BAXTER -- Tommy Dorsey's band once had lakes area residents dancing to the sound of the Big Band music in a Baxter landmark that was torn down last week.
The building -- located just off the overpass in Baxter beyond Pizza Hut -- was more renown for its tattered awnings and vacant space of late than the dining and dancing hot spot it once was. There were a few incarnations in the building, most recently a failed restaurant venture and previously a night spot for teen-agers. Many remember seeing Buster's on the awning. But its more famous identity is likely to have been as Harold's Club.
Many potential buyers passed through the doors since the last business failed. Finally it was decided the property would be easier to sell as a prospective lot, possibly for office space. Access and visibility are likely to be less of a concern when the overpass comes down.
It was originally a farm building and chicken coop set on the very outskirts of civilization among the sand dunes. Part of the farm house was left standing on the inside of the original bar area.
Harold's Club was renovated from a farmhouse in the scrub area of west Brainerd. The supper club became a popular dining and dancing spot with Big Band music.
DelRae Grams remembers when the club was hopping.
"It was one of the places -- that and Bar Harbor," she said.
Grams father, Harold Jensen, started the club. He ran it until 1964 when it was sold. His name remained with the club for a number of years before it was called Buster's. Jensen and his family, including six children, lived in a house attached to the back of the club. Grams recalled living there as a child. She said that house is now the family cabin on North Long Lake.
Grams said not much else was out on the two-lane highway in those days. Her father also had Harold's Package Liquor store where Pizza Hut now stands. Jensen operated the liquor store for a time after he sold the club. The businesses were separated by a sand dune. Trees grew behind the club. Jensen died in 1974.
Harold Jensen (right) celebrated New Year's Day with patrons in 1951 at Harold's Club. Harold Jensen's wife, Ardelle, is seated on the far left. Family members believe the club opened in 1950.
"I just thought it was kind of a shame if it just went unnoticed," Grams said of the passing of the club and its history.
It was called the ballroom. Dancers came to hear the live music on Saturday nights. An artist painted floor to ceiling murals inside that depicted outdoor scenes. And a big salad bar was an attraction inside that included a waterfall on the top.
"He was famous for that big salad bar," Grams said.
Jensen also barbecued ribs in the brickwork BBQ pit behind the club. Grams said her father enjoyed the club and working there was a labor of love. When she was a child, Grams and her siblings went to the club on weekends to help clean and earned all the Cokes they wanted.
She said there were a lot of memories there. And now the memories are what remain.
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