Actress Swoosie Kurtz: Named for a Bomber

Born in September, Born in Nebraska

Swoosie Kurtz

Swoosie Kurtz received her unusual first name – which rhymes with “Lucy” – from her father, Air Force Colonel Frank Allen Kurtz, Jr., who was an American bomber pilot. During WWII, he had flown the last surviving Boeing B-17D Flying Fortress bomber named “*The Swoose” – half swan, half goose.

Born in Omaha on September 4, 1944, she was an only child and has never been married.

Kurtz majored in drama at the University of Southern California, also studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Her first television appearance at age 17 was on The Donna Reed Show in 1962. At age 18, she appeared on To Tell the Truth, where she identified her father from two impostors.

Kurtz’s theatrical career began on Broadway, where in 1978 she received Broadway’s “triple crown” – the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards. She won a second Tony in 1986.

Also in 1978, Kurtz appeared in Mary Tyler Moore’s short-lived variety show Mary, which also included David Letterman and Michael Keaton. She has received eight Emmy Award nominations, with one win for Carol and Company in 1990. She was in the NBC drama Sisters, Huff, Pushing Daisies and in the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly (2010-16). Her films include Wildcats, Dangerous Liaisons, Stanley and Iris, Citizen Ruth and Liar Liar.

Early B-17D at Wright Field. The “D” model was the last B-17 series to have a small “shark-fin” tail and underside “bathtub” gun position. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Early B-17D at Wright Field. The “D” model was the last B-17 series to have a small “shark-fin” tail and underside “bathtub” gun position. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio - Artwork depicting "The Swoose" on the B-17D aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio – Artwork depicting “The Swoose” on the B-17D aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)
One of crews from "The Swooze"
One of crews from “The Swoose” (pictured after the war). From left to right are Charles Reeves, Harold Varner, Col. Frank Kurtz, Harry Schreiber and Roland Boone. The aircraft also set two point-to-point speed records and carried several famous passengers, including Lt. Commander Lyndon B. Johnson (future president of the United States). (U.S. Air Force photo)



Pete Ricketts, 40th Governor of Nebraska

Born in August, Born in Nebraska

Ricketts,_Pete_2013-11-04aThe 40th Governor of Nebraska was born in Nebraska City as Peter John Ricketts on August 19, 1964. He is the oldest child of Marlene, a public school teacher, and J. Joseph Ricketts. In 1975, J. Joseph 1975 founded a brokerage company, which later became Ameritrade.

Pete’s younger siblings are Tom, Laura, and Todd – all of whom live in the Chicago area. The Ricketts family has owned the Chicago Cubs since 2009.

The Ricketts family was far from wealthy in its early years. Pete recalls a time when their mother made curtains for the boys’ bedroom out of plastic picnic-table covers. Todd says one reason he owns a bike shop is that he never had a bike as a kid.

Pete Ricketts graduated from Westside High School in Omaha before attending the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s in biology and an MBA in marketing and finance. He began working at Ameritrade as a customer services representative, eventually becoming its Chief Operating Operator. He and Susanne were married in 1997. They have three children – 15-year-old twins Roscoe and Margot, and 13-year-old Eleanor.


“Where’s the Fire?”

That’s the question most of us ask when we hear the sirens go off in Imperial. Later, when we discover what it was, we’re grateful – for a moment – that our fire department was able to take care of the problem, then we go about our business.

That’s not the case with members of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD). The problem is their business. They are always on the alert, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And it’s a lot more than just fires.

IMG_2001Early in the evening of my interview with Assistant Fire Chief Dan Robinson and the Department’s Secretary Josh Burke, eleven firefighters had answered a rural call because of a carbon monoxide alarm. They also provide rope rescue – in case of a grain elevator or canyon accident – and they’re called out to accidents involving vehicles, which could include not only cars but trucks, tractors, earth movers, and heavy agricultural equipment. Divers provide lake and river rescue and recovery – in the wintertime, that becomes ice rescue. As Dan expressed it, “When the alarm goes off, someone has an emergency we need to tend to.”

Their Equipment

Did you know? The white trucks are for rural calls, and the red ones Rural Fire Truckare for city calls – with one exception: that huge red six-wheel-drive truck that was decommissioned by the U.S. Forestry Service. (All they paid for the truck was the transportation to Imperial.)

