A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Friday, November 30, 2012

They Died in a Iowa Cornfield

Before we leave the Surf Ballroom, here are some facts about it.  Visitors have been listening to the sounds of the Surf since 1933.  Folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, polka, blues, pop, swing, rock and big band music the Surf has heard it all.  It is one of the last remaining ballrooms in the Midwest and has a capacity of 2100.  The entire facility is at 30,000 square feet with 6,300 square feet of hardwood dance floor. 

Outside stands a memorial stone.

We'll take a short 5 mile drive north of town.  Nope, they didn't get very far that cold February night.

There is no doubt when you have arrived.

Park along the road and walk in the cornfield about a quarter of a mile.

Then up ahead you see the place where no corn has been planted for over 40 years.

There stands a well-done memorial piece made from stainless steel

plus all the other offerings left behind by those before me.

Lest we not forget that someone else died that night too.

I didn't leave anything. 
Instead I took a short scrawny withered ear of corn from a stalk and it now sets on a shelf in the Little House on the Highway.

Time to head back.

Believe me, for the rest of the day driving through Iowa my head was full of all I had just experienced.  And for the remainder of the trip, anyone I met who was interested in where I was going and what I had seen, they heard all about my day in Clear Lake Iowa.

Lets Dance!

You walk in the two front doors and to the left check your hat and coat.  Do they do that anywhere these days?  Wow, just like in the movies from the 40's and 50's.  Check out that woodwork.  It was like that throughout the ballroom.

Is this not cool? 
I was taking photos in a huge dark ballroom when the lady in the office came out and noticed my trying to take a self portrait standing on the stage.  Despite me saying she didn't have to, she turned on all the lights, pulled back the curtains and more just for me.
   Notice the disco ball overhead.

We'll pan around.
Think of the sound in this building.

The view from the stage. 
The joint gets rockin' for sure.

Oh the stories this ballroom could tell.

She told me back in 1959 the stage was smaller.  The portion forward of the light colored wood is all expanded stage years later.

Imagine of all the people having a grand time,

getting up to dance and coming back to their table. 
Boys asking girls to dance, girls wishing they'd be asked.

Just imagine. Can you? 
Ah I was livin' it while in there!

Every booth had this detailwork, plus all those nicks and scratches from years and years of entertainment...priceless!

Here's the gooberish photo she took of me which I used for the blog post while on the road back in September.  At the time I thought I was standing where Buddy Holly once stood but learned afterwards about the stage enlargement.  I felt silly asking her to do it all over again so I could be on the old portion so I left with this and the ghost of Buddy telling me to get out of the way!

Tomorrow we will visit the crash site.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Surf Ballroom

Clear Lake, Iowa

My going to Clear Lake Iowa was merely to visit the crash site where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson lost their lives on the night of February 3, 1959.  We camped outside of town and coming into town the next morning I made a wrong turn and by chance passed the Surf Ballroom which I recalled in my research was where they played their last show.  What the heck?  I parked, took some pictures and discovered the front door was open.  I walked in to what would be one of the top highlights of my trip.

The ballroom is a still functioning venue for performers to this day.  A portion of the inside was devoted to that fateful night.  Incidentally, I was the only one there except for the few who were working that day.
A minimal early rock and roll gift shop with quality merchandise, not a bunch of cheesy junk.  I bought a postcard to paste up inside the Little House on the Highway.

The original poster which is what my postcard looks like.

These photos will be all askew as I was trying to eliminate light glare.

A 20 year later tribute performance poster.

A very good write-up as to what took place during the tour and that night.
The next one down is easier to read.
I read elsewhere how Waylon Jennings jokingly said to J.P. "Big Bopper" as he left for the plane "I hope your plane crashes".  He was utterly devastated afterwards and lived with tremendous guilt many years on.

It was sad to read about each one and the family and wives left behind. 
Such talented individuals to die way too early in their lives.

Tomorrow I will take you on a tour of the ballroom itself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Seligman, Arizona

There is so much to like about this sign - its 50's design, the horse shoes, Betty Boop carrying a pizza, but them making sure you know that it is Norwegian owned and you'll be smelling lutefisk instead of curry when walking into the office was pretty smart thinking to me.

