Monthly Archives: July 2013

Visit this store!







IMG_3026(Photos above by Phil Roberts)

Cantril is a delightful little Iowa town much like thousands of others but with one big exception: It is the home of Dutchman’s Store, a Mennonite-operated, old-fashioned general store established in 1985. Located in downtown Cantril, Dutchman’s is the town’s number-one draw. People flock to it year round by car and even by tour bus. That’s how we got there during our most recent visit. We took a one-day tour of Van Buren County in southeast Iowa, one of our favorite places to visit, on a Burlington Trailways bus.

It’s much like stepping into the past when you visit Van Buren County. It has no stoplights and no fast food restaurants, and that’s by design. But that’s a review for another time.

This review is about Dutchman’s, a general store in the truest sense of the word. A local tour guide told us that it started small years ago and has gradually expanded, now taking up the better part of a city block. Several weeks before our arrival, a new addition featuring modern restrooms, a deli, cheeses and more had just opened. This latest expansion was out the back of the building because that was about the only place left to expand. The other three sides are pretty much blocked now by streets.

A long wooden front porch is what one sees first at Dutchman’s. It is lined with merchandise for sale, and that often includes a variety of home-baked goods prepared and sold by Mennonite ladies who certainly know their way around the kitchen.

The store itself is packed with items you might need and quite a few you probably don’t. Dutchman’s sells food, much of it packaged bulk; fresh produce; clothing; hats; shoes; fabric; spices; baking supplies; books; clocks; kitchenware; gift items; toys; collectibles; candy and snacks. I’m reminded of a commercial for another business that says, “If they don’t have it, you don’t need it.” That likely applies to Dutchman’s, too. If you are ever near Cantril, I recommend you stop and tour Dutchman’s. It is worth the time.

Copyright 2013 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as a review to

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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


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When it comes to food, Phil no longer says, “Let the experts do it.”

IMG_9536 copyOver the years, I’ve said a lot of things and written a few that I’d like to take back. That, of course, can’t be done.

Many of those comments, all of which I’m trying to forget, were said or written in haste without thought. Or, in some cases, they were written in anger. Speaking or writing in anger, while perhaps therapeutic, is never a good idea. But it happens.

This column is about a couple of favorite phrases I’ve used that were well meaning and not uttered in anger. But I still regret them. They are: “Let the experts do it” and “I have a plan.”

I made the first comment — “Let the experts do it” — to my wife Sherry some years back when we were scheduled to attend a potluck dinner in the next day or two. She was working full time as a teacher, and I didn’t want to see her come home from work the night of the potluck and have to hurriedly prepare a dish to take before going to the dinner.

Figuring some suitable dish to take was waiting for us at a deli, I said, “Let’s pick something up at a deli. Why bother cooking? Let the experts do it.”

My wife is a great cook. She takes pride in her cooking. My comment, which she thought suggested that she is not capable in the kitchen but deli cooks — the experts — are, has been brought up regularly to me since then.

My words, spoken way back when in good faith but not carefully chosen, have haunted me for years.

My other comment – “I have a plan” — also has been uttered by me many times with no malice intended. But it, too, has come back to haunt me many times.

The comment usually comes up when Sherry and I have differing ideas as to how to solve a particular problem. I’ll tell her I don’t think her idea will work, but fear not because, “I have a plan.”

Unfortunately, more times than not when I’ve said, “I have a plan,” my plan fails miserably and it does so in her full view.

That’s when my bride will say, “Tell me again about that plan you have.”


This summer, I’ve looked after my grandkids, Harrison and Marin, from the time they got off the bus from Day Camp at midday until their mother picked them up after work.

One day I fed them Lunchables for lunch. After the kids had gone home, I noticed some of the crackers from the Lunchables container were in the wastebasket. They were on top and touching some paper – nothing nasty – so I ate them.

The next time the kids returned, I told them I had found some crackers in the trash after their prior visit. I said if they didn’t want their crackers in the future, to please put them on the kitchen counter instead of throwing them away and someone would eat them.

Harrison said, “Oh, those were Marin’s crackers. She doesn’t like them, but she licks the salt off of them, then throws them away.”