All the trucks and equipment – except for dive rescue equipment, which the Co-op stores – are housed at the fire station. The truck bay is crowded; it was built in the 1930s when trucks were much smaller.

A Crew with Distinction

Imperial has one of the few volunteer departments in the country that not only have a full complement of volunteers (35) but a waiting list. Josh once worked with a department in a small town near Lincoln who because of their call volume could have used 50 firemen, but they were lucky to keep 25.

Rapid Response

Bunker gear ready to grab and go.

Last month I was across the street from the station when we heard the sirens. Before the sirens had finished blaring, men were piling out of their vehicles in front of the station. Within seconds, a white truck was pulling out headed south. It was impressive. Even though the dispatcher learns all she can from the 9-1-1 call, “You never know until you get there exactly what the problem is or what extent,” said Dan.

And that’s why their training is so important. “When we first get on, it’s just the older guys that show us the ropes,” said Dan. “Then there are fire schools throughout the year, every couple of months.” Four or five of their men are about to finish a weekly, year-long training class in Grant.

Their Territory

The IVFD covers Chase County and part of Dundy County, one of the largest districts in the state. They are also part of two mutual aid associations which extend east to Cambridge and north to Arthur. Mutual aid associations also call on each other. “We’ve gone as far as Halsey, and up north of North Platte, north of Paxton,” said Josh.

How They’re Compensated

The members of our Volunteer Fire Department do not receive any financial compensation; firefighting is just who they are. But you can sure express your appreciation either in person – or by commenting on the Department’s Facebook page (@Imperialvolfiredept). Be generous when you receive a letter in the next few weeks asking for donations. It helps with their training and equipment purchases not covered by their budget. Also thank the employers who allow these men to leave their jobs at a moment’s notice, never knowing what to expect, but always willing to go wherever and for whatever reason we need them.


Message on a Hay Bale

Hay Bale Banner

Here’s an idea that’s bound to catch on – especially in the rural areas of our country. And a Chase County businessman is the first to think of it!

Rod Keiser of Champa Group in Wauneta has come up with a unique kind of display – vinyl banners that attach to the ends of hay bales – with any message you choose.

Want to market an ag product? Congratulate a graduate? Post directions to your party? Hay Bale Banners will certainly capture the attention of everyone – whether they’re just passing by or are headed to your event.

Keiser and his innovations are well known in Chase County. He established Champa Group in 2004 to provide technology solutions in Southwest Nebraska. When he would go to trade shows, he found it was a challenge to find a printer to produce the marketing and display materials he needed. Figuring other enterprises would need that type of service, in 2006 he established Exceptional Prints, expanding it to Imperial in 2015.

As the printing business expands, he continues to add new equipment to accommodate even larger displays – hence, the new color printer that can print 63-inch-wide graphics, custom wallpaper, and round hay bale banners. The banners are full-color, waterproof, fade-resistant, and can withstand temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a look at their website – – to see examples of banners they’ve created, or stop by their office at 130 N. Tecumseh Avenue in Wauneta to look at miniature samples so you can see for yourself their quality and durability.

Prices start at $99 per banner for standard designs. A custom design will cost extra – or you can design it yourself. Champa Group will email you the Photoshop/Illustrator template. Phone 308-394-6900 or e-mail to find out more.   Feather



The Chase County Area Arts Council Is Back!

“Imperial may be a small community, but it is big on talent!” says Kay Younger, one of twelve members of the new, revitalized Chase County Area Arts Council. “We are fortunate to have many people of all ages, representing all forms of arts, living in our community.”

The Arts Council will host their first event – the Downtown Art Walk – on Saturday, August 6, preceding the Chamber’s Smokin’ on Broadway event. The Council will consider two- and three- dimensional artwork, to be exhibited at various businesses in town. If you’d like to participate or want more information, phone Sara Stretesky (308-883-1505) or Marcia Baurle (308-882-8814).

The Council will also host a booth during Smokin’ on Broadway. Please stop by to visit, find out how to become a member, and share your ideas on how the Arts Council can best serve our community! You can also look at the Arts Council Facebook Page for updates and to give input.

