebasket, if there was one, was overflowing and scraps of toilet paper littered a dirty, sticky floor. Yuck!

The Iowa 80 restrooms are clean and attractive. (Iowa 80 photo)

The Iowa 80 restrooms are clean and attractive. (Iowa 80 photo)

There are still some potty pits out there being passed off as restrooms. But there are some tantalizing toilets, too, that you can use without first checking to see if your vaccinations are up to date.

Some of the more charming commodes can be found right here in Scott County! That’s right, among the top toilets for travelers are those at Iowa 80 Truckstop at the Walcott interchange along Interstate 80.

Restrooms at what is billed as the world’s largest truck stop even made the top 10 finalists in the “America’s Best Restroom” contest presented by Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp., a provider of restroom hygiene products and services and company uniforms.

Tens of thousands of people voted online prior to a July 31 deadline to determine a top five from among the 10 finalists.

Cintas started the contest in 2002 to recognize businesses that “place high value on hygiene and exceptional style in their public restrooms.”

Pleasant potties do, after all, make a difference to folks.

Like the contest’s Web site ( points out, “Think about it. When you walk into an exceptional restroom, you know it. The cleanliness, the style, the amenities – it’s unexpected, but certainly appreciated. It tells you that the organization that created this inviting atmosphere must really care about you.”

The 2008 contest attracted nominations from a wide cross-section of businesses, including restaurants, hotels and casinos. The top five in the voting were selected based on exceptional hygiene, style and open access to the public.

They are:

1. The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville. Tenn.

2. 21C Museum, Louisville, Ky.

3. Brio, Rockford, Ill.

4. The Signature Room at the 95th, Chicago, Ill.

5. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Mass.

The remaining finalists, those placing sixth through 10th in the balloting, were El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa in Taos, N.M.; Grand Central Terminal in New York, N.Y.; Jerome Bettis’ grille 36 in Pittsburgh, Pa.; The Montville Inn in Montville, N.J.; and the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott.

This was the first year a truck stop made the top-10 list.

“We’re very excited,” says Iowa 80 marketing manager Heather DeBaillie. “We had no idea that people would think our restrooms were so wonderful. I mean, we try really hard, but had no idea.”

And try they do. Five thousand customers visit the huge, 200-acre complex each day. Many of those people use the Iowa 80 restrooms while there. It takes a 25-member housekeeping team to keep the restrooms and the showers for professional drivers in showcase condition.

“One of our claims to fame as well (as our restrooms) is our showers that we have for drivers,” DeBaillie says. “They are exceptionally clean, and we’re constantly getting positive comments about that.

“And we also try really hard to make sure that we have a nice, refreshing, yet interesting restroom for our customers to enjoy.”

Iowa 80 does, indeed, have some fancy flushers.

The men’s restrooms at the truck stop that never sleeps are themed to reflect service stations of the past, with custom tile and nostalgic gasoline and oil signs. The women’s restrooms are decorated in pink and display signs offering humorous advice and trivia on a variety of topics, like dieting and shopping. You leave Iowa 80 restrooms feeling good, not grimy.

“The important message here is, restroom hygiene matters — for good health and good business,” said Cintas senior marketing manager Keith Hartman in a news release pertaining to the contest. “Cintas is proud to honor The Hermitage Hotel, and we congratulate all of our participants this year.”

Copyright Oct. 2, 2008. This article has been submitted to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 23, 2008 in Uncategorized


Rest in peace Grant Price

Grant Price at his desk at the Iowa Broadcasting Archives. Photo courtesy of

Grant Price at his desk at the Iowa Broadcasting Archives. Photo courtesy of

Following are details regarding the life of longtime Iowa news broadcaster Grant Price, who died over the weekend. I’ve never lived in the Cedar Rapids-Waterloo area, where Grant did most of his work. But I am well aware of his many accomplishments. I had the honor of first meeting Grant when I joined IBNA some years back and, though we didn’t see each other often, I considered him a friend from whom I’ve learned a lot about news broadcasting. I last saw Grant July 8, 2008, when he came to WOC in Davenport to videotape an interview with news director Mark Minnick for the Iowa Broadcasting Archives. I admired him for being so active at more than 80 years of age. Grant taught so much to so many of us in the business. We respected him as a person and as a broadcaster. We were better for knowing him and will miss him greatly.— Phil Roberts

The following is from, the online home of the

Archives of Iowa Broadcasting,

located at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.


to our founder

Nov. 11, 1922-Oct. 17, 2008

One of the most distinctive and influential voices in Iowa broadcasting history is now silent.

