Pioneers of the Clear Lake Area Chamber
BY: RACHEL SMITH
This year, the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce reaches a milestone celebration of 75 years. We’ve done big things for the community over the years, but not without the dedication and loyalty of these founding members who’ve been with us throughout the years.
We salute your dedication to our organization, and thank you for sticking with us on this journey.
Clear Lake Community Schools: Beginning is 1942, only 217 students walked the halls of Clear Lake High School. As enrollment began to increase over the years, so did the community involvement, athletic and academic accolades. In the 1960s, Clear Lake Schools initiated a pioneer program to combine classes with Ventura in order to provide better training to students. The Junior High was dedicated in January of 1978 after a devastating fire three years prior. In October of 1988, the Elementary School was dedicated.
The Clear Lake Lions have a tremendous history of achievements throughout the years, proving that hard work and perseverance really do pay off. Football, Baseball and Golf have excelled to the State level on multiple occasions.
In the academic sector, the addition of the Sandbox Makerspace has been a tremendous for the Middle School. Our Robotics Club began in 2016 and qualified for national competition. Project Lead the Way was recently launched at the elementary level with is a STEM based program and robotics for the younger kids.
Clear Lake students at every level have developed some great partnerships with local businesses, creating a unified front for our community.
Clear Lake Bank & Trust: CLB&T is one of our community’s premier companies with a rich history in Clear Lake. Opening in 1934 with only 10 employees and a single office, the bank has grown significantly in 84 years with 4 offices across North Iowa and more than 90 employees.
In its third generation of family ownership, Clear Lake Bank & Trust puts great emphasis on their employees, striving to hire the best people, supporting them at work and at home, and empowering them to be decision makers. This strategy has served the bank well with recognition as a Top Iowa Workplace for the past 7 years, an accomplishment shared with only 9 additional businesses in the state.
Clear Lake Bank & Trust prides itself on being a cornerstone supporter of the Clear Lake community through significant sponsorships and donations throughout each year. Knowing monetary support is a singular part of overall community success, the bank highly encourages volunteerism from employees. As a result, CLB&T employees are present in leadership roles across many service clubs, fundraisers, boards of directors, and local non-profit organizations.
Mirror Reporter: The first Clear Lake newspaper, the Independent, was published on February 10, 1860. It continued publication for about a year before being moved to Hancock County. In 1869, the Observer was established. After 2 years as proprietor, George E. Frost sold the office to Judge M.P. Rosecrans. He, too, soon sold the office to parties in Belmond. Mr. Frost then purchased a new outfit and for a few years was the editor. In 1878 he sold to Mr. Bush who changed the name to the Clear Lake Mirror.
In 1896, J.C. Davenport established another weekly paper which he called the Clear Lake Reporter. These two publications combined under one owner when the Reporter purchased the Mirror in 1951. For a while, the Mirror published on Tuesdays and the Reporter published on Fridays. This went on until January of 1955 when the two joined together to become the Clear Lake Mirror-Reporter.
In 1983, the Mirror-Reporter was purchased by Prefin, Inc. The team of Dave Presler and Michael Finnegan comprised the business as well as owning other area newspapers. Presler eventually moved on from the company and focus was placed to ownership of the Clear Lake paper by Finnegan, selling off the other newspapers and concentrating all his efforts into the paper as it is now. Finnegan has achieved numerous accolades in his 34 years of ownership of the paper. In 2011, he was named a “Master Editor – Publisher” by the Iowa Newspaper Association. Just recently, the Mirror-Reporter was sold to Mid-America Publishing Corporation with Ryan Harvey as the new Publisher.
The Mirror-Reporter is now a weekly publication and comes out every Wednesday.
Clear Lake Lions Club: The Clear Lake Lions Club is the oldest Lions club in Iowa, formed in 1921. They call themselves the “Noon Lions” but Noon is not really part of their name. This distinction is made so they are not confused with the “Evening Lions.”
They bought the land currently knows as Lions Field and donated it to the Clear Lake school system. They have contributed numerous attributes to Clear Lake, including the shelter house at Touristville Park, the shelter house at Pine Tree Park, the walking paths at Opportunity Village, and the fountain gazebo building in City Park.
A highlight for the Lions is their annual Chicken BBQ, held the 3rd Sunday in July in downtown Clear Lake. Thousands of people line the streets around City Park to partake in this delicious meal.
Globe Gazette: The Globe Gazette, known locally as simply, ‘The Globe,’ is a daily morning newspaper published in Mason City. It traces its history all the way back to 1858, but was then called the Cerro Gordo Press, after the county it resides in. In 1925 it acquired its current name, but since it began had been knows as the Republican, the Express, the Express-Republican, the Freeman, the Western-Democrat, the Herald, the Time-Herald, the Gazette, and then finally, the Globe. The newspaper was originally published in the afternoon Monday through Saturday. But in 1977, the Saturday edition switched to a morning publication. In 1981, all publication switched to a morning schedule which seems fitting as the population generally enjoys the paper over a morning cup of coffee!
The Sunday publication of the Globe made its first fun in 1985.
