2014 - Venue/Ballrooms
The Gayla Ballroom was billed as “the finest floor for dancing and skating in Northeast Iowa.” The 176’ by 96’ building was built and opened in 1955. It was owned and managed by Joe and Orpha Schmit. Joe was quoted as saying he hoped to attract many fine musicians such as Jimmy Dorsey, Eddy Howard, Wayne King, etc. That grand opening featured Joe & His Troubadours followed shortly after by the Blue Barron Orchestra. This was the first time any big name band had played in Independence!
When the Gayla wasn’t packed for dancing, you would find the floor filled with happy people of all ages enjoying roller skating. One of the special features of the new building was the “silent” floor. The floor was laid in eight different operations which was to remove all noise except that actual sound of the skates. In the beginning organ music accompanied the skating, but that was soon replaced by rock ‘n roll.
In July 1957, a fire in the ceiling caused the Gayla to be closed temporarily. Only two months later there was a re-opening dance with a crowd of 500 dancers. Over time, the facility was remodeled to add more space for a restaurant for fine dining.
In keeping his word Mr. Schmit booked such greats as, Tiny Hill, Les Brown, Chuck Foster, Jimmy Palmer, The Rhythmaires, Bing & His Merry Men, Cady Bros Orchestra, Cal Meyers & His Orchestra, Tex Beneke, Howdy Roberts, Leo Greco, Johnny Ketelson, Tom Owens Cowboys. There are records of appearances by Brendy Lee, Wanda Jackson, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagnor Trio, Ray Price, Faron Young, Kitty Wells, Tex Ritter, Leroy Van Dyke, Dale Thomas & the Bandera Boys, Floyd Warren, Link Wray, Dave Dighton, The Young Rebellion, Shades of Blue, Charisma, Headstones, The Kalin Twins, Johnny Horton, Ray Alto & his Cowboys, Bell Notes, High Society, Ivy Pillar, The Dark Side and the Ramrods. The list goes on but space does not allow the names of the many more fabulous musical groups who graced the stage at the Gayla.
The business was sold by Joe & Orpha in 1973. The Gayla operated until September of 1983 when the building caught fire and this time was a total loss. It was not rebuilt.
Thus, the end of an era – one that evokes countless nostalgic memories in the minds of all of the people who enjoyed their fun-filled leisure time spent at the Gayla Ballroom.