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).

Monday, November 24, 2014

A quite blustery day as we near Thanksgiving 2014

I'm looking out the back picture windows at our home, looking north, and seeing the fury of winter. It's 8:15 a.m. on Monday morning. We're in Thanksgiving week. It might just as well be Christmas or New Year's.
"The weather isn't fit for man or beast," to quote "Yukon Cornelius" from "Rudolph and Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Jay at Willie's told me school is on like normal. I was a bit surprised at that.
Thanksgiving was a special stand-alone holiday when I was young. Today it's paired with this curious phenomenon called "Black Friday." For a long time I groped finding the words to express displeasure with the term "Black Friday." It just didn't seem right. It didn't seem to connote any joy. Finally, last year, John Stone, the newspaper guy to the east of here (in Pope County), helped me out with the terminology. Mr. Stone suggested in a column that "Black Friday" was a "somber"-sounding term, not really apt for a supposedly upbeat occasion.
Thanks to Mr. Stone, I can now express my displeasure appropriately.
Thanksgiving by contrast is a holiday felt from the heart.
I'm not sure where we'll dine for Thanksgiving 2014. The Morris community once had a community meal for Thanksgiving. It was well-promoted and attended. It was held at the bottom level of Assumption Church. I can still visualize the assortment of pies (with toppings) we chose from. We always "paid our way." I hope the event wasn't canceled for financial reasons. I can also remember when Prairie Inn advertised its Thanksgiving buffet. That too has bit the dust.
Last year I could find no place that offered a Thanksgiving meal. I was advised later that when all else fails, the hospital has a cafeteria where one can obtain a meal. I appreciate knowing that. I don't have the skill to prepare the traditional Thanksgiving meal, to prepare a full turkey in the oven etc. I would not be a candidate for a Norman Rockwell painting portraying such a scene. And even if I could do it, we are a mere family of two. We couldn't consume all that food.
If I remember correctly, I got a couple frozen dinners for us to have for Thanksgiving last year. It did the job. We will feel anxious for things to return to normal the next morning.
The Pilgrims reached Plymouth in December of 1620. They had rejected Cape Cod. Plymouth Rock itself is only five feet square. Tourists there are known to ask strange questions. "Was the first Thanksgiving served on top of it?" "Did Christopher Columbus drop off the Pilgrims?" Truth be told, exploration was pretty vigorous between 1492 and 1620. By the time the first English people settled, other Europeans had already reached half of the 48 states.
Spanish conquistadors examined the interior of the continent in 1542. They rafted the Mississippi River. They showed horses to Native Americans who had never before seen them. The Spanish gave thanks and dined with Indians 56 years before the Pilgrim Thanksgiving at Plymouth.
In 1602 a band of English built a fort on Cuttyhunk Island. Were they driven by a passion for religious freedom? I'm afraid the explanation isn't so romantic. They came to get rich digging sassafras, prized in Europe as a cure for the clap.
Let's tip the hat to Giovanni da Verrazzano. The intrepid Italian toured the Eastern seaboard in 1524. At one point he directed a crewman to swim ashore. What would the gawking natives do? They took the man to a fire, not to roast him but to warm him! Verrazzano went north and admired a wide bay, later to become New York Harbor. In 1528 he met his tragic end, getting seized by cannibals on a Caribbean island. Verrazzano deserves to be more famous than he is.
Of course, us Norwegians know the full story of how the ocean was traversed for settlement here. It's a fact that the intrepid Vikings established the fishing village of L'Anse aux Meadows on a grassy plateau. Radiocarbon dating pinpoints the year of 1000 A.D. Pretty impressive work by my forebears.
The Sagas tell us about the Vikings. They are based on reality but have been embellished to include weird, paranormal twists.
Did the Vikings come to Kensington MN? The top proponent of the Runestone suggests it was actually post-pagan explorers that came here.
It was the English stock of New England that molded the new nation's memory. We have the iconic image of the Pilgrim fathers - men with those guns that looked like a trumpet on the end - seeding the new land with their piety and work ethic. If only the whole early history of America could be so tranquil. Nevertheless we have our ideals.
