I got a pretty big dose of nostalgia last weekend when we met up with my sister and brother-in-law for supper at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. The theater was nearly full, the food was good and the crowd was ready to see the Americana musical Bye-Bye Birdie.
The play takes place mostly in a small town in Ohio during 1961. I was pretty young in 1961 but by dint of having a sister 12 years older than me, a graduate of high school in 1959, I probably had more exposure to teen-age music and interests of those days than most of my classmates.
At any rate, Bye-Bye Birdie was great fun to see and was performed very well. I had a wave of that era wash over me but also had a dose of 1970, too.
During the fall of that year, Granite Falls High School was undertaking just their third musical production and this time we were taking a big step into the world of big time musicals and performed this story of an Elvis - like popular singer who, like Elvis, was about to get drafted into the Army while his manager and the manager’s girlfriend/secretary struggled with their own issues. Their idea was to promote the Army- bound singer into giving some small-town girl one last kiss before signing on with Uncle Sam.
As we watched the musical unfold, it seemed like I had seen it just yesterday, although I hadn’t since November of 1970.
Some years ago, Margot Richter, mentioned to me that YME (or was it GFC then?) was performing Bye-Bye Birdie again and that I should try to go see it. That was well before our kids were in high school and the whole production was well off our screen and we missed it. It may have also been performed locally another time, too.
I felt like I was back in my Senior year when the Chanhassen cast sang “Put On a Happy Face”, “Kids” and “I’ve Got a Lot of Livin’ To Do”.
Those high school years can be full of memories, some good and some not so good. However, revisiting those memories occasionally is usually worthwhile.
Having lost good friend Todd Johnson, who had played the character Conrad Birdie, added some nostalgia to the evening. Seeing Bye-Bye Birdie again also reminded me of the tragic car crash near Ortonville that took the life of our young director, first year teacher Linda Hilde, just a week after we performed the musical. She was just out of college, only three months into her new career, and was traveling to her parents’ home in Ulen for Thanksgiving.
Page 2 of 2 - It’s hard to forget losing a good friend and it hard to forget a tragedy like that. Still, it was fun to see a very good production, to recall some of the past and enjoy a night out.
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Another bit of the past captured my imagination this week when Assistant County Engineer Steve Schaub got word to us that the fabled Prestegard bridge which has spanned the Yellow Medicine River south of Granite Falls since 1909 was about to be removed. Scott Tedrick got there just in time to see one of the old steel trusses being removed.
The old bridge with the wood plank deck has seen its share of controversy over the decades. It’s been closed since late 2007 due to very serious safety concerns. Indeed, the caissons, or piers, in the river were giving way to the ravages of time and had allowed the bridge deck to tilt toward the north. It was deemed unsafe for vehicle traffic and not even safe for pedestrians.
The old bridge was located at a particularly scenic stretch of the Yellow Medicine River Valley where the river winds its way down toward the Minnesota River valley. It was the only bridge spanning the Yellow Medicine between the Wood Lake road (Highway 274) and Highway 67 at Upper Sioux Agency State Park.
The bridge, named after the farm family that lived just east of the river crossing, was also near the site of historic Sorlien’s Mill, which was owned by the same family that later re-located to Granite Falls and were proponents of using water power, first for grinding flour and later for generating electricity.
You can read about the interesting twists and turns involving the Prestegard bridge and the township and county board politics of the time in our story that begins on our front page. We included a passage from Carl and Amy Narvestad’s 1972 book, “A History of Yellow Medicine County” that recounts many of those tales.
What’s interesting to me is the fact that back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the bridge was deemed to be in need of replacement and relocation, supposedly due to deterioration and poor design, It was actually closed for nearly three years and then after minor repairs was reopened and stayed in use for another 52 years!
It is an amazing little tale about a charming old structure in a beautiful setting. Who wouldn’t be a little nostalgic?