The Bridge Between Table of Contents

The first draft of The Bridge Between (TBB) chapter two has been completed. Editing will start on Friday, even though I did a good bit during the writing process. Friday’s edit will be to read the content objectively for flow, style, misspellings (which is one of the top 3 misspelled words in English), continuity and consistency, and typos.

I’ve revised the Table of Contents this past week as a result of contemplative breaks, musing at bedtime, in the shower, driving . . . . A project like this one which is under the skin is always top of mind. Here’s the latest version which, other than a little tweaking, is probably close to a final road map through TBB.

Table of Contents

FRONT MATTER [Traditional; will probably shorten]

  • Half title page [title only]
  • Blank (or Also by the author)
  • Title page
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • Foreword

CHAPTERS (Working titles)

Chapter 1 The Bridge Between

SYNOPSIS: Establishes the context for The Bridge Between, especially for readers who don’t have much or any knowledge about Waterloo or Iowa. This was the “Our Town” of our day.

  • Waterloo, Iowa
  • East Side, West Side
  • Segregated by a River

Chapter 2 There Are Blacks in Iowa?

SYNOPSIS: Explains the East-West king-of-the-hill, social and business rivalries which were endemic to Waterloo from its founding and which had an influence on the lives of those of us who graduated from one of the five Waterloo high schools from 1963-1973. The last third explains how the racial divide between East Side and West came about, and the genesis of the North End, the Black Triangle or Smokey Row on the East Side.

  1. Genesis of the Racial Divide
  2. Racial Enculturation: learning about skin color
  3. The Civil Rights Movement in Waterloo

Chapter 3 Guess Who’s Coming to School (To Class)?

SYNOPSIS: Our attitudes, opinions and believes about life and race were formed by the time we entered high school. These were influenced by family, church, experiences, which graduates share. Insights are also shared about how our public or private school elementary and junior high pathways also influenced us. And no school district ever crossed the Cedar River.

  1. Recognition of color differences
  2. Family influences on racial understanding
  3. Experiential influences on racial understanding

Chapter 4 Years of Status Quo: Life as a High School Student Pre-1967

  1. Students’ experiences, perceptions and insights about life and race relations during their three years in the four high schools. (Central didn’t graduate its first class until June 193, the last year of the decade in The Bridge Between.)
  2. The common perception was that high school was a “no worries,” fun experience, although the racial gap between friends existed.

Chapter 5 Years of Activism: Life as a High School Student 1967-1970

  1. Students’ experiences, perceptions and insights about life and race relations during high school
  2. The common perception, born out by circumstances, was that racial tension had reached the ignition point and activism to create change was the only solution.

Chapter 6 Years of Discord: Life as a High School Student Post-1970

  1. Students’ experiences, perceptions and insights about life and race relations during high school
  2. The common perception, born out by school decisions and actions, and subsequent open enrollment allowed Waterloo to dodge the Department of Justice bullet for a systematic pattern of racial segregation through the use of school district boundary lines.

Chapter 7 Adult Lives and Lessons Learned

  1. Graduates’ experiences, perceptions and insights about life and race relations after high school.
  2. In hindsight 50 years later, what are the perceptions and insights these 1963-1973 Waterloo high school graduates have on the ultimate impact of their high school experiences on their adult lives, especially their interracial relationships and their children’s’ attitudes and behavior.

UNNAMED: Any suggestions?

SYNOPSIS: Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. This is the town. Waterloo, IA. Some people graduated from high school there with pleasure. Some went because they had to and didn’t graduate. You never know. My name’s DeBonis. I walked at the 100th East High graduation in 1966. I was eight years old . . . .

BACK MATTER [traditional, but optional, could be collapsed, deleted]

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. List of Kickstarter contributors
  3. Bibliography, reference list
  4. Author’s bio

Feedback is welcome on the blog or by email to

Traveling tomorrow. Until the next blog. remember, the wet bird never flies at night. . . .  Signature INITIALS


Chapter 1 The Bridge Between

City of Waterloo

The Atlantic couldn’t separate the East & West Side any more than the Cedar (River) does. – Anecdotal Waterloo metaphor

Prairie Rapids or Prairie Rapids Crossing was settled in 1846 in Black Hawk County, IA, at a site which provided good fording of the Cedar River near what became 4th street in Waterloo.

From its inception, the settlement was not only physically divided by the river, but it was divided from the outset into East Side and West Side by a natural a social and economic competitiveness. As the town developed, the West Side acquired the cachet of greater affluence, while the East Side attracted more industrial development and working-class houses.[1]

The East and West Side designations are an historical oddity whose reason is lost in time, since the Cedar River runs through the town from northwest to southeast, dividing it into north and south sides.

The town presented a petition for a post office in 1850 to the Cedar Falls postmaster six miles up-river, since it had a post office. No name was listed on the petition, which was required. Local folklore says he looked through a list of current U.S. post offices there, saw and liked the name “Waterloo,” verified there wasn’t one in the state and wrote it on the petition. The post office and the name was approved by the U.S. Postal Service.[2]

The location of the county courthouse in Waterloo was another of the early contentious issues for the East and West Sides.

