"The Duke was here" story brought back pleasant recollections of my years (1956-60) playing in the famed Crystal Ballroom with the Paul Hansen Orchestra. That 80' by 120' dance hall was an acoustic gem. Small wonder that Richard Burris and Jack Towers managed to record 40 of Ellington's songs so well on Nov. 7, 1940. It must have been a magical night. In 1995, jazz critic Nat Hentoff called it a "still vivid Fargo night," noting the orchestra's buoyancy and looseness, despite their eight-hour train trip from Winnipeg.
While the orchestra played a few warm-up pieces before Ellington's appearance on stage, they actually performed a total of 21 songs before beginning the KVOX radio broadcast with "Sepia Panorama." And the show ended at around 1 a.m. with Ellington leading the audience in a rendition of "God Bless America." How about that?
Class of '60
Ocean Park, WA
I purchased the Fargo Recordings as L.P.'s when they came out years ago and they truly are treasures.
I used to play with the Paul Hanson Orchestra in the 1950's and we did a live TEEN CANTEEN broadcast every Friday night at the Crystal Ballroom so I have fond memories of that era.
I still play trombone in the Louisville, Kentucky, area and I know Orv Eidem and other Fargo musicians. NDSU was a wonderful place then as it is now.
Read the Fall Issue of the NDSU Magazine on Thanksgiving Day and thought it was great. Got a lot of laughs from "Far" "go" North Dakota. It reminded me of my freshman days at the "AC."
After Pearl Harbor Day in '41, I signed up for the Navy V-12 Program, a scheme to keep kids in college until ships could be built for them to man. In the course of the program, I found myself in Asbury Park, New Jersey, waiting for Midshipman School to open at Cornell. Three or four of us decided to go to New York for the weekend. We learned that the Navy Waves were holding a Sunday afternoon Tea Dance at the Roosevelt Room and we attended.
Across this large room, I noticed an attractive Wave and I walked over and asked her to dance. In our conversation, I asked her where she was from and she replied, "North Dakota," and I said "that's where I'm from." Well, we were in a city that has maybe 14 times the number of people as the whole state of North Dakota and here two of its natives were dancing. I asked her, "Where abouts in North Dakota?" and she said "Lisbon." I said "That's where I'm from!" Turned out she was Frank Hanson's wife and had joined the Waves to help in the war effort.
I have met people from North Dakota in many parts of the world and I find it hard to believe not every one hasn't.
I finally decided to reorganize my desk and in the pile is a Fall copy of NDSU magazine. I liked the article about the fascination with North Dakota. I did my young boyhood growing up in North Dakota and later studied at NDSU and even later wound up on the faculty and started a family in Fargo before embarking on what would become an every now and then long term job assignment in Africa.
I was trying to describe North Dakota to a friend. I don't think he got it. My vocabulary is insufficient. But there is a beauty there that can barely be pictured in words ... the changing colors of the valley, the rolling hills, the prairie, the badlands. Even the politics and its history and the changing culture from place to place is unique.
I don't remember or comprehend at what moment during our lives in Africa that I stopped noticing that Cameroonians were black, but I sort of remember when it occurred to me that it had happened. I often tell friends that the primary wonder of the world is that all people seem to have the same hopes and dreams. Little African boys tease little African girls in the same ways and for the same reasons that all boys and girls engage in that mystery of growing. Occasionally my wife and I would watch Cameroonian children returning home from school skipping, singing, poking, giggling as we remarked how literal the commonality of childhood is. While surprised, I understood being spit at in the face of a Cameroonian man while we met each other on a downtown street one afternoon. I could escape any frustration or disappointment I might have ... he couldn't!!
David C. Nelson
Class of '60