History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Profile of Ralph E. Williams, choral composer

Ralph Williams holds the beloved family dog "Sandy" on the front portico of the family residence in Morris MN. We live on Northridge Drive. That's where the USDA Soils Laboratory is located. Ralph was an original faculty member of the University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM). This photo was taken days after his 96th birthday. The family includes wife Martha and son Brian. Martha ran the UMM post office for many years. Brian worked in the print media. The following profile info on Ralph was compiled by Liz Morrison in 2000. If you discovered this post because your church choir performed something by Ralph and you decided to Google his name, welcome! We think you'll find the following profile interesting. Thanks much to Liz for her efforts and talent. 
 
I was born: June 19, 1916, in Glenwood, the youngest of five boys. I grew up in Glenwood, where my father was in the construction business.
My Norwegian roots: Both my parents were of Norwegian descent, and I have many close relatives in Norway. My mother emigrated from Norway in 1905. She was one of 12 children: four came to the United States; eight stayed in Norway, including her youngest sister, who was born after my mother came to America. They never met.
My education: I graduated from Glenwood High School and attended the University of Minnesota, where I received my degrees in music education.
Playing with Swifty: My father died of cancer when I was 16 years old, so I earned my way through college by playing trumpet in dance bands. During the school year, I played with Swifty Ellickson, a well-known Twin Cities band leader in the 1930s. At one of our dance jobs, Glenn Miller stopped by, and I had a chance to visit with him. His band was playing at the old Nicollet Hotel in Minneapolis.
Montana musician: During the summers, I worked in dance bands at hotels in Glacier Park, Montana. I played trumpet and doubled on saxophone, clarinet and violin. During dinner I played piano concerts.
I performed at Glacier for four years. In the summer of 1940, I led the band. We were Ralph Williams and his Campus Nighthawks. The reason we were the Campus Nighthawks was, I had bought some used music stands from another band leader, and the stands all had "CN" on them.
Trail guide, too: In addition to performing every night at Glacier Park, during the day I guided horseback trips in the Rocky Mountains. I had practically grown up on horseback.
Clothes make the man: The real Montana cowboys used to give me their castoff riding clothes and boots, so I really did look like a cowboy. Then every night, I would get all dressed up in a tuxedo. I didn't usually tell people I guided up the mountain that I was also in the orchestra, and vice versa.
The cost of an education: As a musician and trail guide at Glacier, I earned my train fare, room, board and $35 a month. Tuition at the University then was $21 a quarter. So I was able to earn all my tuition during the summers. In the winter I earned my room and board playing in bands and slinging hash. Some months, I even made a little extra.
Fighting the Glacier Park fire of 1936: In August, 1936, there was a large forest fire in the Many Glaciers area of the park.
About a week before the fire, I had taken a 20-mile hike along the Continental Divide, and had seen the smoke from a fire started by a lightning strike.
As the fire grew, it threatened the Many Glaciers Hotel, where I was performing. The day the fire came over the Divide, the hotel guests and women employees were evacuated in 15 red touring buses. The orchestra and other employees stayed behind to fight the fire.
That night, we were watching the fire, waiting for it to jump the Divide. About 11 p.m. the fire came down the mountain at 60 miles an hour, making its own tremendous wind, and flew across a small lake in front of the hotel. Bear and deer swam side-by-side across the lake, ahead of the fire.
Saving the hotel: The Many Glaciers Hotel, the largest in Glacier Park, is built of huge logs. Working with wet towels wrapped around our heads, we continuously soaked the hotel down with fire hoses and saved it.
But the fire destroyed many other buildings in the area, including the orchestra chalet, which burned to the ground. As soon as the fire had come over the mountain, we had taken our belongings out of the chalet and dumped them in a nearby spring. We retrieved them the next day, under several inches of ashes.
Walking through fire: At the height of the fire, the fire chief ordered three of us employees to jump on the running board of his Plymouth. We drove right through the fire at high speed to the hydroelectric plant, which had caught fire.
We slid down the river bank, through burning brush, jumped into the river, and managed to put the fire out at the plant. We stayed by the plant several hours; when we got back to the hotel, the others said they thought we had perished in the fire.
Awful beauty: That was the one time I thought my life was about to end. The sky was full of ashes and smoke and sparks. The wind from the fire was so strong, you could hardly stand up. Fire balls of burning branches kept flying through the air and bouncing off the hotel.
About 4 a.m., after the fire had passed by, I looked out into the night and saw thousands of stump fires flickering on the dark mountainside. It was a beautiful sight.
Eyewitness account: I have always enjoyed taking pictures, and I took photographs before and after the fire, and as the fire approached. I visited Glacier Park in the 1980s and mentioned to the management that I had helped fight the 1936 fire. They were pretty excited about that and asked me to write an account. I did so, and included the pictures I had taken. They are in the Federal Museum at Apgar, Montana.
