Every old building has its secrets and its ghosts, its heyday and its decline, its stories and its lies and memories.
Over the years, a lot of effort has been put into trying to reopen the Cobblestone Ballroom, but another entertainment venue fell into history a few days ago with nary a whimper, let alone any effort to record its history.
It's been vacant for years and years, just an old crumbly block building back behind a shiny Casey's store on a short stretch of gravel road, nothing to indicate that it once had been alive with music, drink, romance and carousing.
In the end it was known as Headquarters, described as one of those dark, seedy kind of places that every town seemed to have in its day, that smelled of spilt Miller Beer and stale Lucky Strike smoke, where hard women with big hair and sad eyes took most of their clothes off a half dozen times a night to make a living.
We put a call out on our website to try to learn some history of this place while it was being demolished, and while many filled in details from its earlier years, none, not surprisingly, cared to claim intimate knowledge of this period. Hard to tell what doomed the place. Bad business, changing morality, police crackdown, who knows. Where those women went, it's unlikely we'll ever be able to say. Many of them must be grandmothers by now. Hopefully they found kinder ways to move through life.
I suppose there are still "gentlemen's clubs" out there, but the only other one I know of in Storm Lake was short lived, unwelcome, unwisely located next to a high school and community college, and soon became a real estate office.
Sounds like the owners of the Headquarters site on Memorial Road these days were never comfortable with the building's leering 1980s past, and weren't sorry to see it knocked down.
But long before it was a strip joint, this particular building had glory days that covered the gamut of small town entertainment, and it must have been a rollicking place on a lot of Saturday nights.
As near as our readers can tell us, it was apparently built originally as a trucking company, of all things.
Over the years, it became a succession of dance halls, juke joints, country western ho-down hotspots, and finally an honest-to-goodness disco, complete with a circular staircase and a glass floor so patrons upstairs could see the dancers below them.
I'm not entirely sure I have the order correct or the list complete, but we're told that the building's first venture into entertainment was as a place called the Pink Poodle, which certainly sounds like the late 1950s. Just guessing, but if that were a place for teen hops and the like, perhaps there were platters spinning such as "Put Your Head On My Shoulder," "Mack the Knife," "Peggy Sue," and "Venus."
Next, we're told, it was the Powder Puff, in the 1960s. That time conjures images of go-go boots, bell bottoms with "Keep On Truckin'" patches, and the sounds of changing times from The Beatles, Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle, Hendrix, The Supremes, CCR.
By the mid-70s, the place had gone country, and had been renamed "Little Nashville." I picture lots of bottle beer, rhinestone studded jean jackets, close dancing. The sound of "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," "Lucille," and of course, "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. LaDonna Brummer reports, "Yep... met my hubby at Little Nashville and we have been married 38 and a half years."
Things went totally Urban Cowboy several years later, when the place was called The Rodeo Saloon, complete with a mechanical bull. There was probably some Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers, George Strait and Barbara Madrell being scooted to - and I hope, a little "Always On My Mind."
Allyson Munger recalls collecting cover charges at the door, and that in those days before legal casinos, the place after a while started to take on a Las Vegas feel with gambling tables including blackjack, played with fake money.
By 1977, the building had received a glossy update, and became The Staircase disco, drawing crowds to do The Hustle and likely to partake in the new music craze with songs like "Stayin' Alive," "Fly Robin Fly," "Funky Town," "Another One Bites the Dust," and unfortunately, I suspect "Y.M.C.A." (Am I starting to sound like a Time Life CDs commercial yet?)
At one point later in its history, the place was called Visions, according to reader Ruth Huckleberry, who should know since she met her husband there. Perhaps a bit more of an urban sound? What would have been out then? "Can't Touch This?" "Vogue?"
It is best known, I think, as Mr. Bojangles Dancing Lounge. The identity must have come from the Jerry Jeff Walker song about a down on his luck street performer the musician ment in a New Orleans Jail. The building was so known in the mid-1980s, when the sounds of "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Billie Jean," "Eye of the Tiger" or "Welcome to the Jungle" might have echoed out of the joint. If things got too sweaty inside, owner Keith Kolbaum had build some sand volleyball courts outside.
An online search yields little info on any of these hotspots, no photos. All that's left, it seems is what a handful of longtime residents remember.
Where the Cobblestone was a constant even as several eras of music came and went, this building was changing hands, decor, image, fashions and sound all the time, a chameleon of entertainment through generations of time.
It was hardly the loveliest of landmarks, and few will shed tears that it is gone. But if nothing else, a lot of great music came and went through that now-bare spot of ground on the outskirts of town. Nicely, some romances that sparked there are still going strong decades later. Good times and memories persist from a time when no town was anything without a dance hall. Maybe that's worth taking this time and space to recall.