The bottom line: History is written by the winners.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My song about Harmon is salute to early Twins years

Harmon Killebrew hit two home runs in the first game we ever attended at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington. It was a night game against the Baltimore Orioles. I was eight or nine years old.
I felt a distinct thrill seeing those Minnesota Twins warming up in pre-game. There they were, real people, in the flesh: Zoilo Versalles, Rich Rollins and "The Killer," Harmon Killebrew. I had read about them, seen them on TV, but here they were on that beautiful, expansive green grass.
The idea struck me this past summer to write a song about "Hammerin' Harmon." I call it "The Ballad of Harmon Killebrew." As a ballad it tells a story. I insert the word "boomers" in the first verse because the Twins came into existence as the wave of baby boomer children was really starting to have a presence.
"When boomers were young and we sought our fun. . .under that Bloomington sky."
I invite you to listen by clicking on the YouTube link below. The song was recorded in Nashville TN at the studio of Frank Michels. The singer is David Ward. Thanks guys.
I haven't visited Nashville since 1998. I miss it. I'd go straight to "Tootsie's Orchid Lounge" on Broadway. Maybe some of that old songwriting genius could rub off on me there. Music created in Nashville is truly from the heart.
Jeff Arundel has written the best-known song about Harmon Killebrew to date. Jeff's song isn't just about Harmon, it's about father-son relationships and the maturation process. The best songs give us "sub-plots" like that. My song is a little more superficial and I don't mind. I really wanted to work in several names of the very early Twins players. I accomplished that, plus I gave special attention to the 1965 World Series which was the apex of the early Twins years.
Friends of mine might say "man, that happened so long ago, would anyone care?" I feel it's vital we always be reminded of that storied 1965 season, a season that may have become a little buried in our memories due to the accomplishments of the 1987 and 1991 teams. We all went gaga in '87 and '91, me included, but all that left me with a little sadness as I remembered the '65 team came up just shy of the world championship. We won three games in the World Series of '65. We lost to the Dodgers and their superstar pitcher Sandy Koufax in Game 7.
Sandy Koufax! I even inserted his name in my song, quite respectfully. The Dodgers' manager had to alter his pitching rotation for the Series because of Sandy having to observe a Jewish holiday!
How heartbreaking Game 7 was! But remember, '65 was the year that the storied New York Yankees' dynasty of that era died. The Twins had a lot to do with that. The key date was July 11. The Twins trailed by one run going into the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees. Killebrew hit a two-run home run for the win! It was like a knockout punch vs. those (damn) Yankees. Mickey Mantle was in the ranks.
My song talks about how "The Senators came" (to Minnesota) - indeed we were not a "new" team in 1961, we were a transplant! Calvin Griffith brought his struggling Washington Senators here. The franchise picked up steam upon coming to the Bloomington prairie. What heroes those early Twins were, in the eyes of the young "boomers," the kids who watched the Casey Jones TV show. Killebrew became an icon. I hope my song contributes something in terms of remembering him and the early Minnesota Twins, the chapter with Earl Battey, Zoilo Versalles and Vic Power!
Harmon has left this life. The chorus of my song ends with me pointing out that Harmon is now "out on that heavenly field" (playing baseball in heaven of course). I'm reminded of the 1951 movie "Angels in the Outfield."
Harmon was the first of four batters to hit a ball over the left field roof at Detroit's Tiger Stadium. He was like a god out of Green mythology.
Click on the link below to read a post I wrote not long after Harmon's death, called "The ball sailed off Harmon's bat." Thanks for reading, and listening.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kirby Puckett, "that bowling ball," thrilled us in past era

How strange it seems, writing about the Kirby Puckett era in Twins baseball as "the old days." A check of the calendar shows, indeed, that the storied '87 and '91 teams are getting buried in time. Puckett was a symbol of all that success.
I wrote a song in 1997 in honor of this fantastic athlete. At the time of doing this, I mentioned the project to a photographer acquaintance who worked for the Fergus Falls-based advertising shopper. He instantly smiled and said "oh, that bowling ball!" What a nifty reference to "The Puck's" physique. It was made with reverence.