Also – don’t miss the People’s Choice Art Competition, sponsored by the Chase County Community Hospital, August 1 to August 5 – the week prior to the Downtown Art Walk. Details on submission and voting are on Chase County Community Hospital’s Facebook page.  Feather


Gerald R. Ford, 1913-2006


Gerald FordGerald Rudolff Ford was born as Leslie Lynch King, Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska on July 14, 1913, but was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His name was changed when his mother remarried, to Gerald R. Ford, Sr.

Although as President he had a reputation of being clumsy, he was captain of the football team in high school and served as assistant coach while studying law at Yale. In the Navy during WWII, he attained the rank of lieutenant commander and earned several medals of distinction.

He and Betty – a former model who taught dance to handicapped children – were newlyweds when he was elected to Congress in 1948.

Ford was the only president never to be elected – even as Vice President. In October 1973, President Nixon appointed him Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned. On August 9, 1974, Ford became the 38th President after Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

FORD FACTS: During his first 14 months as President, Ford vetoed 39 measures; he was the first U.S. President to visit Japan; two assassination attempts were made on his life. Ford viewed himself as “a moderate in domestic affairs, a conservative in fiscal affairs, and a dyed-in-the-wool internationalist in foreign affairs.” On Inauguration Day, his successor, President Jimmy Carter, began his speech: “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Gerald Ford died on December 26, 2006 – the longest any president has lived to date. Feather


12 Ways You Can Use Exceptional Prints

If you think of printers only in terms of business use or special events, you will be pleasantly surprised at all that Exceptional Prints by Champa Group can offer you – for your home, your car, your photos – and your business. Let’s count some of the ways:

To Transform Your Photos

  1. Canvas. Did you take an action shot of your daughter crossing the finish line or your grandson’s first steps? Stretched canvas might just be the perfect display.
  2. Wallpaper. Turn your high-resolution photo into a unique wall covering.
  3. Calendars. Check out the huge wall calendar in the *Imperial office! You could also print one on magnets as a promotional item.
  4. Photo Restoration. Exceptional Prints can make your old scratched, water-damaged photos look like new. They can also make prints from your 35mm square cartridges and negative film strips.
  5. Collages. Exceptional Prints will turn your family vacation photos into a collage on canvas, photo paper – or a magnet!
  6. Scrapbooking Pages. Work with Print Manager Samie Johnson to create memory pages your family will cherish for generations.

To Take It to the Public

  1. Parade Banners. Get your order in early for a weatherproof vinyl banner that everyone will notice.
  2. Bumper Stickers. Promote your favorite cause or share an inspirational phrase wherever you go.
  3. Wall Coverings. Exceptional Prints can print on Photo TexTM – peel and stick polyester material that you can reposition on any surface – indoors or outdoors.
  4. Pull-Up (Retractable) Banners. Use anywhere you need a striking display.
  5. Business Printing/Logo Design. EP provides not only the usual business printing packages, but a custom design as well.
  6. Website Design/Hosting. EP will walk you through every step, from concept to completion. You can update your site from anywhere.

Samie JohnsonPhone Samie at 394-6700 or drop by the Imperial office on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday at *410 Broadway, or the office in Wauneta at 130 N. Tecumseh, next to Walgren’s.


That Cheatin’ Grass

Cheatgrass - BromusTectorumIf you have property of any size, you probably already know about cheatgrass, but I hadn’t heard it named until a couple of weeks ago, when a Facebook friend mentioned mowing it down out on her farm.

We’ve all seen it, though! It looks graceful, rising tall, elegantly bowing its head to sway gently in the wind. But you don’t want it in your yard. And It’s not graceful at all – it’s destructive!

Why is it called cheatgrass? 1) It cheats farmers into thinking their winter wheat is coming along well; 2) It germinates in the fall, spending the winter building roots and storing energy. Then in the spring it sneaks ahead of other plants by growing early and fast, cheating them out of soil moisture.

Its scientific name is Bromus tectorum – literally “housetop broom.” It’s been used to thatch roofs in eastern North America. It’s also known as downy brome and bronco grass.

Where did it come from? Southwestern Asia through Europe with shipments of wheat in the late 1800s. It now invades over 100 million acres – most of it in the Western United States, including Nebraska.