Grant Price, hall of fame broadcaster and professor emeritus of Communication Arts at Wartburg College, died peacefully with family present on Friday, Oct. 17, after a short illness. He was 85.

Services will be held Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo. Visitation will be Tuesday, Oct. 21 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Locke Funeral Home in Waterloo.

Price began his radio career in 1941 on KSCJ in Sioux City. After service in World War II, he returned to Sioux City, becoming the one-man news department at KTRI radio. In 1948, he moved to the powerhouse signal of KXEL-AM in Waterloo, where he succeeded H.R. Gross as news director. A decade later, as television was capturing the attention of America, Price became news editor for WMT-AM/TV in Cedar Rapids in 1959, and director of news services for the stations in 1961.

During his time at WMT-TV, the station was the dominant news source in eastern Iowa, with rating totals greater than the station’s two competitors combined. After WMT was sold to out of state owners, Price left Channel 2 and returned to Waterloo, serving as vice president for news and public affairs for the Black Hawk Broadcasting Company and overseeing the news operations for the company’s flagship station, KWWL-TV.
When Grant Price left WMT, it was a dominant #1 in the ratings; within two years of his arrival at KWWL, Channel 7 became the market’s top-rated newscast, a position the station would hold for more than 30 consecutive years.

During his time at KWWL, Price was well known for hosting the weekly public affairs series “Focal Point: The Community” and for delivering regular on-air editorials, called “Viewpoint”.  While he retired from the newsroom in 1989, he continued to deliver “Viewpoint” editorials until 1993. He also hosted the unique quarterly “Broadcasting and You” programs, where station officials answered questions from KWWL viewers.

At a time when most would have been satisfied after nearly a half century in the field,  Grant Price found a new challenge: becoming a college professor. Following in the footsteps of fellow broadcasting legend Jack Shelley, Price became an educator, assuming the title of R.J. McElroy Chair & Executive-in-Residence at Wartburg College. He founded the television broadcasting program at Wartburg, and taught classes there each semester until 2005.

In 1994, Price determined that much of the history of radio and television in Iowa was being lost. Feeling that this history was worth saving, he started the Iowa Broadcasting Oral History Project. To date, more than 125 interviews have been conducted with many of the men and women who built electronic media in Iowa. In fact, Price conducted three interviews for the collection this past summer alone. The Iowa Broadcasting Oral History Project led to creation of the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting, designated as the state’s primary repository for materials relating to radio and television in Iowa.

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement on the death of Grant Price, journalist and Iowa Public Television Board Member: “Grant Price was a giant in the history of broadcast journalism in Iowa. His life gave meaning and purpose to the First Amendment guarantees of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. Grant Price believed in ‘paying it forward’ by devoting his life to teaching and mentoring journalism students and young reporters. Accuracy, objectivity and fairness were not just ‘aspirations,’ to Grant, they were rules to live by. Grant Price was my friend. But more than that, Grant Price was my Hero. His death leaves a void that will be impossible to fill.”

Funeral home web site with service information
KWWL’s story breaking the news Saturday afternoon, with video
News release issued by Wartburg College

Tribute posted to the Iowa Broadcast News Association web site

Online story from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, with video
Online story from the Cedar Rapids Gazette
Article from the Wartburg Magazine when Grant retired from teaching in 2005.

Tribute blog entry written by IBNA board member Brian Allen


Click here to watch a clip from the 1964 WMT-TV documentary “Funnel in the Night,” hosted by Grant Price and produced by national TV legend Dennis Swanson.