Regardless of the physique, Puckett put up numbers that would be the envy of any ballplayer. The physique might be useful for knocking over a catcher or breaking up the double play. "That bowling ball" brought endless loud acclamations from fans who filled the Metrodome. Now the Metrodome is being retired into the distant past. I remember all the discussions leading up to the Dome, and its unveiling as a facility so different from its predecessor.
BTW here's a link to the song I wrote about Kirby Puckett, now on YouTube. Listen and enjoy:
We revere superstars like Kirby Puckett. Presumably we'd love trading places with them. Realistically we would be foolish having such thoughts. Call those guys gladiators. Many of them end up with chronic health issues related to the sport they played.
The biggest hazard in baseball is getting hit by a pitched ball. September 28, 1995, was a fateful day in Twins world. Puckett, poised aggressively at the plate like always, was hit in the face by a fastball. He expected the pitch to break. It did not. The blow shattered his jaw and put him out for the rest of the season.
When the following spring training came along, he at first hit well. But on March 28 he woke up unable to see out of his right eye. Glaucoma was discovered. Four surgeries followed but the problem could not be corrected. A connection to the hit-by-pitch incident? Puckett "had lost his career to an errant Dennis Martinez pitch," wrote Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
That pitch "smashed his jaw and blurred his vision," Passan continued. "Puckett never was the same after the beaning." Passan described the ugly aftermath in the moments following the incident: "Blood pooled on the ground. When Puckett stood a few minutes later, a towel colored crimson by blood covered his mouth." Teammate Chuck Knoblauch commented post-game: "I still can't believe how much he was bleeding."
Knoblauch would be forced out of the game by a psychological issue, when he was playing for the Yankees. Knoblauch could no longer throw the ball to first base. You are truly in a fishbowl playing major league baseball.
The 1987 story of the Twins seemed like a fairy tale. Few expected our team would reach such heights. Even after it was over, there were skeptics. But the historical record shows we were "world champions." We did it.
Sometimes I think Midwestern teams have to do more to convince people. Any team on the East Coast wins accolades for an accomplishment - there's never any asterisk. The elite East Coast media never seem quite convinced we deserve to be No. 1 out here. We did it again in 1991: climbed to the top. That was the Jack Morris year. Puckett was essential in both campaigns.
Puckett broke into the majors in 1984. He batted over .300 for his career, won several Gold Gloves and graced the diamond for ten All-Star Game appearances. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, in 2001. His sheer exuberance was praised. He wore one uniform his whole career. We'll never forget his leaping catch against the wall at the Dome.
Kirby was the youngest of nine children born into poverty in a Chicago housing project. He got four hits in his first major league start. Would that have been good enough to keep Gene Mauch from platooning him, had Mauch still been manager? Mauch was notorious for the approach. I remember Lyman Bostock complaining.
Puckett's best year was 1988 when he batted .356 with 24 home runs, 42 doubles and 121 RBIs. He anchored the No. 3 spot in the Twins' batting order. He looked like a fullback in football. Still I gravitate to my friend's term: "bowling ball."
Kirby employed a leg kick as he prepared to swing. Close your eyes and I'm sure you can re-create it all in your head. Pretend you're waving a "homer hanky" all over again!
Puckett's post-baseball story was sad - he ballooned up to 300-plus pounds. He died in March of 2006 at the age of just 45. A stroke was the cause. He came from a family with a variety of health issues. Two brothers died very young. Glaucoma was part of a circulatory disorder present in Puckett's entire body.
Today, Puckett and Hrbek and the rest of the gang are a chapter that is receding further into the past, just as the Dome itself is. Man, I remember when the Dome was brand new. As if by magic, we wouldn't have to worry at all about uncooperative weather any more.
Fans always get restless and they want something new. So we got Target Field. I have yet to visit there. I'm not sure the Twins can capture my interest anymore. But how I revere those memories. Truth be told, I cherish more the memories of the Killebrew/Oliva team. But what a blast we had in the late 1980s. It makes me want to recite the title of my song: "I Wanna Be Like Kirby Puckett."
