"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Making a $ commitment to U of M-Morris

Dave Mona used to tease Sid Hartman about being tight with his money. People who grew up during the Depression have peculiar traits about money and material possessions, peculiar at least by today's standards. It's quite understandable in the context of what these people experienced in the 1930s.
Of course that time period gets ever more remote. People were defensive and protective. They wouldn't discard anything. We're 180 degrees opposite in our tech age of today, where we discard generations of that stuff and acquire a new generation. Obsolescence is so rapid. We have come to accept that as the norm. Our family still has a bulky, heavy TV set which we thought was so shiny new when we got it.
I grew up in a family with parents who were clinging to values nurtured in the Depression. I considered getting a second bicycle once and my father had reservations. As a kid, I wore clothing too large because "I'd grow into those" (and then they wouldn't have to be replaced as fast). Bless my parents because they dealt with their environment as best they could.
Our family has been blessed by having had our assets increase thanks to compound interest, going back to that time when banks paid interest. Remember those times? Given that blessing along with general prudence, we are in position to share a little with the institution that brought us to Morris.
We did make a gift at the time my father passed away four years ago. Was it a large donation? That is very subjective to judge. I think that two or three decades ago, it would have been considered large. The endless bull market of the recent past has shifted our standards for judging what an appreciable amount of money is. So, our donation of four years ago sort of came and went.
We're trying to do a little more now. So I got out our checkbook in a manner just as novel as if Sid Hartman did it. This is just as unusual as if Hartman were to pick up the tab for a lunch gathering of sports VIPs! I wrote out a check for $10,000 to the University of Minnesota Foundation. The point is to help the music department. I'm told this will be a quasi endowed fund. We're not in a position at least at the moment to make it a perpetually endowed fund. There are deep pocket people or corporations way above us, of course. We're just a family that happens to be associated with UMM's origins.
I'm getting to an age where my personal memories are getting more important. I witnessed the campus right from the get-go when it was in rapid transition from being an ag school. I was struck by the campus "circle drive." Music concerts were at Edson Auditorium. The music headquarters was the old historic building that now serves the multi-ethnic element. I once watched football from an upper level when it was played at the old P.E. Miller Field.
Football moved to a new facility where it enjoyed its glory era under the likes of coaches Al Molde and Mike Simpson. A football program of that caliber served its purpose at the time. Fortunes later faded whereupon we "solved" that by getting into a new conference. I will always miss the days when we played the well-known state universities. I guess the end had to come, but I cannot shed too many tears because football may be losing its cultural relevance due to the health issues. Soccer promotes much pride.
Music has marched forward through all of this. The Homecoming concert may be the most special day all year for UMM music. There is a whole succession of concerts through the school year, some more esoteric than others. They all serve the grand purpose of celebrating the music discipline on the UMM campus. I feel highly confident that UMM music represents a terrific investment for people like Mom and I who are contributing funds.
Regardless of the direction and priorities of higher education in the years ahead, there will always be a need for a vibrant, exciting music department. It enriches and it entertains. It is a PR ambassador. And it is safe. Nothing like the 2005 goalpost incident would ever happen in connection to music. Leave it to sports for silliness like that. The UMM Homecoming concert is like a refuge on Homecoming weekend. It has nothing to do with knocking an opponent on his keister.
 
Remembering the very start
Let's drift back in time to November of 1960. Winter was setting in. Let's imagine the grand old armory building in Morris, located where the public library is now. The UMM band made its debut performance on Saturday, Nov. 5. My father Ralph E. Williams was the director. He was UMM's only music faculty in the institution's first year. He did more than was technically required of him. I think the whole faculty was like that.
Those were seminal days when the very future of the institution seemed not fully assured. We seemed experimental as this small publicly-funded liberal arts institution on the prairie. My father grew up in Glenwood (high school class of 1934) and was familiar with the environment.
On November 5 of 1960, Ralph E. Williams directed the UMM band adorned in its navy blue uniforms trimmed with maroon and gold.
We regularly hear comments about how we need more of a bond between campus and community. The comment surfaces so regularly, I'm almost inclined to laugh when it comes up. UMM's debut band concert epitomized that hoped-for bond because the audience was Stevens County 4-Hers and their parents! An audience of about 1000 was present. Our band had about 50 pieces with the roster including six selected players from the Morris High School band.
"A band of this size was not anticipated the first year," we read in the Morris paper. The armory burned down in about 1966. The campus got through its experimental phase and became quite permanent. And today the Williams family, Martha and Brian, is pleased to renew its commitment, lest people think we're just yesterday's news.
 
