Thursday, June 7, 2012

True Love Ways: My Visit to the Surf Ballroom

There are a few places I have visited in my lifetime where I have instantly felt transported back in time. My visit to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, was one of those places.

I felt like the main character in "Peggy Sue Gets Married," where she enters a modern-day class reunion and falls back through decades of time and space. Oh how I wish I could be here when the room is filled with music. The dance floor is enormous and gleaming. Small wooden booths line the perimeter of the floor in three levels, where dancers can watch and rest and chat.

The Ballroom is forever known as the location for the Winter Dance Party in 1959 - the last concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, before their plane crashed, and we lost them all. The ballroom is still standing and remarkably similar to what it looked like years ago.

They have worked hard to keep the site historically accurate. They have even preserved the phone booth where Buddy supposedly made his final call to his wife (sigh)...

and the Green Room where bands who play the Surf continue to sign the walls with marker.

So many of the small details that make a building special and time-specific are still in place. They have the original entryway, the cedar-lined coat check room, the ladies restroom has a room circled by pineapple etched mirrors and pink formica ledges meant specifically for primping and applying lipstick. There is even a four-sided full-length mirrored pillar in the middle for checking your dress.

This is not a place that looks like we "think" the 1950s should be (poodle-skirts and chrome) - but how it really was. My husband felt it was the most authentically 50s ballroom he has ever seen. As David Freiburger says in his article for Hot Rod Deluxe magazine, "In today's craze for era correctness and pure '50s and '60s details, it's interesting to look back and see how it really was, unfiltered by foggy nostalgia or selective memory."

I will never forget our visit to the Surf Ballroom. It seemed...that if we were very quiet, we could almost hear the faint echoes of Buddy Holly singing, "True Love Ways."

Rest in Peace...

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