When Black Hawk County was sufficiently populated to set up its own administration in 1853, Cedar Falls was larger than Waterloo became the county seat. Two years later, Waterloo boosters convinced the Iowa legislature that Cedar Falls wasn’t as centrally located as their town and that Waterloo was growing more quickly. Waterloo was chosen as the new Black Hawk County seat by a vote of 388 to 260 April 2, 1855.

Interests of those on both sides of the Cedar River resulted in a disagreement about where the courthouse would be built. A vote was set up for December with an odd ballot choice:  Voters could either select the East Side or the side that would pay the most money for the location and erection of county buildings. Cedar Falls voters formed an almost unanimous voting coalition with the East Side in retaliation against and attempt to reduce the local influence of West Side business interests which had petitioned the legislature to allow the county seat election. The East Side got the courthouse on a 467-264 vote.[3]

In the late 1800s, local architect Charles Mulford Robinson summed up the community rivalry. “Waterloo was a town not joined, but divided by the Cedar River. There seems to be only one danger that seriously threatens the advance of Waterloo in municipal aesthetics and effectiveness. That is the lack of complete union between the East Side and the West, of the whole-souled cooperation which forges itself in the greatness of a common task.”[4]

When Andrew Carnegie offered Waterloo a $30,000 grant for a library in 1902, the East and West Side factions disagreed on its location for two years. Carnegie heard of the feud and reportedly suggested the library be built in the middle of the river to resolve the dispute. The mayor suggested building it on the Fourth Street Bridge, which hadn’t been completed.[5] Carnegie increased his donation to allow the town to build two libraries; Waterloo was the only city to receive funds for two full libraries. Not coincidentally, they were both dedicated on the same day in February 1906.

Public schools are an extension of the relationship of the symbiotic political and social structures in a community. It’s often difficult to separate the influences of the two.

The East-West rivalry extended to Waterloo schools also from the start. The first school house was built in on the West Side in the spring of 1853; the first east-side school opened the next year. Children were schooled on their own side of the Cedar River even after the first bridge was built in 1859.

“The location of neighborhood schools thus became an issue more politically charged than usual.”[6] A large three-story brick school was built on the West Side in 1860 despite the fact that the East Side school was overcrowded due from population growth in the industrial sector on Its side of the river.  “. . . the affluent West Side received the new facilities, it seemed.” [7] A new school was built on the East Side four years later.

Two years after that, In March 1866, East-Side residents petitioned “for a school district of their own, independent from the existing, west-dominated district. West-Side citizens opposed the split, but when the ballot was held on March 19, heavy rains and flooding on the Cedar prevented most of the West-siders from reaching the East Side polling place. As a result, the measure passed overwhelmingly. The Independent District of East Waterloo was formed; the West Side schools were organized into the Waterloo School District.” [8] The two districts operated autonomously 76 years before consolidating 1942.

East Side, West Side

Very few of us have a choice about where we grow up and attend school. We’re subject to our parents’ decision. Their choice unquestionably has an impact on our life experiences, friendships and education, all of which continue to influence us during our adult lives.

Growing up and going to school on the East Side or the West Side of the Cedar River had such and influence.

The Divide

Waterloo was a very divided city. [West 71 white female]

We were a town split down the middle. [WHS 70 white female.]

Waterloo is a segregated City separated by the Cedar River. And you went to school on one side of the river the other. That’s the way it was. [WHS 69 white male]

The East-West issue was just always there. And a source of frustration, anger and bitterness. [East 66 black female]

Socioeconomic Divide

I have often described myself as ‘growing up poor on the East Side of Waterloo’ and that we had a river in Waterloo instead of tracks and I grew up on the wrong side of the river. [EHS 67 white male]

My personal feeling was we on the East Side were poor or working class, black and white, and those on the West Side were members of the upper crust. We didn’t mix with the West Side people. [East 68 white female]

The East Side was the poorer side, but the West students were snobs. [EHS 66 white female]

When we moved to Waterloo, my parents bought on the East Side rather than the West Side because it was affordable. And they told me that I would be going to a school where there would be black people. I felt like there was a snobbishness on the part on the West Side toward the East Side, although I really didn’t think about why. Personal perceptions, I guess. They on the West Side were elite in their white environment and didn’t have to live next to black people or have their kids go to school with blacks.[EHS 66 white female]

People in Waterloo looked down their noses at people from the East Side. You were either black or poor. From the bad side of town, the other side of the tracks. The people on the West Side were more affluent for the most part. And more proud of themselves, I guess, for who they were and where they lived. People on the East Side were a lot more down to earth and friendlier. [EHS 67 white female]

The typical stereotype was that West students had more money and were stuck up. Not always true in either case. The East students were more middle class and lower class and not as stuck up. Probably not true either. [WHS 69 white female]

My parents’ families moved from East to West Waterloo when they were in Jr high and high school, to improve their lives, I assume as part of the white flight. As West Side residents, we thought we were better, black or white. “West is best, East is least, Columbus doesn’t even rate” was the expression. On KWWL evening news, describing events as “in the North End” was code for blacks involved. [WHS 70 white male]

