Monthly Archives: December 2009

New book chronicles devastating 2008 Iowa flood

The cover of Jeff Stein's book on Iowa's 2008 flood.

An anniversary is a commemoration of the date something notable took place. But it’s not necessarily something folks celebrate.

June 2010 will mark the second anniversary of the massive flooding that devastated much of Iowa and parts of other Midwestern states. But no one will be celebrating.

Beginning June 7, 2008, floodwaters ran in portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Thirteen people died, and damage was in the billions.

In Iowa, the central part of the state and Cedar Rapids were hardest hit. Two people lost their lives.

A comprehensive new hard-cover book, “One Week in June: The Iowa Floods of 2008,” chronicles the flooding along Iowa’s Cedar and Iowa rivers. The book was written in documentary style by my friend, Jeff Stein, who is professor of communication arts at Wartburg College and the executive secretary of the Iowa Broadcast News Association.

WDG Publishing of Cedar Rapids, whose offices were among those flooded, is the publisher. The book can be ordered for $44.95 plus shipping and handling by calling WDG at (800) 626-0411. It also is available from Barnes & Noble and other stores throughout Iowa.

More information about the book and a sample chapter are available online at

The 144-page book contains more than 200 color images from the communities affected by the floods. Breathtaking aerial shots in particular illustrate the widespread devastation.

“Jeff Stein’s essays, alongside stunning pictures from that week in June, bring back sharp-focus memories of a time that touched all Iowans,” notes Trent Rice, a radio newsman in Ames. “It is a moving testament to those who stood on the front lines of those battles against the water, fighting to save homes, neighborhoods and often, entire towns.”

The pictures and Stein’s narrative encompass the disaster of the Cedar River Valley and form a chronological and geographical look at the Cedar River’s destruction from Charles City southward. Flooding of the Iowa River in and around Iowa City and Coralville is also included, as well as the aftermath in communities south of the confluence of the Cedar and Iowa rivers.

When writing the book, Stein said people didn’t want to talk about their experiences because no one thought what they did was anything special.

“Yet there are countless examples of people going above and beyond to help their neighbors,” he said. “This is really a story of how people rallied together in the face of adversity, responding as only Iowans would do.”

Many say the flood of 2008, coupled with some deadly tornadoes, will be remembered as the worst natural disaster ever to hit Iowa. Our governor, Chet Culver, also has predicted the disaster is likely to go down as one of the top 10 worst natural disasters in United States history. Time will tell.

In his introduction to “One Week in June: The Iowa Floods of 2008,” Stein noted, “The devastation was only one week in the making, but in many cases the recovery will take years.”

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as an “Everyday People”column at The North Scott Press.

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Posted by on December 23, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Facebook friends relate favorite Christmas movies

Christmas dinner 1963. Shown left to right are Dad (Ray), brother Bruce, Mom (Dorothy) and Grandma, my dad's mother, Grace Roberts. I was the rookie photographer who took the off-center picture.

With my brother, Bruce, at Christmas 1963. We're in the basement because our dad so loved Christmas he often put up two trees, one in the living room and one in the basement family room. He also took this picture. I must have trained him how to do it off center.

With my brother, Bruce, at Christmas 1963. We're in the basement because our dad so loved Christmas he often put up two trees, one in the living room and one in the basement family room. He also took this picture. I must have trained him how to do it off center.

I love Christmas.

There are many reasons. Among them are the true reason for the season, the joy one feels when giving to others, the “peace on Earth, good will toward men” feeling that comes over many of us, the fun of having family and friends around more than normal, the beautiful decorations and lights, the special holiday music and, yes, the festive food.

A big part of Christmas for me is watching classic Christmas movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. And I know I’m not alone in this endeavor.

I recently posed this question to my friends at What is your must-see Christmas movie or movies over the holidays and why?

Some of their answers were predictable. Others were a surprise. Here are their comments:

* Brian J. Krans: “‘Love Actually.’ It’s the only Christmas/chick flick that’s actually funny.”

* Nancy Swanson: “‘White Christmas’ because I like it!”

* Dave Whiskeyman: “‘A Christmas Story.’ I was soooo Ralphie. That was my life.”

* Karen R. McFadden: “Hey Dave, you’ll shoot your eye out!”

* Teri Heritage Beyer: “‘Meet Me in St. Louis.’ Great music, and the snowman scene always makes me cry.”

* Erica S. Carrick: “Definitely National Lampoon’s ‘Christmas Vacation’ with Chevy Chase.”

* Twig Caven: “Call me a sentimentalist, but how in the world can you beat ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’ When all the friends come back to help him (George Bailey) is probably the best tear-jerker of all Christmas scenes. Second best is ‘White Christmas.’ Again, when Dean Jagger enters the barn in his general’s uniform and the soldiers stand to honor him sends shivers down my spine.”

* Brad Ruggles: “I’m with Whiskeyman. Have to watch ‘A Christmas Story’ at least a dozen times, and National Lampoon’s ‘Christmas Vacation.’”

* Chris Williams: “Heard an interesting debate recently: Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas movie?”

* Polly K. Peterson: “‘Family Stone’ is good, too!”

* Tom Johnston: “Krans, nice call on ‘Love Actually’ — love that movie. It can’t be the holidays without National Lampoon’s ‘Christmas Vacation.’ Randy Quaid rocks!”

