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University of Iowa News Release


May 7, 2008

'Sunday Afternoon on the Porch' from UI Press documents small-town Iowa life

"Sunday Afternoon on the Porch: Reflections of a Small Town in Iowa, 1939-1942," which combines recently discovered images by amateur photographer Everett W. Kuntz and text by versatile writer Jim Heynen, will become available from the University of Iowa Press on June 17, 2008.

In 1939, just before graduating from high school in the small town of Ridgeway in northeast Iowa, Kuntz spent his entire savings of $12.50 on a 35mm Argus AF camera. He made a camera case from a worn-out boot, scraps from a tin can and a clasp from his mother's purse. For the next several years, especially during the summers when he worked on his parents' dairy farm, he clicked the shutter of his trusty Argus all around the quiet town.

Kuntz bought movie-reel film in bulk from a mail-order house, rolled his own film, and developed it in a closet at home, but he never had the money to print his photographs. More than 2,000 negatives stayed in a box while he married, raised a family and worked as an electrical engineer in the Twin Cities.

When he became ill with cancer in the fall of 2002 -- 60 years after he had developed the last of his bulk film -- Kuntz opened his time capsule and printed the images from his youth. He died in 2003, having brought his childhood town back to life just as he was leaving it.

Dave Etter, author of "Alliance, Illinois" and "Sunflower Country," wrote, "The men, women, and children in Everett Kuntz's Ridgeway, Iowa, photographs have come to meet us. We greet them warmly because we know they have experienced the same joys and sorrows that we have in our own country towns. There is optimism and hope here, and peace and patience."

And Dwight Hoover, author of "A Good Day's Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression," commented: "Everett Kuntz captures well a time when small-town life is about to change, a time between two eras, when the residents enjoy the security of a small community. His images remind us more exactly what the past looked like, not exactly as we remember it, but as it was at the time. Then we may truly know the place from which we came."

Visiting the town in 2006 as he was writing the text to accompany these photographs, Heynen crafted vignettes that complement these rediscovered images by blending fact and fiction to give context and voice to Ridgeway's citizens.

Best known for his short-short stories about "the boys," Heynen has published widely as a writer of poems, novels, nonfiction and short fiction. His stories about the boys have been featured often on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." The most recent collection of these stories, "The Boys' House," was named Editors' Choice for Best Books of 2001 by the Bloomsbury Review, Newsday and Booklist. He wrote the text for "Harker's Barns: Visions of an American Icon," published by the UI Press in 2003.

"Sunday Afternoon on the Porch" is available for sale at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

"Sunday Afternoon on the Porch" is part of the UI Press series of Bur Oak Books, named for the state tree of Iowa.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Thomas, UI Press,, Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073; cell: 310-430-1013;