Click here to watch a clip from a 1974 news conference where Grant Price asked President Richard Nixon a question; the answer made front page news around the country.

Grant Price delivered his final newscast on KXEL radio in Waterloo on Feb. 21, 1959. Click here to listen to an edited portion of the first part of his midday 15-minute newscast; click here to listen to his ‘farewell’ to KXEL listeners.

More audio and video clips will be posted soon, as we celebrate the life–and mourn the passing–of Grant Price.


I had the privilege of a final conversation with Grant when I visited him in the hospital just last Tuesday, only three days before he died. He expressed to me tremendous gratitude for all the wonderful friends and colleagues he had who were thinking of him. We talked about many things, including the Archives and how our various projects were progressing.

The past 10 years I have spent working virtually daily with Grant on the Archives and other projects have been personally and professionally fulfilling. I can’t imagine what it will be like to go over there tomorrow, knowing that he’ll never return to his desk in the archivist’s office.

But one thing is certain: we will redouble our efforts to continue making this        collection a resource that Iowa can be proud of. It’s the least we can do, to repay Grant for all he did for so many of us.

Dr. Jeff Stein/Archives Administrator

Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

Copyright Oct. 20, 2008.

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Posted by on October 20, 2008 in Uncategorized


Happy birthday, Greg Schnoor!

It’s been a couple years now, I guess, since Greg Schnoor did some Olympic-caliber tumbling in my kitchen. But unlike most gymnasts, he didn’t use a balance beam. Greg used a chair at my kitchen table. It was something to behold.

Greg was starting a business, and I own a small home-based advertising agency. He stopped that morning so we could talk about advertising.

The kitchen is the hub of activity at our house, so we went there, and I offered him a chair.

Greg dropped back into the chair. Then, almost as if it were happening in slow motion, he and the chair kept drop, drop, dropping — all the way to the floor.

For a moment, Greg and I looked at one another, both frozen in shock, our mouths hanging open and our eyes as wide as saucers. Me standing over him and Greg sitting on the kitchen floor among the pieces of wood that had once been a chair.

“Are you OK?” I asked, wondering why that doggone chair couldn’t have attacked its owner instead of a visitor.

Greg, with a sheepish smile on his face by this time, answered something like, “I’m better than the chair,” which had a broken back leg.

I helped Greg to his feet and he took another chair, settling into it quite gingerly this time. I think we both were holding our breaths.

We then talked advertising. But the entire time we were doing that, I kept thinking to myself, “I’m glad he wasn’t hurt, but I sure hope he isn’t good friends with a lawyer!”

Happy birthday, Greg. And next time you visit, please bring some wood glue, will you?

Copyright Oct. 8, 2008. A story written for reading at my friend Greg Schnoor’s surprise Oct. 11 55th birthday party.

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Posted by on October 19, 2008 in Uncategorized


Everyday People: It will always be a special Christmas

Note: This story was written in December 2003 and appeared at that time as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

This will be a special Christmas for me. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Christmas on which I almost killed myself.

Imagine an Iowa blizzard. Then imagine a guy so brave (OK, foolhardy) that he went out the right dormer window and made it halfway to the frozen chimney before falling to the ground, hitting the porch roof on the way. The imagine God let him live to tell and write about it!

Imagine an Iowa blizzard. Then imagine a guy so brave (OK, foolhardy) that he went out the right dormer window and made it halfway to the frozen chimney before falling to the ground, hitting the porch roof on the way. Then imagine God letting him live to tell and write about it!

But don’t get the wrong idea. Had I succeeded, my death wouldn’t have been ruled a suicide. I had no death wish. On the contrary, I had a lot to live for. I was a 34-year-old man with a wonderful wife; children ages 2, 5, 8 and 11; a great old house and a good job.

No, my death, had it happened, could not have been ruled a suicide. But stupidity could have been listed as the cause of death because I made a poor decision – actually a couple of them – and the results could have been deadly.

