Prime Time | Jeb Monge: Plenty of entertainment growing up in Tracy
Our entertainment in Tracy came from the theaters, school and churches, the city celebrations. Every year we would celebrate our agricultural roots. The implement store on Highway 14 had a big celebration showing all of the tractors, combines, etc. Then they had food available for all to enjoy.
Box Car Day was another great celebration. The carnival came to town with all of its rides: Tilt-a-Whirl, Bullet, cig circle, etc. The churches and organizations in town all had food tents. Lots of people came from Tracy and around the city. It was every Labor Day weekend and celebrated the railroad roots of the city. The train went from Chicago all the way to eastern South Dakota (the 400).
During the Korean War our National Guard was called into action, and the whole town turned up to cheer them as they boarded the train and went off to fight.
It was always fun to go down to the tracks as we called the center of the railroad activities. There we saw the huge trains with the engines in front and the cabooses in back. We could go and watch the engines turn around in the Round House. And it was fun to walk on the tracks themselves.
The Fire Department had a huge celebration on the Fourth of July. All the firemen and their families met out at Lake Shetek campground and celebrated all day long.
The firemen especially had a lot of stuff for the kids. Watermelon, pop and ice cream, and muskmelon with a huge scoop of ice cream in the middle. We could have all we wanted. That was the only time treats were offered in abundance.
The food was fantastic. Barbecues, baked beans, potato chips, salads galore, and cake. It seems we never stopped eating and playing, all day long.
Memorial Day included a parade with soldiers, bands and horses. Throughout the summer we had band concerts. One Box Car Day I saw and heard Hubert H. Humphrey. That was in the late ’40s. He was a popular politician and a terrific speaker. I remember not knowing what the heck he was talking about, but I was mesmerized by his dynamic speaking ability.
In the summer the city had a baseball team called the Engineers. The stands were full and spectators lined the baselines watching our Engineers play other city teams around the area. Marshall had a baseball team that could hire the battery; that is, the pitcher and catcher. Occasionally we went over to see the pros. There were no Twins. Minneapolis had a team called the Millers, named after the flour mills on the Mississippi River which was an important industry when the Cities were being formed.
We hardly ever said Minneapolis or St. Paul. It was “the Cities.” Seldom did anybody from Tracy go to the Cities.
When I was in high school two friends of mine — Bill Knutsen and Curt Paulsen — and I went to a University of Minnesota Gopher football game. We went on MEA weekend, which was the last weekend in October. The three of us rode with some teachers who were going to the Cities for the MEA conference. We stayed at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis. We saw the Wisconsin Badgers play the Gophers. I remember freezing my butt off.
I also went to the Cities to sing on TV. The quartet I sang in won a talent contest in Tracy, another annual even the city had. Curt Jette, Tom Hanson, Bill and I sang together. The city had Miss Niebuhr take us out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. She told us which fork to use. I remember having had filet mignon. I couldn’t believe how it melted in my mouth. Then we went downtown to WCCO-TV. There was a neighborhood program on which we sang a number. That was something else, as we said, singing with thousands of people watching.
When I was a senior I sang a solo for the talent contest. The judges told me I won, but they wanted to send somebody else to Minneapolis, so they gave the girls’ quartet the victory.
All of these girls were good friends of mine, so I was happy for them to be able to have the same great experience the boys’ quartet had.
The high school choir was invited to sing at the Minnesota State Fair. I sang a solo with the choir: “Old Man River.” Carol Hyllestad also sang a solo with the choir. The high school band also was taken around southwestern Minnesota for parades.
One time we went to Mankato State Teachers’ College to play in the half-time of a football game. There were many bands from around southern Minnesota that participated. It was quite a thrill to fill the football field with bands and all play together.
The swimming pool lifeguards also took a few of us swimmers to race in the summer Aquatennial celebration. Dave Hauck was one of the lifeguards. The guards also competed. I was ahead in my race but then had a bad turn and took second place.
JEB MONGE has an Area Voices blog at lifecenter.areavoices.com. Email him at email@example.com.