Thursday, April 12, 2012

Harl, History & Main Street Iowa

We're pretty excited out on the historical society's hill about the fact that Dr. Neil E. Harl will be guest speaker Monday evening during the Lucas County Historical Society's annual meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.  in the lodge at Pin Oak Marsh, a mile south of Chariton along Highway 14.

Harl, an Appanoose County native who grew up in the rural area between Numa and Seymour and has never lost touch with that area, is a national and international expert in agricultural economics and law who serves as Curtiss Distinguished Professor of agriculture as well as professor of economics emeritus at Iowa State University.

His topic Monday evening will be "Memories of the Great Depression in Southern Iowa." While the number of people who actually lived thrugh the Great Depression is declining, my generation was raised by parents who did and who were profoundly influenced by it. Since the Great Depression also altered the the nature of Iowa's economy it's a topic that continues to be relevant.

Everyone's welcome to attend. The society's business meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and Harl's presentation at 7 p.m. Pie and coffee will be served to all after the meeting.

Thanks to board member Frank Mitchell, a long-time friend of the Harls, for arranging his appearance. Frank has been primarily responsible for our annual meeting programming for three years now, including Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Peterson's appearance last year. This is one of the reasons he will never be allowed to retire.


Eleven of us made it to Ames yesterday for a day-long "retreat" at the Octagon Center put on by the Main Street Iowa staff for board members, potential board members and others involved in implementing the Main Street program in Iowa's newest member cities --- Chariton, Jefferson and Lansing.

We all learned a lot about board roles and responsibilities, nonprofit principles and practices, staff roles and responsibilities and mission development. And the food was exceptionally good. But the folding chairs with molded plastic seats were exceptionally uncomfortable --- a minor point, but significant when you're supposed to be sitting on them for eight-plus hours with only modest breaks.

It also was entertaining to make entirely unscientific sociological observations. The delegetation that came the greatest distance --- folks from Lansing arose well before dawn to drive down from extreme northeast Iowa --- was the largest (Lansing also is the smallest town). Chariton's delegation, mid-distant from Ames, had the second largest group; Jefferson, closest, the smallest.

Of all the delegations, Chariton's was the most restless (although no less attentive than the others of course). Lansing and Jefferson for the most part sat quietly. We got up frequently, paced, revisited the coffee pot, snacked, found more comfortable seats around the perimeter of the room, etc., etc. I not sure what the significance of this was.

Chariton also seemed to do the most talking --- especially when it came time to engage in the mission statement formation excerise at the end of the day. There was agreement on the nature of the mission, but we just kept coming up with more and more wonderful words to describe it. So Jefferson and Lansing left with spare, concise preliminary statements, well under the 25-word maximum imposed by facilitators. We're still talking.

1 comment:

Paul Deaton said...

Sorry I will miss the Harl lecture. I am not a fan of the gent's economic analysis, which seems to originate from a decade or two ago, but maybe on the depression in Iowa, he will make a more interesting and relevant talk. Will be interested in your comments on the lecture.