* Alan Sivell: “As teachers tend to do, I was off on a tangent in class, waxing enthusiastically about my favorite Christmas movie, ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ when one student stopped me in my tracks: ‘Is it in black and white?’ (Because no movie from before 1990 could be worth her time.) It’s gotta be the original, not a remake.”

* Matthew Clemens: “‘A Christmas Story’ because I WILL put my eye out and Bad Santa. Crime writers can’t have Christmas without crime movies, and this debauched weirdness has risen to the top of the pile.”

* Ken Gullette: “‘A Christmas Story’ has become my favorite. I only discovered it in recent years. Nancy and I visited the house they filmed in (and the museum) in Cleveland last week. For many years, starting when I was a kid, my favorite was ‘Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol’ if you can believe it. For a cartoon, that was very well done. It’s hard to find these days.”

* James Taylor: “I’d have to say Bill Murray’s performance in ‘Scrooged.’ His speech at the end is great: ‘You make someone a sandwich, and you say, oh by the way, here……..’”

* Tom Kramer: “‘Scrooged’ anyone?”

* Roger Ellis: “‘A Charlie Brown Christmas!’”

* Deirdre Baker: “The Bakers enjoy ‘Christmas Vacation,’ with Chevy Chase and company. It is especially treasured by my husband.”

* Steve Carrick: “‘It’s A Wonderful Life.”

* Susan Flansburg: “‘Christmas Story!!’ Funny, true to human nature, true to times past (my father says the movie reminds him of his own childhood) and sweet.”

* Tom Johnston adds: “‘Scrooged’ is also a holiday must see. ‘A toaster. She hit me with a freaking toaster!’ A line from the movie and NOT my wife (at least not today. Yet.”

* Kathy Pearson Gile: “‘White Christmas’ with Bing Crosby. I just love the music.”

* Brian Heidgerken: “‘Muppet Christmas Carol’ because it is the best and most accurate adaption and ‘Bishop’s Wife,’ (because) Cary Grant is funny the way he drives the old prof crazy with the refilling bottle of sherry.”

As for me, Christmas movies that have won their way into my heart, in no particular order, and the reason why are “A Christmas Story,” I can relate a bit to that family and those times; “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I find it uplifting every time I watch it, and I’d like to think we all have a guardian angel like Clarence watching over us; National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation,” I love the interaction between family members, particularly Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie Johnson; and “Home Alone,” the way a youngster outwits two bumbling would-be burglars is hilarious.

To my readers, merry movie-watching and Merry Christmas!

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Much of this piece was submitted to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa, as a column.

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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Nobody asked me, but…..

The grandkids (six of seven of them; Emaline is a newborn and couldn’t make the trip yet) at dinnertime on Thanksgiving.

Dinnertime on Thanksgiving. We all have many blessings.

Nobody asked me, but…..

…..I’m amazed. Yet another public figure is accused of marital infidelity. Lots of it. And, like those before him, he apparently thought he could get by with it. Half a dozen women have now come forward alleging they’ve had affairs with golfer Tiger Woods. It appears he was working on more than his golf game in his free time. Don’t you wonder how long this would have gone on had he not had his car wreck? Will he make the standard public apology to his family and fans like so many public figures do, with his devoted wife standing by her man? Also, why haven’t all of the companies whose products Tiger endorses — like Nike and Gatorade — dumped him already?

…..I think a person can be both polite and assertive at the same time. I remember how a few years ago I was glued to the TV when there was a knock at the door from two Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m an NFL fan, and there was less than a minute to go before kickoff at the Super Bowl. I opened the door, saw who the visitors were and said something like this, “I’m a Christian, I’m happy with my church and the Super Bowl starts in seconds. Have a nice day.” With that I closed the door and hurried back to my LaZBoy.

…..I appreciate humor in everyday life. In November it had been raining and dreary for a couple of days when I ran into my former neighbor, Walcott veterinarian Grant Allison, at the post office. “It will be sunny tomorrow!” he said confidently. “Really?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. Then he added with a smile: “But I didn’t say in Iowa.”

…..I’m pleased that Eldridge Mayor Brad Noel decided to complete his term and has received a good deal of support and encouragement from many folks as he works through some personal problems. Sure, his difficulties have no doubt been a distraction for him. But I’ve known Brad for a long time and have never once thought he’d let his troubles get in the way of serving Eldridge to the best of his ability.

…..The older I get, the more Thanksgiving means to me. Sure, we all have problems. For many of us, they are just little bumps in the road. For others, they are serious concerns. But we all need to gather with family or friends at least one day a year to remember how many blessings we also have. My wife came up with a neat idea a couple of years ago. At our prayer before dinner as we sit around the table, we all join hands and each person says aloud one thing he or she is thankful for.

…..Every time I read in the paper about another juvenile delinquent getting caught for some misdeed, it occurs to me that school districts need to let teachers drop that boloney about treating little Johnny with kid gloves so as not to damage his self-esteem. I think we need to forget about self-esteem some and let little Johnny know the difference between right and wrong — and that there are consequences for doing wrong. True, teachers shouldn’t have to teach discipline, but some parents certainly aren’t getting the job done.

…..This is the time of year that when a clerk offers the politically correct, “Happy holidays” to me, I delight in answering, “Merry Christmas!”

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on December 11, 2009 in Uncategorized


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