University of Minnesota Marching Band in Rochester
What in the world brought me to this place? The other night Judy and I were at a University of Minnesota Marching Band concert at the Civic Center. It was a great concert, but it got me to thinking. Given my family history, why would I be at a music event?
Music, theater, and the arts were not part of my life growing up. Some families have pianos, fiddle, or record players to keep themselves entertained on long North Dakota winter evenings. Not us. The closest thing to a musical instrument my grandmother could play was the radio. It was on just for the news and weather.
As Judy and I were listening to the great band music I continued thinking about how I got to this place, liking music, but with no background and no ingrained talent for music. A number of things came to mind, and most of those interests continue to shape my life today.
One person I thank for my interest in the theater is the father of one of my first girlfriends. Patty’s dad was a professor at Jamestown College. He was quite the guy, and probably good for another post. Something about a TV remote control and a 1958 Rambler station wagon. Back to the story at hand.
Professor G approved of my dating his daughter, but he apparently thought I needed a little culture. He often gave Patty and me tickets to the Shakespeare series at the college. They were well done productions, and gave me a lifetime interest in the Bard. Every year Judy and I now go to at least one play at the Winona Great River Shakespeare Festival. That’s almost fifty years of seeing these plays, and I eagerly await next year’s festival.
That doesn’t explain how I got to a concert.
Fanny (Grace’s mother) could make something from nothing. That may be hyperbole, but this story from Grace certainly makes it sound like absolute truth. If creativity wasn’t the main skill, perhaps good old-fashioned horse trading showed off her skills. Grace learned sewing from Esther (her older sister) and Fanny. That gave her an appreciation for well made good-looking clothes. Several of Grace’s stories show her satisfaction with their ability to create beauty from whatever came through the farm-yard.
I do my best to reuse, re-purpose, and make from scratch, but there’s only so much you can do with an old iPhone.
Bowerman’s lived one mile east of us on the farm just to the north of Kunkel Lake. When I started in first grade Galen and Bruce were in the seventh and eighth grade. They drove an old Model T Ford the 3 1/2 miles to school and would pick up Melvin and I. One day when it was real cold they had an old imitation fur coat covering the radiator to keep it from freezing.
The last couple of weeks I’ve written about music. Lucy is one of the people in my life who epitomizes musical talent. When I first met her she sang with the Fargo Sweet Adelines. In the many years she sang with them she was part of multiple quartets and performed around the country. One of her personal triumphs was the trip the Fargo chorus made to England. Many times Lucy told me about the “little girl from Gardner, ND who sang in Royal Albert Hall in London.
Lucy’s love of and talent for music caught on with Judy, too. For years she sang with the Rochester chapter of Sweet Adelines and the church choir. Her highlight was singing Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Rochester Chamber Chorale performed the piece again this year and we attended the concert. What a thrill it must have been to sing at such a beautiful event. These days Judy plays drum and sings with a local band called Ravensfire. A bodhrán is far easier to transport than a tuba.
Watch for letters about Lucy’s adventures with the Sweet Adelines.
Thirteen was a magical year for me. We left the farm. The day we left I looked out the door and made a vow to myself “Never never have anything to do with a farmer!!” Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago the children’s choir sang in church. Their rendition of “Beautiful Savior” immediately took me back to a Sunday afternoon in Jamestown, North Dakota. Those of you who know me today might be surprised to hear that I was playing a Hammond console organ in the chapel of a nursing home accompanying my good friend Wes’ older sister Lynne T.
Guy, channeling Elvis
You may remember my love of music, as I talked in an earlier post about my record collection. Two of my best friends owned guitars and were learning to play them. Dances at the KC hall and other places filled our weekends, and Sundays in church I loved listening to the pipe organ. I loved music, and desperately wanted to develop whatever talent I had. Maybe I could buy something that would help?
There were two record shops in Jamestown. Marguerite’s, and a smaller one whose name escapes me now. Marguerite’s sold guitars, amps and instruments to every garage band in the state. There wasn’t a better place in town for the musician.
The little store sold Lowrey organs. (Mark remembers that the store was named Lowrey, too.) Little electric console jobs that sounded cheap, especially compared to the standard of the day, Hammond. The best part about them was that I could afford to rent one, according to the clerk. Soon enough, the delivery truck showed up at our house and I was learning to play the organ on my own. I didn’t have the money to afford lessons, nor did I have the sense to know they were necessary.
From the Sears Catalog
Millions of people consider Halloween to be one of the high holy days of the year, and not just the kids who collect candy in the neighborhood. Dressing up in costumes hasn’t interested me for years, but that doesn’t stop the Halloween industry.
