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COULTER -- You know you're in small-town Iowa when:

• The men have nicknames like Ace, Bubbles, Lump, Peeley, Slats and Squeak.

• They're still talking about the Great Savings Bank robbery of 1921.

• The city park gazebo is destroyed by a falling tree, and is mostly rebuilt within a month.

• The centennial party includes turtle races, a beard-growing contest, rolling pin throw and husband-calling contest.

• Most city landmarks are on or near Main Street. Which you could walk in just a few minutes.

Life is good in Coulter, Iowa, pop. 262.

"Everybody knows everybody, and everybody helps everybody," said Kathy Minor, who co-owns Hometown Pizza & Pub with her husband, George, on the north end of Main Street. "It's a nice little town."

"They're fun. They enjoy life," said the Rev. Dave Bernhardt, pastor of Nazareth Lutheran and St. John's Lutheran churches. "I really enjoy Coulter. I used to live in L.A. and I used to live in Washington, D.C. Home is where you make it. These people are really good at making you feel at home."

• • •

Anita Andersen, Joan Dockwell, Shirley Knudsen, Sharon Meyer and Lois Stratmann worked two years on a comprehensive history of Coulter, which was published for the 2001 centennial celebration.

"I just wanted to write a book," said Knudsen, a retired teacher. "It was a labor of love, I guess."

The book captures North Iowa then and now:

• A volunteer "bucket brigade" fire department was formed in 1902. Its first two-wheeled hose cart was hitched to a horse or pulled by firefighters.

• Despite stormy weather, a community fundraiser in 1909 raised $11.60 for a school library.

• Coulter's first restaurant-hotel building, built in 1902 by Peter Blom, was later Ernie's Place, "a bar and night spot featuring go-go girls."

"A police officer from Michigan stopped to ask where Sin City was. He had heard of it over his police scanner," the authors wrote. "Ernie really put Coulter on the map!"

• Chris Wegersleve had the first auto in town - a red Maxwell Runabout - in 1909.

• In 1953 the Coulter Community Club presented a play, "Comin' ‘Round the Mountain," with Wilma Oleson in the role of Dizzy Mae ("who is slightly tetched").

• In 1954, the menu for the first fish fry in the new Coulter Community Hall included fish, french fries, beans, lettuce salad, tartar sauce, pickles, bread and butter, sherbert and coffee.

"The men did all the planning and only used the help of the women for the actual frying of the fish in homes."

• The Coulter Cubs baseball team played during town celebrations in the early 1900s.

The Coulter Yankees Little Leaguers carry on the tradition.

• The city, founded by Danish settlers, was originally named Colter, Danish for "Little Denmark."

"However, the letter ‘u' was was added to the name to distinguish it from other communities with the same name, as required by the U.S. Postal Service."

Also, the new spelling shows that "There's always room for ‘U.'"

Knudsen laughs when asked why she moved to Coulter.

"Friendly little town," she said. "Everybody's friendly and everybody's willing to pitch in and help.

"And," she said, "my husband (the late Bryan "Ace" Knudsen) lived here."


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