What stands out to you about Ottumwa’s past? What do you miss?
For a small city, Ottumwa’s history is relatively well-documented. While the earliest years are sketchy — the town’s founding families and businessmen were no doubt too busy to take notes — the period from about 1870 to 1920 is generally well-covered in one or another of the history books.
Gone but not Forgotten picks up where those histories leave off, celebrating memories of things from the twentieth century that are now gone, or dramatically changed — with special emphasis on the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
We opted to use a roughly-chronological order, taking into account the date of the image as well as the time period when the business or person was most active in the community. We’ve provided an index to make it easier to find a particular subject.
It’s difficult to put things in strict chronological order because some stretched through the century, while others lasted only a few years. It’s hard to arrange things by neighborhood when one area of town blends into another. Separating by category is equally headache-provoking. (Should the A&W Drive-In be grouped with hangouts, or with restaurants, or with businesses? Does Central Park go with other parks, or with downtown? What about businesses or schools which operated in succession, changing names and perhaps locations but fulfilling the same functions through the years? How do we feature people who spent their entire lives here, played varying and important roles in different decades?)
We hope you will find a few of your favorite memories here.
There are hundreds of businesses and people who could have — and no doubt should have — been included in a book about Ottumwans’ memories. To some extent, the choices in this book were dictated by the images and information which were available.
Did we miss things? Absolutely. Feel free to tell us about them. Perhaps in the future there will be a Volume 2.
And for those who wonder why some of the most special memories aren’t included – one reader asked about the Canteen — it’s because fortunately for Ottumwa, it’s not gone. And it’s certainly not forgotten!
— Doug Potter and Leigh Michaels