A TBT road trip to West Bend, Iowa

The phrase Throw Back Thursday (TBT) has become quite popular. People post old pictures online and “remember when.” Recently, my own version of TBT included a 13-hour road trip back in time.

Little has changed in my hometown in the 25 years since I graduated from high school and moved away.

Sure, they’ve added on to the school. Made some updates to the pool. A few new houses have been built. A few years back they even put in a stop sign with a flashing red light on Main Street (and I STILL forget to stop on occasion). But it’s still the sleepy little town where I was raised.


The Grotto of the Redemption that West Bend is widely known for.


If you Google my hometown of West Bend, Iowa, the first thing that comes up is the Grotto of the Redemption. I won’t downplay the attraction because it is truly a remarkable sight. But like any “hometown-er,” when you grow up near something, you tend to take it for granted.

And to me, there are many other just as remarkable things about my hometown.

Almost everyone still has a garden in the summer. And the story is always the same – just sure it’s not going to produce because it was too cool or too hot or the rain amount wasn’t right. Six weeks later the harvest is so bountiful neighbors are off-loading fresh veggies on whoever will take them. (This of course meant I came back home with LOTS of delicious garden-fresh veggies!)

When the first snow hits, those same neighbors gladly offer to dig one another out. This service actually lasts well beyond just the first snow.


Soda flavoring station


The old-time soda fountain at The Villager still works and the cherry cokes are still better than anything you’ll ever get out of a bottle or can.

Everyone waves as they pass by. After all, even if they don’t recognize you right off, they probably once knew you, know your family or are about to know you. This is something that I particularly still enjoy.

I’ve often wondered if I would ever go back. When I talk about where I grew up with people that know me now they find it difficult to believe I lived in a place like I describe. Some find it hard to believe such a place even exists. But indeed it does.

I know. I grew up here.

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