The story began the afternoon of Dec. 24, 1983. It was bone-chilling cold, and it was snowing big flakes. A strong wind roared out of the west, causing blizzard-like conditions in eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

Our plans called for bundling everyone up and traveling across town to my in-laws’ house at 5 p.m., where, with members of my wife Sherry’s family, we’d enjoy the traditional Christmas Eve dinner of ferden and oyster stew her mother had prepared. Then we’d open gifts around the Christmas tree.

About an hour before it was time to make the trip, Sherry said she believed some exhaust fumes from our furnace were backing up into the house. I was sure she was mistaken, but we opened some windows a bit to let in some fresh air, and I went outside to look at our chimney, high in the air in the center of our roof. I didn’t like what I saw.

The brick chimney has a cap on it that I had once installed to keep birds out of it.

What I saw that Christmas Eve 20 years ago was that the chimney cap’s screen, designed to let the exhaust out, was covered with ice. It was so cold and so windy that day that the warm exhaust from the furnace was condensing on the screen when hit by the cold air. The ice on the screen had built to the point that almost no exhaust from the furnace could escape.

I went back inside and told Sherry that she had been right. There was only one thing to do, I said. That was to climb into the attic, go out a dormer window, make my way to the chimney and knock the ice off of the chimney cap’s screen.

Sherry protested. It was too dangerous, she said, and we should get a motel room for the night.

“No, I can do this,” I insisted.

We have a two-story house and a full attic. That means the top of the chimney is three stories high. But, though the roof leading to the chimney has a steep pitch, I had climbed it several times in the past to do work around the chimney. I had installed a TV antenna for one thing and the chimney cap for another.

We’d drop the kids off at her parents’ house, I told Sherry, to get them out of our house and its fumes. We’d return home for what I thought would be my quick fix to the frozen chimney problem. Then we’d go back to her parents for the family celebration. She finally agreed.

The blizzard continued as I bundled up that afternoon, with Sherry at my side, still protesting, and climbed up a ladder and into the attic.

“Tie a rope around yourself and let me hold onto the other end,” she pleaded as I prepared to climb out the front dormer window. I paused for a moment and considered that idea.

“No,” I said, “because if I do fall, I’ll pull you down with me.”

Sherry was still protesting as I bravely – and stupidly – climbed out the window and began making my way uphill beside the dormer, toward the chimney.

I had gone just 4 or 5 feet when my feet began to slip. The only thing to hold onto was the edge of the dormer roof, and that wasn’t much. There was snow on the roof, but that wasn’t why I was slipping. There was a layer of ice under the snow, and that’s something I hadn’t planned on. I had planned to use the rough surface of the shingles for traction, and that was no longer an option.

“Even if I make it to the chimney,” I thought to myself, “there will be nothing to keep me from sliding all the way back down.” Sherry had been right. This was too dangerous. I had to turn back.

Then it happened. As I cautiously turned to go back down, my feet slid out from under me. It was like falling on your fanny while roller skating. It happened in an instant, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I shot past Sherry, feet first. She had been leaning out of the dormer window, watching in shock. It all happened so fast, there wasn’t even time to scream.

Friends would later ask me if my life flashed in front of my eyes, as the expression goes, as I fell. “There was only enough time for the first 5 years of it,” I’d tell them with a laugh.

Off the roof I went. My arms were outstretched, grasping for something – anything – to hold onto. But there was nothing, only air.

I was still stretched out when I hit the front porch roof on my side. Through no conscious effort, I then spun around 180 degrees and sailed off the porch roof head first.

This was the most frightening moment of the entire ordeal for me.

“Now you’ve done it,” I thought to myself in the instant before I slammed to the ground. “You’re going to hit on your head, break your neck and kill yourself. You should have listened to your wife.”

But, thankfully, God had other plans for me. Again, through no effort of my own, I did a 90-degree flip in mid air and, instead of hitting the front yard head first, I landed flat on my back.

I lay there a moment. “You survived! You’re not hurt!” I thought to myself. Then I tried to get up. I was hurt. My torso was suddenly wracked with a burning pain, and I passed out.

