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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release January 7, 2009

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

State Historical Library book group hosts Walt Shotwell Jan. 21

Author, retired columnist discusses autobiography and book about Ray Townsend

(DES MOINES) – Walt Shotwell, an author and retired columnist for The Des Moines Register, will discuss his autobiography and book about Ray Townsend this month at the State Historical Building.

 Shotwell will speak at the State Historical Library’s “Book Discovery Discussions” at 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. The book group is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is recommended, but not required, by visiting www.iowahistory.org. Participants are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch. More information is available at 515-281-6897 or susan.jellinger@iowa.gov.

 “We are very pleased that Walt Shotwell will be with us for our book group this month,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “He has spent a lifetime reporting and writing about events, issues and people, and served as a decorated World War Two pilot. I encourage anybody who has an interest in history and literature to join us.”

 Shotwell will discuss his autobiography, “The Rainbows Often Wane,” and his book, “Much Obliged: The Inventive Life of Ray Townsend.”

 In “Much Obliged,” Shotwell takes readers back to 1946 when former blacksmith Ray Townsend introduced the first Pork Skinner, Townsend Model 27. Townsend followed that original invention with 60 years of innovation and reliability, obtaining 100 U.S. patents and more than 300 patents in countries around the world.

 Shotwell was born in Des Moines and attended Roosevelt High School, after which he worked for two years at Bankers Life (now Principal Financial).

 He became a pilot during World War Two, flying 486 combat cargo missions over Japanese-occupied Burma. He received three Bronze Battle Stars, five Air Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. After the war he flew for five years with the Iowa Air Guard and was recalled into active duty during the Korean War.

 While at Drake University Shotwell became a newscaster at KRNT Radio in 1947, and joined The Des Moines Register as a reporter in 1949. He later became a columnist.

 Between stints at The Register, he handled political advertising for Gov. Robert Ray’s gubernatorial campaigns. He also spent a year as a television newscaster in Minneapolis.

 Following is the remainder of the 2008-09 Book Discovery Discussions schedule:

 Feb. 18, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Colored Sugar Water” by Venise Berry
The mystery of voodoo mingles with the search for spirituality and faith in the lives of two young women, each facing the challenge of understanding what a meaningful relationship might be in this entertaining novel by Venise Berry, author of the Blackboard bestsellers All of Me and So Good.

 March 18, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press: A Century of Iowa Girls’ Basketball” by Janice Beran
Janice Beran’s book recounts the century of girls’ basketball in Iowa prior to the final conversion to five-player basketball. It is a rich, vibrant history of a sport handed down from mother to daughter that helped sustain community life in small Iowa towns for decades.

 April 15, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend” by John E. Miller
Legends have attached themselves to Laura Ingalls Wilder, beloved author of the eight Little House novels. Before this biography, little has been known about her adult years. John E. Miller tracks the evolution of one of America’s most popular children’s writers.

 May 20, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“The Rise of Jonas Olsen: A Norwegian Immigrant’s Saga” by Johannes B. Wist
Originally published serially in the Norwegian language newspaper, Decorah Posten, in the 1920s, The Rise of Jonas Olsen illustrates an immigrant’s struggle to preserve his identity and heritage while striving to become fully accepted as an American.

June 17, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Chautauqua Summer” by Julie McDonald
This novel takes the reader along with young Lem, a 17-year-old musician plucked from Harlan, Iowa, to travel the Chautauqua circuit with the Royal Serenaders. It is a coming-of-age story heavily sprinkled with historical tidbits of people and places from the early part of the 20th century.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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