Click on this link to read about the UMM men's chorus' trip to the New York World's Fair in 1964:
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2017/04/morris-had-presence-at-1964-new-york.html
 
Here you can read about the historic trip in 1962 of the men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair a.k.a. Century 21 Exposition:
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2017/04/umm-and-marvelous-seattle-worlds-fair.html
 
You may listen to the sounds of the early UMM men's chorus, from YouTube, via this link. It's exciting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcXFMzPGCH0&t=3s
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Eddie and the Cruisers II, Eddie Lives!" is OK

I thought I would never see the sequel to "Eddie and the Cruisers." I remember that release landing like a thud. I discovered the sequel on the "Charge!" TV network while surfing the other night, rather late at night. It was a pleasant surprise.
Certainly I was interested to see what this movie was all about, "dud" status notwithstanding. Sometimes when you examine something that has "dud" written all over it, you discover something redeeming. If you look at the "Eddie" sequel on its own terms, it has its moments. This is especially toward the end. It becomes like a big Bruce Springsteen concert.
Of course the "Eddie" sound parallels Springsteen quite a bit, and it's like Dion and the Belmonts if you go back to "Eddie Wilson's" formative times. The first movie presented this sound as cutting edge for its time. Wild rock 'n' roll was controversial in the pre-Beatles age. Eddie Wilson (fictional of course) went further. He got into a real progressive sound that was way out of whack for the early 1960s. The record company bosses would have none of it. A climactic scene has one of these typical shallow corporate music types telling about "a bunch of jerk-offs making weird sounds." That line stuck with me.
People in the music business will slam the door on anyone. The Internet and its immense possibilities has widened the horizons for all creative people. You don't have to try to get past that (expletive) velvet rope to try to enjoy the success of that very exclusive group. Small-time acts can pull their own weight. It's a blessing. Remember how the Beatles failed an audition with Decca? That shows how bad it was.
The sequel to the "Eddie" movie has some issues with how it's tied to the original, IMHO. Eddie explains that he did his disappearing act because of the insult of how he was treated by the company guy. Eddie had worked so hard on the new innovative album. I think there was more at work than that. There was a love angle in the first movie that sort of got buried. "Eddie's girl" was in that band, remember? And remember how Eddie saw his girl smooching with the Tom Berenger character at the college appearance? Remember how that incident launched Eddie into an angry dissing of the Berenger guy during the college concert? Remember the demoralizing effect this had for the whole band? I even saw this as a reason for the saxophone player's suicide that happened soon thereafter. The sax player was dragged into depression, as I saw it. The joy seemed gone.
The Berenger character named "Ridgeway" had the nickname "word man." The college incident nearly drove him away. Ridgeway in fact seemed the primary character in the first Eddie movie. His perspective prevailed. Berenger is not in the sequel.
Eddie explains in the sequel that he actually had a legitimate accident on the bridge, hitting the guard rail, whereupon the mishap developed into an opportunity to disappear. I always felt the disappearance was orchestrated all along. "Disappearing" is not something you can do on a mere whim. The Eddie in the first movie pulled it off, fulfilling the same destiny as that fellow who wrote the poem "Season in Hell." Really it was a masterful plot with a well-defined beginning, middle and end. Therefore a sequel would be quite challenging to plot, eh?
The first movie had belated success, only hitting paydirt when it found a home in the early days of HBO. It never succeeded on the big screen even with renewed tries.
A sequel represented a new attempt to juice this storyline up. The sequel was not successful. That doesn't mean we can't enjoy it if we just put certain expectations aside and give it a chance, on its own terms. That's what I did watching TV late at night.
I thought of the horrible reviews at the time of release. Bad reviews can get to be like a snowball rolling downhill. The critics really start pouring on the snark. Like in one review where I read that Eddie's girlfriend spent the whole movie crying. I didn't find that to be true at all. I think this actress did fine in her unpretentious way as a struggling young artist.
I found it charming and inspiring the way the great Michael Pare as a rejuvenated Eddie was a mentor for his group of young musicians who were finding themselves. The music and the sense of triumph at the end is boffo! Eddie finally introduces himself with the "Eddie Wilson" name.
At that point I wondered about the legal entanglement he'd end up in, by virtue of his re-surfacing after years of being considered "legally" dead! My, there would certainly be consequences to be faced. What if a life insurance policy had been paid!
Oh, but it's all about the music for Eddie and his mates! I suppose we can be inspired by that.
I didn't consider the sequel movie to be a waste of time at all. Oh, maybe it's an acquired taste. But I'm happy for Pare who gave us such a distinctive role. "Eddie and the Cruisers" helped define the 1980s. It showed that an artistic creation didn't have to get past that old "velvet rope" to get on its feet, make a profit etc. This is a consequence of tech expanding the boundaries for how art can be disseminated. I would recommend that you watch "Eddie and the Cruisers II, Eddie Lives!"
 