Tokyo, November, 1945: In June of 1942, I joined the Navy and spent the next three years and eight months as a gunnery officer in the Pacific.
In November, 1945, my ship stopped in Japan for a day. I took the electric train into Tokyo. For 20 miles, between the port and the city, there were no houses standing. But there were thousands of tepees made of corrugated tin, with a column of smoke rising from each one.
I took a long walk through Tokyo in the dark. In every doorway, there were homeless families - mothers, fathers and children, sleeping in the entrances.
My occupation: I am a retired professor of music.
My first job was in Brainerd, as the high school choral director in 1941-42.
After the War, I finished my masters degree at the University of Minnesota, and became the choral director at the U of M School of Agriculture on the St. Paul campus.
Leading a distinguished chorus: In the 1950s, I directed the 120-voice Minneapolis Apollo Club Male Chorus. The music critics of the Minneapolis and St. Paul newspapers always gave us rave reviews. Of my first concert, on the 60th anniversary of the choir, critic John Sherman wrote that the chorus showed "the finest tone and technical mastery of its long career."
Recruited for UMM: In February, 1960, I was having lunch at the dining hall on the St. Paul campus when a young fellow shouted across the room: "Hey Ralph, I'd like to talk to you!" I thought he was a college student, he looked so young. It was Dean Briggs, and he wanted me to come out to Morris and teach music at UMM.
I was the only music faculty member the first year, 1960-61. My responsibility was to organize a choir and band. I decided on my own to organize a men's chorus and orchestra, too, I also gave vocal lessons and organized small instrumental and vocal groups.
Tapping local talent: The orchestra included string players from throughout western Minnesota. Daisy Hansen of Morris, a former member of the Duluth Symphony, was concert master. We also had two excellent pianists from Morris High School: Kay Joranger Carlson, who went on to become a member of the UMM music faculty; and LeeAnn Hruby Erickson.
There were 37 UMM students in the band, plus ten outstanding high school students from the area, including Jim "Doc" Carlson, who should need no introduction for anyone locally, as he joined the UMM faculty and established the Jazz Fest. There were also about 37 students in choir.
My work as a composer: I have 90 original choral compositions, some with band accompaniment, published by four music publishers, which have been performed by school, church and college choirs around the country.
When Dean Briggs hired me, one of the first things he said was, "Would you write a UMM Hymn?" I did, and for good measure, I also wrote a fight song. In this music, I tried to capture the spirit of the campus as well as the beauty of the area. The men's chorus performed at the Seattle and New York World's Fairs, paying for most of the expenses by selling copies of the songs and a men's chorus record.
I retired in 1978, spending all but one year of my career at the University of Minnesota.
Some of my interests: I used to race boats on Gull Lake. I also enjoyed hunting. We have been active with the Heart to Heart support group (I have had bypass surgery), the Sons of Norway (where we say "hats off" to Marilyn Syverson), the UMM Retirees Association, and the Good Sam motor home club.
My favorite food: Lefse and rommegrot.
Johnny and the milk bottles: When I was a boy, I had a pony named Johnny. He was a three-quarter size Indian pinto pony who had been trained as a racer. Put him up against another horse or a car and he would really take off.
I used to deliver milk to houses on Pelican Lake (near Glenwood) on my pony. I carried the milk in glass bottles in saddle bags. One day, on my milk run, Johnny and I were racing a car. I had the milk bottles in my saddlebags and we were racing like mad and all of a sudden, the milk bottles broke and milk exploded all over me and my horse, and they all had a good laugh in the car.
  
Thank you for reading. Any feedback, please email Brian Williams: bwilly73@yahoo.com
- morris mn minnesota

Friday, June 22, 2012

Climbing toward maturity in fits and starts

UMM students make the rounds on campus in this late-August photo. (B.W. photo)
 
We are increasingly a no-nonsense society. We used to look at college students' irresponsible behavior and sort of shrug. We dismissed it as largely a rite of passage.
We might have thought elements of it were cute. Just don't damage my property please.
A writer who recently speculated on the possible death of college football said it could be a good thing for our colleges. No longer would football "game day" be an excuse for college students to drink and carry on in such a rambunctious fashion.
Increasingly our society shuns alcohol not to mention smoking. Our law enforcement prioritizes seat belt in a way the WWII generation would find incomprehensible. The state of North Dakota gets torn apart over something as trivial as a school sports nickname and logo.
The foolishness of college football "game day" was impressed on us here in Morris with the goalpost incident. Someone got killed in that. The demise of football (with concussion awareness) might mean college campuses would stay civilized through the weekend. People could continue attending to the business that brought them there.
