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Gaul: Writing history never stops
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Gaul: Writing history never stops

happy birthday

Here's a sign of the coronavirus times: A happy birthday wish for 5-year-old Natalie, staked out in big letters in her front yard. The sign was accompanied by a car parade.

Earlier this month we reported that Davenport's Putnam Museum and Public Library are collecting stories, artifacts and other items relating to how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyday life.

The library had such a good response to its QC Life in the New Normal Writing Project that it's accepting another round of entries, due June 30.

You can participate even if you submitted entries for the first round.

From my perspective, I'm seeing that as time goes on, my feelings are changing. I'm realizing just how long normalcy may take.

I also have been somewhat taken aback in reading how long it might take to develop a vaccine, much less test it.

I just assumed that if we can fly to the moon, we can develop a vaccine in a couple of months, especially with so many people working on it. But that's not the case. We still don't have a vaccine for HIV, for example, even though there are effective treatments.

And I realized for the first time that testing is important to check for side effects. What if we vaccinate millions of people and then find out in two years that the vaccine has bad side effects?

I also see that some people are angry, feeling their rights have been taken away with stay-at-home orders, and they are pushing back.

So, how the pandemic is effecting our lives is a changing dynamic. 

As before, send the library your diary entries, essays, or poems to explain what it's like in your home and hometown.

And this time the library is looking for photos and artifacts, too — anything relating to working from home, signs you’ve seen posted, documents, letters and memos.

Written submissions are eligible for gift cards to Crafted QC, The Book Rack, or for a writing magazine subscription.

Send to: or to Davenport Library, Attn: Special Collections, 321 Main St., Davenport, IA 52801.

For more information, visit or call 563-326-7832.

THE STATE OF IOWA IS COLLECTING, TOO: The State Historical Society of Iowa is accepting digital submissions about the pandemic — photos, emails, videos, blogs and more — as well as suggestions about physical artifacts that could be donated at a later time, when the society’s facilities re-open to the public.

The society is particularly interested in effects on health care, education and labor.

For more information, go to

I would be particularly interested in what the people who work at the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction have to say. I hope their voices are among those that make their way into the archives.

A MINI-BOOM IN NEW ROOFS: I also wrote earlier this month about a  Tuesday night hailstorm that pounded through our Bettendorf neighborhood.

Soon there will be a different kind of pounding going on: Roofers attaching new shingles to roofs up and down the street. Contractor signs have sprouted in yards and as soon as insurance matters are settled, I expect those contractors to be back, nail guns in hand.

Talking to our young neighbor whose pickup truck was parked outside during the storm, my husband Dave learned that the young man heard a storm was coming so he gathered up some snacks and drove to the nearby Wells Fargo covered drive-up to wait out the storm. Resourceful! Especially the part about the snacks.

THELMA NOPOULOS FOLO: Three weeks ago I had the honor of writing an obituary story about Thelma Nopoulos who, along with her husband George, had been owner of the landmark Wilton Candy Kitchen in Muscatine County for decades.

I was moved by the raw, heartfelt emotion I sensed in the people I interviewed. I salute Lynn Ochiltree, the man who bought the now-virus-closed Candy Kitchen, who, on the night Thelma died, went down to the Candy Kitchen to turn on the neon signs as a blaze of hope and honor in her memory.

Second, I found the clip that detailed actor Gregory Peck's visit to the Candy Kitchen. Some slow day, I'll pull that out for a column. It's cute.

Third, I forgot to include this nugget: Thelma signed her letters, "Confectionately yours." What a sweetheart.

And fourth, when news of Thelma's death caught up with former Quad-City Times columnist Bill Wundram in Florida, he called to add what he thinks is an important quality I didn't stress enough: her generosity.

He told of a time when a priest in town complained about an old piano that didn't sound right for services. Thelma replaced it. Then there was the Methodist minister whose church didn't have enough parking. Thelma bought the house next door to the church, demolished it, and gave the minister the lot.

Bill, by the way, is doing fine. He and Helen are in good health and spirits and enjoying the sunshine. And with all that's going on in the world, they are going to stay put for awhile. 

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