I had twin cousins at West High who were a year ahead of me and they’d take me along to some of their parties. I got the treatment from their friends for being from the East Side. I was the “poor cousin from the other side of the tracks” and, since I went to East High, I was an “easy woman.” It worked out fine once they got to know me. My cousins didn’t have any more money than we did, but I was a poor white girl from the East Side with whom they wanted to share their parties. [EHS 66 white female]

Blue Collar Town

There was always a perception that East Side people were a little rougher, not quite as elite socially. (10:15). [EHS 66 white male]

Iowans familiar with Waterloo always referred to it as a rough blue-collar town. But when I was growing up on the West Side, I assumed that my life was normal and didn’t view it as a blue-collar town. I could walk anywhere I wanted to. I walked to school. Until I went to West High, I didn’t realize that there were such large homes in Waterloo. Like the homes on prospect Boulevard. I’d never been exposed to professional people. So, when people would call Waterloo that blue-collar town, I’d just smile and say, “Yah, but it was a great place to grow up.” [WHS 67 white male]

The Racial Divide

Almost all of the blacks in Waterloo lived on the East Side and attended East High. West was predominantly a white kids’ school. I think there were one or two black kids in my graduating class. [West 71 white female]

The Cedar River always had that stigma when I was growing up. That was the West Side, this was the East Side. That blacks weren’t welcome on the West Side. I don’t know why or where it came from. It was like the “have” and “have nots.” [EHS 89 black male]

I always thought the West Side was where the rich people lived and the east was for the middle class and poor people. [EHS 73 white female]

The East Side was a good place to come from, although I lived in Evansdale and didn’t have much interaction with city people until was bused to East. It was a good learning experience for me. [EHS 66 white female]

The Cedar Falls Effect

My ex-husband always told my in-laws I was from the wrong side of the tracks. It didn’t make any difference to my friends that I was from the East Side of one of those. Friends in Cedar Falls said, “There’s no way I would live in Waterloo. I heard that all the time.” [EHS 66 white female]

People in Cedar Falls looked down on people in Waterloo, partly because of the university there. They saw themselves as more white and middle class, better, safer, richer, more educated than Waterloo. They thought of Waterloo as rowdier, more violent because of the racial mix. [WHS 69 white male]

Waterloo always has been and still is a second-class citizen in the minds of the people from Cedar Falls. It’s primarily white. The racial makeup of Waterloo had something to do with the attitudes of paper people from Cedar Falls. Although there are a lot of ethnicities in Cedar Falls particularly because of the University. [WHS 69 white male])

Final Thoughts

After we moved to the West Side, my dad always made us wait until we’d crossed the bridge from the East Side to throw the apple cores out the window. We were Eastsiders. The whole time we lived on the West Side my dad refused to buy a power mower. He used to push a mower because “I’m an Eastsider.” [CEN 73 white female]

My father always told me the “East Side” was actually the North Side. [EHS 66 white female]

Segregated by the Cedar River

Downtown Waterloo was laid out with the numbered streets running north-south and the east-west roads bearing names. The numbered streets’ names began with “East” or “West” based on which side of the Cedar they were located. This general checkerboard grid was similar to the one used by the agrarian state of Iowa in which county roads ran north-south and east-west, and were a mile apart.

The first bridge built between the East and the West Sides of Waterloo was in 1859. The 4th Street bridge was built in 1872 just east of the falls and was the main road for crossing the Cedar River through downtown Waterloo. The 5th Street bridge in 1908. The original Mullan Avenue bridge one black west of 1st Street was erected in 1913. A bridge was put in on 18th street adjacent to the Rath Packing Plant in 1931. For years one of the largest employers in the town, Rath opened in 1881, but ceased operations in 1984. Park Avenue was tucked in between 3rd and 4th streets and gained a bridge in 1938. The 11th Street Bridge was built in 1953. And the 1st Street Bridge in 1967.[9]

By the 1960s, there were eight different routes across the Cedar River between the East Side and the West Side.

But the division between the two communities continued to grow.

Exacerbating the schism was the influx of black strikebreakers in 1910 primarily from the South who were sequestered in a section of the East Side adjacent to the Illinois Central rail yard where they were working. The blacks remained socially quarantined in the North End until well into the 1960s.


[1] Roosevelt Elementary School, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, section 8, p. 10. Retrieved from

[2] Among the sources: Waterloo, IA. Retrieved from,_Iowa.

[3] Veeder, G., County Auditor. (February 2011). Black Hawk County Courthouse History. Retrieved from

[4] Roosevelt Elementary School, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, section 8, p. 10. Retrieved from

[5] Brief History of Black Hawk County. Retrieved from

[6] Brief History of Black Hawk County. Retrieved from

[7] Roosevelt Elementary School, Ibid., section 8, pp. 11.

[8] Roosevelt Elementary School, Ibid.

[9] Thanks to Steve Walker of the Waterloo Engineering Department for providing dates for the 11th and 1st Stree bridges. Primary online source: Historic and Notable Bridges of the U.S. Retrieved from