Here's a wrinkle: The first Eddie movie was nostalgic about the early 1960s, but when we watch it today, it's more nostalgic about the 1980s! Look at all the cigarette smoke floating around.
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, July 21, 2017

Oh to see a Cheshire Cat grin in D.C. thicket

I have written before that the "Beltway" around Washington D.C. is a unique and rather bizarre place that should not serve as an example for how anything else in the country should run. I was reflecting on Watergate. Young writers at the time looked up to "Woodward and Bernstein." Fine, but once again, don't think the Beltway operates like anywhere else. Old white men with personal baggage and failings go there to wield power.
Watergate was a ridiculous ordeal with so many players, so many people protecting their own narrow agendas, a series of trading cards could have been issued. Now we're seeing the same kind of thing. Amazingly the U.S. chose Donald Trump as its president. We chose a man with no experience in government or the military. We elected a total clown. So once again we are reminded of what an unusual place the Beltway is.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough: the Beltway is not to be viewed as a template for anything outside of its boundaries. Outside of its boundaries, institutions are run in a sensible way by reasonable and qualified people. We rub shoulders with them every day. But in Washington D.C.? There are sensible people there like our Senator Amy Klobuchar. But there's this big clown car populated by Republicans. It is becoming childish how they always cry out to "repeal Obamacare."
This was a nice little dog whistle proclamation for a long time, for as long as Republicans lacked real power to enact stuff. We are now seeing Republicans confront the reality of the power they have. They are dealing with a president who at least nominally is like them. But Trump is an inscrutable, dangerous mystery in so many ways. He never asserted himself to try to sell any sort of Republican-shaped package for health care. A responsible president would have given a nationally-televised speech on something so important.
Maybe subconsciously the Republicans know their ideas will never gain traction. They know that their "repeal Obamacare" cries were really rooted in racism, a desire to stigmatize our president of eight years as "the other." It's rather amusing now because Obama is out of power. There's no need to focus on him so much, but Trump flails away still trying to blame him for whatever. Does anyone think this is not child-like?
Rand Paul absolutely rants. But he's drifting in a far-off universe of ideas that are not rooted in reality. They simply appeal to a base of tea party-like zealots who also are not rooted in reality. They are an annoying peanut gallery. And it's becoming less and less funny.
Rand Paul is fine as an unusual personality or curiosity, but we don't want him impacting the kind of health care we receive. The common folk would get abused. Trump said in front of Australia's leader that Australia has superior health care. Australia has universal coverage.
David Brooks observed that Obama had "civility" of the kind that would be missed once he gave way to his successor. Many Trump supporters assumed that their guy would learn to be presidential and put aside a lot of the nonsense. What an incredible gamble that was. Trump is as silly as ever. But we have seen this before in that mysterious "Beltway," that "Alice Through the Looking Glass" kind of place.
We saw Nixon degenerate so badly, he was not even allowed to be commander in chief at the end. Bob Schieffer wrote about that. Had Nixon attempted some sort of direct order to the military, it would have had to get relayed through other parties. I wonder if the same type of arrangement is now in place for Trump, lest he try to launch nuclear weapons. And yet the American people elect these guys, through a long and wearisome process.
Remember all the Republican debates? They seemed endless. Weren't there something like 17 candidates? The irony is that all Republicans stand for the same things. No need for such endless discussion on "issues." Republicans want to slash regulations and cut taxes, period. Everything else is for show. Republicans pretend to bond with so-called social conservatives. They'll parrot the pro-life (anti-abortion) line. But as Thom Hartman has pointed out, Republicans "don't give a rat's patootie" about those issues. Republicans just want those votes in their back pocket - it's all expedience.
I have a friend who was right in line with the tea party movement and still forwards me emails reflecting that. I warned him once that his crowd underestimated the popularity of Obama in the broad public. I pointed out to him that there was a good barometer for understanding this. I told him to consider the frequency of Michelle Obama on the cover of women's magazines at the supermarket checkout. (I suppose it's sexist to say "women's magazines" but you know what I'm talking about.)
Americans knew the Obamas were working on their behalf. Our current president certainly is not. The current administration is devolving into a sinkhole very much like what we saw with Nixon. It's the "Beltway blues" once again. "Alice Through the Looking Glass." It would be nice to at least see a Cheshire Cat grin.
I have written a song in tribute to Barack Obama, simply called "Barack Obama." The chorus is sort of stretched out so I only have three verse sections. Most of the significant music about Obama is hip-hopish. My song is the standard style. I don't know if I'll have it recorded. Here are the lyrics:

"Barack Obama"
by Brian Williams

They said he was the "other"
Who came from who knows where
He could not be our leader
If he came from out there
But in his soul was greatness
In his mind a plan
With his vision he was the man

CHORUS
Barack Obama, Barack Obama
A man with the will to go and get Osama
Barack Obama, Barack Obama
A man with a style to get him called "No Drama"
Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama


He came from warm Hawaii
A paradise on Earth
He conquered all the mainland
With his inspiring words
He moved into the White House
With his spouse Michelle
And their girls who sparkled so well

(repeat chorus)

It was his inspiration
To help the common folk
No matter what their color
No matter what their vote
He felt it in his bosom
Lifting up our lot
With that chicken in every pot

(repeat chorus)

- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Music: natural bedfellow of politics

Robert F. Kennedy used "This Land is Your Land" as his theme song. Kennedy picked up the torch from Gene McCarthy, remember? I'm not sure Minnesotan McCarthy really wanted to give up the torch. He lit the fire of the anti-Viet Nam War crowd. His success signaled to LBJ that the status quo was about to be torpedoed.
"This Land is Your Land" is the populist anthem written by Woody Guthrie. It displaced the more pompous "God Bless America." I drove to Alexandria to see the movie "Bobby."
The U.S. makes such a big deal about how we cannot tolerate chemical weapons anymore. We drew a supposed "red line" in Syria and then kept raising the bar. We were supposed to intervene at a certain point. Barack Obama, averse by nature to war, couldn't pull the trigger. Maybe it's just as well he didn't. Sometimes intervention can turn into a sink hole.
What a vivid lesson in Viet Nam, where by the way, the U.S. used chemical weapons. That war happened during my formative years along with Watergate. I'm conditioned to expect really bad things happening with our nation's leaders. I suppose this explains the ironic title of the David Halberstam book "The Best and the Brightest."
Halberstam visited my alma mater of St. Cloud State while I was there. I read his book "October 1964" about the 1964 major league baseball season. He may have put a little too much symbolism in that season. I'm not sure the Yankees lost the World Series because they represented some sort of "old order." They were a good team as was St. Louis. The Series went seven games. St. Louis with a young Lou Brock won.
Brock played in St. Cloud MN on his way up. The St. Cloud team was the "Rox." St. Cloud has a team today that started out as the "River Bats" before adopting the old "Rox" name. I wonder if there were legalities or something to deal with. Several major leaguers polished their skills with the old "Rox" such as Gaylord Perry, Matty Alou and Orlando Cepeda, in addition to Brock.
Why did the Rox fade away? It was probably because of the creation of the Minnesota Twins in 1961, which monopolized all serious baseball interest from around Minnesota.
BTW the comic strip Doonesbury suggested a sequel of sorts to Halberstam's book, concurrent with Watergate: "The Worst and the Stupidest."
 