For a long time we have seemed to put up with the idea that college is an extended adolescence. Maybe subconsciously at least, we are beginning to question this.
Maybe the economy gives us pause too. The economy has made multi-generation households more practical. Maybe young people can give more serious thought to "staying home" once high school is done. Not to be idle, mind you. The landscape is dotted with places where one can take classes. Stay close to home maybe. The Internet is an ever-growing vehicle for personal advancement that allows you to progress from anywhere.
Do any of us doubt that a substantial number of 18 year olds aren't ready to go out and live on their own? Maybe they need to put aside textbooks and take "life skills" seriously for a while.
We have seen an early indicator of change at St. Cloud State University (my alma mater). The announcement was made a couple years ago that Homecoming was done.
Homecoming would seem to be a pure and admirable part of school life. Maybe the problem was my generation and its shunning of tradition. But instead of just leaving Homecoming alone, we had to abuse it. Why? Because it was there, I guess. We abused it like those bratty kids abuse that school bus monitor in that viral video.
St. Cloud State was an institution that swung the doors wide for the boomer generation, starting in about the mid 1960s. Prior to that, college was considered an elite place. It was elusive for many of us, or so we were told.
Why should the acquisition of knowledge be a scarce activity? Even in the pre-Internet days, there were libraries all around us. The recently deceased Ray Bradbury, the wonderfully gifted science fiction writer and futurist, was fond of telling people he was "a graduate of the Los Angeles Public Library."
Bradbury was one of the thinkers profiled in the book "Blue Collar Intellectuals." Milton Friedman was another. Friedman the economist once earned money selling fireworks from a roadside stand. The book treated these people as though they were novelties - people from a common background who entered the life of the mind.
We shouldn't be so surprised though. Today the barriers to knowledge have come down completely. So thorough is that saturation, I think we're all taking a harder look at college and wondering if the experience needs to be sharpened. If students can't act more like adults, maybe they shouldn't be students.
Why should we frown when a house in our neighborhood is turned over fully or in part to student housing? Why are laws even enacted to draw limits on this? It's like we're concerned with some pest invasion. Morris legend has it the reason a restaurant has a $1.50 minimum purchase is college students. Why did some students abuse the privilege of entering a Morris business?
We realize many students have limited funds, although I think that's exaggerated some. If their intent is to "hang out," they can do that on campus. That's their more appropriate environment anyway. Don't mistake this for segregation. I'm just pointing out that students have a culture different from non-students.
And perhaps this culture is dysfunctional in some respects. All elements of a college student's life should help that person get established on a mature basis later. If that's not the overriding purpose of college, we're misguided. I think increasingly we are recognizing this.
Cancelling Homecoming at St. Cloud State was drastic. But the administration in its wisdom knew they were in trouble there. Whereas there was a time when many of us thought St. Cloud State's party image might be a little cute, the worm is turning. The foolishness associated with the St. Cloud State Homecoming, at its height, was jaw-dropping. People have described some of those scenes as outright riots.
An occasion to honor the school and its traditions was abused. Why? It has become an element of college student culture that it's quite fine to do so. This is the element that causes limits on off-campus housing. It's the element that persuades a restaurant owner he has to post a $1.50 minimum purchase sign.
This sign on the face of it poses problems. For regular adults, it can't be enforced literally. Sometimes you're in a restaurant with a party that intends to spend lots of money, but you yourself aren't hungry. Maybe you drive past a restaurant, notice a vehicle of someone you know and dash in just a chat for a minute. A salesman will meet a client in a restaurant and not necessarily be interested in spending a lot of money.
A restaurant owner wouldn't make an issue of these people. But college kids seem to have "recognizable spots."
If we are proud of have UMM in town - we most certainly are - we shouldn't have any problem with UMM students among us. It's no St. Cloud State for frivolous behavior, but the usual issues arise sometimes - loud partying at night etc. I heard a pretty vivid story about a party of that type this past spring.
The question I'm asking is this: are we as a society not as willing to dismiss this behavior any more? Are we not as willing to accept the college student lifestyle as an aberration? If it truly is an aberration maybe it needs to be discouraged, or at least the elements of it that mature adults find unnerving.
A prolonged adolescence? Maybe the kids could deal with these issues while still living at home. At least there, the guiding hand and example of their parents would be present. They could master life skills slowly rather than being thrust into an environment where they often throw up their hands. College shouldn't be "Lord of the Flies."
UMM is apparently getting a new dormitory. There is talk of making the food service fee mandatory for all students.
I suspect that most students who live off-campus and buy groceries for their food don't eat as well as they should. They might deny this. A trait of young people is they consider themselves invulnerable. They miss breakfast and think nothing of it. They grab a donut. It's not enough. It surely affects their academic performance.
