Monday, April 21, 2008

Buddy Holly and the Laramar

The Laramar Ballroom at 710 First Avenue North has a rich history. Check out this poster — believed to be a reproduction — promoting Buddy Holly's appearance at the Laramar on Jan. 30, 1959, only three days before his death in the crash of a Beechcraft Bonanza near Clear Lake.

Also on the fatal flight with Holly were J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson (of "Chantilly Lace" fame), Ritchie Valens and the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson.

The book, "The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens — and the Fatal Air Crash That Took Their Lives" details the musicians' appearance at the Laramar before 1,000. Here is part of the entry:

"Fort Dodge (pop. 28,000) had come under the intense scrutiny of health officials after a mysterious virus spread rapidly through the city in November. As many as two thousand Fort Dodge residents had been stricken with the virus, which caused nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A team of federal health officials descended on the city in January in an all-out effort to determine the source of the virus.

"When it was discovered that the pet dog in many families was stricken with similar symptoms, the Iowa state veterinarian was dispatched to the city to take case histories of the sick dogs.

"The Winter Dance Party bus with its balky heater slipped through the winter darkness in temperatures in the low teens and with two inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground, en route to a concert in a city full of sick people and dogs.

"The bus was late arriving in Fort Dodge. 'We were worried,' says Dick Derrig, an assistant manager at the Laramar Ballroom.

"Bob Geer, fifteen-year-old son of Laramar owner Larry Geer, remembers the group's arrival. 'They had a bus that smelled bad. I'm sure it was no fun traveling on.' "

Here is a link to photos of Holly's appearance in Fort Dodge.

The Change of Seasons at Brushy

Two weeks ago Bruce Stottrup traveled to Brushy Creek to give us a look at winter's last grip. He returned this past weekend along with his dog, Sophia, and as you can see, spring is starting to take hold.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fort Dodge in Postcards

Not sure of the year, but check out the trolley tracks running down Central Avenue. This is looking west. Our best guess is the early 1900s.
This is Central Avenue looking east. Again, early 1900s. These postcards, along with many others, are available on eBay. We thank Bruce Stottrup for finding this resource.
Here is a bustling Central Avenue at night in 1923. You can click any of these images for an enlarged view.
This is a 1909 postcard of the C.G.W. RY. Viaduct running across the Des Moines River valley.
The Wahkonsa Hotel in the 1920s.
The Des Moines River, south of the viaduct, in 1907.
The Wagon Bridge, which has has since been torn down. No date given, but our guess is the 1920s.
This is the Y.M.C.A. from a card postmarked in 1923. This would appear to be the old library building on First Avenue North.
An aerial view of the city. This is dated somewhere between 1930 and 1950.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

From Winter to Spring at Brushy Creek

The calendar says spring, but winter still has a grip on Northwest Iowa. Bruce Stottrup sent us these photos taken on Sunday, April 6, at Brushy Creek Recreation Area southeast of Fort Dodge.

As you can see, the ice is off the lake and birds are plentiful, but the spring foliage has yet to return. That should change in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Life Today on the Prairie

We've poked our share of fun at Fort Dodge on this site. Perhaps we've gone too far at times. But as we look back, it's clear that Fort Dodge was a special place to grow up, to prepare us for life challenges.

But what about that city on the prairie? What is life like these days for those who have made Fort Dodge their home?

A resident who wishes to remain anonymous recently submitted this piece on Fort Dodge. This individual came to Fort Dodge in 1974 when members of the Class of 1978 were freshmen. Here is what they had to say:

A funny thing happen on the way to mall, there was very little traffic. About the only traffic jams we have is when the high school gets out and that lasts about 10 minutes. And we feel our streets and alleys are relatively safe.

Thirty four years ago the wife and I came down the hospital hill and saw our first real view of the Fort Dodge skyline. It was impressive and kind of exciting. Each time I come down that hill I have that same feeling and a greater appreciation for this prairie town.

At times life in Fort Dodge can be slow and relaxed. With a little effort and search there can be found plenty of things to do and excitement. The Fort Dodge area has excellent schools, libraries, a world class art museum, Fort Museum, symphony, Karl King Band and opportunities to participate in a variety of community activities. Our sports complex and local golf courses are excellent and easily accessible. Iowa Central Community College is growing and it is one of the best in the country. You name it and with a little search you will probably find it.

A lot of strange things happened during the last 34 years. We raised a family, recreated in places like Doliver Park, canoed the Des Moines River, fished Lizard Creek, waded in Soldiers Creek and camped, hunted, picnicked and boated at the Brushy Creek Recreation area.

The Brushy Lake area now is one of the premier fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting and outdoors areas in Iowa. We have had picnics, hiked and taught our kids to fish at Badger Lake at Kennedy Park and have enjoyed relaxing in the many county and Fort Dodge parks.

There are many things to do in Fort Dodge area and the state of Iowa. Iowa is a rock hounders paradise and Webster County has Jurassic and Cretaceous outcrops. Our rivers offer great canoeing and our many lakes and streams offer different water opportunities. Bicyclists come from all over the country to enjoy our trials and roads. Antiquing and flea markets bring a bit of the past into our lives and offer a pleasant diversion from modern life.

The Fort Dodge area is a treasure and I am glad we have taken time to enjoy its many opportunities during our short 34 years we have lived here.