CLEAR LAKE — A briefcase belonging to J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson has been loaned to the Surf Ballroom & Museum for display at the Clear Lake landmark.
The donation was made as part of Thursday’s celebration and dedication of the new Three Stars Plaza near the Surf Ballroom and the neon central art feature.
The event also included the re-dedication of Buddy Holly Place and honorary dedication of Ritchie Valens Drive (North Shore Drive) and J.P. Richardson Avenue (7th Avenue North).
Richardson’s son, J.P. Richardson Jr., along with Ritchie’s sisters Connie Lemos and Irma Norton were in Clear Lake for the ceremony.
Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly, was ill and unable to make the trip, according to Surf Ballroom executive director Laurie Lietz.
The briefcase survived the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash in Clear Lake which killed The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and pilot Roger Peterson.
“A lot more people are going to see it here than in the closet at my house. And so any way, this briefcase survived the plane crash. It has dad’s initials on the front of it,” Jay Richardson said.
A notebook filled with songs The Big Bopper was working on at the time of his death was found inside the briefcase.
Richardson also donated a notebook filled with songs his father wrote as a boy.
The memorabilia also included a hotel receipt for $3.75 from Ironwood, Mich., for the night of Feb. 1, 1959.
“I tell people, you know my dad’s hometown that he was so proud of, has zero memorials in his honor. And a town of of 8,000 people where he spent eight hours maybe in his entire life has done the things that you all have done for him,” Richardson said.
Ritchie’s sister Irma Norton thanked the community for remembering her brother, The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly.
“We have our times that we cry but we know that you guys loved our Ritchie and our other two little stars,” Norton said.
Connie Lemos said this is a continuation of the family’s love affair with the Surf.
“You walk in here and it’s like, Wow,” Lemos said.
“It’s a homecoming. It is a reunion. Everything they do here at the Surf is done with so much care and so much love.”
A crowd of about 75 people gathered for the ceremony Thursday evening.
Jeff Nicholas, president of the Surf Ballroom, unveiled the central art feature which now graces the plaza about a half block from the Surf.
The art feature has a central column that resembles a record spindle with three records stacked on top.
The bottom record has the names of the performers inscribed on it. It is illuminated in the same blue neon that encircles the plaza and the sides of the spindle.
The art feature was paid for by Steve and Vickie Sukup of Clear Lake.
The pedestal is 24 inches in diameter and made of one-quarter-inch steel pipe. It is 15 feet high and weighs 1,600 pounds.