Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
February 20, 2005, by Kristin Buehner

Euchre and Cycle Club's social rooms were located at the Hanford

MASON CITY — The Euchre and Cycle Club was a private dining club conceived and named by Gen. Hanford MacNider.

Patterned after an English gentlemen's club, the Euchre and Cycle Club derived its name from a standing joke that anyone who played euchre or rode a bicycle could not be a member, said Mason City businessman Charlie MacNider, grandson of Hanford MacNider.

The club's original function was to be a place where businessmen could gather for lunch, hold meetings and play a game of cards, often "Pitch," said Ernie Kuhn Jr. of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, longtime manager of the Hotel Hanford. In the evenings, poker was the game of choice.

MacNider always sat at the same table, facing the door, so he could see everyone who entered the club, longtime club member Art Fischbeck recalled.

Originally located on the second floor of the hotel, the club was moved to the eighth floor, with a view overlooking the city, in 1954. A folding door separated the club's library-like game area from the eating area. Padded window seats lined the tall windows rimming the club rooms at the top of the hotel.

The MacNider family's collection of American Indian portraits hung on the walls.

Prior to 1950, when slot machines were still legal in Iowa, the Euchre and Cycle Club had slot machines that raised "a heck of a treasury," Kuhn said.

Kuhn and Jack MacNider, son of Hanford MacNider, decided to use some of it to hire a big-name band for a party, a tradition that continued for many years, Kuhn said. The party was held the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Among the entertainers who appeared were the Four Freshmen, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Les Elgart and Bob Crosby.

"It was really something to be in Mason City in those days," Kuhn said.

Other major socials were the late-winter fish banquets that featured a huge ice sculpture on which seafood, including "shrimp by the hundreds," was displayed, Fischbeck said.

Once, a huge fish tank was set up in the hotel lobby, from which fresh trout were caught for dinner.

Other big events were the family Christmas party, Easter buffet and masquerade parties.

The club was dissolved in the late 1990s, Charlie MacNider said. The furnishings were sold and the proceeds donated to the Charles H. MacNider Museum.

~ ~ ~ ~
Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
May 24, 2012, by Kristin Buehner

Hotel Hanford hosted elegant party after "Music Man" premiere

MASON CITY — The Hotel Hanford was the scene of many a party and fancy gathering in the days of “The Music Man” premiere.

Perhaps never was this more true than at the post-premiere Champagne Supper in the hotel’s Wedgewood Room at midnight Tuesday, June 19, 1962.

The movie premiere was at 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Palace Theatre. Guests invited to the supper afterward didn’t get around to eating until about 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Globe Gazette reported.

Hosted by Technicolor Corp., the dinner featured colored tablecloths in red, blue, orange, green and purple. The menu included Lobster Newburg and Chicken a la King a la Sherry.

Mason City native Meredith Willson, composer of “The Music Man,” delighted everyone when he sat down at the piano to play and sing music from his hit show.

Most of the celebrities, who also included Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Ronny Howard, Morton da Costa, Arthur Godfrey and Hedda Hopper, stayed at the Hotel Hanford. They arrived in Mason City Monday, June 18.

They participated in interviews by the press corps at 5 p.m. Monday in the Grand Ballroom. A prime rib buffet followed in the Euchre and Cycle Club, according to the Globe Gazette.

Retired Mason City businessman Jack Buehner, now of Daytona Beach, Fla., was 40 at the time. He and his wife, Essie, attended the champagne dinner. He wore a tuxedo.

“It was pretty darn nice,” said Buehner, a retired executive with Henkel Construction Co.

The highlight for him was being seated next to Jones at the dinner.

“She was very nice,” he said.

He remembers Preston amusing the crowd by climbing on a luggage cart in the hotel lobby and riding it around.

Many Mason Cityans back then spent a lot of time at the Hanford.

There were company parties, service club meetings and breakfasts or lunches at the Belt ‘N Buckle restaurant, formerly the Plantation Room. As late as 1968, women dining in the Belt ‘N Buckle were asked to wear hats and gloves.

Many a gentleman had his hair cut at the hotel barbershop in those days.

The elegant Euchre and Cycle Club, a private club on the top floor of the hotel, featured prime rib buffets on Sundays.

Among the famous guests who stayed at the Hotel Hanford over the years were former President Herbert Hoover and jazz composer and band leader Duke Ellington.

“It was very elegant,” said Mason City resident Jean Lawson. “A lot of people had cocktail parties and dances in the ballrooms. People would rent the ballrooms and get a band. There were lots of bands around.”

Alyce Bailey of Mason City also remembers private cocktail parties in the Wedgewood Room, at which Hob Mason, a popular Mason City pianist, would play.

Lawson remembers one year in the mid- to late-1960s when a Beaux Arts Ball was held as a fundraiser for the MacNider Art Museum, which had been donated to the city by Hanford MacNider in 1965.

“It was a costume ball,” Lawson said.

Bailey said she and her husband, the late Dick Bailey, and many other couples rented costumes from Minneapolis for the event.

The fanciest parties were in the Euchre and Cycle Club, Lawson said.

“(Former manager) Ernie Kuhn Jr. knew how to put on a party.”

The hotel was purchased in 1969 by Good Shepherd Health Center and is now The Manor apartments for senior residents.

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2013



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