building and that nearly all the old pictures were thrown

When I was a kid, the Register and Tribune had an enormous photo library, in a room
perhaps eighty feet by sixty feet, where I would often pass an agreeable half hour if I

to wait for my mom. There must have been half a million pictures in there, maybe more.
You could look in any drawer of any filing cabinet and find real interest and excitement
from the city’s past—five-alarm fires, train derailments, a lady balancing beer

glasses on
her bosom, parents standing on ladders at hospital windows talking to their polio-

children. The library was the complete visual history of Des Moines in the twentieth
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Recently I returned to the R&T looking for illustrations for this book, and discovered
to my astonishment that the picture library today occupies a very small room at the back
of the building and that nearly all the old pictures were thrown out some years ago.
“They needed the space,” Jo Ann Donaldson, the present librarian, told me with a
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I found this a little hard to take in. “They didn’t give them to the state historical
society?” I asked.
She shook her head.
“Or the city library? Or a university?”
She shook her head twice more. “They were recycled for the silver in the paper,” she
told me.
So now not only are the places mostly gone, but there is no record of them either.
LIFE MOVED ON FOR PEOPLE, too—or in some unfortunate cases stopped altogether.
My father slipped quietly into the latter category in 1986 when he went to bed one night
and didn’t wake up, which is a pretty good way to go if you have to go. He was just shy
of his seventy-first birthday when he died.

17.12.13 11:13, kommentieren


name and address and so on, then carefully inked the

I had nothing to do with store thefts. I was far too cowardly and prudent to so
conspicuously break the law. My contribution was to make, by hand, forged driver’s
licenses. These were, if I say it myself, small masterpieces—albeit bearing in mind

state driver’s licenses were not terribly sophisticated in those days. They were really

pieces of heavy blue paper, the size of a credit card, with a kind of wavy watermark. My
stroke of brilliance was to realize that the back of my father’s checks had almost

the same wavy pattern. If you cut one of his checks to the right size, turned it over,

with the aid of a T square, covered the blank side with appropriate-sized boxes for the
bearer’s name and address and so on, then carefully inked the words “Iowa Department
of Motor Vehicles” across the top with a fine pen and a straight edge, and produced a

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other small flourishes, you had a pretty serviceable fake driver’s license.
If you then put the thing through an upright office typewriter such as my father’s,
entering false details in the little boxes, and in particular giving the bearer a

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date of birth, you had a product that could be taken to any small grocery store in town
and used to acquire limitless quantities of beer.

17.12.13 11:00, kommentieren