Revisiting a mysterious but tasty treat from my Iowa hometown – Iowa City Press-Citizen

335

I am not one to believe in ghosts.

Perhaps that is due to a childhood spent watching “Scooby-Doo” cartoons, where the creature thought to be haunting a house or an amusement park or an old sawmill always turned out to be some unscrupulous businessman or woman who by episode’s end was unmasked by the Scooby gang.

“You meddling kids!”

Despite my skepticism about paranormal activity, I do believe in a different kind of haunting. Specifically, I believe that one of my hometowns is haunted. 

It’s not ghosts that are the problem, however. Instead, it’s memory. The memory of a scent … and a taste … and a feeling.

Sheldon is a town of roughly 5,000 people located in O’Brien County in the northwest corner of the state. Predominantly Dutch in heritage and conservative in politics, the community is the kind of place where homes are nice and tidy and no one mows their lawn on Sunday. In fact, it was a scandal three decades ago when the local Hy-Vee announced it would be open seven days a week.

Like many towns its size, Sheldon was once the commercial center for the area. That meant that the downtown was filled with businesses.

I can still close my eyes and remember most of the storefronts. There was Wick’s Drugstore and JC Penney. There were three men’s clothing stores — Murphy’s, Tanner’s and Wolff’s as well as Karl’s Footwear and Rudolph’s Shoes and Stuff. The Radio and TV Center was across from Sarah’s Ice Cream, and if you wanted lunch you could choose from the L’Trio Grill, the Hamburger Shop and Pucci’s Pizza.

Then there was Brower’s Bakery. The bakery, which was located on 9th Street, was a Sheldon downtown fixture for three generations until the Brower family sold the business in 1984. Yet, 38 years later people in Sheldon continue to talk about it.

I realized this a couple of months ago when I was scanning the Sheldon Facebook page. Someone mentioned Brower’s Bakery, and it was like the years melted away.