Perhaps UMM is moving to create a more insulated environment - less of those little "mobs" of UMM students in marginal off-campus housing. This isn't "Lord of the Flies."
I think UMM is to be commended, if in fact this is what they're doing. St. Cloud State is to be commended too although it's more than mere patchwork there. It's an overhaul. We are a no-nonsense society that insists on personal responsibility and being good custodians for our neighborhoods.
I used to think law enforcement wouldn't pull over just anyone for seat belt. They wouldn't pull over an elderly couple of their way to church, for example. Today my eyes are opened. Personal responsibility is enforced everywhere. "Fighting Sioux" is no longer an innocuous nickname.
It's futile to resist any of this, even if the seat belt enforcement comes off as draconian and annoying, especially in our small outstate (Mayberry-like) communities.
I suspect only one thing could upset the whole apple cart: a full-fledged economic depression. When a substantial number of people become desperate for food, you won't see police officers on the prowl giving citations with triple-figure fines. It will no longer be practical.
One writer wonders if football will survive. One has to wonder if the traditional college model itself will survive. Degrees cost more and they seem to be worth less.
And if the typical college student lifestyle comes more under scrutiny, the higher education bubble could burst even faster.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bill Ingebrigtsen and the sickening stadium deal

State Senator Ingebrigtsen
Entertainment trends can be notoriously hard to predict. I reflected on this recently with my posts about Glenn Miller. Miller produced a style of music that my generation, not long after his heyday, considered so ancient it seemed like cave drawings.
Football is a form of entertainment that has come to mesmerize us. We shouldn't assume this will be the norm forever.
We are notorious in America for building things up only to tear them down. The Woody Allen movie "Zelig" was instructive on that.
We should be reminded that our love affair with football isn't that old. It was just starting to burst forth when I was a kid. We all knew it had been around for a long time.
Baseball seemed like a gentle and inviting sport while football appealed to ruffians. There was a significant stretch in this country's history when baseball, horse racing and boxing commanded our attention. Only when the quality of the TV picture sharpened did football become more appealing by leaps and bounds.
We in Minnesota have committed ourselves to a new pro stadium as if we assume football will stay king. Had all of this been left to private business, fine and dandy. Why do our elected politicians have to be put in a chokehold, however? Why does Governor Mark Dayton have to put on a purple jersey, do a dance with an avowed Republican (similarly dressed) and be photographed for the front page of our state's primary newspaper?
Are we nuts? Does the hypnotic spell have to be bipartisan?
Do we need to have more pain inflicted on our state's citizenry by electronic pulltabs and bingo? What's up with my generation, the boomers, who when young showed such conscience? The new Vikings stadium will cost the state $348 million paid for with these new and expanded gambling measures. The City of Minneapolis will kick in $150 million paid for with existing sales and hospitality taxes.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is taking notice. Founded by David Koch, co-owner of Koch Industries, this organization supports small government and low taxes. It's a group I normally have reservations about. But while I'm left of center in many of my political views, I sometimes think conservatives and especially libertarians are right on.
AFP has a Minnesota affiliate. This Minnesota arm is targeting three state senate incumbents for supporting the new Vikings stadium. One of them is Bill Ingebrigtsen, who I want to refer to as "Bill I." because his last name is so tricky to type. He's our state senator here in Morris, although re-districting is apparently going to separate us.
It is amazing that a conservative group like AFP would come down on a Republican like Bill I.
Republicans are supposed to be the conservative ones.
Perhaps Bill I. doesn't have an adequate grasp of history. Perhaps he isn't aware that football hasn't ruled throughout the broad experience of time. Perhaps he doesn't realize how uncertain the patterns of entertainment are. We go from Glenn Miller to Jefferson Airplane in 20 short years. Boxing shrivels to being marginalized.
It's possible we'll look back with great embarrassment at the invasion of purple shirts at our state capitol.
Our governor was happy to talk to all the heavy hitters in this process. Roger Goodell seemed like royalty. Fact is, NFL Commissioner Goodell probably loses sleep over whether his sport can continue on its perch.
Such ruminations may completely explain why the NFL is so desperate to get new opulent stadiums built. They're scared. They're scared the TV watching experience has become so fantastic, far fewer people will consider buying tickets and coming to the games. They're scared of something very common in our economy: saturation (over-exposure) of a popular commodity.
Former quarterback Troy Aikman has talked about this. I can relate to Troy who said that as a kid, he and his friends considered any televised NFL game a "big deal." We are still entertained by pro football but the scarcity is gone - gone with the wind.
And I haven't even gotten to the biggest threat the game faces yet. It's the exploding public awareness of the health dangers of playing football. There is currently much speculation on how this awareness could cause a downward spiral for the sport. I don't think it's far-fetched at all.
