Welk Memorabilia Arrives
Truckload of Memories Hail N.D.’s Favorite
Pantera, Tom. "Welk Memorabilia Arrives at NDSU." Forum, 18 February
It isn’t ever day North Dakota State University’s
Festival Concert Hall features and oompah band, accordion music
and a bubble machine.
But then, it isn’t every day the school gets
a truckload of memorabilia from one of the state’s most
Boxes of sheet music, photographs and personal artifacts
from Lawrence Welk, donated by the late band leader’s family,
arrived at NDSU Wednesday morning.
State University librarian John Bye opens a box of Lawrence
Welk memorabilia Wednesday.
The event was marked with a reception hosted by
NDSU officials, who lauded Welk as an important figure in the
history of American popular culture. The collection came to NDSU
from Santa Monica, Calif., where Welk died last May.
“We’ve got a truckload of memories to
unload,” NDSU President Jim Ozbun said, “and it’s
not very polite to keep the maestro waiting.”
Welk’s “spirit and music created special
moments for an entire generation,” Ozbun said. “I
remember my parents dancing to Lawrence Welk music in western
North Dakota as he was just getting started. His place in music
and broadcasting was earned through his talents and the strength
of his character.”
The materials included everything from Welk’s
desk to private papers, he said. Ozbun said NDSU officials also
were hoping to find the honorary doctorate in music NDSU gave
Welk in 1965.
“Through the preservation of his collection
we will keep his spirit alive for generations to come,”
Ozbun said. “Scholars will study his history, musicians
will play his songs and people will dance.”
Don Stowell, director of the NDSU Division of Fine
Arts, said the music from the collection will be used by the school’s
oompah band and other groups.
Dean of Humanities Tom Isern said the Welk collection
will be enhanced with other collections related to popular culture.
“If we build it, they will come,” Isern said. “Scholars
Welk’s music still provides an important “cultural
experience” for older people, he said.
Old friends and relatives were on hand for Wednesday’s
reception. Victor Welk of Fargo, the band leader’s second
cousin, provided the accordion music. The bubble machine used
was one of the originals from Welk’s TV show.
Library Director John Beecher, who also is chairman
of the committee that oversees the Welk collection, said no members
of Welk’s immediate family nor any of his TV show’s
stars were available.
“Somehow or other, we just couldn’t
talk them out of leaving California,” he said, an apparent
reference to the frigid temperatures outside the Fine Arts Center.
After the reception, student volunteers began unloading
the memorabilia. The unloading was nearly something of an anticlimax;
when the back of the truck was opened, the students were confronted
with half a trailer of small cardboard boxes on pallets.
The first box opened by librarian John Bye contained
sheet music of a kind not normally associated with Welk: an arrangement
of the country music standard “Crazy,” written by
Willie Nelson and made famous by Patsy Cline.
Bye said it is uncertain when the material actually
will be on full-fledged display. Just the preliminary organizational
work could take until summer, he said, and a full-blown exhibit
may be a year or two away. Parts of the collection may go on display
before then, he said. Officials are unsure where the display will
While many of those attending the event spoke of
Welk with reverence, for some of the students unloading the collection
it wasn’t that big a deal.
Jodie Heupel, an NDSU freshman from Aberdeen, S.D.,
said with a laugh she saw the call for volunteers and “there
wasn’t anything else to do.”
She said she has seen Welk’s old shows a few
times but wasn’t a fan. “My dad listens to polka (music),
so that’s as far as it goes,” she said.