When I woke up a few minutes later, snow was blowing across my face. “Why are you sleeping in the front yard?” I asked myself. Then I remembered the terrifying plunge off the roof.

My next thought was about Sherry. She had seen me fall. Why wasn’t she here checking on me? The truth suddenly hit me: She wasn’t at my side because she was in the house phoning the volunteer fire department of which I was a member and the volunteer ambulance service of which I was an associate member.

“Oh, my God. My friends will never let me live this down,” I thought to myself. “I’ve got to stop her from calling them.”

Sherry had hurried down from the attic after my fall and had come to my side while I was still passed out, she later explained. She couldn’t help but notice that I looked like a big snow angel, arms and legs outstretched, as I lay there.

She said my skin had a gray tint to it. But I was moaning so she knew I was alive. Sherry then had hurried inside to the phone in our kitchen to summon help.

After I had managed to get to my feet and painfully made my way to the kitchen, I found my wife nervously trying to dial the seven-digit number for the fire department on our rotary phone. She had made several attempts but her shaking fingers had kept her from connecting. (Twenty years ago, we didn’t yet have 9-1-1 and touch-tone phones.)

Sherry was shocked when I walked into the kitchen.

“Hang up the phone,” I begged. “I’m OK.” She protested, but I continued, “I’m an EMT; I’ll check myself out.” She hung up the phone.

Several inches of snow on the front yard and the heavy winter coat I was wearing had helped cushion the impact from my fall a bit, but I knew I had broken some ribs and was sure I also had a concussion. I can assure you that people aren’t kidding when they say it’s not the fall that hurts, but the sudden stop!

I felt pretty stupid about what had happened. I had successfully thwarted visits to my house by the fire department and ambulance service (although my firefighter and EMT friends eventually found out what had happened to me; few secrets are kept for long in a small town.)

My next wish was to keep Sherry’s family from finding out how dumb I’d been. I insisted we return to their house as planned and carry on like nothing had happened.

It wasn’t a very enjoyable Christmas Eve for me, although I was thrilled to be alive to experience it. I spent most of the evening sitting in pain on the sofa. When you break ribs, it hurts to sit down, get up, breathe, cough, sneeze and everything else that causes your torso to move.

When we arrived home that night, I coughed up a little blood. That scared me, so I agreed to Sherry’s wish that I call my doctor, Mike deBlois. He only lives a block away from me, but I didn’t have his home number so I called the physicians’ answering service.

“Please tell Doc deBlois to call Phil Roberts,” I told the woman who answered. “Tell him I fell off the roof tonight, and I think I broke some ribs.”

It wasn’t but a few minutes before my phone was ringing. It was Mike.

“You did what?!” were his first words. I related my story and my symptoms. I also confessed I had waited about six hours to call him.

“Well, if you’re still alive, you’re probably going to make it,” he said in all seriousness. “Have Sherry wrap your chest and, if you get to feeling worse, go to the emergency room.”

We still had a chimney that was mostly blocked, so Sherry opened some more windows to make sure there was plenty of fresh air in the house, and she put the kids to bed.

Both of us then sat up the rest of the night, taking turns dosing now and then.

I thought I should stay awake because of my concussion. Besides, I was in too much pain to sleep soundly. Sherry stayed up because she wanted to make sure the furnace fumes didn’t kill us.

It was weeks before I could move around without feeling pain. But I never complained about it. I just felt fortunate to be alive. And because I wasn’t permanently disabled or killed, God must have had a purpose for me, I reasoned.

I learned some valuable lessons on Christmas Eve 20 years ago. For one thing, if someone tells you that doing something – like climbing up a snow- and ice-covered roof during a blizzard – is too dangerous, listen to them.

And I learned that if you do something stupid and hurt yourself, you may as well swallow your pride and let those who care about you get you the medical assistance you need.

But most important of all, I learned that all of us need to live each day like it’s our last, because it very well could be.

Yes, this will be a special Christmas for me. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Christmas on which I almost killed myself, but through the grace of God, didn’t.

