November 5th…“WHAT HIGH SCHOOL EVENT, THAT YOUR BIG SISTER WAS INVOLVED IN, MADE THE BIGGEST IMPRESSION ON YOU AS A YOUNG BOY IN YOUR MINNESOTA DAYS?”
Effervescence bubbled in happy abandon behind the sparkling smile of our sister, Rosemary Arlone Noorlun. On her way down from Heaven, in May of 1946, she must’ve bounced off the North Pole and collected some of its magnetism, for she had the gift of drawing others to her and was a catalyst for fun in so many ways. Even later in life, it was our Rosie who would bring family gatherings alive by the entourage of treasures she’d bring along to any family get-together. There’d be recipes for the ladies to try together in the kitchen, crafts for everyone to enjoy, board games, etc.. Of course, there were always the happy times around the Dining Room table with our family shoe box full of photos which was brought out from the hall closet. This entertainment was long before the digital age took over, so, our Norwegian queen of the scene would hand out packets of photos, wrapped in a rubber band, to everyone around the table. We’d pop off the rubber band and all of us would joyfully start jabbering about a certain memory a photo would spark or some other fun time of the past as we’d gaily shuffle those old photos from the top of the deck to the bottom and then pass that bundle of black n white memories to the next person at the dinner table. It was easy to see that that magnetic spirit, that she captured from the North Pole at birth, followed her throughout her 43 years of life she enjoyed on this earth.
Our elder sibling of the gentle gender was 8 years my senior when 1964 rolled around. So, as far as this little farmer boy brother was concerned, next to Mom and Dad, Rosemary was top notch, all grown up (in my eyes) and the queen of cool! Still consuming her, like a sparkling of pixie dust, was that magnetism that ignited a yearning to be involved in a plethora of High School activities. Why was that so? In my heart, I feel that it was likely because of her natural love for people and wanting to be part and parcel to all that school life had to offer. As a sampling list, sister Rosemary enjoyed being a part of Kiester High School Band, Chorus, Library Club, Girl’s Athletic Association (G.A.A.), Member of Student Council, Cheerleader, Future Farmer’s Of America Chapter Sweetheart and HomeComing Queen…….just to name a few of her extra-curricular activities.
A marvelous, musically magical mentor had his own form of magnetism that drew our sister and untold hundreds of other students to his classes of band and choir there at Kiester High School in Kiester, Minnesota. This master educator was the much revered and respected Mr. Milton Leland Glende who hailed from Otter Tail County, Minnesota when he entered this world in 1926. Mr. Glende exuded not only his zeal and passion for perfection in music, but he also interjected his high standards for professionalism and discipline into each young student that crossed the hallowed portals of the “Bulldog’s” Music Department’s hallway doors. Like any great educator, Mr. Glende earned his student’s respect through the discipline that followed him via his own personal upbringing, but also that which was garnered from his time in the military serving our country during World War II. If you marched for Mr. Glende, every row, both forward and across was straight as an arrow. The marching band’s classic Hussar Military Parade jackets would have every button polished, with slacks pressed and white parade shoes looking their whitest. Simply the best, they were!
I would’ve loved to have been the proverbial “mouse in the corner”. Then I would’ve been able to hear of the reasoning for this honored music educator to have picked my sister’s 1964 Senior year of high school to decide to make an actual professional recording of one of their Band & Choir concerts. Plans were in the works to create a 33 1/2 rpm (Revolutions Per Minute) vinyl record of the event. Big sister, Rosie, and her Music Department comrades must’ve been buzzing with excitement as they entered Mr. Glende’s music room each day. I can imagine the fragrance of brass polish and trumpet valve lubricant on the air as they pulled their instruments from their cases and found their seats in the semi-circle practice area. Rosie played drums in the band and sang in the choir, as well. There must’ve been an extra edge of excitement as this young assembly of musicians knew that every note needed to as close to perfection as possible to bring honor to the “blue and white” traditions of our dear alma mater and to make their cherished Music Master to be proud of their performances.
History is a bit foggy for me on this point, but I’d venture to hypothesize that this very special recording session would be made even more special by the event occurring in the evening hours. This way, local farmers (like our father) could finish the milking of dairy herds, and other chores, before getting himself and his family into their “Sunday Best” to drive into town for this gala event. You can just imagine our good town and country folk parking in front of the High School as the setting sun yielded its brightness to another evening as they make their way through the school’s entry foyer and to our gymnasium. As family after family filed past our school’s trophy case, they could see numerous awards that, with Mr. Glende’s leadership, had been won over the years by fine young musicians like they were about to enjoy that evening. Recording technicians were at the ready to capture this musical evening as Mr. Glende, with his dear wife Gertrude at the piano, commanded rapt attention from his band and choir. As he gave the down-stroke, the most wonderful music filled that gymnasium to the very rafters for all to enjoy.
The eight years, that separated big sister and myself, would not be considered a full generational spectrum. Yet, I sensed then, and still do today, that those young people involved on that evening, in 1964, were far more mature than their chronological teenage years. I surmise that it was because they were the direct offspring of the “Greatest Generation” that had sacrificed and won World War II. They were held to a higher degree of discipline as they grew up in the shadow of godly parents who helped form these young adults a into team of not only playing music that night that went onto a record album, but would go forth into their world of tomorrow to make a positive imprint with their own lives and the lives of the children they would bear. Yes, when Rosemary brought home the actual record album of that concert night, I was allowed to hold it and gently slide the vinyl record out from its protective paper sheathing. “Wow!!!!”, I exclaimed, it was CLEAR, SEE-THROUGH BLUE!!! I was entranced! Up to that point, I had only seen records made out of black vinyl. What a grand way of celebrating the music that was not only IN the record, but also celebrating the “Blue & White” of our Kiester High School “Bulldogs”.
At the tender age of only 43 years, the good Lord called our beloved sister Home to Heaven’s Shores. Sad as that time was, I celebrate her precious life while among us here on earth. It is as if her very life was a symphony as she orchestrated four beautiful children into this world that carry on the music of her life to this very day. And, what is more than gold to me, is when I listen to this 1964 recording of Rosemary and her classmates over and over. Each rat a tat tat of a snare drum, each drum a drum drum of a kettle drum………..I’m hearing our Rosie who was one of those musicians. When I hear “All Ye Who Music Love”, I hear the high, feminine voices and I ponder…….”One of those sweet voices is my Rosie!”……….the sweet sister of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.