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Op-ed: I knew a different Mason City (by Peter Children)

I knew a different Mason City than what we now have. Growing up here I never really knew who ran the city’s day to day business, I was certainly aware of City Hall, that there were people who were in charge of making regulations and set policy that we all lived by. What I did know was that things ran smoothly, I cannot recall any controversial issues that consumed the population or that came close to what we have in this city now.

I went into business at an early age, I knew permits and licenses were a necessity, that inspections needed to take place; I went through whatever was required. There was corruption here, not that much but it did exist, mostly petty stuff, police payoffs were a part of the fabric of life. The drop off was the Red Wing Shoe Store. We had two active whore houses operating here, both were on South Federal just a few doors South from the corner of Second Street S.W. , the other directly across the street. While I knew both operators, I never once frequented either establishment. Don’t take that to mean I was never in a whore house because I was, I am not a prude, but not where I lived. I was in my early twenties in the Quad Cities with a group of friends when we decided to have a look; it was what it was. I never became a regular patron of those parlors of relaxation, I pretty much never had to pay on the outside so they presented no advantage to me.

Looking back I think those establishments prevented sexual assaults and outright rape in the cities that allowed them…no one got hurt.

There were after hour bars where we would go to eat after we closed the bar each night, they were open until about five in the morning; if you ran a bar they were almost indispensable as a place to have a drink and a steak after work. Even through Iowa was dry then, you could order any drink you wanted inside the club. There were one or two bar owners who complained but nothing ever came of it. The police always called to tell the owner when they would come so they could remove any evidence of liquor before hand; think Red Wing Shoe Store. It was more relaxed then, we had competent administrators running things here, they were not out to prove themselves, they ran the city the way it was suppose to run. If I could point out any one thing it was the prejudice that prevailed here during those years; there was no reason for it, there never was.

Today there is a sense of City Hall trying to make “end runs” around the population, there are divided camps in the city, factions that show a sharp divide mingled with arrogance and a unwillingness to cooperate; this is very unhealthy for everyone.

Its hard for me to recognize the city now; the majority of my close friends have died; fifty year friendships gone overnight leave giant holes in your life that can never be filled. I am more at home with the memories that I hold close than I am if I go outside the house, and without a doubt….better company.

Peter Children

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