"He Never Thought He Would win"
Music and politics would seem to be natural bedfellows. Both are infused with emotions and symbolism. They can galvanize our thoughts and our ideals. The other night, I wrote a song inspired by the early days of the Trump administration. It's called "He Never Thought He Would Win."
I think the people around Trump performed in the campaign through a combination of fun, novelty and endorphins, as if it were really a lark. Hey, a presidential campaign! What a rush. They didn't really think they would win, did they? Did Trump himself think he would win?
How many of those people, such as those now under scrutiny in the Russia collusion investigation, now wish he had not won? Think of that Manafort fellow. Or my goodness, Flynn!
How many front-line Republicans, now scared because they actually have to take responsibility for U.S. health care, wish Trump had not won? Had he not won, Republicans could still feel their oats by continuing to throw stones at various things the Democrats did, like "Obamacare." Now they must be feeling rather a siege mentality. And what if the economy starts to collapse? In the end that's what brought Nixon down.
It's hard to believe a sane nation would elect Trump, he of the "Access Hollywood" embarrassment. Why wasn't that the end for him?
Will Trump be forced from his office through some kind of misconduct that is found? Would Federal marshals show up to arrest him? What if he as commander in chief directs the military to protect him and his family? Guess I'm thinking like the late Tom Clancy now. Imagine the movie.
I invite you to read the lyrics for my song "He Never Thought He Would Win." I have a nice melody for this. Will I have it recorded? As always I don't know. I write music and poetry all the time. I loved the opportunity to rhyme with the word "weird" (with Vladimir). Maynard Ferguson once sang a song where he rhymed with "weird." Here we go:

"He Never Thought He Would Win"
by Brian Williams

Eight years came and went for Mr. "O"
He was suave and classy, don't you know
Never one to show misogyny
He took care of us so faithfully

Now we say hello to Mr. Trump
So much like a bear with boxing gloves
Did he really plan this in advance?
It was like a sudden avalanche

CHORUS:
He never thought he would win
And now he's our president
Though he bragged a bunch
I just had a hunch
He never thought he would win


I thought Russia was our enemy
In the Cold War it was plain to see
You can't trust the Russians, we were told
Maybe it's a sign I'm growing old

So in touch with Mr. Vladimir
We might think that it was awful weird
Still we gave our nod to Mr. Trump
Now we wonder what we've went and done

(repeat chorus)

Jared Kushner is the son in law
He got power from Ivanka's pa
Donald Jr. has entitlement
They all understood what victory meant

On his way to being No. 1
Our new leader had a lightning tongue
He gave speeches that could knock 'em dead
If he only knew what lay ahead

(repeat chorus)

- Brian Willams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Like Watergate? That was then, this is now

