Ballrooms, bands and a trusty trombone

Local community bands, dance bands and ballrooms were pretty popular things in the thirties, forties and fifties, and one person who played in those bands and ballrooms was Milton Klammer, of Buffalo Lake, who just turned 96 in January of this year. In fact, he played the trombone for 78 years, and 50 of those years was with the Lester Schuft Country Dutchmen. He put his trombone away in 2010.


Klammer was born on Jan. of 1919 on a farm northeast of Buffalo Lake, near Stewart. He lived on the farm with his parents, one sister and a live-in hired hand. His parents are now deceased, and his sister, Mae Wick, who is four years younger than Milton, lives in Hutchinson. He went to school at Buffalo Lake where he got started with his music career.

It was his mother that thought he should play an instrument when he was 12 years old. “I went eenie-meenie-miney-mo, and I picked a slide trombone. That’s what I did instead of golfing, fishing or sports.” He got his first instrument in 1931. At that time they had a part-time music teacher. “He would come in the afternoon. We would be up at school for an hour or so and then he would come downtown and have the town band at the old Buffalo Lake Auditorium in the basement. Well, after I was playing for a while, he put me down in there too. They called it the Buffalo Lake Community Band. Years back, the small town bands used to exchange concerts. Now, for instance Buffalo Lake was mostly on Wednesday nights. Sometimes they had Thursday night. On the night Buffalo Lake band concert was to be, a band from Gibbon would come over and play the concert here and Buffalo Lake over there. Same thing with Hector, Danube, Olivia, Fairfax, Gibbon. That’s long ago. You don’t hear that any more.” He said he got paid about 50 cents per visit but in Hector he got paid a dollar.


“There was no school buses or hot lunch. You brought your own. We would go down in the basement of the school and eat there. And then we had that alligator. In the twenties somebody brought a small alligator from Florida, and our janitor kept it here. The janitor took that alligator and kept it in the fence. He’d come out of it once in a while, and it would scare the dickens out of us. It was around for quite a few years. I was told it came in the early twenties and left in the first half of the forties. When it left in ’46 he was probably 3 feet long. In the first half of the forties, a carnival came to town, and they offered that alligator to the carnival to get rid of it. And they took it. Nowadays schools wouldn’t allow that to happen. There’s a lot of things that have changed.”

“In the 1930s the hobos would walk on the railroad tracks. Mom would give them a couple of sandwiches, cookies, coffee or something. When war time came that changed a lot of stuff. There would be hobos by the dozen on the freight. Our land would run right to the railroad. We’d be working there, and they would wave at us with their dangling out of the box car. Sometimes there would be a bunch sitting right on top of the car. I know of one instance where the railroad crew found a death of one of the hobos. I was in high school at the time.”



Don Petrick, who taught music at the Glencoe Middle School and still lives in Glencoe, was part of the Country Dutchmen band along with Milton and considered him an incredible trombone player.


#BallroomBands #MiltonKlammer #Trombone

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