From the other direction.

This was a very nice looking and well cared for motel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trailer Trash Tuesday

Jet, Oklahoma

There were some other candidates in the area of Jet but quite frankly the whole place I didn't feel to comfortable in.  In fact I didn't even get out of the Little House on the Highway for this photo.  I took it from the driver's seat with the window down and the engine running.  Maybe that is why the only other trailer trash photo I took in Jet was blurry. 

My next trip will be through the southern states.  I need to work on overcoming my fears before then or I won't be coming back with very many good pictures.

Monday, November 26, 2012

No Windows?

                             Then paint in some.

Chillicothe, Missouri

It appears the artist made the windows taller the further to the right as he went. But it turns out that the building's roof is sloping down to the right.  An optical illusion that can be solved by looking at the bricks along the roofline.

Each one depicts an owner and their business in Chillicothe of years gone by.  There is a service station and cafe, certified public accounts, a couple manufacturing firms, two glove makers, a jewelery store, a market, a grocery store, drug store, a 5th generation farmer, a clinic and a tractor implement manufacturer.

I like the one in the middle of Betty Preston Steele, 31 years of teaching piano, and her music notes drifting out the window.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Buried Treasure for Macro Monday

Seen at my local flea market.

I talked with the guy and he said he was digging in his backyard and discovered this about two and a half feet down along with the liquor bottles in the background.  Long ago someone had a trash pit behind the house and tossed in a little boy's broken toy truck in along with the empty booze bottles.

He thought it was cool looking and so did I. 
By the time we were done talking I think he had changed his mind on selling it and decided to keep it after I suggested setting it on the mantle or in a bookcase.
He wasn't married so that was a viable option.

I used the macro setting on my little Canon point & click for this entry on

Have You Ever Wanted To

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Bridges of Madison County

When we in Iowa seeing the covered bridges of Madison County I only was able to post this single goofy picture at the time.

Holliwell Bridge is the longest of the remaining bridges in Madison County at 122 feet (31.2 meters)

This bridge has always been at this location although the angle is somewhat different as the original supporting abutments were washed away by a flood and the bridge was repositioned.  This is one of the bridges used in the movie.

Cedar Bridge was shown in the movie and used for the cover of the book by author Robert Waller and is the only bridge remaining open to auto traffic.

The bridge was burned down in 2002 by an arsonist who was never apprehended.  This is a rebuilt replica based on the original plans and building methods of that time.  Other bridges have been vandalised and since then all have had surveillance cameras installed.

Imes bridge is different in that it features a pitched roof.

It has been moved three times, the last time to its present location by a desire to protect it from vandalism.

Like the Imes Bridge, the Cutler-Donahue Bridge, another with a pitched roof was moved to the Winterest's City Park for its own protection.

There are two other covered bridges in Madison County.  Hogback Bridge was back in on a road that looked iffy to take the Little House on the Highway on so I didn't go to it. 

The other is Roseman Bridge.  Confused like Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) when he pulled into Francesca's farm asking for directions to Roseman Bridge, I too couldn't find it.  Later towards the end of the day I met a couple from Colorado doing the bridge tour.  They had a better map than I and it was then I discovered I was on the wrong side of the county for Roseman Bridge.  This is the bridge where Francesca tacked her note to Robert telling him to come for supper "anytime the white moths fly".  Evidently there are now dozens of little holes left by others who have tacked up love notes next to the one Meryl Streep made.  I decided to save it for another trip, maybe when the white moths fly. 

Don't read any further if you haven't seen the movie but intend to.

The lady from Colorado asked if I had seen the movie.  I said not only had I seen the movie but had read the book too.  Immediately she asked if I thought Francesca should have stayed or went with Robert.  I hesitated a moment then said "go".  She agreed right way.  Her husband couldn't seem to care any less about the bridges or the story.  What do you think Francesca should have done?

Have a nice Thanksgiving to my U.S. followers and everyone else, enjoy the weekend. 
Sinbad and I will be back then.