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).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Too early to start thinking about Sesquicentennial?

Music for the 1971 Morris Centennial, by the super "alfalfa arch"
John Woell grew facial hair which was the practice for Morris men to commemorate the Morris Centennial. The year was 1971. John was the Morris High School band director who really did his part helping enhance the festivities. I wonder if he got paid extra. Any payment might have been part of the summer marching band package for him.
Mr. Woell certainly was the committed music person in the summer of '71. He led his high school musicians including your blog host, Brian Williams, who were organized in more than one ensemble. The group in photo is assembled under the fantastic "alfalfa arch" on main street.
Is that the Merchants Hotel at right in the background? I believe it is. Riverwood Bank is there now. Prior to Riverwood, a restaurant that had three incarnations or owners was there. I miss that restaurant. Merchants Hotel included a barber shop where I had my hair cut a few times, like by Merlin Beyer. We miss Merlin. Merlin was the old-fashioned community politician who knew what was best. In the late 1980s we saw the venerable Merlin get "edgy" and take on the public school because of a festering issue. He and others came away with scars, but they wouldn't second-guess any of it. 
John Woell presided over the last grand chapter of the MHS marching band program. After that, kids got consumed with other commitments like sports camps.
At the time the photo was taken, marching band was considered a prestigious activity by the kids. So prestigious, ol' John could be quite the disciplinarian, even kicking kids out of practice for various forms of misbehavior or insubordination. I even saw him kick out the esteemed Reese girl once. That incident may have reflected a growing generational schism in which kids wouldn't just take directives automatically. Our elders weren't accustomed to confronting that kind of critical thinking. Gone were the days when teens were meant to be seen and not heard. We didn't take the Viet Nam War sitting down. The world would never be the same again.
John might discipline kids harshly but they would come back. Heck, today we'd see kids give a shrug and say "take a flying leap." But marching band was a coveted activity through the early 1970s. I would say it began petering out (by coincidence) after I graduated. Girls sports was getting established when I graduated in 1973. Girls would have a great deal more to do than play the flute or clarinet. It was a step forward.
In the photo that accompanies this post, I'm third from right. I'm seated next to a couple other brass stalwarts from that time: Del Sarlette and Terry Rice. Terry was a spectacular player while Del and I were more pedestrian.
A high quality photo
The photo was taken by a good camera by the standards of the time. Florence Sarlette, Del's mom, took it. We miss Florence. Parents of The Greatest Generation have been gradually going to that great alfalfa arch in the sky.
We take for granted the ease and quality of the digital cameras of today. The photo you see here was taken by something other than a Kodak Instamatic. Those Instamatics were the norm following the tradition of the Model 'T' cars.
You can see everyone poised with their "Kodak Instamatics" in the movie "Apollo 13." Ron Howard must have had a good memory of those. You'd take your film to "the drugstore" and then wait maybe a week. Those old Kodak pictures don't scan well for online purposes. It was "the people's camera" with results just adequate.
The photo you see with this post must have been taken by an SLR camera of the Canon or Nikon brand, cameras that were considered highly expensive - a lifetime purchase. Eventually the time came when any camera you purchased had obsolescence. I got fed up with that.
Today if I take photos, which is rarely, I use my old Canon AE-1 SLR, a type that I remember being pushed in TV ads by the Joe Theismann family. I think Joe divorced that wife (or vice versa). I hope ol' Joe doesn't have cognitive issues from football. He sure got his leg fractured once.
Terry Rice, Del Sarlette and I made up the "trumpet trio" that performed at various times in 1970 and 1971. Terry and Del were 1971 MHS graduates. I began on the French horn and then switched to trumpet. The switch was made when I grabbed the trumpet for my audition for all-state band in 1970, and I made it. Until then it was a secondary instrument I used for marching band, because French horn was impractical for marching.
Del went on to lead our Morris Community Band for many years with wife Carlene. I don't know where Terry Rice ended up. Terry was good at "skiing" down the hill on the west side of the old school, wearing his regular shoes. Today we could appreciate that on YouTube.
Even though the photo here is relatively sharp, we're a little too far away for me to ID everyone. I could probably do a TV commercial for reading glasses. The girl on the other side of me is Jane Larson, one of the "Donnelly kids." She was our Homecoming queen in the fall of 1972. The two boys between Jane and Mr. Woell are Scott Groth and Craig Jones. I believe that's Tony Hansen, drummer, behind those two. Kathy Graff is right next to Mr. Woell. At far left is trombonist John Woell Jr. Sorry, I just can't come up with names of the others, partly because some aren't looking directly at the camera. You might say time has drawn a misty curtain. (Del tells me he has intellectual property rights with "time has drawn a misty curtain.")
Update: Del emailed me the following on the day after I posted this: "Regarding your 'sesq suskw sasquatchtennial' post: why didn't you ask me to ID the alfalfa arch band photo? I coulda told you who everybody is. L to R: John Woell Jr., Dave Carlson, Craig Johnson, Gary Brown; over Gary's left shoulder playing piano is Debbie Lyseng-Mahoney, then there's Angie Rasmusson on bari sax, Kathy Graff, and you know the rest. Yes, that is Tony Hansen on drums, and hidden under the sousaphone bell is Ken Johnson."   