At Walcott Trust and Savings Bank’s annual customer appreciation luncheon, the bank’s Cal Werner was the emcee.

While having trouble reading the name of a door prize recipient, he said, “You know you’re getting old when two things happen: You have to wear cheater glasses to read. And when you’re running, people who are walking pass you up.”

That’s true, Cal. And I could add to the list.

Copyright 2013 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was submitted as a column to The North Scott Press.

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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


There is a fairly new — but little known — organization in Walcott


A Walcott pumper heads to the recent Walcott Day parade. It’s carrying a banner advertising the WVFA’s “Run to the Movies.” A closeup follows. Phil Roberts photos.

IMG_1288There is a fairly new — but little known — organization in Walcott that’s been formed to provide support for the community’s volunteer firefighters.

The Walcott Volunteer Firefighters Association (WVFA) was organized in 2011, and members began meeting in 2012. It is a group of people who use money from donations, memorials and fundraisers to apply toward, or pay for, fire department needs or wants that cannot be funded with taxpayer dollars under the Iowa Code.

WVFA’s contributions to the Walcott Fire Department (WFD) will replace the former “morale fund,” an account the department used to make purchases that improved firefighters’ morale,” says longtime Walcott firefighter Lon Warnecke, who was elected WVFA chairmen at its first official meeting on Aug. 29, 2012.

Other officers are vice chairman Roger Siebke, secretary Bridget Geigle and treasurer Christine Kirkley.

“There are some items the fire department budget could not continue to pay for with taxpayer dollars the way we had been doing in the past,” Warnecke says.

That includes gifts for firefighters who have retired after serving 15 years or more, gifts from Santa at Christmastime for the children of firefighters and memorials or flowers for firefighters or retired firefighters who have died.

“Those cannot be paid for with taxpayer dollars, so we chose to form an association to raise those needed funds,” Warnecke says.

“In speaking with other fire departments, this is a very good way for us to go,” added Siebke, a WFD firefighter.

Those eligible to join the WVFA are current Walcott Fire Department members and their spouses or significant others and associate or retired (honorary) WFD members and their spouses or significant others.

But financial assistance and time volunteered to assist at WVFA fundraisers are welcome from everyone.

Warnecke notes that checks people write for funeral memorials made payable to the Walcott Fire Department go to the city for the fire department’s general budget and are used for equipment purchases and repairs.

But checks made payable to the Walcott Volunteer Firefighters Association, while not tax deductible, go to the new group to cover purchases that were made by the morale fund in the past.

The WVFA already has made one purchase from a WFD wish list. It’s a state-of-the-art, large screen television that will connect directly to the department’s computer.

Warnecke says it will allow the showing of firefighting, hazardous material and emergency medical training videos that firefighters will be able to view from anywhere in their large meeting room.

But he says, “the push for the association is, of course, the children for the amount of time their parents spend here volunteering with the fire department throughout the year.

“We have a one-time get-together with children at Christmastime. Santa comes and brings a gift to each child.”

The WVFD, which meets quarterly or as needed at the fire station, has held one fundraiser and another is in the works.

“Last September, in conjunction with the Walcott Fire Department’s annual steak fry for the community, we raffled off a computer tablet and another item,” Warnecke says.

The next fundraiser, being held in conjunction with the Walcott Chamber of Commerce and staffed by volunteers, is a family fun event being held on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Victory Park in Walcott.

“Run to the Movies” features a 2K run/walk for children in four divisions through eighth grade. Registration is $15 each and begins at 4 p.m. The run/walk is at 5. All who register will receive a bright orange WVFD bandanna while supplies last.

The run/walk will take place rain or shine on Walcott streets and will begin and end at the park. Prize money will be awarded to top finishers in each age class.

Free park activities following the run/walk include jump houses, face painting, yard games and the playground. Dinner and drinks will be available for purchase at the food shack.

A movie, “Goonies,” will be shown on a large screen at dusk, and free popcorn will be served.

“It’s a family get-together,” Warnecke says. “We wish people would come out with lawn chairs and a blanket and join us for a fun night and a movie.”

