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Fort Dodge native returns for book signing

Fantle Shimberg wrote about growing up in Iowa

April 15, 2012
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Growing up in rural Iowa in the 1940s and 50s is an experience Elaine Fantle Shimberg will never forget.

Today, she lives in Florida, where she raised her family, but the memories of her days growing up in a Jewish family in Fort Dodge are still very much a part of her, Fantle Shimberg said.

"I felt my children didn't know much about where I grew up," she said. "They grew up in Florida and were always wanting to know where I grew up."

Her childrens' interest in their family's Iowa roots inspired her to write a biography, "Growing Up Jewish In Small Town America: A Memoir," which tells stories of her years in Fort Dodge, memories of the Jewish Sunday school and Synagogue, her school days and the family's downtown department store, Fantles, which was destroyed in a January 1971 fire.

An author of more than 20 medical and educational books, Fantle said putting her own story in writing was one of her more challenging projects.

"I can write a health care book in about a year," she said. "But I have so many memories and stories it took me two years to decide which ones to include. I'd never written anything that personal before."

Fact Box

If you go:

What: Book discussion and signing with Elaine Fantle Shimberg.

When: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Vincent House, 824 Third Ave. S

Fantle Shimberg moved to Fort Dodge with her family in 1940, when she was 3 years old. They were one of 32 Jewish families in the community.

"We didn't really talk religion, we went to the DYO dances at the Catholic school, our friend and neighbor was a Methodist minister," she said. "But many of the downtown merchants were Jewish."

Her book highlights such memories as her elementary school days at Lincoln School, which has since been replaced by a football field, having a high school radio speech show on KVFD, the Warden Hotel and dinners at the popular Treloar's Inn on Sunday nights.

In the middle of her junior year of high school in 1953, the Fantle family relocated to Sioux City so her father could manage the Fantle's store there. She said it was a tough move to make when she had nearly completed high school.

"I really was saddened to learn we were leaving Fort Dodge," she said. "The friendships I made there were wonderful."

For the first time in nearly 60 years, Fantle Shimberg will be returning to Fort Dodge for a book signing and discussion on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Vincent House, 824 Third Ave. S.

"I look forward to returning to see the places where I grew up," she said.

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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