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Friday, May 6, 2016

Remembering Astaire & 'the Roof'

Thursday, November 9, 2000

Writing and researching the history of the Iowa Great Lakes is exciting. Little pieces of information mean a great deal because it helps put the puzzle together about our area. People supply me with bits and pieces. When all else fails, the past issues of the local newspapers help fill in the gaps, separating facts from fiction, or in many cases, a small fact that is embellished and expanded to make a "great" story.

There are many legends and myths about the Iowa Great Lakes and let it be stated that I am neither a spoiler nor one to try and discourage them.

The other evening I was asked what I knew about a human skeleton that was found in a hollow tree many years ago. I had never heard of that story so I asked the gentleman what he had heard. He replied that his recollection of the story was that it was the remains of an old trapper who had hid in the trees to escape the Indians. Fact or fiction?

Many times when presenting a talk before groups of my vintage, I ask, "Did you ever dance at the Roof Garden? Raise your hands."

Up go the hands and many will get that "far away" look in their eyes and recall their youth and dancing at the Roof. The bands were great, the dance floor was smooth and the music was the best.

Forgotten was the lack of air conditioning on a hot, humid night in July, the heavy cloud of tobacco smoke, drunks weaving around and the lack of comfortable seating. Also forgotten was the dance floor that bounced up and down when the dancers gathered around the bandstand and kept time to the music. Forgotten was the rumor that the Roof Garden was unsafe to dance at because the structure below was not built to withstand that weight.

That rumor was started when the Roof was built in 1923. So much for that rumor as it lasted for many, many years until it was demolished in 1988. The last dance at the Roof Garden was held in 1987.

Read the rest of this article in the 11/09 Pilot Tribune.