My father reminded me of some wisdom from time to time: "Analogies are dangerous." This is reflected in Godwin's Law: Do not compare anything bad today with Hitler and the Nazis. Sean Spicer had to backtrack on a statement because of this. It is an amateur's mistake in Washington D.C. to say that any current thing is like the Nazis. Hitler and the Nazis were unique.
I'm bringing this up now because of comparisons being drawn with Watergate. It's so easy to talk like this. An administration is on the ropes for lots of suspicious behavior. So the media begin spewing out this meme that it's rather like Watergate again. Except that it isn't, except in the obviously superficial way: an administration is in trouble. Watergate was what it was.
I feel as though I'm transplanted to the summer of 1973. Headlines peeled away all sorts of layers of Watergate in that distant summer. How distant? I was fresh out of high school, having crossed the stage to accept my diploma at the 1968 gym. The times were far less optimistic than they are now.
Our current scandal with the Trump people hasn't even put a dent in the financial markets. I theorize that the direction of the financial markets in the near future will do much to determine if the Trump regime will collapse. Here's another old saying: "If you wait long enough, the bears are always right." My father probably never said that because he was never into stocks.
America was dragged down severely by our experience in the Viet Nam war. Imagine having to worry about being drafted and sent to Viet Nam. We cannot predict how the current travail with the Trump administration - affinity with Russia - is going to turn out. We cannot be certain of anything. So let's tone down the parallels with Watergate.
David Brooks has been foreseeing quite bad things all along, since Trump got momentum in the campaign. He suggests that a "Gerald Ford solution" is likely. We need a calm, temperate and common sense leader with political credentials to steer the nation out of this frenetic pace where we are assaulted by daily "tweets." We are assaulted by absurdity. We wonder how this became the new norm. Brooks projects an ending with a sensational climax, like Nixon waving those "V" signals by the helicopter, after which we'll gently descend to a new normal with temperate political minds, all led by a Gerald Ford type.
It happened before, right? But here we're falling into that fallacy where "analogies are dangerous." Watergate was about mendacity. About a president drunk on power with so many years of D.C. experience behind him (or literally drunk on alcohol). Mendacity doesn't seem to be the point now. It's about the novelty of a president who seems to have arrived at the position by accident, by virtue of his sheer performance capability and vanity.
The greatest wisdom may have been projected by Howard Stern. Stern implored Donald Trump on how he'd be better off not running for office. Trump is guaranteed the happiest life possible by virtue of his vast assets. Why would he want the headaches and stress of high political office? Maybe that's what scares me: wondering why Trump wants all that power. It's not like he has a Bernie Sanders vision where he wants to improve everyone's lot, to guarantee the poor greater comfort and hope. I could understand this altruistic motivation.
Trump actually seemed sympathetic once to progressive ideas. But now he's so totally wedded to the far right of American politics. We should be scared about this. Attention David Brooks: Mike Pence is no Gerald Ford. Pence once supported a measure to require funeral services for fetuses. He is more ideologically pure than Trump. I wonder if Trump could even define an ideology with precision. He just comes up with buzzwords like "Make America great again." For who? Who will benefit from this purportedly greater America? The richest one percent of our populace?
I laugh as I ponder the Republican majorities having the responsibility of creating a health care bill. Republicans do not forge new and generous entitlements. They never do. There isn't a trace of this in their DNA. Democrats carry the load for this, and the Republicans eventually say it's OK as they now do with Medicare. Satisfactory health care reform will come when Democrats climb back into the majority, but can we wait?
Hillary Clinton annoyed us in some ways, to be sure. She was the loyal wife when her husband coaxed oral sex from an intern in the White House. But our personal thoughts about Hillary should not have registered much. It's not personal. Just think if Hillary were president now. The Affordable Care Act would be getting fixed and improved. Our international relations would be vastly better. The ship of state would be sailing in spite of the few stones thrown by Republicans.
Many of us would now want to reverse our vote and let Hillary in. Brooks thinks we need a Gerald Ford type. Where will that come from? If you expect a scenario like Watergate with a like resolution, remember what my father told me: "Analogies are dangerous."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, July 7, 2017