I think one of the spectators in the background is Sudhir Agarwal. I got to know Sudhi's mother Sarla when she ran Country Day Nursery and I periodically visited with my newspaper camera. It was charming to see Sarla still spinning vinyl records at CDN long after they were obsolete. She did her teaching/supervising at Federated Church.
What a tremendous icon that alfalfa arch was. You can see a large photo on the wall at Willie's Super Valu.
Looking forward to the 150th
It dawns on me that our "Sesquicentennial" isn't that far off in the scheme of things. That would be the 150th anniversary. Am I computing right if I report that year would be 2021? I wonder if the festivities will match those in 1971 or even 1947.
The Diamond Jubilee celebration actually should have been in 1946, not '47, but the delay was deemed necessary, maybe because of the adjustment needed with "the boys coming back" from war in '46. Programs were held at the county fairgrounds in both 1947 and 1971. I was proud to be in the band in '71.
Our old reliable Morris Theater is in the background in photo. The movies in the 1970s weren't very good. The '70s overall proved to be a pretty stagnant decade. An air of cynicism or resignation prevailed a good share of the time. A year after this photo was taken, we got the first revelations about Watergate. The economy between 1973 and 1983 was terrible. We had that phenomenon called "stagflation."
Remember inflation? Michael Kinsley says inflation happens once every generation. People slowly forget about it in its aftermath, we lose our vigilance and then it comes along again, Kinsley pointed out. Paul Volcker took over at "the Fed" and jacked up interest rates, as if he were applying a fire extinguisher to a fire. Thus inflation was slayed. In the meantime I could go to old First Federal Bank (forerunner to Riverwood) and get a certificate of deposit for something like 13 per cent interest. I'm not kidding you: 13 per cent! Our economy would have crashed and burned had this continued.
Today banks pay essentially no interest. Maybe that could tank the economy too.
At the time the photo was taken, middle class people did not put their money in the stock market. Actually they spent whatever money they made. People watched pennies then.
I am happy to share this Morris Centennial photo. That event has seemed to fade in our collective community memory, just like the big community celebration and parade for Jerry Koosman in 1969. That name doesn't mean anything to you? That underscores my point. The Met Lounge has its name because of Jerry, who pitched for the New York Mets. I hope Jerry has gotten into the habit of paying his taxes. He was a little like Wesley Snipes for a while. Incarceration gave him some incentive.
Rich history of music here
The ensembles that John Woell directed continued a long tradition in Morris. I would like to acknowledge here the famed Watzke Orchestra of an earlier time. I went to high school with Tom and Matt Watzke. Tom was in my 1973 class and Matt a year older. Paul Watzke is synonymous with hockey promotion and helped push the construction of our Lee Community Center. He was undeterred by an eye injury from hockey. Such zeal. I should be so fortunate to be committed to something like that.
The Watzke name is ingrained in Motown history. Tom played the trumpet like me.
The Diamond Jubliee publication of 1947 refers to "the famed Watzke Orchestra." Anton Watzke was founder, and the personnel included several Watzke family members. The orchestra was in demand for concerts, socials, church and school programs, public and private dancing parties, and other occasions. A photo shows eleven members. I like these relatively small groups because they're flexible and mobile. A roster of members from 1907 includes: Taylor Pennock, Anton Watzke (director), William Sobey, Frank Zahl, Harry Brom, Lillian Watzke, Ruth Reeves, Alfred Watzke, "Happy" Treischel, Mabel Watzke and Anton Watzke Jr.
We read that "throughout all its years, Morris has had no musical organization more closely identified with the community than the famed Watzke Orchestra." The group included a string bass player.
We must not overlook the Morris Silver Cornet Band too! The Silver Cornet Band was fairly large and must have produced a most robust sound. It lent its musical strains around Morris way back around the turn of the century. Music maestro please!
We expect to see and hear this kind of musical flair when Morris' Sesquicentennial comes. I remember communicating with a friend in Cedar Rapids IA when that community marked its 150th, and he congratulated me on being able to spell "Sesquicentennial." Better practice now.
What will life be like in 2021? What will bank interest rates be? Will we have avoided an economic depression by then? Will I just be a spectator?
I once told Ken Hamrum that I probably was at my best playing trumpet at around age 17. After that I studied too much, pondered too much and may have developed a Chuck Knoblauch type of problem, I told attorney Ken. His response: "You mean you had trouble throwing the ball to first base?" Wise guy.
If I concentrate, maybe I could step into the "Wayback" and play like I did years ago. (Forget about the "diaphragm.")
Personally I haven't heard any talk yet of our Morris Sesquicentennial. Am I the first to broach it? Maybe we could book the "Flying Elvises" for a visit!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian! How funny you remembered me! I remember that big fight I had with Mr. W. I was very angry and stomped out of rehearsal " You can't fire me, I quit!" was kind of the theme. I loved band. I wish I could still be there.