Mike Barnicle of "Morning Joe" (MSNBC) talks about the "mom factor." Who wants to risk having their son's brains rattle around? At our local Big Cat Stadium, I notice a full-fledged ambulance crew parked right next to the field on Friday nights. Maybe a sport that requires a full-fledged ambulance crew is simply too dangerous to play. "Moms" will readily recognize this.
It is highly questionable for taxpayers to commit themselves to a sport like this. It seemed the taxpayers never really had an advocate in the new stadium process. When Goodell flies here, he knows who to talk to. It's not the regular citizens. He knows which powerful people will kiss his ring.
Americans for Prosperity Minnesota sees all this clearly. It cuts no slack for Republican Ingebrigtsen. Nor for another Republican, Julie Rosen of Fairmont. The third legislator singled out by AFP is a Democrat, Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka.
John Cooney is director of AFP's Minnesota branch. He says "We simply don't agree with publicly funded stadiums."
AFP has actually sent out flyers in the districts of the three legislators cited. Maybe we haven't gotten them here because we're being re-districted away from Bill I.
(The dictionary informs me that "fliers" and "flyers" are both acceptable spellings.)
The flyer from AFP states that "(name of senator) sided with corporate special interests, and his/her policies are costing taxpayers." It calls the stadium deal a "giveaway" to corporate special interests.
I sent an email to State Senator Ingebrigtsen but he didn't respond. Actually the main thrust of my email was about this extreme crackdown for seat belt enforcement in Minnesota. Reportedly the crackdown in Morris has been incredible, causing hardship and frustration for many people, including (reportedly) a meals on wheels volunteer.
Not only is it frustrating to get a ticket, it's frustrating to try to pay it. It's this latter concern that prompted me to write to Bill I., primarily.
I'm sure Bill I. answers communications from powerful special interests or lobbying concerns. I'm just a constituent.
We are getting shafted on overly vigilant seat belt enforcement just like we got shafted on the stadium.
I used to consider the Morris Police Department as an arm for protecting and assisting the public. Now it has become predatory, apparently under pressure to raise revenue for the state, a state that is so desperate for funding a Vikings stadium it pushes electronic pulltabs and bingo.
We should be reminded of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Can we ever watch football the same again?

(Image of Asher Allen from "Pro Sports Addicts")
 
Have you ever known someone with a slight limp who said it was "an old football injury?" A badge of machismo, right? Well, maybe in a former time.
We have seen the "nerds" smash their detractors. Now maybe it's time for the "sissies" to win out. The sissies were the boys who never saw any great virtue in football. They might have chosen tennis, golf or swimming.
The University of Minnesota-Morris football players of the 1970s seemed to want to project machismo. That has dissipated since. Sure, the Cougars went through some humbling years in terms of won-lost, but I think some cultural factors were slowly at work too. Today I think the football athletes blend in much better with the student body than in that earlier time.
How preferable it is. But now the sport of football in its very essence is being questioned. The revelations about health hazards have been bursting forth as if a veritable storm.
A lawsuit certainly helps. A couple thousand NFL players feel they were done wrong by the system. The money-greased system, they would argue, wanted to conceal the horrible health repercussions of football. It would be bad for business. Our legal system can remedy that by peeling below the surface. Even if the suit itself falls short of its goals, we're learning a great deal.
There is an unmistakable cloud hanging over football now. Following the Vikings is getting a new wrinkle. We used to be able to estimate length of career based on age and injury avoidance. We can no longer count on these players playing out "normal" careers. Many are going to start exiting as a precaution.
It's not like they're literally forced from the game by injury. Theoretically a lot of these guys could keep playing several years longer. But they are scared.
It seems unconscionable that fans sit in the comfort of their living rooms watching these guys tear into each other like missiles. The players are bigger and faster than they used to be. Our knowledge of the game's risks has progressed far.
Vikings fans were expecting Asher Allen to be back in the fold for the new season. He seems a mere lad, age 24, and he seemed set for his fourth NFL season. We in Minnesota are moving mountains to get a new stadium built. But can we keep the players engaged? Or is football headed the way of heavyweight boxing, a sport that began to sicken people because of its barbarity?
You might laugh, thinking football is nowhere near to reaching that point. It's not your (the fan's) brain that's at risk, it's the health of people like Asher Allen, who has decided he's not going to play anymore. The 24-year-old Allen has "retired." He was a third round draft pick out of Georgia in 2009. He started eleven games in 2010, and he has four career interceptions. But he has had two concussions, one last season.
We have heard about former Vikings like Fred McNeill having problems. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited McNeill to do a story. I feel guilty having been entertained by what McNeill had to do on a football field. Can you really live with yourself watching this? Former players have taken their own lives (e.g. Dave Duerson).
