Publisher’s Perspective Volume 7, Issue 6: ‘River to River’ inspires viewers to experience history for themselves

Michael's column shot cropped

By Michael Swanger


If the goal of “River to River: Iowa’s Forgotten Highway 6” is to encourage viewers to experience Iowa history on the road less traveled and perhaps learn something about themselves in the process, then mission accomplished.


After watching “River to River,” the latest documentary by husband-and-wife filmmakers and former Iowans, Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Moline, Ill., you can’t help but feel the desire to exit the hustle and bustle of Interstate 80 and get your kicks on historic U.S. Highway 6.


“It’s a metaphor for what we do,” said Kelly Rundle, whose Fourth Wall Films has created Iowa history documentaries about Ioway Indians and one room country schools, among others. “We get caught up in routines and tend to use the interstates as a matter of convenience. Interstates have their place, but we forget to take a little extra time to have some fun.”


Rundle knows how much fun you can have on Iowa’s portion of the transcontinental Grand Army of the Republic Highway that stretches from Davenport on the Mississippi River, to Council Bluffs on the Missouri River. He and his wife traveled it four times in the four years it took to create their hour-long film.


Along the way, they filmed stories about the Wilton Candy Kitchen, Ladora Bank Bistro, Grinnell’s Spaulding Center for Transportation, Newton’s Valle Drive In, Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde, and shot footage of several towns such as Davenport, Marengo, Brooklyn, Colfax, Adel, Menlo, Atlantic and Sioux City. Brief segments about the history of the highway (the longest route built on American soil) as told by David Darby, executive director of the Iowa U.S. Route 6 Tourist Association who pitched the idea for the film, are carefully placed throughout the movie which transcends sheer nostalgia.


“It’s not just a trip down memory lane,” said Rundle. “It’s a reminder for people to seek and enjoy these stories for themselves.”


Darby said time is of the essence to do so as America’s landscape is rapidly changing.


“In many ways, America is losing its identity,” he said. “With a whole generation of people who know only interstate travel, this documentary is a great way to introduce future travelers to one of the most important highways that built America. It is my hope and dream that this documentary will help preserve the 40-plus communities and small businesses within them for future generations.”


“River to River” was well received at a handful of screenings across the state in September, in which fans bought tickets and pre-ordered the DVD to be released in November.


“The single most rewarding aspect was seeing the audience’s positive reaction to the finished project,” said Darby. “As one audience member said, ‘Thank you for making me fall in love with Iowa all over again!’”


Thanks for reading.


TO READ MORE FASCINATING STORIES ABOUT IOWA HISTORY, subscribe to Iowa History Journal. You can also purchase back issues at the store.