Memories of Dear Abby, Arrow Inn and Winter Dance Party

  • Photo

When longtime advice columnist Dear Abby (Pauline Phillips) died on Jan. 16 at age 94, Bruce Eichacker of Amana recalled her visit to Cedar Rapids in 1978. For there, sitting in his family room, is the framed thank-you letter he received from her after he sent his classic Rolls-Royce with uniformed chauffeur to pick her up at the airport. Abby came to Cedar Rapids to visit The Gazette where her column, now penned by daughter Jeanne Phillips, still runs daily.

"I thought it was a hoot," says Bruce, an insurance agent in Amana who no longer owns the Rolls. "Of course, she would be like Miss Manners. In that era, it was the thing to do."

Dated Sept. 15, 1978, the letter addresses Bruce as "Mr. Eichacker." When he posted it on Facebook, friends responded that it must be a fake because nobody calls him Mr. Eichacker.

"Talk about a classy reception!" Abby wrote. "I certainly received one in Cedar Rapids when I arrived to be met by a beautiful Rolls-Royce and a uniformed chauffeur. Thank you for your gracious gesture, Mr. Eichacker. You really know how to spoil a poor working girl. Warm personal regards."

It ended with her looping, lavish signature, Abigail VanBuren.

Bruce didn’t actually meet Abby. His chauffeur-driven 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II was a business venture at the time. (I wrote about it in 1980). But her letter is a treasured memento.

"People write letters to Dear Abby," Bruce jokes to this day. "She writes letters to me."


As another flood damaged building comes down, folks are asking about the Arrow Inn, a name revealed as siding was removed from the "New ‘E’ Avenue" tavern at 505 E Avenue NW.

City directory research shows Walter Haddy had a tavern with his name on it there in 1947 and that Wencil F. Douda, who earlier had a place at 208 E Ave. NW, took over by 1950 and called it the Arrow Inn.

By 1960, Hannah Teply had it as the E Avenue Tavern; by 1970, Marian K. Sommers, a widow and nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital, owned it with the name E Avenue Tavern and Sporting Goods.


In November, 2010, I conveyed a plea from Montreal, Canada, film producer Sven Garabedian for information and photos readers might have about the Winter Dance Party’s stop at Danceland in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 6, 1959.

That was three days after Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, died in a plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. But the tour, which began Jan. 23, continued through Feb. 15.

"The response from your first article was amazing," Sven wrote in an email, adding that his two-hour documentary should be released later this year.

Now, he wants to give people one last chance to provide anything more. He can be reached by email at or by phone at (514) 931-6959.  

Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.