Maybe you're thinking "Oh, but those are pro players who have played years and years."
So you think they're more at risk? The adolescent brain is especially tender. The consequences of all those collisions can be even worse for them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates nearly two million brain injuries are experienced by teenage players every year. These young men aren't even being paid.
Repeated intense head contact leads to headaches, dizziness and sleeping issues.
Machismo? I think we're re-shaping our impressions of what this game does. How about coming home after school and going on social media instead? Or just studying? Or maybe doing nothing?
One of the traits of being young is to think you're invulnerable. Young people can take up smoking without thinking much of the consequences. Boys might decide they want to keep playing football regardless of the Asher Allens of the world.
One remedy might be legal action. It so often comes down to this. Maybe those legions of former NFL players will win their lawsuit. Lawyers, salivating, will then turn their attention elsewhere. Parents who think they weren't warned adequately about the dangers of football might decide to sue school districts.
It's certainly worth a shot. It's certainly not frivolous. The truth always bubbles to the surface. The truth about the health consequences of football isn't going to be suppressed.
Football's tragic flaw is that it inflicts concussions on its players with devastating frequency. Brent Waddell suggested at breakfast recently that it seems elementary: A sport that requires you to wear a helmet? Connecting the dots would seem elementary, Brent suggested.
So the question "becomes" (as the late William F. Buckley would say): Can football be modified to address the health issues?
Football's injury issues might seem serious enough even if you disregard head contact. We read all the time of torn ACLs, MCLs and whatever else. It's a sport that seems to tear apart your body. Think again of those men who explain a limp by tying it to having played football.
A Morris native who coached in this part of the state (not in Stevens County, but close) once told me he had to quit playing because "I hit my head." Is this a risk he should have been exposed to? Students think football is an acceptable pastime because schools offer it. It has been passed down through generations.
But times change. We are realizing this with tech-fueled transformations that are literally throwing countless people out of work. I might be one of them. Change is such the norm, we have to re-think all our past notions.
As a kid, I remember getting on the school bus along Northridge Drive and discussing with peers the upcoming Clay-Liston fight. Man, that was big. We're talking about Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. Clay later became Muhammad Ali. Clay won and was on the ladder for more fame beyond anyone's wildest imagination, aided by Howard Cosell.
When was the last time we gathered around the water cooler to discuss an upcoming heavyweight fight? We cringed when we began to notice Ali's deterioration to where he's a near-vegetable. I suppose Mike Tyson biting off an opponent's ear didn't help either.
But look at all these human missiles - football players - flying into each other on the gridiron. We watch from the comfort of our sofas and sip sodas. We watch beer commercials as if beer and football are somehow connected, which in a sense they are, as emblems of a culture fading into obsolescence. Much of it is gone already.
But we are in denial. In mid-August we'll start following the Vikings again. But I think more and more, a tinge of guilt will enter our minds. We'll wonder if we can really find better things to do on Sunday afternoons. And if the game is questionable for the pros, what of the adolescents and their more tender brains? Shall we close the curtain on Big Cat Stadium?
I'll never feel the same at a football game. Could the end come quickly? Don't rule it out.
Asher Allen is way ahead of us. Hats off, dude.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Morris Eagles turn back Dawson, Appleton

The Morris Eagles were on a roll when May concluded and we embarked into June. Bring on summer!
The May 27 story had the blue-themed Morris crew prevailing over the Dawson Drakes, an expansion team. The score was 7-3. This was the Eagles' third straight win, and it didn't take long to savor win No. 4 in the skein.
The Eagles thundered to a 21-4 win over the beleaguered Appleton A's on June 2. The Eagles' bats sizzled to the tune of 18 hits at the Appleton diamond. (I always liked the atmosphere at the Appleton ballfield.)
 
Eagles 7, Dawson 3
The Eagles entertained with some extra-base hits on some balls that were really "stung." Ryan Beyer had one of them caught: a long drive to right field caught up against the fence. Undaunted, Beyer made sure he wasn't going to be robbed again. Beyer homered to left field - a solo shot in the eighth to add to the Eagles' cushion.
Craig Knochenmus got ahold of a Dawson delivery in the fifth, sending the ball over the fence to firm up the Morris lead. This was a two-run shot and when Craig was done circling the bases, the score was 5-2.
Kirby Marquart smacked a double in the third that got a run in. The third inning success continued with Eric Ashe connecting for a two-run double.
Double plays can be a pitcher's best friend. The Morris defense was up to the task of performing these, putting a smile on pitcher Matthew Carrington's face. These twin killings came in the seventh and eighth. Carrington was the winning pitcher with eight innings of work. He struck out three Drake batters, walked four and gave up six hits and two runs (neither earned).
