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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



Iowa is full of hidden treasures and places that maybe you have heard about in passing but never knew really existed or that you could really visit. Movies have been a staple of taking an interesting place and recording a brief moment in history of that place. Anyone who has ever seen Cold Turkey and then spent some time poking around Greenfield, knows that there are many interesting places from the movie that still stand today, but what about a movie that was based on a small town that has outgrown its quaintness over the years?

Enter the River City Streetscape at the Meredith Wilson museum in Mason City, Iowa. If there is any more beloved movie to Iowans than the Music Man I think you would be hard pressed to find it. Tucked away just east of the Mason City Downtown business district is the Meredith Wilson Museum. Open from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, the museum features a gift shop, a city walk with each of the business fronts from the movie as well as the River City gymnasium which serves as a banquet hall which is available to rent, although it is booked forward for two years now.

Walking through the Livery stable doors, which disappointed me and I pointed out that the horses painted on the doors were incorrect to the movie as they were standing and in the movie the horses on the doors of the stables are the famous trotter Dexter!, one is lead into the museum area of the building. A short (but longer than fifteen minute movie with Buddy Hackett and Shirley Jones takes one through the filming of the movie and includes footage of the premier in Mason City including many high school bands that no longer exists.

The display area is broken up in three main sections. The first has items from The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and another Wilson musical “Here’s Love” that was based on the Miracle on 34th Street. It also includes items from Wilson’s time with John Phillip Sousa’s band and his office in Hollywood. The second area contains items on loan from South Dakota State University and includes various instruments that most of us have never seen. If you are feeling extra musical you can even jump in the sound booth and sing to your hearts content. The third and final section is a work in progress and contains many of Wilson’s awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Wilsons Gold Records.

Outside of the main building, which besides the museum contains classrooms and recording studios where music lessons of all kinds are given, stands a bronze of Wilson, top hat in hand which is a fun place to take photos. Next door is Meredith’s boyhood home, restored back to the period when the family lived there. A beautiful Victorian filled with music and photographs of the family includes a trip to the attic where Wilson’s older sister Dixie lived for a time and where the three Wilson children would produce plays and music acts for the neighborhood kids.

A tour of the museum and home will run you $6 for adults and $3 for children which is very reasonable and takes about two hours. Just down the street is the Meredith Wilson footbridge and also the Art Museum so there are many other things to see while in the area.

Of course any trip to Mason City should contain a trip to Birdsall’s Ice Cream and 80 year old tradition in town and the only place where you can get a real peach sundae. I also highly suggest the flavor of the month, featuring for September lemon and black raspberry. It’s not inexpensive by any means but is better than the local Dairy Queen.

Our final stop before leaving town, although we should also have taken the time to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotel while we were in town, was Greenwood Cemetery to visit Wilson grave. It isn’t terribly easy to find, especially if you have a preconceived notion that someone famous should have a ginormous headstone. If you drive towards the western most part of the cemetery in the Greenwood Section you will find a brown and yellow marble headstone with a flat marker in front of it sporting an American Flag. Here is the final resting place of the Music Man and his family, back home together in the town he loved so very much.

As I have often said, Iowa has many hidden treasures, and certainly this one is worth the afternoon drive to visit. See you next week. Remember…We’re all in this together.