News & Events | Tracing the history of the Waseca Prince Popcorn Wagon: A Timeline, with memories
The restored Waseca Prince Popcorn Wagon located in the Meredith Willson Music Man Square, Mason City, Iowa. Photo: Terry Hoil
Tracing the history of the Waseca Prince Popcorn Wagon: A Timeline, with memories
People who lived in or grew up in Waseca from the early 1910s through 1971 are
certain to remember the popcorn wagon that was parked uptown either alongside
Didra's Drug Store (the early years) or alongside the Rendezvous Cafe (the later
years). Unfortunately, the popcorn wagon was lost to Waseca. It was sold and
left Waseca in 1973, was restored by some dedicated retirees in Mason City,
Iowa, and is now located in the Meredith Willson Music Man Square, Mason City,
Iowa. Please send me your memories of the popcorn wagon and, if you
have them, your photos. This is a work in progress!
The Waseca Prince etched glass window. Photo: Terry Hoil
? - Popcorn wagon manufactured in 1911 by Dunbar & Co., Chicago, Illinois
? - Ordered/purchased by someone in Waseca?
? - Wagon arrived in Waseca
From when to when? - A popcorn wagon, but apparently not this wagon, was operated by George and Carl Ericson (George b. May
30, 1893, WHS class of 1914; Carl b. May 30, 1899, WHS class of 1919). [There
was another brother, Albert Ericson, who graduated in 1911 and who may have been
involved in operating the wagon.] The boys bought the popcorn wagon while they were still in high school
to earn some money and ran the popcorn wagon for many years. The Ericson boys
parked their popcorn wagon uptown in front of the Ruby Theatre.
[Their father, John Ericson, started the first concrete company in Waseca and
constructed the first sidewalks all over the city. He would not support George
going to art school because he didn't think George could ever earn money as an
artist. George went to art school anyway and brother Carl kept the popcorn wagon
going and sent George money to go to art school and to live on. George Ericson
later changed his name and became well-known as illustrator and painter, Eugene
Iverd. See WCHS Introduction to 'The Art of George Erickson as Eugene Iverd:
August 4-September 30, 2002' exhibit - http://www.historical.waseca.mn.us/exhibits/2002/Iverd/index.php,
The popcorn wagon parked alongside Didra's Drugstore on West Elm and State Street in a postcard the WCHS has dated 6/9/1920. Photo courtesy of Waseca County Historical Society.
6/9/1920 - The wagon shown covered in canvas in a vintage postcard (in
collection of WCHS) located along side Didra's Drug Store on West Elm Avenue.
From when? - 1951 - Operated by William 'Bill' Topel. At some point during
Topel's ownership the State said the wagon could no longer be parked on State
Highway 14 and the wagon was moved a block south to 2nd Avenue Southwest alongside the Rendezvous Cafe.
1936 or thereafter - The popcorn wagon was involved in an infamous prank.
According to Jim Fox and Lois Anderson, during Bill Topel's ownership the police
were in the habit of parking their 1936 Ford squad car ahead of the popcorn
wagon on West Elm while they went into Carl's Hamburger Shop for coffee and
lunch. One night while the police were absent, kids tied the popcorn wagon to
the rear bumper of the police car. When the police returned to their squad car,
the kids ran the stop sign and the police gave chase through the intersection
with the popcorn wagon in tow. According to Lois Anderson, many people of this
area of Southern Minnesota claimed to have been involved in the prank or
professed knowledge of the identity of the pranksters.
1951 - 1971 - Operated by Leonard B. (1921-1994) and Lois Anderson, and
family, in Waseca.
The Waseca Popcorn Wagon in about 1960. Photo courtesy of Waseca County Historical Society.
About 1960 - Photo (in collection of WCHS) of wagon at Waseca County Fair
1973 - Sold by the Andersons to Ralph Preuss of Mason City, Iowa (Preuss was
originally from Waterville MN), according to Preuss for "around $1,000" and
hauled to Iowa. Preuss told Ruth Ann Hager, Waseca County News reporter, that he
popped popcorn for the neighborhood kids, took it to a couple of charitable
events and then stored it. Preuss said he had conversations with Wasecans who
wanted to buy the wagon but a sale never materialized. Preuss apparently knew of
the wagon because he was raised in Waterville and was a brother of Don Preuss,
The plaque commemorating the volunteers who restored the Waseca Prince Popcorn Wagon. Photo: Terry Hoil
1999 - Preuss donated the wagon to the Mason City Foundation and he
and a group of senior citizens (Art Ades, Lowell Cook, John Eason, Donald Jones,
Vernon Kirlin, Melvin Mitchell, Earl Opheim, Ralph Preuss, and Earl Schutz)
supervised by Larry Ewers restored it. During the restoration process an etched
glass window was discovered with the words "Waseca Prince." It had been covered
January 15, 2001 - Article in the Mason City Globe
Gazette under the title, "Senior Wood Shop" tells the story of the
June 5, 2001 - Interview of Preuss by Ruth Ann Hager, Waseca
County News reporter, published in Waseca County News under the
title, "Uncovering Waseca's Prince" tells the story of Preuss' purchase of the
wagon up to its donation to the Mason City Foundation and its
Another view of the restored Waseca Prince Popcorn Wagon. Photo: Terry Hoil
Date? - Wagon installed as an attraction in the Meredith Willson Music Man
Square, Mason City, Iowa: http://www.themusicmansquare.org/.
2012 - Ruth Ann Hager says she is in possession of the gas popcorn popper
from the original wagon.
