Category: Simply Put

Simply Put – December 25, 2019

By Mike Whittlesey
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Not only green in summer’s heat,
But also winter’s snow and sleet.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Just as there are any number of ways Christmas trees are decorated during the holiday season, you’ll find several different versions of the lyrics of “O Christmas Tree.”
Decorated trees have become a seasonal tradition that date back to the Romans and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe, who saw the evergreen tree as a symbol of life in the midst of winter.
Religious historian Edwin Woodruff Tait noted that clear records of trees being used as Christmas symbols did not appear until the 1500s, as part of dramas depicting biblical themes. Plays celebrating the Nativity were linked to the story of creation and the Garden of Eden was symbolized by a “paradise tree” hung with fruit. When these celebrations were banned in many places, people began moving trees into their homes to compensate for the public celebration they could no longer enjoy.
The earliest evergreen branches used in homes were often hung with round pastries symbolizing the Eucharist. These eventually developed into the cookie ornaments that adorn German Christmas trees today.
The custom grew in popularity throughout the 1800s, with many churches setting up Christmas trees inside the sanctuary. Next to the tree often stood stacks of shelves where candles would be placed, sometimes one for each family member. Eventually, the candles were placed directly on the tree, a precursor to the lights and ornaments placed on modern-day trees.
Like the evergreen branches found in many homes this time of year, this edition of The Progress Review is filled with its own traditions, from the “Messages of Peace and Hope” authored by area pastors to “What Christmas Means to Me,” penned by fifth graders at La Porte City Elementary School. Our gift to you, dear reader, it comes with best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season!
If you have not already done so, we invite you to enjoy another holiday tradition, this one made possible by the residents of La Porte City who have adorned their homes with festive lights and decorations. The Progress Review’s “The Lights of La Porte City” slideshow, set to the music of “O Christmas Tree,” offers a reminder of what the holiday season looks like in our little corner of the world and often draws comments from those with special connections to La Porte City who find themselves far away from their hometown at Christmas. You can find it posted on our Facebook page and website ( for your viewing pleasure.

Simply Put – September 4, 2019

By Mike Whittlesey
This week, with the help of Hoppy’s PRIMititive and Proper, The Progress Review debuts a new feature called This Week in LPC History.
La Porte City began making history in 1855 when the city was platted. Serving as the city’s official newspaper, The Progress Review has been documenting news of local importance since 1872.
With This Week in LPC History, we encourage readers to use two of The Progress Review’s newest information tools.
Each week during the month of September, a La Porte City history trivia question will be posed, giving readers a week to locate and submit the correct answer. Readers who submit the correct response will have their name entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate from Hoppy’s at the end of the month. Answer all four questions posed in September correctly and you’ll have four chances to win!
Fair warning: Questions presented will range from somewhat easy to rather difficult. Those who enjoy a good challenge will find the first information tool, the free online archives of The Progress Review, helpful, as they search for an answer that was published in the local newspaper during the month of September sometime in the past 147 years.
Stumped? Not enough time in the day to dig into the online newspaper archives? Use the second information tool, The Progress Review App, to quickly locate and submit the correct answer. Use of the app is also free. Simply download it to your favorite mobile device, then select This Week in LPC History from the main menu. There you’ll find the correct answer conveniently provided. Simply enter your name and email address to submit your entry.
While this contest uses The Progress Review App as the primary method to submit entries, those who prefer paper and pencil can complete their entry by clipping the This Week in LPC History form from the newspaper and returning it to The Progress Review office by the stated deadline.
How well do you know La Porte City history? We hope you enjoy the opportunity to explore the features of The Progress Review App and have the time to browse through the online archives, which have been made possible courtesy of The Progress Review, Hawkins Memorial Library and a number of generous donors.
Complete online access to newspaper archives that is free of charge is a rare service in this day and age. Logon to or and take a look. La Porte City has a number of fascinating stories to tell, past and present. You never know what you’ll learn, This Week in LPC History.

Simply Put – February 20, 2019

By Mike Whittlesey
It’s a simple question with an answer that is more complex than you might think:Upon serving the sentence received for committing a crime, has an offender served his/her debt to society upon release from an Iowa prison?
In an ideal world, the answer is a no-brainer. Why, yes, of course. In a land where we esteem our criminal justice system, despite its flaws, to be the finest in the world, how could it not?
This week, The Progress Review publishes the first installment of a series entitled “Second Chances.” This series was inspired by correspondence with a subscriber who has spent time in the Iowa prison system. Over the course of several years, the letters we’ve exchanged have prompted a desire to learn more about Iowa’s response to crime and its treatment of convicted criminals.
I do believe our country’s criminal justice system is the fairest one in existence. But there are flaws. Innocent until proven guilty? The case of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team members, falsely accused of rape in 2006, is one example where the accused were convicted in the court of public opinion long before their rightful legal exoneration was acknowledged.
Recently, the topic of restoring the voting rights of convicted felons in Iowa has been in the news. If the successful completion of a prison sentence truly settles the debt an offender owes to society, restoration of voting rights should not be an issue. That it remains one is an indicator of the many challenges those exiting prison face.
Why should we care about the problems of convicted felons when they get out of jail? They created their own problems when they committed a crime, some will argue. It’s a sentiment I understand completely.
We should care because there are very real costs, emotional and financial, that crime imposes on society. First and foremost, it’s important that we get criminal justice “right” to keep our communities safe. A reduction in crime means fewer victims who suffer needlessly.
A reduction in crime also means a lower price to pay to incarcerate the convicts. Consider this: At $90 a day, the average cost to house an inmate in Iowa, multiplied by the more than 8,500 individuals currently in prison, is a price tag of over $765,000 each and every day that must be paid. You can probably guess where the bulk of that money is coming from- Iowa taxpayers. Add more than three times the number of offenders being served by community-based corrections in the state and it’s not hard to understand why the Iowa Department of Corrections needs $400 million a year to operate.
We should care about helping offenders successfully make the transition to productive members of society because, like it or not, 95% of those locked up in Iowa prisons will be getting out some day. Sadly, too many of them, nearly 40%, are returning to jail, repeating the same destructive cycle of unnecessary victims and the use of financial resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
There are no easy answers to complex issues like the ones facing the Iowa Department of Corrections and the policymakers who make the rules the system must follow. It is my hope that “Second Chances” will help stimulate public discourse on how to achieve justice for law-abiding citizens while successfully rehabilitating those who commit crimes. Only then will our communities truly be safe.

