Friday, August 29, 2014

A Classic Supper Club Says Goodbye

One place I was looking forward to visiting on our recent Iowa road trip was the White Springs Supper Club outside of McGregor.  It was one of those out of the way spots where time, while not exactly standing still, at least moved at a slow pace.


Parking lot empty.  Building shuttered.  Some kind of foreclosure notices posted.

This was the Klein Brewery back in the 1850s.  It was converted to a bar/supper club/dance hall in 1936 when Archie Fritz took it over.  It is said to be unclear whether what we see is new construction on the old foundations or in fact the original brewery building with a floor or two taken off.  What is known is that there was a connection from behind the bar to the storage caves in the hill side behind. Alas again, these were sealed off years ago.

The heydey of the White Springs was back in the 1950s.  Per this nostalgic account there were dances every Saturday night that were full house affairs.  It got awfully hot in this pre-air conditioning building so a fan system featuring an airplane propeller cooled the upstairs dance area.  The bar proper was cooled by a smaller fan that pulled cold air out of the brewery caves!

The story at the link above is worth the click.  Tales of honky tonk romance, of raccoon dinners, of the death of Shorty the owner in one of the booths....

Shorty's wife kept the place going for many years after his death but when she too passed the end was near for the Springs.  It closed its doors in 2006.

For a while things looked hopeful.  In late 2013 the space was reopened as an antique shop.  It had been renovated to some extent, at least a new roof and coat of paint to help slow down the ravages of time.

But when I drove by in August of 2014 there was no sign of life.  Apparently the ambitious plan to have "an extended estate auction" came up against harsh economic reality.

These are hard times in the antique business.  For those who are still interested in old things it is much easier to head to ebay than to seek out an obscure antique store down a poorly signed rural road.  And it seems as if interest in the world of the past, or even the real world of the modern day is lessening. People will, I am told, spend actual money to buy a Magic Jewel Hammer that gets them up to the 27th level of their smart phone based CandyQuest game.  But to go out of their way in hopes of walking across a creaking former dance floor, perhaps even to catch a glimpse of a long forgotten brewery cave system.  Eh, not so much.

Next time: the story of a dance hall with a happier ending.  And a cautionary tale involving lots of cement.

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