Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Born in Iowa? You Could be Famous...

           Iowa is THE place to be born and it makes no difference whether you’re real or fictional.  Who are these famous Iowans?   Travel along to Iowa with me and see for yourself.....
On my way south from Spencer to Clarinda I see a sign pointing west proclaiming:  “Wall Lake—Birthplace of Andy Williams, 3 miles”.  Andy Williams—really?  I didn’t know he was born in Iowa.  And so I'm off to Wall Lake.  Wall Lake is a tiny hamlet; gingerbread-style homes line its Main Street.  Crooner Andy Williams was born here in 1928 in a small white frame house perched on a hill at the southern edge of town.  The house is open for tours during the summer months.

Banner on Main Street of Wall Lake.

          My next stop is the town of Clarinda, birthplace of big-band leader Glenn Miller.  I tour the small home where he was born; a pleasant historical society volunteer is stationed inside the house and she's eager to show me around and to answer questions.  Clarinda is very proud of its native son and hosts a Glenn Miller festival every year.  People come from all over the country and the festival boasts big name musical entertainment.  However on this rainy May day I am the only one touring the Glenn Miller birthplace.

Inside Glenn Miller's Living Room—Clarinda.

The next day I drive through Ottumwa, fictional birthplace of Radar O’Reilly, company clerk of television “M*A*S*H” fame. 

Company Clerk Radar O'Reilley
Photo from Internet Movie Data Base

After spending a night in Keokuk I decide to beam on up and boldly go 80 miles north to Riverside—the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise.  In the 1960’s television show “Star Trek” it was well-known that Captain Kirk was from Iowa, but from where in Iowa?  The town of Riverside petitioned Gene Roddenberry, executive producer of “Star Trek”, to have their town proclaimed Captain Kirk’s official birthplace and Roddenberry approved.  Thus, on March 22, 2228 one James T. Kirk will officially be born here.  Kind of silly, but it works for the town.  Every year in June the town holds a Trek Fest, attended by loyal trekkies from the far reaches of the universe.

Can't wait until 2228!

  In the town of Anamosa I find the Grant Wood Museum.  Grant Wood, Anamosa native and artist of the famous “American Gothic” painting, also painted many scenes depicting small-town Iowa life. 

"American Gothic" by Grant Wood.

             On the final day of my Iowa tour, before heading back to Des Moines, a brief sightseeing stop takes me to the town of Mason City, made famous by native son Meredith Wilson who wrote “The Music Man”.  I stop at Music Man Square on Pennsylvania Avenue to see the museum and the re-created street scene of fictional River City, Iowa.   

Birthplace of Meredith Wilson in Mason City.
Bad weather and bad timing prevented me from touring two other Iowa birthplace towns:  Mamie Eisenhower’s birthplace in the town of Boone and John Wayne’s birthplace in the town of Winterset. 

It seems that being Iowa-born could be the ticket to fame and fortune.  Want to discover the homes of these and other eminent Iowans?  Visit this website:

             Did you enjoy this Iowa travel tale?  Here's a link to a post about another famous Iowan:  Dewey the Library Cat.


  1. Andy Williams and Capt. James T. Kirk? My 8-year-old self just died and went to pop-culture heaven!

  2. Beam me up, Scotty! I'm watching a new program on USA Network, called Suits. The main character is a huge Capt. Kirk fan and quoted the series in last week's episode. His assistant was faced with a no-win situation, and main character referenced the Kobimashu Naru (sp?) training exercise that Kirk was the only one to win because he stepped outside the rules. Ah, Jim....what a man! Ka-thump! Ka-thump! Be still my beating heart.

  3. Ah, yet another reason to return to Iowa!
    I didn't make a stop in Adair County during my last visit to Iowa, but for those who are interested, Henry A. Wallace served as the 33rd Vice President of the United States, as Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Commerce. More information on Wallace may be found here: