Glenn Miller

by Otto Ringle

This coming Saturday is the Fourth of July when we celebrate, not only the birth of our country, but we also recognize all the service men and women who helped keep our country safe and out of harms’s way.

One of those persons was Glenn Miller. Glenn didn’t serve in an Army tank, a Navy submarine or an Air Force plane, but instead, he served with his trombone. All of you have seen the movie, “The Glenn Miller Story!” I watched it again the other night on Turner Classic Movies! Wow! Did the music of that movie ever bring back some wonderful, old memories!

The Big Band Sounds of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, that Babe McMurrin played on her jukebox in the basement of her Home Cafe! Babe and her husband, Glen McMurrin, came to Walker in 1928 and started a typical, small-town, homey, little restaurant, they very appropriately called, “The Home Cafe,” located where the “Outdoorsman” is now.

The most popular songs on Babe’s jukebox were the songs of Glenn Miller, because they had a special sound. When Glenn Miller was just starting out as a bandleader, he was never quite satisfied with the sound of his band — he was always searching for that special combination.

During one of their practices, his solo cornet player split his lip, Glenn replaced him with a clarinet and Glenn had the sound he was always searching for — five saxophones, five trombones and one soloist clarinet.

Babe’s husband passed away in 1932, but Babe not only continued to operate the Home Cafe by herself, but her little restaurant was also a Greyhound Bus Depot and the teen center in the basement!

Babe was a single mom at this time, raising three kids — June, Larry and Neil, and she wanted a place where they and their friends could go and have some good, clean fun.

Glorene Fisher and I were in the eighth-grade together, and “Fish” — that was her nickname — was the best dancer in town! Fish tried very hard to teach me how to dance, and she always told me, “There’s two kinds of music — fast and slow.”

Very foolishly, I interrupted her when I corrected her grammar, “There are two kinds of music!” And she would reply, “Ringle, don’t be such an a&$!” That’s kind of like a “nerd” nowadays!

Anyway, as I sat in my easy chair the other night, watched the “Glenn Miller Story” and listened to the tremendous “Big Band” sound of those bygone days, I was reminded of Fish’s words and the music we danced to — Glenn Miller’s fast music like “Little Brown Jug,” “Sing, Sing, Sing” and even the “Saint Louis Blues March.” I enjoyed the dance step to the March the best, as all we did was march around the dance floor, doing my very best to keep in step with the music!

Since Glorene and I were only eighth-graders, I really didn’t enjoy dancing to the slow music that she tried to teach me. The movie reminded me, however, of the days the following year — out at the Silver Dollar when we were a year older and enjoyed dancing with all the girls to slow music much better — slow-dancing music such as Glenn Miller’s theme song “Moonlight Serenade,” “At Last” and “As Time Goes By.”

There was a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat, as  I sat and watched the movie when Jimmy Stewart gave June Allyson a gift of a string of pearls, remembering the days when we danced in the old Silver Dollar to another Glenn Miller slow dance favorite “String of Pearls.”

The old Silver Dollar, just south of Walker, was built by a couple of typical 1930 small-town, Mafia-like, businessmen named Kaiser and Savard. The place was full of slot machines before 1946, when Gov. Luther Youngdahl prohibited gambling in Minnesota. Very ironically, Fred Fisher had a very popular entertainment center, right next to the Silver Dollar. It was called, “Fisher’s Barn” and all the kids went there to go roller-skating.

Guess who was the best roller-skater in town? His daughter, Glorene!

We danced a lot when I was in the military, as the Japanese girls were really good dancers! When I was discharged in 1956, the popular dance floor back home was at Louie Chalich’s “Lu-El’s Supper Club,” named after Louie and his mother, Ellen Chalich.

It was located just south of the Y-Junction and one night, when all the gang was there, the music on the juke-box was Glenn Miller’s rendition of the “St. Louis Blues March.” I asked Jan Evenson to dance, and when all we did was march around the dance floor, Jan asked with a bit of a frown on her face, “Where did you learn how to dance like that?”

A couple of years later, the popular dance floor in our area was at “Mix’s Supper Club,” located at the Longville Junction. “Mix’s” was where I really enjoyed dancing to slow music, and the reason I had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat when I watched the “Glenn Miller Story” and listened to his rendition of “String of Pearls” was, because that was one of our favorite slow dance songs with the gal I married! Sorry, I wandered off the subject. Have a great Fourth of July.

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