Is it dangerous, or merely a nuisance? An article in the LA Times compared it to a “lake of kerosene.” When it gets dry – usually by July – it creates a dense mat that is extremely flammable. Since it has become invasive in most Western states, wildfires have become more frequent.

Is it good for anything? Apparently, it does have a medicinal use: Grind the seeds into paste, and apply it as a poultice to the chest to relieve pain. Animals don’t like to eat it because of its prickly awns (the bristles at the end of the plant).

How do you control it? With great difficulty – and time. Even with chemicals, long-term control is complicated. For more information and ways to eradicate cheatgrass from your property, see “Living with Fire: A Homeowner’s Guide to Cheatgrass, published by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Other sources of information:

In elevated carbon dioxide, soybeans stumble but cheatgrass keeps on truckin’ – Washington University in St. Louis

Medicinal Use of Cheat Grass

Cheatgrass – National Park Service Website

Cheatgrass: The Invader that Won the West – Idaho Bureau of Land Management



Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, 1865-1915

BORN IN JUNE, BORN IN NEBRASKA Susan La Flesche Picotte, 1865-1915

The first American Indian woman to become a physician in the United States was born on the Omaha Reservation in Thurston County in northeast Nebraska.

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was born June 17, 1865 to Waoo-Winchatcha (Mary Gale), who was half French and half Omaha, and Joseph LaFlesche (Chief Iron Eye), who was half white and half Omaha.

Dr. Picotte was educated at Hampton Institute in Virginia and the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduating at the top of her class in 1889. It was unusual for women to attend medical schools; many social conservatives believed that women weren’t able to “manage the mental strain of higher education.”

As a child, Picotte had witnessed the death of a member of her tribe because the agency doctor never came. In her private practice, she treated both tribal and white patients, advocating for better health care for all. In 1912 she founded a reservation hospital, which was later named in her honor.

Picotte crusaded against tuberculosis, which killed hundreds of Omaha, including her husband Henry in 1905. With no cure available, she advocated cleanliness, fresh air, and the eradication of houseflies, believed to be major carriers of TB. She also campaigned against alcohol, lecturing about the virtues of temperance and embracing prohibition laws.

Dr. Picotte died at the age of 50, on September 18, 1915 in Walthill, Nebraska – probably of bone cancer. She is buried in Bancroft Cemetery in Bancroft, Nebraska.


Turkey Buzzards!

330px-Cathartes_aura_-Florida_-USA_-flying-8-4cThey’re ugly, and they enjoy a disgusting diet, but you have to admit – they do look majestic as they soar high on the thermals. Also – they help our ecosystem by disposing of nasty decay, which curtails the spread of disease.

Here are some other facts about the gigantic birds that grace our courthouse and water tower every summer:

  1. Their scientific name is Cathartes aura (Latin for Cleansing Breeze).
  2. Up close, they are dark brown with a two-toned underside, a featherless red head, and a pale bill.
  3. According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is illegal to kill turkey buzzards, most commonly known as turkey vultures.

    Turkey Vulture Morro Strand State Brach, Morro Bay, CA 21 March 2008 - Photo by Michael "Mike" L. Baird,
    Turkey Vulture Morro Strand State Brach, Morro Bay, CA 21 March 2008 – Photo by Michael “Mike” L. Baird,
  4. They don’t have the vocal box that most birds have. All they can do is grunt or hiss.
  5. They generally raise two chicks every year and are believed to mate for life.
  6. They have very few natural predators. (No surprise there.)
  7. Their keen sense of smell means they can find – and dispose of – decaying animals that might be obscured by trees.
  8. According to a Chase County courthouse source, their droppings can cover the top of a car. However, their feces can kill many of the bacteria found in other bird feces.
  9. Up to 50% of their diet consists of vegetation
  10. Most of the United States, including Nebraska, is included in the species’ summer breeding range. In the winter, they may migrate as far south as South America.
  11. Two possible reasons you see more turkey vultures now than you used to:
    1) More roadkill due to the increase in deer population and the number of vehicles on highways; 2) The banning of DDT in 1972, which affects the whole food chain.

Want to know more? Read Turkey Vultures: Nature’s Cleanup Crew on the Nebraskaland magazine website. (The article also tells you how to get rid of them – legally.)