What’s in a name?

Before I begin, it’s important to say this is not about finger-pointing. And it sure as heck isn’t about finding fault.

Let me explain.

A few weeks back Sherry Washington, a local community leader, invited the community — and I mean this community, as in Fort Dodge — to join her for a discussion about, well, community.

It was gorgeous out.

The trees had only begun to hint that they might change out of their summer greens and put on the annual fall show. But the Iowa blue sky was there. Vivid. Cerulean. The perfect backdrop to a gathering of people in a local park.

The Mini Park.

What in all that is holy kind of name is that?

I mean, here we are under God’s gorgeous canopy, with some of His finest local creatures, me enjoying the comradery and weather, and all I can think is Mini Park?

So Sherry Washington gets up and is introducing a panel of speakers who are gathered to, among other things, explain what the city is up to in ways of bringing improvement to this little slice of God’s Green Earth and I’m thinking, How about calling it something that doesn’t remind me of a convenience store?

I mean, here we have Loomis Park, Snell-Crawford Park, Oleson Park and John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. Heck, we’ve got the Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex. And don’t get me started on Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation, which is an industrial park, but still a park.

And I am sitting there.

On the basketball court.


There’s a line of city leaders seated with their backs to the evening sun, describing to the considerable crowd that had gathered the long-needed improvements coming to the park. Some very real improvements. Sure, it was going to cost money — as much as $60,000 — but that’s OK. The city’s plan to spiff up this city park was long overdue. Clearing, cleaning, landscaping, new playground equipment. Good news.

But I’m stuck on a thought. Who the heck came up with the name Mini Park?Mini is not even a noun. It’s a descriptor.

It isn’t even a full word. Mini is short for miniature. As in, I am too lazy to spell out the whole word.

Reynolds, Dolliver, Camp Wanoki, Brushy Creek, Loomis, Snell-Crawford, John F. Kennedy, Harlan and Hazel, Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

Mini Park.

I bet together we could come up with a few names of our own.




Oo, I like that one.


Roll it around in your mouth with me.

Meriwether Park.

Kind of classy, isn’t it?

It doesn’t say, Let’s drive ourselves over there and get a bag of chips.

It says, Come sit down and enjoy the trees, the sky, the day. It says, it matters.

It says, You matter.

Did you know that Harry Clifton Meriwether was one of the first African-Americans in Fort Dodge to own a business? I didn’t until a colleague told me. The business was Harry’s Chicken Shack. Meriwether was not only a businessman, but he was a veteran of both World Wars and a recognized leader in the black community of Fort Dodge.

He was also worshipful master of the Solomon Lodge for several terms. That was the black Masonic lodge in Fort Dodge from 1947 to 1985. This is all is according to local historian Roger Natte’s book, “To Make Good Men Better, Black Masonry in Fort Dodge, Iowa.”

The name makes sense to me.

I mean, here I was, seated in a little slice of heaven in a place called Pleasant Valley on a gorgeous fall day.

It was beautiful weather.

It was Meriwether.

Jane Curtis is the editor of The Messenger.