About Rolfe, Iowa, in 1976: “Smile (click) — the future awaits” (Part I)


SHORTER STORY: This blog post refers to photo albums from 1976 that are permanently located at the Rolfe Public Library. In those albums are photos of approximately 1,100 Rolfe-area residents who were photographed in 1976.

If you don’t want to read the “Longer Story,” just click here to view the 1976 Des Moines Register article* that tells about the photo project and acclaimed national attention. And … check back to read how a variety of newspapers across the country reacted.

More importantly, please stop by the library and look at these 1976 Rolfe albums. Also feel free to peruse similar albums of photos taken decades earlier by Rolfe’s Charles (Charlie) Webb.


LONGER STORY: In 1976, during the bicentennial of our United States, Mother (Marion Gunderson) photographed** approximately 1,100 residents living in or near the community of Rolfe, Iowa. The article below speaks for itself. Except … what it does not indicate are two things I consider to be important.

Mother and Daddy (Marion and Deane Gunderson) in 1976, the year of the bicentennial and photo project. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Mother and Daddy (Marion and Deane Gunderson) in 1976, the year of the bicentennial and Rolfe photo project. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

1) Mother was modest. She avoided calling attention to herself unless it would help further a good cause, for example having to do with community or patriotism. Her agreeing to the interview for this newspaper article (below) and other interviews was one such case. (Another exception was providing her watercolors via exhibits and offering them as gifts, etc., for others to learn from and enjoy.)


2) This article (below) does not reflect the vastness of publicity the 1976 Rolfe project received from media around the nation. Over the next several days, I’ll include some of those newspaper clippings. You just HAVE to check back to see those clippings. They ooze of warm fuzzies re: Rolfe.

What happened was this: The article (below) was put out on the AP teletype wire. It was then picked up by newspapers ranging from New York to California, Minnesota to Mississippi, and beyond. Not only that, it was picked up by radio and television stations, for example, a TV station in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


…… Please check back each day or every-other day for some of the compliment-filled articles and notes mailed from around the country to the Rolfe Public Library. They are overflowing with enthusiasm for the story from “our” little town of Rolfe, Iowa. Until tomorrow ……



From the November 4, 1976, Des Moines Register. That year Mother was the age I am now. (Click on photo once to magnify text.)


* * * * * * * *

*The article was written by Chuck Offenburger. Dan Offenburger, Chuck’s brother, taught and coached at Rolfe.

**Some photos were contributed by other people.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)



2 Responses to “About Rolfe, Iowa, in 1976: “Smile (click) — the future awaits” (Part I)”

  1. cghoover Says:

    For anyone wondering why Mother is holding a bell, I’ll explain. To celebrate the bicentennial, people around the country were encouraged to ring bells at noon on July 4th. Our family was at our Okoboji cottage for several days for the holiday. Prior to July 4th, Mother walked to all cottages in Maywood (our Okoboji neighborhood) and gave each person an invitation to bring bells and join us in the “ravine” at noon on July 4th. Many neighbors came, some with bells and others with noisemakers such as pots and pans. It was a simple, but fun, way to celebrate the 200th birthday of our country.

  2. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Clara, I knew a little of the background, but not all that you provided in your comment. Even though I knew Mother had the idea for the bells, I had wondered how everyone knew to go to the ravine. I have photos of that event, including some of us in the ravine. I’ll have to post them sometime. Thank you for giving the background. Another little peek into my own family.

    I think the sleigh bells Mother is holding in the photo are the ones I have now. Sweet.

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