• grocery store
    The Land of 10,000 Tacos

    Ottumwa was once dubbed “The Land of 10,000 Tacos” by blogger, The Iowa Gallivant.

  • Skate Park
    Skate Park

    Each year, Skate Fest is held at Ottumwa Skate Park, and has come to be known as one of the best in the region. This free park is open 24/7 and features miniramps, a spine ramp, and a street course with boxes, rails, banks, and quaterpipes.

  • Bar Prohibition
    Legend has it

    Legend has it, in the days when Prohibition was the law of the land, that members of a certain Chicago based underground business would frequently come to Ottumwa. Perhaps they needed to “get out of town” for a while, or came to meet “business associates” from other parts of the mid-west. In any case, we do know that Ottumwa was on the train route to Chicago, and other cities, and that we boasted a number of fine hotels. Gangsters of that era may well have visited, but due to the nature of their business, they remained low key, out of sight, off the record and on the QT. The nickname “Little Chicago” comes from those heady days of hot jazz, gangsters, G-men, and speakeasy’s.

  • Canteen Lunch
    Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa

    In the TV sitcom Roseanne, the Lanford Lunchbox was based on the iconic Ottumwa diner, Canteen Lunch in the Alley.

  • Steve Chmelar-1971 Foamfinger
    Who’s #1?

    In 1971, Ottumwa High School senior Steve Chmelar constructed a giant hand out of hardware cloth and papier-mâché for the Iowa Boy’s State Basketball Finals. As the Ottumwa Bulldogs battled the Davenport West Falcons, Steve showed everyone who’s #1 with his giant hand. Photos of this creative fan were taken by the Associated Press and published in the Des Moines Tribune and the 1971 Ottumwa High School yearbook. Other sports fans tinkered with the same idea until I979 when the first commercially produced polyurethane foam hands with the raised index finger hit the market. While others may have brought the foam hand to the masses (and made lots of money doing it), Ottumwans know who really was #1.

  • Stack of books
    Stolen Knowledge

    Stephen Blumberg, also known as the Book Bandit, was a rare book collector who lived in Ottumwa. On March 20, 1990, the F.B.I. raided Blumberg’s home where they recovered more than 23,600 stolen books from approximately 268 universities and museums representing 45 states, Washington D.C., and two Canadian provinces. The stolen collection was worth an estimated $5.3 million and Blumberg was recognized as the “most successful book thief in the history of the United States.” How did he get caught? His longtime friend and accomplice turned him in for a $56,000 bounty. Blumberg was found guilty in 1991 and was fined $200,000.

  • Water Drop
    What’s in a name?

    Before settling on the name Ottumwa, this city had a handful of name changes along the way. It was originally called Appanoose Rapids, then Louisville, then Ottumwanoc, and finally a shortened version of the last, Ottumwa. It is thought to be derived from an Algonquian (Fox) word that means “rippling waters.”

  • Tom Arnold
    Funny Guy

    Actor, producer, and writer Tom Arnold was born and raised in Ottumwa. At 23, he began doing stand-up comedy and was eventually hired as a writer for the hit television show, Roseanne. He portrayed a character on the hit TV show, writing himself in as “Arnie.” Arnold and Roseanne Barr married in 1990 and divorced in 1994. His big screen breakthrough came when he starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies, earning a nomination for the MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.

  • Hot Air Balloon
    Up, Up, and Away

    On July 27, 2004 at the age of 109 and 7 days old, Emma Carroll went on an hour long hot air balloon ride and became the oldest person to fly in a hot air balloon.

  • Winking Smiley
    Watch your Eyes

    It’s illegal for a man to wink at a woman he doesn’t know in Ottumwa, so be sure to introduce yourself first.

  • Carol Morris, Miss USA and Miss Universe of 1956.
    Universal Beauty

    Ottumwa is home to Carol Ann Laverne Morris, an American actress, model, and beauty queen who was the second Miss USA to win the Miss Universe title in 1956. Morris attended Ottumwa High School where she graduated fourth in her class of 300. She was a champion swimmer and worked as a lifeguard, sang in the church choir, and played the violin. She attended Drake University in Des Moines where she was a member of the Beta Kappa chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta and a decorated swim team member.

  • Beverley Owen
    Not so scary…

    Ottumwa native Beverley Owen played the original role of “Marilyn Munster” on The Munsters in 1964. After 13 episodes, she left the show to get married. She is not always recognized as “Marilyn” because she wore a blonde wig on the show.

  • Hollywood Sign
    Inspiring Hollywood

    Ottumwa is the hometown of Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly, a fictional character in the M*A*S*H novels, film, and television series. The character was inspired by Ottumwa native Don Shaffer who was nicknamed “Radar” by his compatriots and served alongside the creator of M*A*S*H in the Korean War.

  • Super Mario
    Keeping Score

    Ottumwa is known as the Video Game Capital of the World. How did we get this unique distinction? Back in the early 1980’s, an Ottumwa video arcade named Twin Galaxies, began keeping official high scores and records for video gaming. Ottumwa hosted the first North American Video Olympics in the fall of 1982 where top players gathered and the event was featured in a LIFE magazine. Twin Galaxies organized the first significant video-game championship, to crown a world champion. This event was filmed in Ottumwa by ABC-TV’s That’s Incredible! and was aired on the night of February 21, 1983. Twin Galaxies (the arcade) is long gone but Twin Galaxies lives on as the official organization that tracks video game world records, similar to the Guinness Book of World Records for video gaming achievement. Ottumwa holds a unique place in the golden age of video gaming.