Nathan Gades pitched the last inning, struck out a batter and gave up one unearned run.
Seven Eagles hit safely including the man at the top of the order, Dusty Sauter, who tripled and scored two runs. Marquart finished two-for-five with a run scored and an RBI. Beyer's boxscore line was 4-2-1-1 (at-bats, runs, hits, RBis). Ashe's line: 5-1-2-2.
Cole Riley added two hits to the mix. Knochenmus stood out with his home run. Mitch Carbert added a hit.
The Morris line score was seven runs, ten hits and three errors. Sauter, Marquart and Beyer had stolen bases.
 
Morris 21, Appleton 4
The Eagles took the field at Appleton for a makeup game on June 2. Morris led 8-3 after three innings and then really punched down on the accelerator. They ended up winning by a football-like point total, even with the extra points made!
The seven-run fourth put Morris in truly comfortable position.
Matthew Carrington helped set the tone with a two-run double in the first inning.
Craig Knochenmus' bat resonated with an opposite field two-run double in the second. Brett Anderson followed that up with a two-run single in the same inning.
The Morris bats kept on making noise as Nathan Gades singled to drive in two runs in the fourth. Ryan Beyer supplied fireworks with a three-run homer in the fourth, a drive that was clearly "out" when it left the bat. Appleton just couldn't hold the Eagles down. The Morris line score showed 18 hits to complement the 21 runs, plus there were eleven walks received.
Carrington pitched the first five innings and notched his third win, striking out four batters. He walked four and gave up seven hits. Eric Ashe mopped up for two innings and gave up no runs and one hit.
Jamie Van Kempen was at the top of the lineup and fashioned two-for-five numbers. He scored three runs and drove in two. Beyer drove in four runs and scored two. Craig Knochenmus had a boxscore line of 3-4-2-2. Cole Riley was hot, recording three hits in four at-bats and scoring four runs.
Carrington went two-for-four with three runs scored and three ribbies. Brett Anderson had a boxscore line of 4-1-2-3. Nathan Gades' line: 6-2-3-5. Mitch Carbert rapped two hits and scored a run. Eric Ashe added a hit to the mix. Van Kempen and Beyer had stolen bases.
Viva Morris Eagles baseball for the summer of 2012!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Glenn Miller's death shrouded in speculation

Glenn Miller's music is like a theme for World War Two. How distinctive it was: the saxophones, trumpets and trombones in flowing melodies. How different it was from the music that took hold among America's youth just a decade or so later.
The music had structure and restraint.
The "big band era" was pretty confined in history. The guitars and amplifiers took over.
Miller didn't live long enough to see the change. As a kid I learned this through "The Glenn Miller Story," a perfect biopic. Perfect it was, but it was sad at the end. Miller literally disappeared into the fog. He was in a UC-64 Norseman aircraft heading over the English channel.
Air travel was questionable on that day. Other flights were grounded or so I have read. World War 2 was heading into its last ugly stages. Germany was fighting to its death.
The Glenn Miller big band was busy as a morale builder. I personally wonder how much the troops really cared about this. Perhaps it was more important back home, where we could learn of our culture asserting itself overseas. "The band played on" even with the German "buzz bombs" flying overhead. Such a scene was re-created in "The Glenn Miller Story."
But was the bandleader involved in more than just music? It's hard to know what to accept as fact as I read online. Was Miller really fluent in German and broadcasting propaganda messages to Germany? Was he enlisted to carry peace feelers from "Ike" Eisenhower to German generals who were eager to end the war so as to prevent total destruction of their country?
An assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler had gone awry.
One theory has Miller flying from near Versailles, France, to German army headquarters in Fichtenheim through the Ruhr "flak zone." A spy reveals these plans to the German diehards. Miller is captured and subjected to the misery of such an episode. He is interrogated and dispatched, and his body ends up deposited in a Paris brothel.
The Paris brothel story by itself has been out there a while. I think I first heard it on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow Show." Such talk was perfect fare for that show which was a pioneer in its approach. Television up until then had been pretty scripted and sanitized. Conspiracy talk with little foundation would have been frowned upon. Heck, is anything frowned upon today? Jesse Ventura develops a whole TV brand based on conspiracies.
The Tomorrow Show was cutting edge for the 1970s. Many boomers like me found it appealing. We heard about Miller possibly dying of a heart attack in a Paris brothel. But such a story couldn't possibly be allowed to come out. It's certainly an untidy story but it wouldn't make me doubt Miller's status as a 100 percent wartime hero. Bill Clinton learned how to overcome such matters.
We'll put these theories on the periphery only as possibilities. It's hard to rule anything out because war can obscure the truth in a big way. The most comforting explanation to accept is that Miller's plane developed icing and went down. Planes can be a curse for musicians. As a kid I lost a musical idol like this: Bill Chase, the trumpet player.