Anyone who needs more information, wants to volunteer to help or wants to make a donation should call Warnecke at 284-6180.

Copyright 2013 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Nostalgic rail trips planned this fall to Kansas City and the Colorado Rockies


Trains are in my blood. My grandfather, Ben Miller, shown here, was a Burlington Route conductor.

St. Charles, Ill. (July 23, 2013) — Zephyr Route, a rail tours company based here, is offering two nostalgic rail journeys this fall. One involves a trip to Kansas City for an enjoyable weekend. The other involves a fall foliage trip through the Colorado Rockies.

Kansas City Weekend Tour
The Kansas City Weekend Tour takes place Friday through Sunday, Sept. 13-15. Boarding points are Chicago, Naperville, Princeton and Galesburg, Ill., plus Ft. Madison, Iowa.

A restored, vintage railcar named the Cedar Rapids will provide first-class, individual parlor car seating. Meals will be served at passengers’ seats.
A unique glass-enclosed lounge at the end of the car offers spectacular vistas of the passing scenery.

The tour package includes two nights lodging at the Hyatt Hotel across the street from Kansas City’s historic Union Station. Breakfast is also included.
On Saturday, passengers are free to select their own activities for the day and evening.

The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to the Hallmark Visitors Center and Shopping Mall and the World War I Memorial. There is easy access by city bus to Country Club Plaza, another famed shopping district.

Zephyr Route is also organizing a short motor coach tour of Kansas City narrated by a local historian.

Passengers also are welcome to join a group dining at Jack Stack’s Restaurant, which has been voted the best in Kansas City for barbeque cuisine. This meal is not included in the tour.

The package price for the Kansas City Weekend Tour is $625 per person for both single or double hotel room occupancy.

The reservation and payment must be made by Saturday, Aug. 31, so Zephyr Route can determine if there’s adequate interest to proceed.

Colorful Colorado Rockies Tour
The majestic and scenic Colorado Rockies between Denver and Glenwood Springs will be the highlight of the Colorful Colorado Rockies Tour also being offered this fall by Zephyr Route.

The travel dates are Thursday through Monday, Oct. 3-7.

Boarding points include Chicago, Naperville, Princeton and Galesburg, Ill., and Burlington, Iowa.

En route passengers will enjoy first-class rail service like that which was offered by the famed Burlington Route. Dining service will be in the traditional manner, with white linens, fresh flowers, chinaware and sparkling glassware and silverware. Savory dinners and breakfasts will be served both going to and returning from the Rockies.

Overnight rail accommodations are in first-class private rooms with private toilets and sinks. Shower service is available on an individual, scheduled basis.

A gorgeous, restored dome car from the infamous Santa Fe Super Chief will provide lounge and dome seating. Since seats are limited in the dome, guaranteed dome seating times will be scheduled so all passengers will have an opportunity to enjoy the dome views.

This trip has been scheduled to hopefully coincide with the spectacular aspen fall foliage time. While not guaranteed, this is generally the best chance to view the brilliant yellow and gold colors amidst the pine trees’ green hues.

Glenwood Springs is the Colorado resort town destination. Lodging will be at the historic Hotel Colorado, once known as President Teddy Roosevelt’s Western Whitehouse. The hotel has been restored to provide excellent accommodations and dining service. Breakfasts at the hotel are included.

Nearby is a huge sulfur springs pool for swimmers, which also has enjoyed longtime fame. Lovely shops and restaurants are within walking distance. Arrangements also can be made for golf at the nearby Glenwood Springs Golf Club.

The Colorful Colorado Rockies Tour package price is $1,995 per person, double occupancy. Please inquire regarding single occupancy rates.

Reservations and payments must be made by Sept. 15 so Zephyr Route can determine if there’s adequate interest to proceed.

Both the Kansas City Weekend Tour and the Colorful Colorado Rockies Tour can be reserved by contacting Zephyr Route. Call (630) 542-3607 or e-mail

The Zephyr Route website,, has a for a printable tour brochure. Click on the “Journeys” button.

By Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This is a news release I wrote recently. I think these will be great trips. There is no copyright on this; share it with fellow rail buffs.

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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


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