March 8th………“AS A LITTLE FARM BOY, IN KIESTER, MINNESOTA, WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU SEE YOUR FIRST COLOR TELEVISION? WHAT PROGRAM WAS ON THE AIR THAT DAY?”
With the masterful downstroke of his conductor’s baton, our honorable Mr. Milton Leland Glende brought the Kiester High School Band to begin playing the strains of the majestic musical composition called, “Pomp and Circumstance”. Here, in 1961, and since the turn of the century, this broad and moving piece of orchestration has traditionally signaled various pageantries, king coronations and especially, the gallant march for High School Graduation ceremonies across our great state of Minnesota and America, overall. There, in our handsome school gymnasium, all visiting hushed in respect as these young graduates were about to be honored. The parents of these fine young men and women, having themselves grown up through the Great Depression and World War II, passed on a distinct elegance to this Graduating Class of well-deserving young people.
Unlike the slovenly, uncaring young generation of today, these young ladies and gentlemen of Kiester High School showed the utmost respect for this solemn and celebratory occasion by dressing in their very finest attire. Graduation gowns of the “Blue & White” were gracing young ladies so beautifully, many of who wore the traditional white gloves along with their best dresses. Senior graduation gowns on the young men of that fine class were worn over their handsome suits and ties, with new formal dress shoes adding that special panache to this culminating occasion that marked all of their education up to this point in their lives.
Even as a young observer to all this, I was of the conviction that, thanks to the Christian ethics that permeated the highest percentage of farming folk of our area; no matter how distant our farms were from each other, we all saw each other as connected families. When a nearby farm family was hurting, your neighbors came to call to do chores for you, or make meals for you because, as brothers and sisters in Christ, it was better to give than to receive. In this case, graduation was a time of happy celebration and it was a joyful thing to be invited to local farm homes to rejoice for their graduating Senior, bring cards, gifts and food to mark this elevated achievement in their young life and pray God Speed to whatever life’s next chapter would be for them.
There, in the late spring of 1961, it was one of those wonderful times to help celebrate someone’s graduation from Kiester High School. Not only did our handsome brother, Lowell, graduate that year, but our farm neighbor, Charlie and Mabel Heitzeg’s daughter, Carol, also was a member of Lowell’s graduating class. Since Sunday was a traditional day of rest for most farm families, the Heitzegs had invited our family to their home that evening to join in the party for Carol. Their welcome to us was always buoyant with smiles and kindness as we arrived. The happy aroma of coffee permeated the house as young and old milled around their spacious home and visited with one another. For me, though, something caught my little boy eyes that I had never EVER seen before. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, a farm home was glad to have maybe just ONE television in the home and that TV had only a black and white picture tube. Our dear daddy was a big fan of the western TV show called, “Bonanza”. And, since this was Sunday night, “Bonanza” was “on the air” at Charlie and Mabel’s, too. BUT, the Heitzegs had one of those fancy television sets that, if certain shows were available, played the programs in COLOR!!!
I was stunned and captured by the awe of it all!!! There was “Hoss” and “Little Joe” talking to their father, “Ben Cartright”…….and they were IN COLOR!! Even though their faces were green and the grass was blue…..heyyyy!!! the main thing is they were in COLOR!! I was thrilled! Being a hometown man, Charlie had likely purchased his handsome COLOR television set from Ralph’s Radio Shop in town. In those days, farm families supported local businesses first and foremost.
What a grand series of celebrations: not only to see our handsome brother graduate High School and his neighbor friend graduate High School, but to also see my very first COLOR television set playing our family’s favorite western show, “Bonanaza”!!! That was truly a triple treat for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