While the Globe-Gazette is published in Des Moines, they provide quality journalism throughout the North Iowa Area, including Clear Lake. Their coverage of Clear Lake school activities, community events and issues exceeds their reputation over the years.
NIACC: NIACC, which began as Mason City Junior College in 1918, has the distinction of being the very first public two-year college in Iowa and one of the first such institutions in the country. The idea formulated at a PTA meeting in 1916 and their first classes were held on the top floor of the high school building with only 28 students.
In the mid-1950s, the College moved from the high school building to the Memorial University Building on Roosevelt campus. It remained there for 12 years and grew in enrollment by twenty percent.
NIACC moved to its new home in 1970 and construction began on adding new buildings. In 1972, dormitories were built to house over 450 students, and by 1979 the Auditorium was completed.
Today, the 500-acre campus consists of multiple state of the art facilities, including the recent addition of the new dormitories. They offer more than 50 programs that take one or two years to complete, and many transferable classes to those looking to move on toward their Bachelor’s Degree. On average, the College serves over 3,700 degree students each year and thousands more through non-credit programs.
Stillman Law Firm: Legend has it that E.B. Stillman rode into Clear Lake on his Indian Motor Coach and just set up shop as a one person attorney office. The new law firm was aptly named Stillman Law Firm. That was in 1913.
The firm that survives Mr. Stillman covers many areas of law practice. There is the general practice of law, and the following specialties areas: estate planning, real estate, legal service plans, and family law.
Attorneys that are or have been part of the firm include: Don Goranson, retired, who joined the firm in the 1940s; Phil Stone became active with the firm in 1977; Tom Lovell, now General Manager of CL Tel, joined the firm in the 1970s; and finally Charlie Bieberscheimer, who joined the firm in the 1990s.
If you add up all of the years of legal practice among the attorneys who have worked at Stillman Law Firm, it would be over 180 years of experience. The office is located on Main Avenue in Clear Lake.
A few fun facts related to Mr. Stillman. He served as the School Board attorney for over 60 years. That is the key reason the high school auditorium has been named after him – the E.B. Stillman Auditorium. He also was a charter member of the Clear Lake Rotary Club when it was founded in 1920.
Thrifty White Pharmacy: Originally Corner Drug, the pharmacy opened in 1934 on the corner of 4th & 3rd Street in Clear Lake (which is now the Red Geranium). The store was started by pharmacist Guy Wiskerhoff and a school teacher by the name of John Roseland. While in business, it became the ‘place to be’ for an after school refresher of Cherry Cokes and Milkshakes.
In 1959, Jack Roseland bought out his father’s share of the company. A year later, in 1960, Bob Tanner bought out Guy Wiskerhoff. Eventually, Gordan Rosenthal bought Jack’s half of the company and it was owned and operated by him and Bob Tanner.
In 1970, the two men had the opportunity to purchase the old bank building on the corner of 4th & Main. Being that the new location was on a corner, they were able to keep the same name, Corner Drug, until 2004 when they sold the business to Thrifty White.
Thrifty White was founded in 1957 with the first store being in Brainerd, Minnesota. Today, they have 95 locations throughout the Midwest. Their primary focus is pharmacy business along with associated drug store operations.
In 2015, they moved into their current location on Hwy 18. Their commitment to community starts with the local business owner.
CL Tel: CL Tel has been pioneering new services for area residents throughout its 108-year-old history. They are a full service telecom and broadband service provider offering telephone, internet, long distance, digital cable, TV, wireless, video conferencing, paging and phone store services.
CL Tel offered phone service in 1878, just two years after it was invented. They continued expanding their area and making advancements through the years. In 1982, they ushered in the information age with a new NEC digital switch. In 1991, they offered cellular phone service, and in 1994 they were the first in Clear Lake to provide local access to the global internet. They celebrated their 100th anniversary by deploying more fiber optic cable. Over the next several years, they continued to upgrade and expand the fiber optic network, making them pioneers of this incredible innovation and technology in our area.
CL Tel’s mission is to connect you to the world and your loved ones via advanced technology while supporting you with professional, friendly, local service.
Woodford Lumber & Home Co: Businessman Truman Woodford owned a lumberyard in Milwaukee, but opened another in Clear Lake in 1869. The beauty of the lake and surrounding prairie land drew him to the area. The railroad had arrived in town by that time and fueled the growth of settlement in Clear Lake, making it easy for shipping lumber and supplies. His brother, George Woodford, purchased an interest in the business in 1879. George’s son, C.R., took over as manager in 1890 after the passing of his father.
The business is now in the hands of the fifth generation. Throughout the years, the Woodford, Ashland, Connell and Lovell families have been involved in the ownership and management of the business.
As the growth of the business developed over the years, so did the relationship with suppliers and vendors. Their partnership with Benjamin Moore elevated Woodford Lumber into the category of innovative and forward-thinking and brought to us the first brand of no VOC paint.
Woodford Lumber is a staple in the Clear Lake Community and works hard for the customer. They believe in the golden rule of business and look for ways to provide a quality living for all Clear Lake.
There you go, folks. What an amazing list of businesses. We congratulate them all for being our Ten Charter Members of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and look forward to celebrating with them all at the Chamber Gala on May 4th at the Surf Ballroom.