When the All-Star Game was truly transfixing

I remember getting myself excused from a marching band practice. It was the night of the baseball All-Star Game and I felt I had to watch. We took a trip to Glenwood to visit my aunt and uncle which was certainly a most pleasant thing. But I was able to watch the All-Star Game.
Those were the days when 90 percent of all TV viewers at a given time were watching one of the "Big 3" TV networks. It seemed there was only one alternative: public TV (boring by definition). Baseball's All-Star Game had a greater appeal then. Quite unlike today, we could not "surf" through channels to find various non-Twins baseball games. We watched Twins games almost exclusively, the main exception being the "Game of the Week" on NBC with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek at the mike. Big special games like the All-Star Game were another exception.
Fans who followed the star players thus had quite limited opportunities to see them perform on television. That's why the All-Star Game made them feel like a kid in a candy store. That's why I suggested the family trip to Glenwood as a way of missing marching band practice.
Marching band was still at its height as a summer activity for kids here. This was the John Woell era as director of the band. Morris historians always put Bob Schaefer on a pedestal for making the marching band special. Woell took it over and kept standards high, perhaps just as high, for a long time. Eventually certain forces emerged to make marching band a tougher sell. Athletics burgeoned with girls finally getting equal opportunity with boys - a good thing, certainly - but sports perhaps started commanding too much of the focus of our kids. The kids felt they had to start going to sports camps in summer.
Woell ran the marching band with a disciplinarian's air. It worked for as long as the kids were really willing to prioritize marching band in their summer lives. I don't think it meant anything for advancement toward graduation. So it had to be fun, and kids considered it fun even with Woell hovering with his sometimes stern temperament. He could kick a kid out of practice and that kid would come back.
All-Star Games come and go today and I'm barely aware they happened. In those bygone analog days, there was a sense of scarcity about the media. That's hard to believe based on the media world in which we bathe today. The Minneapolis newspaper published baseball stats for both leagues only on Sunday. It was under the heading "Major averages." The hitters were listed in order based on batting average. We put so much stock in batting average then. Bill James would come along and enlighten us considerably.
Us Minnesota fans still felt a little defensive about our place in the baseball world. We were thrilled to hear about any Twins making the American League All-Star roster. We were on edge of seats hoping for these Twins to do well in the game. It would prove we were to be taken seriously in the pseudo-sacred world of big league ball. The parochialism continued for a time. I remember being at Wells Park covering the local Little League championship game on the same night as the All-Star Game, years later. Kirby Puckett was coming on strong in his career. I believe the P.A. announcer was Jim Tanner, who interrupted his main duties to say Puckett had just singled! Yea for Minnesota! Would this happen today if a Twin got a hit in the All-Star Game?
Baseball used to market itself to the broad public. That was in the days before the niche media that we take for granted today. Network TV similarly tried to appeal to the broad public. It was probably rather daunting. Today the entertainment world finds its desired audiences and sustains itself quite fine though those more specialized lenses. We are all better off.
The year I went to Glenwood, we were solidly in the three-network environment where we consumed the likes of Johnny Carson, even though such shows were incredibly superficial. My college advisor once said to me: "You could watch that show for years and not learn anything." No need to knock the likes of Carson as he was just delivering the kind of product that worked then. Norman Lear found a gold mine with urban-oriented comedy that appeared at least to be more cerebral.
But the big change would come with technology. No longer would we "change channels" by turning a knob. We suddenly sensed that TV was becoming more respectable. We were no longer as inclined to call it the "boob tube." If you used that term today, you'd be met with puzzlement. It used to be that afternoon TV in particular was vapid, so much so, you might be a candidate for mental illness if you watched a lot of it.
I had a friend who dissed a local important person by making gestures that indicated pushing buttons on a TV remote: In other words, that person watched a lot of TV and was thus vacant. Again, puzzlement if done today.
Today we have the History Channel which is currently trying to sell us an Amelia Earhart revelation. I was immediately skeptical when hearing about that story. Let me count the ways I'm skeptical. The bombshell photo seems very rough and inconclusive. Why was the photo even taken? Remember, in 1937 our photographic resources were limited, not at all like today when people take pictures on a whim. It's a non-descript photo. The revelatory portion is a small portion of the total photo.
I would consider the Earhart mystery to be like "Fortean phenomena," something we are intended to never find the answer to. If the Japanese had her as a prisoner, why didn't they parade her or negotiate something? Too many questions.
The All-Star Game came to Minnesota in 1965. The Twins also played in the World Series that year. We must remember the fascination we all felt. Up until 1960 there were no big league sports in Minnesota. Met Stadium stood there from 1956 to 1960 with no big league team here yet. We had the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers. The Millers were so quickly forgotten starting in 1961.
The weather was ideal for our All-Star Game played on July 13 of 1965. The sky was high and blue and the temperature was 78 degrees. The attendance was 46, 706. My, we could see Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in person, stars of the National League. Our Harmon Killebrew hit a two-run home run for the American League! But it was the Nationals winning 6-5. Killebrew batted third. I smile to learn that the great cult power hitter, Rocky Colavito, batted fourth. I have written a song about Colavito.
Our catcher Earl Battey batted eighth. Milt Pappas was our starting pitcher.
We must remember those early exciting times for big league sports in Minnesota, a universe we have come to take for granted. Our World War II veterans were middle-age men in the mid-'60s. Surely they were transfixed as were the rest of us. What heady and special times.
Oh, and the Beatles played a concert at Metropolitan Stadium in 1965!
 
Click on the link below to read the review/essay I wrote about the movie "Amelia" in 2013:
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The "dogleg road" takes us where, exactly?

