Omaha, Nebraska   1 comment

Day 10, we toured Council Bluffs, Iowa. First stop was Squirrel Cage Jail, which served as the county jail from 1885 until 1969.

There were fewer than 18 revolving “squirrel cage” “human rotary” or “lazy Susan” jails built and the one in Council Bluffs was the only 3 story jail.

Bill is in solitary confinement below top right.

Driving around town, we saw some of the damage from the flooding in 2011, which detoured our Lewis & Clark caravan. Some of the campgrounds are still not open and trying to repaire the damages.

When we arrived at the Western Historic Trails Center, we viewed a Lewis and Clark short film, viewed the museum.

After lunch, our costumed tour guide took us to see some Lewis & Clark sites, including a monument. On the way, she pointed out Iowa’s Loess Hills, hills made almost entirely of windblown soils which were formed at the end of the ice age. The winds picked up soils that had been ground as fine as flour and formed dunes along the Missouri River. The local people call the soil “sugar clay” because the exposed loess will erode like sugar when saturated. The Loess Hills landform is 60 feet in height, about 640,000 acres of land in western Iowa. Although deposits of loess are found across the world, nowhere else but China are those deposits higher than they are in Iowa.

Our last stop of the day was Boys Town.

What a fabulous tour. I always loved the movie Boys Town with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Spencer Tracy won an Emmy for that movie and donated it to Boys Town where it is on display.

In 1998, the Boys Town documentary “Ameri8ca’s Throwaway Children” was honored with a Telly Award. It was hosted by Dennis Franz (Bill’s twin) and Danny Glover, telling the story of 4 Boys Town graduates.

To actually see the campus and museum and hear the story of how Father Flannagan founded a place in 1917 for troubled boys to grow and become a productive member of society was moving for all. Girls were accepted into Boys Town in 1979. Father Flannagan always felt that there were no bad boys, they just needed guidance and an opportunity. The campus was not built by the Catholic Church. Father Flannagan wanted a place for all children, white, black, Catholic, non-Catholics. The children, once there, do have to practice a religion, it doesn’t matter what religion. There are homes on campus where trained couples live with 8 of the troubled children. They range from ages 8-18. They have either all boys, or all girls. There are also dormitories. The children have planned activities most of the time, but also enjoy free time. A large majority of the children eventually go on to college. Our tour guide was a court-placed girl who will be returning to her neighborhood school this coming year to complete her h.s. diploma, join the military, and complete 2 degrees in college. Boys Town certainly was a success for her as she described her troubled self when she was placed and today she is a very well put together young lady.

Immaculate Conception Parish Dowd Memorial Chapel is on campus. Because Boys Town is its own town, and they do not want to take away from the local churches, they will not marry or bury outsiders. Permission is granted for alumni and employees.

We were able to tour Father Flannagan’s house.

They recently finished the back addition which depicts the lifestyle of the boys when Boys Town was founded. Below left was Father Flannagan’s room. Below right is a desk made by his students specifically for him. It took them 3 years to complete it. The detail of the woodwork is one of its kind.

Father Flannagan died from a heart attack at about age 57, very young. He traveled the world wide promoting peace and help for children. Today, Boys Town is on its third Director and receives government funding for many of the children.

Day 11 was a FREE DAY!!!! We set out early to discover possible attractions in the area that could be added to the itinerary for future tours. We started at Lauritzen Botanical Gardens. It’s fairly new so there was a lot of growing needed, but we still saw some beautiful flowers.

My favorite part of the gardens was the architectural area where we found some pretty gardens and a model train. The model train area had buildings and bridges made of twigs, birdseed type materials. It was pretty amazing.

Next we decided to visit the zoo, but since it was a holiday weekend, it was so crowded, we decided to explore the city of Omaha. On Mondays, most museums are closed, so we decided to check out the old market. We toured an art museum which houses many Thomas Mangelsen prints. He’s a photographer famous for scenery and wildlife. I thought for sure he must photoshop his pictures since the colors are so vibrant, but we were informed that he did not. He studied the area for weeks, sometimes longer, to get the effect he wanted from a picture. If you ever want to see his work, it can be found at

Close to the market was Lewis & Clark Landing where there was a beautiful park alongside the Missouri River.

We must have taken a hundred pictures of the swans, ducks and ducklings.

Before retiring for the day, we viewed the Holy Family Shrine, situated on a 23 acre site Overlooking the Platte River Valley.

Inside the visitor Center, a suspended sculpture represents the shroud of Christ as it fell to the tomb after the resurrection.

From the sculpture, water appears. Symbolic of the Holy Spirit, the mystery of the source is perceived to be invisible. As the pool fills with water, the outpouring leads us back to the Church.

Inside the chapel, water continues to cut through the floor, but splits to each side of the aisle and into a pool beneath the alter, symbolically joining our spirituality with the Eucharist. The chapel has a wooden frame & roof & glass all around. I wonder how anyone can concentrate on mass with such a gorgeous view.

Outside is a beautiful cross structure aligned with the church.

It can be seen from the interstate and is a wonderful place to sit and meditate, look at all the beauty around and just plain enjoy the day.

Ended the day with an ice cream social. Doesn’t get much better than that!


One response to “Omaha, Nebraska

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