First of a series
Clouds of dust filled the air from the automobile traffic heading from Spring Grove toward Eitzen on Houston County Highway 17, which in the 1940s, was not yet paved. Likely, no other building has ever drawn as many out-of-town visitors to Eitzen as did the Blue Moon Ballroom. Even a half-century after its demolition, visitors to the Eitzen Museum in the 1990s and 2000s were inquiring about the Blue Moon. But it appears then as today – nothing remains but tales and as time passes, fewer actual memories – no photographs, apparently nothing written until this page.
No surviving photographs might indicate the edifice was designed more for function than architectural attractiveness. Some recall a long building with a rounded roof with windows beneath on the long sides. Inside, the windows looked down on booths that lined the north and south sides of the dance floor. A raised bandstand was on the west end with a bar on the other end.
Roy Hinrichs, who had built the Maple Grove Tavern, later built the Blue Moon in the 1930s, surely sometime after the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition in December 1933. Friday was dance night at the Moon in 1940, according to a newspaper advertisement for the season opener. “With the slogan bigger and better entertainment than before, managers Frank Beardmore and Roy Hinrichs will open the dance season at the Blue Moon, Eitzen, Minnesota, Friday night, April 29, and continue throughout the year with dances every Friday night and the biggest dance orchestras available have been contracted for the season. For opening night, the Ray Alderson 12-piece band has been engaged. The Blue Moon managers have spent a considerable sum of money in effecting a new lighting system and thoroughly redecorating the interior of their popular dance pavilion…”
Like most halls of the era, the Moon was available for rental for private events. Some remember being there as a child with their parents at a private party or wedding reception. The public dances did not have the best of reputations. Tales have survived, but reluctance prohibited their retelling. The most descriptive comment referred to “a cornfield” adjacent to the dance hall.
The dancing and drinking inside the pavilion drew people to Eitzen, but so did the music, which for some was an open-window concert. With the Blue Moon windows open for ventilation, some of the best musicians in the area could be heard well beyond its walls. As youths, Marveen Feil and her sister would listen from their own open windows at home to the music that traveled a mile or two to their farmhouse. Nonagenarian Sydney Myhre said he and three other teenage neighbors would drive to a field near the Blue Moon just to listen to the music.
Eitzen nonagenarian Fremont Schuttemeier said it was dancing on Sundays and roller skating on Wednesdays. Some area dancers of that era do not recall activity on Sundays, but Feil recalls her husband, then a young bartender, telling her about how busy it was at the tavern on Sundays due to patrons from Iowa. Evidently at one time, Sunday alcohol sales were unavailable south of the state line, which buoyed Sunday tavern business in Eitzen and kept the Blue Moon thriving as well.
Hinrich found no buyer when he closed the business, sometime before 1946, by which time the building was being used to store hay and later was razed. It was said the dance floor/skating surface was moved, piece by piece, to La Crosse, Wis.
Among those who contributed memories of the Blue Moon, none yet have any recollection of the Green Lantern Ballroom. That Spring Grove location was advertised in a 1934 Winona newspaper one day before a dance featuring Schnickel Fritz and His Band. The appearance of the Schnickelfritz Band was surely the reason for the ad. “Schnickelfritz” was German slang for “silly fellow” and a fitting name for a group that entertained with comedy as well as melodies. Discovered later in St. Paul, the band went to Hollywood, where it was billed as America’s Most Unsophisticated Band!
But where exactly was the Green Lantern, in town or rural Spring Grove? And why does no one seem to remember it? Do you?