Copyright Dec. 10, 2003, by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in Uncategorized


Everyday People column: Peeper problem

If I kept a diary, November would have been recorded in it as a good news-bad news month. The children and grandchildren were all home for Thanksgiving. It was a great time. That was certainly good news.

After the surgery and on the slow road to recovery. I only had my head raised for a moment so the photo could be taken.

After the surgery and on the slow road to recovery. I only had my head raised for a moment so the photo could be taken.

It was the first Thanksgiving without my dad, who died last March. Bad news. I discovered a new TV show during the month. Well, at least it was new to me. It’s called “The West Wing.” You see, I work second shift so I don’t see much evening TV. But Bravo, a cable channel, runs back-to-back episodes of “The West Wing” weekday mornings. I saw it for the first time in November and got hooked. More good news.

And, oh yes, there was one more thing about November: I went blind in my right eye one night, underwent emergency surgery 48 hours later and was told that if I wanted to regain my sight, I’d have to keep my head down — basically looking at the floor — 24 hours a day for two to four weeks after the operation. Now that was some real bad news.

The trouble with my baby blues actually began last March or April. That’s when I noticed that images were not as sharp as they had been, even though my eyeglasses were less than a year old.

It turned out that I had cataracts, a clouding of the lenses, in both eyes. That wasn’t really a surprise to me; they run in the family.

In October, Dr. Prem Virdi, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word and a skilled eye surgeon, removed those cloudy lenses and implanted in their place some man-made lenses.

Stitchless cataract surgery is now done on an outpatient basis. It takes as little as 20 minutes per eye.

After the surgery, which was done at Trinity in Moline, my eyesight, especially for distances, was wonderful. Both eyes registered 20-15, which is better than 20-20 vision. For reading fine print, Dr. Virdi suggested I just buy some “cheaters,” those non-prescription reading glasses sold at pharmacies.

Everything was great until Nov. 6. One month to the day after the cataract surgery had taken place on my right peeper, it suddenly quit working.

It was a Saturday night, and my wife and I were dining out with friends when the eye suddenly went blurry.

If I had it to do over, I would have explained to the other folks right then and there what had happened to my eye, and I would have headed to the emergency room. But not being one to run to a doctor, even when I probably should, I waited until Monday, Nov. 8, to get that dead eye examined.

My first stop that morning was Dr. Virdi’s office in Rock Island. He examined my eye and told me there was a hemorrhage in it and very possibly a torn and/or detached retina.

This, he explained, happened to only about 5 percent of the people who undergo cataract surgery.

He then called a friend of his, Dr. Leonardo Antaris, a retina specialist, who agreed to see me in his Davenport office at 2 that afternoon.

If you think of the eye as a camera, the retina, located on the back wall, is the film. Light passes through the lens and is focused on the retina. The images then are carried to the brain by the optic nerve.

So how do retinas tear or detach?

There are a variety of causes for that. In my case, the cataract surgery caused the gel-like substance in the center of the eye that is attached to the retina to shrink. When it did, it pulled some of the retina away with it. The subsequent hole or tear in the retina allowed fluid from the gel-like substance to pass through, causing the retina to separate from the back of the eye.

“You have a torn and detached retina,” Dr. Antaris said, following his examination of my eye. “I need to do surgery.”

“When?” I asked him.

“Tonight,” he said. “Some people believe the chances of restoring sight in the eye increase the faster repairs are made.”

Learning I was about to undergo emergency surgery was a big shock. But my biggest shock that afternoon was learning about how I’d be recuperating.

I was told that, at the conclusion of the surgical repairs, Dr. Antaris would pump a large gas bubble into my eye. Its purpose was to hold the retina against the back of the eyeball until it healed.

For this to happen, I would have to keep my head down all day for two to four weeks. That meant no driving, no work, no sleeping on my back.

The surgery that Monday night, Nov. 8, took two hours and was successful. I spent a night in the hospital, was examined in Dr. Antaris’ office the next morning, then went home to begin my head-down therapy.

