The night of the Big Concert and then eminent crash, my father, M.A. (Curly) Hintzman was Mayor of Clear Lake, Iowa, and he got a call from the police right after it happened. He and emergency responders arrived out in the field soon after the accident. Dad said that there was debris spread over a large area. He did manage to get a look inside the plane and often noted in his retelling of the story of that night, that there were candy bars all over the place. Probably their snack of choice after concerts.
Another anecdote to this is bizarre. My husband and I were on vacation near Superior, WI, several years ago and happened to stop in a local restaurant for a drink and dinner. A conversation with some of the locals established that we were from Clear Lake/Mason City area, and one particular fellow jumped right on that. The group had performed in Superior area just prior to the concert in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and he had been to their concert. He also was the mechanic who had worked on the heating system of Buddy Holly's bus the night before they were to appear in Clear Lake. They never did get the heater going, and they group left for Clear Lake with no heat.....thus leading up to the split up of who went in the bus and froze or who got to go in the plane after the concert.
I received this email from Sevan requesting information for his documentary. An earlier email exchange asked for memories of those who lived in Clear Lake at the time of the crash. I decided (with permission granted) to share these exchanges on this web site.
My name is Sevan Garabedian and I have a very important favor to ask. I am one of the producers of a documentary film on the Winter Dance Party of 1959 for its upcoming 50th anniversary. As you know, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper played their last show at The Surf Ballroom on 2/2/59. They died later on that evening after their plane crashed just outside of Mason City.
We are coming to Clear Lake to film at the 50th anniversary tribute show this January and February. I have been coming to Clear Lake for years and I can't describe how special these trips have become in my life.
I recently discovered that you will be having a 50th reunion of the class of 1959 and I was hoping you would be able to distribute a "press release" of sorts to all attendees with my contact information on it (I will be the only contact on the release) .
It would explain the project a bit and explain that I would love to speak to anyone who was at The Surf Ballroom on 2/2/59 or knows somebody who was there. Any clues to possible pictures taken that night would also be welcome. There has already been a notice put up about our project on the Clear Lake Remembered website (link below) but I cannot think of a better time or opportunity than at this reunion for us to reach a large group of people that will have info about that night.
I am willing to send you a money order covering all costs it would take to make copies of my press release and pass them out. This would really mean a lot to us and it would help a great deal! I would have notified you sooner about this but unfortunately I only found out about this reunion yesterday. I am free to call any of you if you wish to know more about me and the project anytime Monday or Tuesday. Please let me know. If you are open to doing this, I can have that sheet ready for you as soon as you give me the okay.
I have attached our film's synopsis to this e-mail and have included some links to newspapers in the Midwest (including Mason City) that have written about our documentary.
Always hold down ctrl and F5 on your keyboard to see any recent additions!!
My Dad, Marshall Friest, was a volunteer fireman and was one of the first on the scene that nite. I was in JC at Mason City at the time and didn't get to talk to him til later the next nite. He didn't have much to say other than how bad it was and how cold and snowy it was. Jim Friest CLHS '57 firstname.lastname@example.org
As I remember we were buying T-Shirts at the time and we talked about the original show. That would have been Feb of 2006 when Larry Ryan and his wife Jane came up with us and saw our first Winter Dance Party since the original fateful night in 1959. I will try to find some pictures if I can.
Just a few weeks back I ran into a man from Mason City at a Menards store here in Iowa City. He was here to put a new roof on a house for a friend of his who is originally from China. I later drove over to where he was working and spent some time with him and his workers.
His name is Cary Maassen. When I heard him mention being from Mason City my ears perked up and I told him I was from Clear Lake. He was here to put a new roof on a house for a friend of his who is originally from China. I later drove over to where he was working and spent some time with him and his workers. I had told him I was at the Surf that night in 1959 and he became very interested. He has made several friends from England and other parts of the world that attend the events every year. His contact information is below.
Since my only claim to fame is being from Clear Lake and at the original concert we had much in common. He is, as I am, an avid fan of Buddy Holly as well as Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson "The Big Bopper" Soon the conversation came to the Winter Dance Party and I learned his parents had a farm north of the airport. He went with his father that day to their farm and later to the sight of the crash. The response team had borrowed their tractor/loader to remove wreckage debris. He actually recovered and has a piece of the plane.
My memories are somewhat limited. I don't know if it is due to age, the trauma or just time that has gone by since then. Being at the Surf in 2006 brought back some of the memories. The place was packed, the dancing was continuous and many people just gathered on the floor to listen, scream, yell and clap while they performed. I was in my first year at Mason City Junior College and learned of the crash while driving my 40 Ford two door home after my classes. It was about 10:30 AM when I heard the announcement on KRIB. Disbelief and shock overcame me and I found some of my friends who had already heard the news. I did not try to visit the site and have not been there to this day. I do know that the crash site and the airport are nearer to Clear Lake than Mason City. I think that the story about the coin toss is a fabrication. The three stars would have been the logical people to ride in the plane and the purpose of the story may have been to further Waylon Jennings career. I also think that it was wrong of Maria Holly to sue to keep the Surf from using the name Winter Dance Party.
Because of that night and because of the real talent they possessed the "Music Will Never Die." If it does "That will be the day I die." Three stars on their way up were brought down but the music will live on in the minds and hearts of their fans. Your documentary will bring back the memories and make the story known to the younger generations.
My biggest regret is that we have been planning to go back for the 50th and that seems to be a problem now because of the tickets are sold out. Two years ago I did not stop dancing until they put on a country band. People stood and cheered, danced and met people from all over the world. I hope that someway I can get there with my wife and friends. Maybe I will get to help with the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Now I occasionally go to a local bar where the piano players all know me. My only request is American Pie and they play it almost as soon as I walk in the door. I am surprised at the number of people here that know the words and not the story behind them. If they talk to me they know the story from my perspective.
Thanks for reading this and doing what you can to keep the memories alive. I look forward to renewing our meeting someday. Maybe I will get to be there. One tangentially related item. A year or so before Pat Boone was at the Surf and my parents would not allow me to go as they thought he was a bad influence.