July 10th…“TELL ABOUT A MUSICAL SUMMERTIME MEMORY”.
As a recent passenger aboard a gentle time machine, I was transported back to a perfect Midwest summer evening in the year 1963. The landing coordinates of that mild-mannered machine placed me at the intersection of Main and Center Streets there in our beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. In my mind’s eye, I can still see giant, white, cotton candy clouds floating gently overhead as if to be celestial spectators of what was to musically transpire below. A mellowing sun decided to cast its golden spotlight across the tree-lined streets and beamed right through to the center of our town as a heavenly spotlight on what would soon become music on the air.
Farmers finished the last milking of their dairy herds for the day and loaded their families into the car to head down the gravel roads into town to enjoy munchies, mingling and music each Wednesday evening during that summer. Our Noorlun chariot joined other dust-covered vehicles in procession along those same classic gravel roads as the town’s population grew that evening for the concert by our Kiester High School Marching Band.
Not only was the school campus physically in the center of town, the Kiester High School Music Program was central in our community’s heart and pride, as well. A key source for that pride lay in the excellent leadership of the school’s program by her Music Director, the honorable Mr. Milton Glende. Prior to each Wednesday night concert, I’m sure the school’s band room was a hustling and bustling place as Mr. Glende could be found fine tuning performances and ensuring the sharpest look possible for each uniform worn by our large marching band.
On an aside, even though the young people I mention in this recollection were “mere” teenagers, I was always in awe of my sister and brother’s generation of young adults. To me, they all possessed a maturity and panache for life that was far beyond their chronological years. I pleasantly surmise that this maturity, that I witnessed in those days, came from a combination of good, old-fashioned American ideals and an inculcation of fine morals by their rural upbringings with Christian parents who taught them well in all the tenets of living an honorable life.
Living out the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”, Steven Fry, and other local Boy Scouts gave wonderful community service by bringing folding chairs and music stands so that the center intersection of town could now be made into an entertainment arena with a large, multi-rowed, semi-circle of chairs. Pretty soon, our ears perked to hear the approach of the spit n polish spectacle of our Kiester High School “Bulldog” Marching Band. Their regal uniforms brought a flash of blue and white elegance as they kept cadence with Mr. Glende’s leadership and the drumming that spurred each unison step. Once released from their marching formation, the band members took their seats and the evening’s musical extravaganza was about to begin.
Citizens of our village, parents of band members and all of us band member siblings found ourselves clustering for the best viewing positions for the summer concert that was soon to be initiated. While waiting for this massing of musical merriment, there was a happy din of farm neighbors in the crowd visiting with each other to exchange pleasantries as well as sharing the common pride we all had in our favorite family band member in that evening’s performance.
Our young people, now all seated with instruments at the ready, look to their honored conductor for his introductory welcome to the audience on that quiet summer’s evening. Mr. Glende then turned towards his young symphony around him, and, with that all knowing glance of attention, swirls his baton for the first musical selection to commence.
Like an artist wielding his paint brush, Mr. Glende painted a musical artistry from this cadre of instruments around him when there came rousing march tunes, classical melodies and Broadway songs. It was pleasingly evident that many of the musical renditions were crowd pleasers from the amount of applause after each song completed. It was a common denominator among all in attendance that the time and effort invested by these young performers each week was deeply appreciated by all who came to take in the joy of their performances.
As I look back to those times, I’m so happy that I lived in an era when formality, coupled with pride and pageantry, was still looked upon as an exemplary way of life for young adults. These moments were truly a cherished slice of Americana at its finest. Even as a young boy of only 9 years of age, I was so proud to see these handsome young men and women taking time out of their summer to dress their best, play their best and contribute to the joy of our little farming village. This happy glow of remembrance still wraps its peaceful arms around me to recall that joy we all experienced on those warm, balmy Minnesota evenings when music floated through the air of our quaint town and into the heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.