Growing up hearing Lehigh stories from her family, coupled with a curiosity to learn more about this important part of Mason City’s cultural history, is what served as the catalyst for this Lehigh Row neighborhood study. Working on her degree in sociology, Helen completed her Master’s thesis on this topic of Lehigh Row: an ethnic community that existed on the north edge of Mason City, Iowa, during the years 1911-1939. The neighborhood, owned by Lehigh Portland Cement Company, consisted of immigrant owned businesses and company row housing inhabited by over 400 immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and Mexico.
Helen’s father, Denno, grew up on Lehigh Row and owned the Troika Club that was located on 25th St. N.W. across the road from where the Lehigh Row neighborhood once existed. On summer nights after the late supper crowd dwindled, Denno would be standing outside in his apron, leaning against the old Chevy with a beer in one hand and a Pall Mall in the other, reminiscing about the old days of growing up on Lehigh Row. Although Denno had several opportunities to move the Troika closer to town, ultimately he decided that he could not leave. Lehigh Row was where his heart had never left and Lehigh Row was where he belonged.
In the data analysis process, a revealing picture of a fascinating old-world subculture emerged; the image created by the data illustrate commonly held customs and experiences that served to bind members of this community together, and captures the last glimmers of a bygone subculture.