Chase's plane went down in southern Minnesota. He was a jazz-rock fusion artist with a full trumpet section. He had previously played with Woody Herman who had a big band exactly like Miller's. Herman toured with his band until he was quite up in years, but it wasn't completely retro because he adjusted the style to be a little more contemporary.
Chase was barely making it financially with his band at the time of his death. There were rumors he might go back to Woody. We can only wonder in what direction such a gifted musical mind would go. Ditto with Miller.
There is another special theory about Miller's death that is not out in the periphery. It's the "friendly fire" explanation. Friendly fire is obviously one of the most disturbing aspects of war. Many informed people are convinced today Miller's plane was taken down by the percussive effect from bombs being jettisoned from an abortive raid on Siegen, Germany. British scholars feel quite convinced. These were Royal Air Force bombs dropped over the English Channel.
There is a friendly fire theory that has it Miller's plane was simply shot down. Miller disappeared in December of 1944. He entered the service in 1942 when he was 38 years old. He was a top-selling artist from 1939 to 1943.
I have read he was "German speaking." I'm not sure what all to believe, though. I'm not sure how much weight to assign a story that Miller was a victim of something called "Operation Greif." The Germans launched "Operation Greif" as their fortunes were clearly crumbling. That's why it had a guerrilla type of approach. The idea was to stir up panic behind Allied lines, unleashing soldiers in captured Allied uniforms and vehicles.
I'm reminded of one of my favorite WWII movies: "The Bridge at Remagen." The movie showed Germany in pathetic disarray as the vise closed. One of the German characters says to another: "A dying animal begins to bite at its own wounds."
American troops were warned they were in "Indian country," meaning there were detached German units out and about. Not that Indian tactics are to be dismissed. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest fought much of the U.S. Civil War this way. His troops shot from behind trees. Sure sounds preferable to the standard Civil War tactics.
With the normal military organization breaking down, one really has to watch your back. The American troops in the movie were fooled by a sign that was tampered with. I thought Robert Vaughn did a masterful acting job. He was a German officer but one with a sense of humanity. He had to walk this tightrope of a character. This character was executed at the end as the Nazis continued to "bite at their wounds."
The "Operation Greif" story in connection to Miller had him meeting with "Ike" in Paris in the winter of 1944. Again we're assuming Miller went beyond leading his band as a morale builder. The awful Battle of the Bulge, Germany's last-gasp offensive, was in the winter of 1944-45. Perhaps Miller was readying for more radio propaganda work.
"The Bridge at Remagen" was a bridge the Vaughn character was sent to destroy, but he decided to delay so as to evacuate a substantial number of German troops back into Germany. The Allies ended up seizing the bridge which saved many of our lives. Germany was in disarray and would have been best served just desisting. But Germany's top leaders were already doomed at this time. They insisted on fighting to the finish with horrific results for all.
It is suggested an "Operation Greif" unit was sent to kidnap or kill Eisenhower in Paris. It almost succeeded. Eisenhower was spirited away in an armored vehicle, so the story goes, but Miller was mortally wounded. He was transported with serious head injuries to an Air Force base in Ohio where he died. He was buried secretly in a military cemetery there.
Eisenhower's reputation would have been hurt if all of this had come out, according to the author of this scenario. The author (or tale-spinner) tries to provide further support: Miller's wife Helen pleaded for three years for an explanation of what all happened. She then became silent and moved to California. Speculation might have it she arranged for Glenn to be buried in California in exchange for her pledge to stay silent on what happened.
It's interesting to ponder all this stuff but not necessarily to subscribe to any of it. One exception might be the bomb jettison story which seems to be getting buttressed. But how can we rule anything completely out? After all, war and deception are bedfellows. And surely "war is hell," even though this is just a paraphrase of what William Tecumseh Sherman said (at the Ohio State Fair).
World War 2 has been described as "the good war." Let's translate "good" to "necessary." I grew up during the bad war: Viet Nam. The Viet Nam War made me a cynic. Maybe this is why I listen to conspiracy theories.
But I have to admit, that touching scene in "The Glenn Miller Story" where the hero waves out the plane window is the most endearing "end of story."
It wasn't quite the end of the movie, though. We might have gotten teary-eyed seeing June Allyson as Helen reacting to "Little Brown Jug" played by Miller's band on the radio. She loved this song but Glenn never did. He had prepared the arrangement as a surprise.
What kind of musical treasures, besides this one, could Miller have shared with us in the post-WWII years? How tragic we were deprived of this. But what a gem he was in his lifetime.
Let's imagine that Norseman plane disappearing into the mist and perhaps think no more of it.
Glenn Miller RIP.
We'll still "In the Mood."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com