Help Me Solve These Iowa City Mysteries From My Childhood

All right readers, I need your help. Because some of my childhood memories of visiting Iowa City are vague, and not everything is archived on the internet — or at least, it isn’t where I can find it.

I did not grow up in Iowa City. I grew up in central Iowa, so my memories of Iowa City are scattershot — forged over weekend and summer visits to my grandparents’ house.

Two girls in spring dresses in front of a brick house
Your author (right) in Iowa City, circa 1976

Iowa City Mystery No. 1

Iowa City has always been an artistic place, and we have our beautiful downtown murals now. In the late 1970s, or early 1980s, there was a mural on the side of a downtown building, with a series of black birds ascending to the sky. Can you find a photo of that?

blank polaroid photos
Please help me fill in these blanks!

Iowa City Mystery No. 2

My grandparents lived in the Goosetown neighborhood of Iowa City, close to Reno Street Park. When I was a kid, the Reno Street park’s equipment was a set of telephone poles, of ever increasing height. The goal was to climb them. They had been sanded down to be mostly smooth— although they were still made of wood, so they could still splinter — and they had climbing grips in them. In my memory, the tallest one loomed so high, although my guess now is that it was probably 8-10 ft. tall. You had really achieved something when you could climb to the top of that pole. And then you’d jump off, hoping not to sprain your ankle on the sand below.

I don’t have any pictures of the Reno Street telephone pole park. That was kid world; the parents weren’t there to document me, my sister, or my cousins as we played. Google searches for “Reno Street” and “telephone pole” don’t turn up anything. I’m starting to think my kids don’t believe me (Reno Street Park also had swings, but the telephone poles were the main attraction). Do you remember this? Do you have photos?

My own kids report that their childhood feat of strength was when you could climb on top of the soccer ball at the Coral Ridge Mall play place; an installment that has since been replaced.

Young girl at soft play area in the mall, in front of soccer ball
The best photo I have of the soccer ball, with my cute kid in front of it, circa 2010

Coralville Mystery No. 3

Speaking of Coralville, does anyone else remember the sign on Interstate 80 in the 1980s, touting Coralville’s various motel rooms and restaurants? That billboard was how I knew we were getting close to my grandparents’, shortly before the Dubuque Street exit brought us past Mayflower and headed down Church Street to visit grandma and grandpa. 

If you have photos or memories of any of these, please share.

Especially the telephone pole park. Whose idea was that?


Sharon Falduto is a Central Iowa native who came to University of Iowa in 1991 and essentially never left the area. She is involved in local community theater, notably as one of the co-founders of Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre. She has also directed children's plays with the Young Footliters group. Sharon works in with English Language Learners in a support position at Kirkwood Community College.. She lives in Coralville with her husband, Matt, and three daughters Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.


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