Two towns, two musicians to make them famous

Trip Start Aug 24, 2013
Trip End Aug 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Historic Park Inn Hotel Mason City
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Clear Lake, Music Man Square

Flag of United States  , Iowa
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Who would imagine that two side-by-side Iowa towns would enjoy fame because of two musicians? Mason City because Meredith Willson was born there, and Clear Lake because Buddy Holly died there.  

 We began our day by heading to Clear Lake to see the Surf Ballroom, where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper had their last show. The mid-century design was stunning and it's easy to see how much fun a concert or dance would be there. The ballroom started have big band events there in the 1930s and continues to host rock shows there today. The building is open every day for self-guided tours and the gift shop sells t-shirts, knick knacks and repro posters of the famed Winter Dance Party of Feb. 2, 1959. 

Then we headed out on dusty white dirt roads to find the crash site where Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper were killed. Since we took the kids years ago to visit the site of the Hindenberg crash in Lakehurst, N.J. ("Oh the humanity!"), we had to cross Clear Lake off our crash-site bucket list. A few of the roads were closed, which meant driving several miles out of our way to find the rural location, but we finally saw the large black, horn-rimmed glasses that marked the area.

After Clear Lake, we headed to the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa, about 20 miles west. Driving through flatness and corn and soy beans, with an occasional "town" we finally made it to Britt, only to find the museum "closed for the season." If summer isn't the season it's open, I'm not sure what is.

So we headed back to Mason City to try out another local food delicacy: the loose meat sandwich. We were told to go to Pro's Sandwich Shop, where there are no menus and you order off the menu board over the grill. The waitress brought us our sandwiches wrapped in paper and plopped them on the table, along with a small spoon. The sandwiches were hamburger buns with pretty flavorless, crumbled ground meat on them. A pickle and some mustard gave them some flavor, but overall? Meh. At least it was our cheapest meal so far on the trip. About $8 for the two of us.

We finally headed over to the Music Man Square and Meredith Willson's home, which don't open to the public until 1 p.m. We arrived just in time to catch a tour leaving for the musician's boyhood home, and had a great time touring the upstairs and downstairs of the lovely, Queen Anne style home, built in 1896 with electricity and indoor plumbing. I noticed one of the props on the desk in the family parlor: a 1918 Masonian yearbook, Willson's junior year in high school (mine is the 1919 edition). 
Music Man Square is a reproduction, basically, of the streetscape used in the movie. It was pretty lame, except for a room where they showed a documentary, narrated by Shirley Jones (the movie's Marian the librarian) talking about the casting and filming of the movie of the Music Man. She reveals in the video that she became pregnant during the 9 months of shooting of the film, and by the end of the movie, they were tightening a girdle around her waist to keep her from showing. In the final, kissing scene between Harold Hill and Marian, she said that as actor Robert Preston pulled her close for the kiss, the baby kicked him!
Back to our beautiful room for tomato sandwiches, with tomatoes purchased from a roadside farmers market somewhere in Iowa the day before.
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