The Watertown Area Historical Society will once again host an exhibit at Rails To Trails, this time focusing on the town’s rich musical heritage.
The exhibit, called "Yesterday’s Music, 1856-2012, will be on display July 20-21 at the Watertown Community Center. It will be open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 20, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 21.
Donald Olson, – a lifelong Watertown resident and talented rhythm musician – has captured with his professional photography skills spectacular pictures of Watertown area’s local bands, musicians, and Watertown-Mayer High School musical productions.
Just seeing Olson’s pictures would be sufficient reason to view the Historical Society’s exhibit, but there is much more. Music has always played a very prominent role in the lives of our citizens from its very early history up to the present time. The exhibit includes live music, 250 photos, musical artifacts, two original Watertown Ladies Band uniforms, and refreshments. Visitors will enjoy seeing pictures of many of their relatives, schoolmates, church members, friends, and maybe pictures of themselves.
Live music will featuring everything from country to religious hymns will be featured throughout the duration of the display. A schedule of performers can be found at the end of this story.
The display is financially supported by the City of Watertown, the Watertown Lions, and the Watertown Legion. The Watertown Area Fine Arts Council members were very helpful in recruiting musicians, especially its president, Mary Lou Jirik.
Here is a look at some of the other aspects of Watertown’s musical history that will be featured in the display.
The Watertown community has had many outstanding musical families.
Over the past 50 years, the Joe and LaVerne Diethelm family has been one of the most musically talented in Watertown. You will see many photos of the Diethelm family (Joe Sr., LaVerne, Joe Junior, Barbara, Carol and Paul) and read about their many musical accomplishments as individuals and as a family. Carol Diethelm will also be performing on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the exhibit.
The exhibit showcases other Watertown musical families as well. For decades, the Roland, John, and Mary Eklund family and the Justus Family have contributed musically to their church, Trinity Lutheran. John and Mary Eklund have performed for their community and surrounding areas. Eklund vintage family instruments will be on display. John and Mary will represent Watertown musical families in the Watertown Area Historical Society’s parade unit. Mary Eklund will be playing old-time music on Friday at 2:30 p.m. and John and Mary will be playing polka music at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The Vern Farber family has performed in bands and in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Rita Farber Miller has been the church’s musical director for 16 years.
Mary Lou Speikers Jirik’s musical contributions to her church and to the Watertown community will be shown in the display. She inherited her talent from both her parents, Ferd and Lucy Speikers. Ferd Speikers’ banjo, violin, mandolin, and his "rattle bones" will be on display. Rattle Bones originated with the early African-American people to demonstrate rhythm with their singing. Jirik will be playing classical and Broadway music on Friday at 2 p.m., and on Saturday at 2 p.m., she will accompany Carol Diethelm.
Evelyne West Swanson and the West/Krause families were musical performers going way back in early Watertown history. There are pictures of Evelyne, her sister Harriet West, and August, Tillie, Adolph, Emil, and Charles West and Otto, Art, and August Krause.
At the present time, the Bill and Janet Windsperger family share their musical talents in their church, school, and community. The Windsperger family will be performing on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Historically, Watertown has produced many local/regional/ national/international bands: The Watertown Ladies Band, the Watertown Silver Cornet Band, the Watertown Brass Band, John Eklund’s Mid-Westerners Band, the short-lived Toilet Band, the Shaw Band, the Silvertones, the AlpineRose Band, the Funk Junkies, the Jim McPadden Band, Big Blobs of Mercury Band, the Airtight Band, the Winds of Watertown, Chuck Rieder and the Red Ryder Band, the Greystone Rockers Band, the Minus Reality Band right up to the present Basement Band, the Hillybilly Cadillacs, and Paul Diethelm’s Slip Twisters Band. There are pictures of Paul playing in the Jonny Lang Band, which played nationally, internationally and at the White House.
Long-time members of the community will be able to reminisce when seeing pictures of church musicians from the past.
June Benson was the music director at Evangelical Free Church for many years and Merijo Strandquist is the present director. The Torgerson Worship Team and the Joyful Singers have performed for the Free Church.
Musicians who have served at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church are Cecil Westland, Pat Burns, Fran Janikula, Joe, Sr. and LaVerne Diethelm, Patricia Rumpza, Phil Maiers, Tony Borer, Jane Neaton Borer, Dorothy McDonald Vidlund, Mike Magner, Lucy Speikers, Charlotte Johnson, and Mary Lou Jirik. The present choir leaders are Bill Windsperger, adult choir, and Lee Windsperger, youth choir. Suzi Larkin and Linda Yantes are the main cantors. Long-time members Ed Windsperger, Barb McDonald, Abbie McDonald, and Carol Griffith are still singing in the choir.
Jerry Hendricks and Marty Malmin are often the soloists at Peace Lutheran Church.
River’s Edge Church’s Worship Band is led by Carey Keavy on keyboard and vocals, with Nate Erickson and Andrew Reilly on guitars, Laura Robideau on bass guitar, Chris Jackson and Jim Engen on drums, Emily Jackson on vocals, and Anna Jackson on percussion. They will be performing Friday evening at 6 p.m.)
Trinity Lutheran Church is represented in the display by Gotaholm Lutheran Church Orchestra, Trinity’s outstanding choir directors were Anna Anderson and Roland Eklund. The past organist, Elsie Sandquist, played for over 20 years. During the 1950s, there were four young boys – Dale Magnuson, Bob Van Tassel, Dennis Holmberg, and Bob Hendricks – who sang at Trinity’s church services. Dale sang at almost everyone’s wedding and was known for his beautiful baritone voice. The present music director is Joyce Hardy and the present organist is Priscilla Franken.
St. Pauls’ Lutheran Church’s Rita Mueller, the Farber family, His in Song group, The Praise Band and many of the Cantata casts are also featured in the display. Pictures of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church’s choirs, soloists and pipe organs are also feature.
Watertown-Mayer students can find themselves in the beautiful pictures from musical productions, past and present.
Abby Arthur, Jay and Casey Boerner, Lyndzi Durkin, Dustin Gens, Logan Holman, Reese Kling, Brigit Larkin, Josh Loomis, Adam Luoma, Natalie Mann, Carley Olson (Donald Olson’s daughter), Kaitlin Richter, Lauren Salonek, Zach Sandquist, Jackie Trushcheff, Nicole Ward, and the Windsperger sisters, Afton and Morgan. There are many more young musicians in the exhibit, but too numerous to list here.
Christ Community School students are also represented in the display as Watertown’s upcoming musicians.
Watertown has had many musicians and musical families, which are too numerous to mention in this article. If you have pictures and information about other musical families, the Historical Society would like to add them to our collection for future exhibits and to preserve your personal musical history.
For a schedule of live performances during the display, see the Rails To Trails preview section on Page 7.
Story submitted by Charlotte Johnson, Society President