A new book details the history of a 26-mile stretch of western Iowa highway. "Reflections Along The White Pole Road" features black-and-white photographs of the sites along the route and short recollections from older residents in each of the five towns the road passes through — Adair, Casey, Menlo, Stuart and Dexter.
Photographer Timothy Florer says his interest in the history of the so-called "Great White Way" was sparked by an article in the Des Moines Register last year. Florer says he’d always seen the signs for towns as he drove along Interstate 80 and decided to travel the back roads through the towns and determined "there’s a story there that had to be told."
Utility poles along the road were literally painted white to show motorists the way. Local high school students collected interviews with senior citizens for the text portions of the book. Florer says the road is much more than just a 100-year-old stretch of pavement — it’s a "ribbon" that ties the five communities together, while every town has unique stories.
He says the residents of the five communities were very willing to share stories with him, to give him directions and even to take him to the places where he wanted to go. Florer says the stories featured in the book include a woman who was held at gunpoint by famed bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde, and the tale of a woman who in 1938 used to ride a small train from Guthrie Center to Menlo and was caught in a snow storm.
Florer says a man in the Dexter area was recently tearing down a cattle shed and found numbers and letters on the roof sheeting. He did a little research and found out their true meaning — and a photograph. Back in 1948, President Truman did a "whistle-stop" tour that took him to Dexter where the National Plowing Contest was underway. Behind Truman, on stage, was a huge scoreboard that listed the contestants, their types of plowing and their times. Eventually, the scoreboard was dismantled and ended up as part of the barn. It’s since been re-assembled and put on display at the Dexter Historical Society.
Florer says it’s those types of objects people drive by everyday and don’t often see, that are featured in the book, including one of the original White Pole Road concrete bridges that was built in 1917, south of Dexter. All proceeds from the sale of the book in the area will benefit the non-profit White Pole Road Development Corporation in its efforts to improve the economic conditions in the five communities located along the route. For more information, log on to www.whitepoleroad.com .