Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Read the News Today Oh Boy

Often when I'm thinking about what I'm going to blog about a poem or song will come to mind which is why the title of this post is the first line of the Beatles A Day in the Life. As you will see, the post has nothing to do with the Beatles or the song lyrics.

It has to do with one of the first articles I read online this morning: "Iowa Guard Announces Corning Armory Closing." What?! They just built that new armory, why are they closing it? It does seem like it was only a few years ago that the new National Guard building was constructed west of town on old highway 34. (It opened in 1993.) Plans are to put the facility up for auction if a buyer isn't found by mid-2016. Hmm, wonder who would buy it and what it might be used for?

Just thinking about the armory brought so many memories to mind - only one or two about the current location but many about the armory of my youth.
It was built in 1950 and located right across the street south of the high school. Besides offices, class rooms, a supply room and drill hall, the section to the left was where the high school basketball games and wrestling meets were held. I remember taking tickets to the games and working in the concession stand as well as yelling for our team and chanting along with the cheer leaders.
The armory was also the scene of our junior and senior proms and where we lined up to march over to the high school auditorium for graduation. The cute little Jeepster at the bottom of the photo was driven by a friend of mine, Ellen Champlin.

I also remember when my boyfriend Kenny and his brother Gary joined the Guard and how I used to wait at the Candy Kitchen for the weekend drill to be over just to have a few minutes with Kenny before he had to go home. And I remember when two boys from Gravity were killed at the Locust Street railroad crossing on their way out of town after being at a guard drill.

The armory was where the Annual Firemen's Ball was held - long tables set up for all the attendees, set-ups from the bar to mix with the bottles brought in and dancing to a big band. So much fun.
My last memories of attending something in this building were Jesse (Red) Cross' Thanksgiving dinners for the entire community. No charge but a free will donation was appreciated. Then he and his band (Red Cross and the Band Aids) would play for anyone who wanted to dance. That was when my kids were in grade school and junior high.

I have vague memories of the Armory building before this one. It was located north of the Free Press and burned down December 3, 1948. The lot it was on is vacant to this day. There has been an Iowa National Guard unit based in Corning since 1892.

Several other armories in southwest Iowa have been closed since 2000, including this one at Villisca. I remember going to a dance here once, probably the Villisca Firemen's Ball, but mostly I remember going there to see a touring company of professional wrestlers - or rasslers as they were referred to. I was probably less than ten years old. The memory that sticks in my mind is one of two female wrestlers - not something we were used to seeing in our corner of the state.

I think I was in the new armory building only a few times. I know the last time was for a wedding reception and dance.
After the bride and groom and other wedding party members had their first dances a 'dollar a dance' was announced. You paid your dollar to get to dance with the bride or groom. I paid my dollar not to dance with the groom, but with the bride. I hardly knew him. Stephanie was my friend. I wanted to dance with her and wish her all the luck and happiness she deserved.

I read the news today, oh boy.... ♪

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