I soon became very familiar with people’s shoes and floor coverings. There’s not much else to concentrate on when you’re looking down all the time.

A portable massage therapist’s chair, which we rented, allowed me to keep my sanity for the next couple of weeks.

Through the use of mirrors, I was able to sit down, lean forward and watch TV while still keeping my head down. That’s how I got hooked on “The West Wing.”

I also passed the time the next couple of weeks by recording my memoirs on tape (something my wife suggested) and listening to books on tape that she had gotten me from the library.

I received permission, in my my next visit to Dr. Antaris, 11 days after the surgery, to begin phasing out the head-down regimen.

Following three weeks off work, I returned the Monday after Thanksgiving. These days my life is pretty much back to normal, even though the bubble, now down to about a third of its original size, remains in my right eye. It will continue to shrink, the doctor says, eventually replaced by fluid produced by the eye, until it’s gone. In the meantime, it’s a distraction, but I can certainly live with it; it’s better than blindness.

The bubble notwithstanding, the sight in my right eye is very good and getting better. It was 20-30 at last check.

As you might guess, I have done a lot of reading about retinas and their repair in recent weeks, and I know it often takes months for vision from a repaired retina to become stable. I also read that only about 40 percent of the patients whose retinas are reattached, achieve good vision.

Indications so far are that I’m in that group. Now that’s really good news!

Copyright Dec. 22, 2004. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in Uncategorized


Everyday People column: Long live the fried bologna sandwich

There is nothing better than a fried bologna sandwich. Well, of course, you know that’s not true. Lots of things — like a good steak or some juicy ribs — are better.

But when you’re broke and can’t afford a hamburger, much less a steak or ribs, a fried bologna sandwich (let’s call it FBS for brevity’s sake) is pretty tasty and a great value.

I bought some bologna at the supermarket and ate two FBSs this week. They took me back to my days at St. Ambrose College — now called St. Ambrose University — nearly four decades ago.

The first two years in college, I could run home to Mom and Dad’s house between classes at lunchtime and eat with them. Or, since I lived with them then, I could pack a decent lunch before leaving for the day and eat on campus. I even had some money in my pocket at that time to buy a hot lunch at the food service in the student union if I wanted to.

But that all changed halfway through my four-year college experience: Sherry, who attended Marycrest, and I got married the summer before my junior year. We were two 20-year-olds with a full load of classes and only part-time jobs. We had lots of love but not much money.

There wasn’t much food in our apartment for packing lunches, and there wasn’t much money for buying them. (For years Sherry and I often walked around with only enough coins in our pockets to make a phone call if our cars broke down, which they often did.)

Once I was married, I didn’t run home to my parents for lunch very often because they had been among the people who had suggested Sherry and I put off our marriage until we had graduated. They had said that getting married as full-time students with part-time jobs would be tough. It was, but I wanted to show them we could, indeed, make it on our own.

One lunch hour at school, I saw some other poverty-stricken student order an FBS at the food service, and it was a fraction of what they charged there for a burger.

I tried one, too, and I was hooked. I ate a lot of those my final two years at Ambrose.

I can tell you’re itching to try one. Rest assured, an FBS is easy to make. You take two slices of bologna and fry them until they start to get burn spots on them and curl up around the edges. That means they’re done. This only takes a couple of minutes.

You then slap the pieces of bologna between two slices of sandwich bread, add mayonnaise, yellow mustard and a slice of cheese if you like. The FBS is ready, and you have a quick, warm, tasty — and above all, cheap — lunch.

Life is a lot easier for Sherry and me these days. College — and our early years of poverty — are distant memories. The part-time jobs between classes were long ago replaced by full-time jobs that we’re not that far from retiring from. We still have lots of love and, despite raising four children to adulthood, we have a heck of a lot more money than we started out with.

These days we can pack a decent lunch at home to take to work, or we can buy a burger or something better for lunch if we prefer.

But this week, just for old time’s sake, I went back to fried bologna sandwiches for a couple of lunches. And they sure brought back a lot of memories.

Copyright Nov. 1, 2006. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in Uncategorized