Credit for photos of restored Waseca Prince Popcorn
Wagon in the Meredith Willson Music Man Square, Mason City, Iowa: Terry Hoil,
Memories of the Waseca Prince Popcorn
- "I remember the wagon and the wonderful smell emitting from the truck. I
don't know who owned it prior to Anderson. I think it was a WWII vet, but I
can't recall a name. I know the wagon was moved once and Dad had to go to the
City Council or someplace to get it back on 'our' corner. Dad would buy a bag of
popcorn every night. It always had extra butter and salt. He'd eat half of it on
his way home from work and the rest was for me. I still love popcorn." Jan Didra
- "I remember the first job I ever had was selling popcorn out of that wagon
at Braves baseball games along with Bert Anderson, Leonard's son and classmate
(Waseca HS '64). Leonard was a tough but fair employer, generous in many
ways, but I always appreciated the chance to make some spending money when I was
growing up." Rev. James Schoenrock, North Hollywood, CA
- "I have such fond memories of the popcorn wagon. Whenever I stayed
overnight with my Grandma Belle and Grandpa Donald, we always made a trip to see
Bert and get a bag of popcorn." Roberta Brown Root
- According to Jim Fox, the person who operated the wagon in the 1930s and
1940s was Bill Topel. Jim described an incident involving the popcorn wagon in
the mid- late-1930s (Jim knows it was about then because it involved a 1936 Ford
police car). The story goes like this: The police parked their car ahead of the
popcorn wagon on West Elm. Kids tied the popcorn wagon to the rear bumper of the
police car. The kids ran the stop sign and the police gave chase through the
intersection with the popcorn wagon in tow. Jim didn't say what the consequences
were. Phone call with Jim and Elaine Fox 5/6/12.
- "My sister Barb [Lechner] worked in the popcorn wagon and I worked in it
sometimes when she wasn't available. At that time it was parked alongside the
Rendezvous Cafe on West 2nd Avenue at State Street. Leonard was operating a
grocery store in Otisco when he contracted polio the same year I did, 1949, but
he had it real bad; he was in an iron lung up in the cities. Leonard was my
God-father. The Andersons bought another newer, larger popcorn wagon which they
used during fair week and parked at Clear Lake Park." Phone call with Bill
- According to Lois Anderson, wife of Leonard Anderson, they either bought
the wagon from Bill Topel or a Whipple about 1951. They sold it to Preuss in
about 1973 after not operating it for a year or two. The State (DVR?) actually
bought the wagon for them because of Leonard's polio. They had considered buying
the wagon before the State bought it for them but they weren't sure they wanted
to operate a popcorn wagon. They parked the wagon alongside the Rendezvous Cafe
on 2nd Avenue West at State Street because the State said it could no longer be
parked on State Hwy 14 (Elm Avenue). She said she has one photo of the wagon but
doesn't know where it is. Said it could be in an album at her old house in
Waseca (currently owned by son, Bert). She said they did buy a newer, larger
wagon which they parked at the fair during fair week and at Clear Lake Park the
rest of the time. They sold this wagon to someone in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She
said she didn't know about the name "Waseca Prince" until Ruth Ann Hager's 2001
article about the restoration of the wagon. She said they operated the wagon
from about April - October, depending on the weather. Said she never did like
popcorn! Phone call with Lois Anderson 5/6/12.
- According to Bert Anderson, son of Leonard and Lois Anderson, they took the
newer, larger wagon the family bought to high school football games, Brave
baseball games, and the Waseca County Fair. They also took it to area festivals
and county fairs including the Steele County Fair. It was usually parked at
Clear Lake Park and it was operated by his cousin, Beth Timmerman. They sold the
popcorn in 5c, 10c, 25c and 50c bags and boxes. He said he recalled driving
to Minneapolis with his father the day before a big parade, probably a Loyalty
Day Parade, and picking up a cotton candy machine. He said they made enough
money during that one parade to pay for the machine. Said his dad would operate
the popcorn wagon from 5-11 p.m. most days and from noon-11 p.m on
Sundays. Phone call with Bert Anderson 5/6/12.
- "I did a couple of stories about the wagon several years ago [for the
Waseca County News]; Mr.Preuss brought in pictures of the wagon during
renovation by a group of elderly men and before it went into Music Man Square.
Wish I could remember when...I also have the old popper from the wagon (gas
popper was replaced by an electric in the renovated wagon or vice versa). It
should go to the Anderson family if they want it." eMail from Ruth Ann Hager.
- "yes i remember the pcorn wagon well. the best pop corn ever. the location described does not seem to be what i remember, but it has been a long, long time since i have lived or visited waseca. i seem to remember it on the corner of the main drag and the rendevous club. across from the dodge car dealer and right up the street from the bowling alley. i'm talking of the mid 1960's here.
i think i went to high school with one of mr andersons daughters and i believe her name was judy. interesting, and almost seems like yesterday in many ways." eMail from Mark Lindsey, Atlanta, GA, 5/12/12.
- "I remember the popcorn wagon being located on the south west corner of Elm Avenue next to the corner drug store and close to Carl's hamburger place. I don't remember how long it was there but I do remember that they used to park the police car right on the corner facing east and the popcorn wagon used to be parked right behind it." eMail from Don Loomer, Santa Paula, CA 6/23/12
- "In the Erickson/Ericson file I found a booklet called "Iverd" written by Jean Sakumura and Dr. Donald Stolz, relatives. Most interesting. It states that Carl and George [Erickson/Ericson] purchased the Peanut and Popcorn Wagon from an individual George [Erickson/Ericson] had worked for at a price of $300. It was before 1912. The boys parked it in front of the Ruby Theatre. They would pull it there themselves. There is a picture of the wagon in this book and it does not look at all like the wagon owned by the Andersons. Not remotely close." eMail from Linda Taylor, WCHS Researcher, 6/26/12.