Simply Put – December 19, 2018

By Mike Whittlesey
As the story goes, Joseph Mohr, a young priest preparing for Mass on Christmas Eve, went for a walk that afternoon, taking with him a poem he had written two years earlier. Consisting of six stanzas, the priest hoped his dear friend, a musician-schoolteacher living in a nearby town, could compose a melody and guitar arrangement for his original work, to fulfill his intention of singing it during midnight Mass that evening. His friend, Franz Gruber, obliged, not knowing that the notes he created in a matter of minutes would eventually become one of the most recorded Christmas hymns of all time.
The story of how “Silent Night,” or “Stille Nacht” as it was written in German at the time, is a remarkable one. This year, as that simple, yet incredible story celebrates its 200th anniversary, consider this: According to Music Reports, the world’s most advanced rights administration platform, has verified that, as of November 2017, 137,315 different versions of “Silent Night” have been recorded!
In honor of the bicentennial of “Silent Night,” we have chosen to publish a stylized image depicting the scene on the front page of this edition of The Progress Review, which is filled with a few holiday traditions of our own making.
As you explore the pages of this special holiday edition, we hope you’ll enjoy the “Message of Peace and Hope” composed by area pastors and the thoughts area fifth graders have to offer in their essays “What Christmas Means to Me.” We very much appreciate the time and effort the clergy, young people and their teachers have invested in these compositions that offer a more modern appreciation of the holiday season.
We also thank the area businesses who help make this special publication possible with the expression of their holiday greetings you will find sprinkled throughout these 16 pages.
If you have not already done so, we invite you to enjoy another holiday tradition, this one made possible by the residents of La Porte City who have adorned their homes with festive lights and decorations. The Progress Review’s “The Lights of La Porte City” slideshow set to music offers a reminder of what the holiday season looks like in our little corner of the world and often draws comments from those with special connections to La Porte City who find themselves far away from their hometown at Christmas. You can find it posted on our Facebook page and website ( for your viewing pleasure.
As the holiday season draws near, please accept our best wishes for a happy time spent with family and friends. Along the way, we do hope there will be some time for sleep (in heavenly peace).

Simply Put – November 7, 2018

In a world where common names for newspapers usually include Times or Tribune, La Porte City’s newspaper name stands alone. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the city’s founder, Dr. Jesse Wasson, played an important role in how The Progress Review came to be. Did you know that this unusual name was created by combining the names of two rival publications that merged in the late 1800s?
Whether deliberate or by accident, the choice to combine “progress” with “review,” two words that initially seem like opposites, actually serves to describe two important functions that newspapers perform. The “progress” portion, or current news, looks forward and seeks to inform area residents of the important events of the day. The “review” aspect, equally important, performs the role of community archive. Years from now, local citizens will be able, if we’ve done our job well, to learn about what the important issues and events were in La Porte City in 2018, just by perusing the pages of The Progress Review.
The earliest editions of The Progress Review date back to the 1870s and copies of those newspapers can still be read today at Hawkins Memorial Library. Thanks to the State Historical Society, whose diligent efforts archive dozens of Iowa periodicals to microfilm, the local library has a collection of The Progress Review that is considered to be a more permanent than even digital records. When stored properly, microfilm can last indefinitely and is not subject to hard drive failures that can wreak havoc with digital data. Unfortunately, state budget cuts some 15 years ago eliminated the service that had provided microfilm archives of The Progress Review to the local library, leaving a gap in its historical record of La Porte City.
Even if the library’s historical collection of The Progress Review was complete, microfilm, while permanent, is not multi-user friendly, nor is it easily searchable. A digital record, if available, could allow many people to search and access The Progress Review’s archives simultaneously, much like allows visitors to search and view news from the past five years. If only a website with the complete archives of the local newspaper could be constructed…
That day will soon be here, thanks to Advantage Preservation, a company that specializes in such work, along with the contributions from a variety of sources, including a recent grant from the Max and Helen Guernsey Foundation, grants from Aureon (with support from LPC Connect), a donation made in memory of George and Faye Abel, along with donations from the La Porte City Women’s Club and other individuals. Working with Hawkins Memorial Library Director Jolene Kronschnabel, The Progress Review has jump-started the local history website project with the donation of archives dating back to 2009. At an estimated cost of $10,000 to digitize and microfilm a complete, searchable record of The Progress Review, a website has been created where you can explore La Porte City’s history free of charge. While still in the early stages of development, you can begin your search by logging onto Links to the site can also be found on The Progress Review and Hawkins Memorial Library websites.
As you browse, you will notice there are still a number of gaps in the local historical record. To help fill in those gaps with a donation, we encourage you to contact Hawkins Memorial Library (342-3025) to see which years of LPC history are still available to sponsor. It’s an easy and surprisingly affordable way to share a portion of your community’s history with the entire World Wide Web.


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