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An Eastern Iowa town where you don’t see signs of Hawkeyes: Hawkeye
Northeast Iowa town was called Hawkeye before Hawkeyes were cool in this state
HAWKEYE — I once would have defied you to find a town in Eastern Iowa without a Tigerhawk logo to be seen.
Be it on mailboxes, driveway basketball backboards, or bumpers of pickup trucks, the University of Iowa’s Tigerhawk is as ubiquitous in our state as cornfields, cows and Casey’s.
Except in Hawkeye.
I came to this northeast Iowa city of 428 or so people last week for the first time. With family roots in Fayette County, I had long-known a town with that name existed. Each time I heard its name, I wondered if Hawkeye was gung-ho about the Iowa Hawkeyes.
So I made the 74-mile drive from Cedar Rapids to the town nine miles west of West Union (No, that doesn’t make it Western Union.) Once in Hawkeye, I stopped in Jimmy D’s, the self-proclaimed “Best Damn Bar in the Land.”
Jimmy D’s has over 20 photos and images of Marilyn Monroe on the walls. But unlike so many bars across our region, there was nothing related to the Iowa Hawkeyes. Maybe someday I’ll go to Monroe, Iowa.
A short walk down Main Street from Jimmy D’s is Diane’s Cafe, where a total stranger was greeted warmly.
“The sun is shining!” Diane Ungerer told him, and indeed it was.
I had an $8 lunch special that perhaps was Iowan as Iowan gets, Minute steak, fried potatoes, corn, jello. It was simple, but superb. Cherry, lemon, peach and rhubarb pie were available, too.
Diane’s has been in business since 1981. Diane uses locally produced food, and has grown plenty of it herself. Her husband Dave helps her in the cafe. The “family table” in the center of the restaurant is where locals gather as much as anywhere in town.
“Don’t tell anybody, but this is a holdup,” one regular said as he has entered the cafe. He wasn’t persuasive, and not even the stranger panicked.
A sign on Diane’s walls says “Relax, we’re all crazy. It’s not a competition!” In another area, dozens of family photos are posted. There may not have been room for a Tigerhawk even had one been desired. I think I covered the whole town, and saw no such logo.
I asked a few people working on their lawns or stationed at the Gas ‘N Goods store how Hawkeye got its name. No one knew. I asked a gent in the store if the town had more Iowa fans than those of Iowa State, and he said “Fifty-fifty. There’s UNI here, too.”
A trip to the building that houses Hawkeye’s city hall and public library didn’t produce the answer, either. Nonetheless, it’s a very nice library for a town of that size.
Finally, I stopped by K & K Gardens, a family-owned, fairly extraordinary retail garden nursery in town covering nearly two acres. It says it has over 40,000 plants, and that may be a conservative estimate.
I took one last stab and asked an employee there if he knew how Hawkeye got its name. He didn’t, but offered to let me look at a booklet written for Hawkeye’s 1970 centennial celebration by Mrs. John W. Graham. Voila!
Hawkeye was settled in 1870, but wasn’t incorporated until 1895. It was called Windsor Township when Civil War veterans started to move there. Mrs. Graham wrote that the West Union postmaster asked his brother for a decision regarding renaming Windsor’s new post office. He chose the name Hawk Eye.
In 1992, the post office changed the spelling from Hawk Eye to Hawkeye. The name, as near as I can tell, was a tribute to Iowa being the Hawkeye State.
Cyclone fans get bent out of shape when you call Iowa that. However, it was designated as the Hawkeye State long before the University of Iowa even had a football team, let alone a nickname for it.
It’s widely believed Iowans gravitated to the name “Hawkeye” because of the character of that name in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, “The Last of the Mohicans.”
Hawkeye the tiny town is like so many others in Iowa. It doesn’t look like a lot now, but oh, it has a past. There was a hotel here, and an opera house, and a barbershop inside a pool hall.
At Doty’s Up-To-Date Store, you could have bought jewelry or sewing machines or even a piano.
I wish the town had kept the name Hawk Eye, though. And wouldn’t the Iowa Hawkeyes sound tougher if they were the Hawk Eyes?
Maybe it’s for the best that they aren’t. Can you imagine that logo?
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