Kirby Puckett, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

San Mateo CA: wonderful place, Mediterranean climate

Spectacular San Mateo Bridge (Richard Eriksson photo)
First I invite you to click on the link below to hear a song I wrote in 1982, inspired by the community of San Mateo CA! It was recorded as a "demo" when I had a chance to submit some material to recording artist T.G. Sheppard. The song was recorded in Canoga Park CA. Enjoy! 
- Brian Williams, Morris MN
My sense of the macro world was driven by a hobby in my youth. I subscribed to a publication full of contributions from youth who lived all over the U.S. Such an experience can be like a geography lesson. Where is San Mateo, California? What a wonderful name for a community. It's where the co-publishers of the hobby journal lived. Those guys weren't much older than me. They were two brothers, last name of Gaydos.
I learned that San Mateo was a sunny community in California. I might suggest it's a wonderful place to live, but I suppose earthquakes are a worry. It's in the San Francisco Bay area. The Golden Gate Bridge is breathtaking. There's another bridge with the San Mateo name that is quite the impressive structure too.
San Mateo doesn't seem like a famous city but it's certainly substantial. It has a population of just under 100,000. It's in the high-tech enclave of Silicon Valley. It's one of the larger suburbs on the San Francisco peninsula. The Mediterranean type of climate would seem quite pleasant. The typical weather fare calls for warm, dry summers and mild, damp winters. I could certainly pine for such a setting given that as I write this, we're on the cusp of another Minnesota winter! Our last winter tested our resilience for living here.
I can close my eyes and think of wonderful San Mateo CA. They do deal with winds there, due to a gap in the mountains west of the College of San Mateo. Wind? I would be quite acclimated already. The wind brings fog toward San Mateo in late afternoon through early morning in summer.
I saw an update on the Gaydos boys - Ron and Len - a few years ago in the dying days of the publication they founded. Dying days? Well of course, silly rabbit, the Internet has wiped out the need for most hobby-oriented print publications.
The Gaydos boys launched their adventure, their publication, in the days well before desktop publishing, therefore they had special hurdles to surmount. And of course, the publication had a crude (quaint, viewed from today) look. Oh, but it was charming and appealing to the hobbyists. OK, what was that hobby? It was APBA simulation baseball, a tabletop game using dice and game boards. Far out!
Madden Football wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eyes yet. Those were the "analog" days of using systems that could be cumbersome, slow and taxing. We didn't know any different. We loved it. I think we learned discipline that might escape the youth of today, who take so much for granted. APBA baseball was slow. But we vividly saw how the whole system was set up. We saw its underbelly. It made us analyze mathematically. It complemented our formal education. Certainly we had to be astute with numbers. You needed an organized mind. The only "electric" component to the game might be a table lamp.
The APBA Journal connected the community of APBA baseball hobbyists from all around the U.S. I bought my game in 1970. I only played it for 4-5 years, then I moved on to other interests, but I have never forgotten about APBA, the "APBA Journal" and the Gaydos boys. The Gaydos boys of San Mateo CA.
"San Mateo" is Spanish for "Saint Matthew." By car - the car has almost divine importance in California - San Mateo is 30 minutes from downtown San Jose and 25 miles from downtown San Francisco.
You'll probably get on State Route 92 which might be the "San Mateo Freeway" that I write about in my original song. State Route 92 traverses the spectacular San Mateo Bridge. It meets State Route 35.
San Mateo has one of the larger, well-developed, more prominent suburban downtowns in the San Francisco Bay area. You'll want to visit Hillsdale Mall to be sure. The economy of the city is diverse with jobs in tech, health care, financial services, government and retail trade. The College of San Mateo has over 10,000 students, and is located in the western foothills, affording a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. The chorus of my song ends with a reference to glorious "San Francisco Bay!"
San Mateo cares about its overall environment and has 15-plus parks scattered around. "Coyote Point Park" is a rock outcropped peninsula that juts out into San Francisco Bay. What a place!
How wonderful it would be to visit San Mateo CA, assuming no earthquake is looming! I hope the "Gaydos boys" remain happy and healthy. Good luck, guys. I'm happy to have written a song about your stomping grounds!