Back when I had more time to take solo bicycle jaunts, I'd park the bike for a few moments of solitude next to Pomme de Terre River. This was at the spur that goes down to the riverside on the west side. A gazebo is there. Surely it was an ideal escape place when I was still with the newspaper. A dirt road was in the vicinity. Brent Waddell, the late Glen Helberg and yours truly called it the "dogleg road." It's actually a rather curious road because its purpose isn't clear.
Today there's a little more justification because of the development of townhomes next to the bypass (where, reportedly, we have the nuisance of truck drivers using their "Jake brakes"). In my teen years the bypass wasn't even there.
I got familiar with the dogleg road in my one year of cross country running in high school. Our ragtag group ran along there in the early-morning, before school hours. Tom Watzke was our best runner. I'm glad Gary Lembcke, the great hoops star, chose to run cross country with us rather than punish his talented body in football. He probably could have been a fine tight end, using his height to grab passes. Jim Satter was the football coach. Am I correct in asserting the team didn't accomplish up to the level of his football knowledge?
Anyway, us cross country runners were under coach Jerry Miller, a math teacher in school. I probably had no business being there. I was naïve and lacked basic understanding of the sport. I thought it was a big deal to simply jog three miles, or heck maybe even two miles. We didn't hear much about specialty running shoes in those days. For athletic endeavors we simply pulled on a pair of "tennis shoes."
The team voted me "hardest worker" probably for no other reason than I stuck it out. At the fall sports banquet, Miller reported my award and didn't say anything else about me, unlike the manner in which he gave other awards. My shake of the hands with him was totally obligatory. I'm not sure we even made eye contact. I wasn't real pleased with that. I was just a kid and you have to give kids some slack to fail or to even feel confused.
I felt pressure to take part in some sort of athletic activity. Perhaps that was misdirected. I spent time in dental offices paging through old MHS yearbooks in which I saw the athletes so glorified. Cheerleaders too. I guess I was too impressionable.
The cross country team was male-only in the fall of 1972. I could not have imagined girls in the sport. Education goes through sea changes from time to time. Expanded athletic opportunities have been not only good for the kids, it has made it easier for athletic programs to get the resources and support they need.
Our meets were at the Pomme de Terre Golf Course just like today. I don't believe our team reached any great height. Gary Lembcke gave me moral support and was so much more understanding than coach Miller. Gary and I are both blessed by having our mothers still be alive. Our moms have both needed some medical attention in the past year. We're past our 40-year reunion. As we approach the 50-year, the ranks of our parents will be thinned further. Our own ranks will be thinned some.
Ted Schmidt, son of Jerry, was on our team. He was rather a character and in an uplifting way. I set my alarm so I might join those workouts along the dogleg road. Les Lindor once told me that this curious road with no apparent purpose got built because of leftover money from some other government-supported project.
Isn't that also how we got the tennis courts to the east of the high school? I once mentioned this rumor with the tennis courts around Wally Behm and he showed mock anger toward me. He said I'd "get in trouble" with Dennis Rettke if I was known to make such comments, because obviously those courts were built because of solid fiduciary responsibility in the school district. Not with "leftover money" (which sounds like largesse).
For the record, Wally said "you'll get in trouble with Dennis. . .again!"
 
Bob Stevenson and his dogs
In my post-newspaper years, I'd often go out to that spur along the bike trail and be in a hurry to do nothing. Every so often, a slow-moving vehicle would come along that dogleg road. I came to recognize this individual: Bob Stevenson, using this lazy cruise to take one of his dogs on a run. He and I would sometimes chat for a few seconds.
I am writing this as we approach the Fourth of July holiday. Bob was born on the Fourth of July right here in Morris, to Floyd and Bertha (Nicely) Stevenson. Mom and I attended his reviewal rites last night (Friday, June 30). He died a week before on Friday, June 23. He looked to be in failing health the last time I saw him. We cannot know for sure when our day will come. Jesse Ventura once said that such a date is set in stone by our Lord, and nothing we do can change it.
Bob was 89 years old at the time he left us. His family "clan" has lost too many in the recent past. The sands of time simply move on. Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and served in that great war. My late father Ralph was in the Navy too. Bob and Ralph developed a very close friendship. They had mid-morning coffee together countless times, mainly at the restaurant where Riverwood Bank is now located. I think our town misses that restaurant.
Bob and Ralph had a hunting connection. Bob will probably be best remembered as a Stevens County commissioner. He retired from that in 2006, the same year I left the Morris newspaper. His family clan was involved with the newspaper. We lost Ed Morrison not long ago. We lost Sterling "Tommy" Tomlin, Shirley Tomlin, Ed Morrison and James Martin too. Too many losses in fact. But there's
nothing we can do to change that, according to Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
I'm writing this on the day of Bob's funeral, Saturday, July 1. Bob Stevenson, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoocom