Glenn Miller’s beat goes on

Glenn Miller's beat goes on by Bob Karolevitz CLARINDA, IA � This town of less than 6,000 people has really taken advantage of the very brief stay of its most famous individual.

The 27th annual Glenn Miller Festival has attracted music-lovers from all over the U.S. � but the renowned band leader was only 2 years old when he left there with his parents. And yet the small city has made the most of his birthplace!

Literally thousands of gray-haired aficionados � and a sprinkling of younger ones � gather each year to listen to four days of Big Band arrangements, with Phyllis and me among them.

In our various visits we have heard bands from Austria, the Netherlands, Canada and Japan, all playing tunes from the �40s in the one-and-only Glenn Miller style. This year � for the sixth time � the Tamana Girls� High School band from Japan performed to standing ovations.

At first it was questionable that this class of teenagers � more than 50 of them � would make the long flight because of the terrorism threat, but the lure of the Clarinda event was too strong to keep them away.

This Iowa town has a sister-city arrangement with its counterpart in Tamana. The liaison apparently grew out of the establishment of a Japanese-owned factory here in Page County. It has since blossomed into a student-exchange program, and, of course, the appearances of the outstanding all-girl bands.

Last year, for instance, the �Little Cherries� � a middle school aggregation � flew over and played Glenn Miller music for us. They, too, were almost unbelievable for their exceptional musicianship; and their instruments � especially the tenor saxophones and the trombones � were virtually as big as they were.

Phyllis and I stay at Gail and Byron Barr�s Colonial White House bed-and-breakfast, an antique-laden home which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Japanese girls are parcelled out to Clarinda families, which also adds to the inter-city relationship.

The Lord willing, we�ll probably be back for future festivals, as knees get creakier with each standing ovation and the calendar gets turned back while we re-live our youth.

Incidentally, if Maj. Glenn Miller had not disappeared so tragically in a flight over the English Channel on Dec. 15, 1944, he would be 98 this year. He and his music live on, however, not only in Clarinda but around the globe.

It�s a Small World Department: While sitting across the table from Texans Bob and Brownie (her real name) Shytles at the festival kickoff feed, we asked Bob what his work was. He said he was a retired lawyer, so � as a shot in the dark � we inquired if he had known the late Robert Ritchie, also an attorney in Dallas.

�Oh, he was with our firm,� Bob replied. It followed that they knew Kitty, his widow, and that she had remarried the man I took infantry basic training with at Camp Wolters, TX. We had other coincidental connections, too.

We also visited several times with a man from Louisiana who had attended the U.S. Army radio school at Sioux Falls in 1942. His wife had a brother at Radio Station WNAX in Yankton. Needless to say, we had lots to talk about � but, sad to say, I forgot their names.

Additional Thoughts While Traveling: Nebraska claims Henry Fonda, Johnny Carson, Marlon Brando, John J. Pershing, Fred Astair, Darryl F. Zanuck and others � but the state could learn a lot about capitalizing on them from their neighbors in Clarinda.

My favorite river from a phonetic standpoint is the Nishnabotna in the southwestern corner of Iowa. I love to say it out loud. Nishnabotna! Nishnabotna!

As usual we obeyed the speed limit signs, but cars whizzed by us going 80. It took us longer to get there, but our conscience was clear!

� 2002 Robert F. Karolevitz

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>