Preserving Fonda One Piece at a Time

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FONDA, Iowa — When Gib and Jan Alpers took possession of an old building in 1984, little did they realize what it would become.

The two took their years of collections of everything from vehicles to player pianos, and thousands of pieces from the past century or more, and filled the first floor.

“I’ve always liked antiques, I’ve always liked Fonda,” Gib Alpers said. “Fonda’s going down the hill, so I tried to save everything that was part of Fonda.”

The building was at one time a grocery store. It was built in 1884, after a fire in 1883 destroyed the previous building. It also had an opera stage upstairs, and Iowa’s Governor once spoke to the Fonda High School Graduates there.

The store has an old soda fountain, a barber’s chair, a post office, and two player pianos. Gib’s pride is a 1923 Gardiner Automobile.  He had wanted that car as a child, and eventually was able to buy it — but in very poor condition. He had to rebuild much of the car to bring it back to a new state. The engine also runs.

One of Gib’s rules is that to collect something, it should work. He opens two player pianos for a serenade and they work great. In these cases, it took some money to get working pianos, some things like the car, he fixes himself.

“It happened slowly and gradually,” Gib said. “I never noticed it because I’m not a rich man, just an average Joe, who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, or don’t run around much.”

Jan Alpers also has a passion for collecting. She is the expert at getting auto memorabilia, gas pumps and signs.

“We go to flea markets, and see stuff I like that we don’t have, at a reasonable price,” she said.

Gib tells the story of a scale and fortune-telling machine she bought. Gib went to check out the fortune it told said, “you tend to pay too much for the things you buy.”

The museum is only open by appointment. You can check the Fonda Museum website here.

The phone number to reach Gib and Jan Alpers is 712-288-6675

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