"San Mateo Freeway. . .It's taking me where I want to be. . ."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Redwood Valley ends MACA volleyball season

First, let's correct another error from the Willmar newspaper: This is in the sport of cross country where MACA has two student athletes in for the state meet. Savannah Aanerud is a sophomore, not a freshman as reported in the West Central Tribune article reviewing the section meet.
A cross country parent gave me the heads-up. This parent also said "Savannah's 16th birthday was the day of the section meet." Well, congrats and good luck in the spectacular state cross country meet which is held in Northfield (Jesse James' last stand).
I have the error corrected on my blog post. My credibility is all I have as a journalist.
Redwood Valley 3, Tigers 2
The Tigers of the volleyball world were hoping to get through round 2 of post-season play. They were the slight on-paper favorite.
MACA met Redwood Valley on a hectic night at our local public school. The resource expo and community meal were held Tuesday. Originally those events were supposed to be on Monday. Our family got fooled. Yes, I realize the change was well-promoted, as several people have told me. Some of us are a little isolated. Whenever I turn on the Morris radio, as during a bad storm or tornado watch, it seems we're subjected to rock 'n' roll music from the '50s and '60s. It's not a favored fare of mine, especially blaring through the speakers of a cheap radio.
Who's Joe Schmidt or Joe Schmitt or however it's spelled? Evidently the resource expo was re-scheduled in deference to him. That's according to word on the street. I would suggest that the school calendar not be changed so cavalierly.
The volleyball story on Tuesday night was one of back and forth. The Tigers were second-seeded in sub-section, Redwood Valley third. A look at the won-lost records makes me wonder why MACA would be favored. Redwood Valley owned 23 wins coming in, MACA 18. But hopes were high among the orange and black faithful at the Morris Area gym.
Game 1 showed this would certainly be no easy night for coach Kristi Fehr's Tigers. Redwood turned us back 25-22. But MACA fought back to win by the same score in game 2. The pivotal game 3 saw Redwood Valley wrest the momentum back, via a 25-18 win. Now we're on the ropes.
MACA had what it took to prevail in game 4, albeit in a squeaker. MACA won 25-23. Bring on game 5! Alas it was the third-seeded Redwood Valley athletes who prevailed, 15-9, so MACA had to accept the end to its season.
Redwood Valley came out of the night with a glittering 24-5 record. The final Morris Area Chokio Alberta mark: 18-9. It certainly was a memory-filled season.
Karly Fehr was in her usual role as the setting standout. She had 114 good sets in 117 attempts and 32 assists.
Lacee Maanum had the top total in kills with 14, and her good/attempts numbers were 50 of 55. Two Tigers each had 12 kills: Kayla Pring (53 of 58 in G/A) and Brooke Gillespie (41 of 44). Tracy Meichsner had one kill on six of eight G/A. Fehr had a kill on a perfect seven of seven. Haley Erdahl had nine of ten stats in G/A.
Five Tigers each had one ace block: Maanum, Erdahl, Pring, Fehr and Meichsner.
Kourtney Giese, the "libero," was mighty proficient in digs and posted the team-best 36 total. Gillespie had 19 followed by Erdahl (12), Lindsey Dierks (10), Pring (9), Fehr (8) and Meichsner (6). Two Tigers each had one serving ace: Erdahl (17 of 19 in G/A) and Dierks (15/15).
Erratum, part 2
As long as we're correcting errors in this post, let's make note of the band concert program which a friend tells me had a reference to "University of Minnesota-Moorhead." There actually were visitors from the Moorhead campus performing on Monday.
I don't report this to point fingers but mainly to express amusement. If I had slipped up like this in my newspaper days, I would have been burned in effigy on Morris' main street by a howling mob bearing torches. Obviously it's "Minnesota State University-Moorhead," which I have always seen as a cumbersome name. It was so much easier to say "Moorhead State College" or "St. Cloud State College." Who cares if the word "college" or "university" is used? Such vanity.
Morris people are offended by the mixup because we're obviously so much superior, being aligned with the U of M, to those mongrel state colleges, right? My tongue is in cheek.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com