In the thirties the industry hadn’t gotten off the ground, and from Louie’s stories there wasn’t much need for buying costumes. The neighborhood kids figured out everything they needed to do. A couple of months ago Louie had another letter about his Halloween pranks. This one tops the windmill story.
What fun it would have been to be a fly on the wall when Bob came home that night. There’d be no hiding what fun took place earlier that evening.
Back in the “Good old days” when we didn’t have indoor plumbing we utilized the old reliable “outhouse”
These were to the rear of each home, usually two seater, in case you liked company I guess.
Each also usually had a Sears and Roebuck catalog available for convienuant (sp?) use, whatever. Some people have a saying, one day at a time – this was one page at a time.
On halloween night the mean game of the local neighbor was to play “Tip-the-can” or tip over the outhouse. Continue reading
Jim driving Bob Stead’s pontoon on Lake Metigoshe- about 1971
In a later letter Jim will describe the cabin Bob Stead had at Lake Metigoshe. That’s the place Jim and I went many times to celebrate the coming of summer, the height of summer, and the end of summer. Bob was rarely there, he was always off on a business deal. Every now and then he’d be at the lake for the same weekend as Jim and me. When that happened, he would take us on a pontoon boat ride around the late. Metigoshe is an incredibly complicated lake, much like the family Jim was getting introduced to.
Bob and Vivian Stead were very successful in their farming and ranching ventures … they had a large herd of white faced Hereford cattle … over two hundred head of sheep. They also raised grain crops wheat, barley, oats, millet, and some flax. I found out later that Bob also had interests in oils wells and a gold mine!
There’s a memory so vague in my mind that I sometimes wonder if I made this up. I remember an evening in the Pink House when I was six or eight years old. My brother Linn was there, maybe Eric, too. Mom and Grandma had to have been there, but the one other guest I think I remember was Pastor Keller.
St John’s Lutheran Church from a postcard by King Studio
There wasn’t much religion in Grandma’s family. Of her four kids, only my mother caught the church bug, and I think this was the night that marked their transition to Christianity. Pastor Keller baptized all of us that evening, and it started my long term relationship with St. John’s Lutheran Church in Jamestown, ND.
The church wasn’t the center of our life, but a lot of my activities took place there. We went to church most Sundays, and Sunday School was a big part of my education. I sang in the kids choir for a time, much to my friend Mark’s consternation. I still can’t carry a tune. There were a couple of key events that have stuck with me, events that taught me a lot about life. Continue reading
Grace on the farm
When a storm rolls through the North Dakota prairie, a couple of things happen. Buildings are destroyed. Memories are made. Although I’ve never seen a building flattened, storms certainly hold a special place in my memory.
There wasn’t much that scared my Grandma. The storm Grace describes must have come very close for her to hightail it to the house. Neither Grace nor I were ever afraid of storms. Perhaps I learned from those old farm gals?
My dear ones,
When I was about three or four years old there was a tornado that nearly blew us away. Continue reading
Don’t be misled by the title and first sentence of this letter from Lucy. There’s almost nothing in there about graduation. This is a love story.
After reading this story I better understand why Lucy let me call or come over to see Judy every night after we met. She and Ken were as smitten with each other as Judy and I were.
My favorite part of this letter is the fudge. Does every couple have a story about a dessert going bad that first summer of marriage? For Lucy, it’s fudge. For Judy it was chocolate cake. Our lives are full of stories. This one brings back a smile.
Graduating from High School was nice but what to do next was the question.
One evening the next winter I went to a basketball game with Evy my friend. I saw a man across the hall sitting by my brother. I said “That is the most handsome man I have ever seen. If he isn’t married he’s mine.” He said to Pat “Who’s that pretty girl in the white sweater set?”
This spring there were several letters from Lucy and Grace about high school. That and an upcoming visit with a good friend from high school got me thinking about my experiences. Once my mind starts off in that direction, it’s tough to rein it in.
A couple of months ago I found my scrap books from Junior High and Senior High school. There are some interesting tidbits in there, not the least of which is a letter from Sandy. She sent a birthday card to me in 1964, complete with a four page letter. She covers a lot of ground in the letter, clearly letting me know my second-fiddle status.
Sandy and I spent a lot of time together, wrote letters, and talked on the phone for hours. We enjoyed the days talking and deciding what to do with our lives. We were in confirmation class together, a class that played a prominent role in my teen-aged life. She planned to see me in class soon. We had a good class, at least twenty or so kids?
Here’s the interesting part. I don’t remember Sandy. And who is this Dave she writes so longingly about? Peggy plays a significant role in this letter, too. Who was she? Finally, Sandy mentions Linda. I really should remember her based on Sandy’s reaction to the card I sent to Linda. Continue reading