Dancing at the Cloud

Ed Rood

I can still see “WIN WITH FDR” crudely painted on the side of a building on Slater’s Main Street. The raggedy message and the old vacant white frame structure had both seen better days.

An empty business structure was a bit unusual for small town Iowa back in the 1950s as main streets were still alive and vibrant. Most town folks only ventured out of town for shopping on special occasions. The remainder of the time local merchants supplied their every need. 

Ed Rood

Although Iowa towns sported a variety of businesses, few offered much in the way of entertainment. Some still boasted a small movie theater but that was about it. Television had made the scene but programming left a lot to be desired – especially when it came to teenage viewers.

Hanging around main street most nights held only a limited appeal for the younger citizens. Although King’s gas station did offer a meager venue, it was only available on the evenings when Fred Mason was around to unlock the door.

If there was one big attraction that teenagers migrated to, it was music. And music meant dancing. And dancing was pretty much not available for teenagers outside of the home or on special occasions. Teenage dancing was still looked upon as questionable entertainment by a majority of adults.

I believe it was Gunner Blize who came up with the idea of renting that old building and turning it into some sort of night club for the younger set. The idea soon took roots and before long some of us boys had each tossed in a $5 bill and the Blue Cloud was born. I believe we committed ourselves monetarily but never really drew up an agreement. To put it mildly, it was a rather spontaneous adventure.

Before long, we were out scrounging up seating of all shapes and sizes. Folding chairs, old wooden rockers, dilapidated davenports and sagging sofas – we took them all.

The main source of entertainment was an old console phonograph that had been converted to play 45 rpm records. The music pulsated out of a couple of really bad speakers with serious cracks from an overload of bass notes and way too much volume. 

We lined up the seating all around the perimeter of the building’s one room and placed the phonograph dead center. Participants would dance around the record player as the music played.

It wasn’t American Bandstand, but at least the Blue Cloud offered a opportunity for the younger set to get out and boogie a bit. It was open whenever a group of kids showed up. I don’t remember the door ever being locked. 

The Cloud did have a serious problem. The floor was so old and creaky it would sag and moan. The faster the song and the more dancers the worse it got, something like dancing on a noisy sponge.

Another set back would take place when the beat got a little hot. The needle would suddenly jump and skid across the record making a noise somewhat akin to running one’s fingernail across a blackboard. 

The Blue Cloud lasted but one summer. It just had too many strikes against it for much longevity. However, it did offer a few months of merriment for some young people in an otherwise mundane place. What better epitaph could one bestow upon a dying old building? 

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.