The smiling water tower of Adair

Motorists along I-80 in western Iowa have been greeted by the large smiley face in Adair for decades. Their town’s water tower stands not far from the interstate and is painted yellow with a black smiley face.

When was the smiley face painted on the water tower in Adair, Iowa?

According to the previous mayor, Odella Roof, when interviewed by the Des Moines Register in 1991, she believed the tower was first painted with a smiley face in either 1977 or 1978.

Does Ol’ Smiley make everyone happy?

Well, nearly everyone. When I was researching the water tower, I came across one unhappy camper – Chuck Offenberger. Chuck was a columnist for the Des Moines Register. He wrote the column “Iowa Boy” which commonly featured the best, along with the not-so-best of Iowa. And Ol’ Smiley frequently landed on the not-so-best side of the list.

Here’s a quick timeline of the banter that I could find between Offenburger and the Adair water tower.

1983: In his column, Offenburger wrote the Iowa ‘Boy Hit List’ featuring things that are tacky and we could do without. Adair’s smiling water tower makes the list.

1983: Offenburger suggests that the favorite social activity in Adair is to listen to the CB radio to see what truckers have to say about the water tower as they pass.

1983: Adair invited Offenburger to their annual Chuck Wagon Dinner. Even presented him with the key to the town. Then they called him back to the stage for a Lions Club raffle where you could pay and name someone who “gets your goat”. Nice setup Adair, soften him up with a key, then fire away. Banter with a capital B.

1985: In another column, Chuck wrote, “And while we do have to put up with Adair’s water tower”

1987: In another Iowa Boy column that references things that need to go, again the Adair water tower makes the list.

1991: Adair’s new mayor Brenda Wedemeyer is quoted as asking Chuck, “Does your therapist think this water tower problem of yours is anything serious?”

1991: It was written that the smiling Adair water tower was the most remembered feature while traveling on I-80 in Iowa. But all of this is the center of Chuck’s argument – is this really the best we can do? should this be the most memorable thing on your drive through Iowa?

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