top of page

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.


According to Schuft there used to be about 150 ballrooms across the state of Minnesota. Now, he said there are only nine still operating as a ballroom. Popular ballrooms that they played in were the Gibbon Ballroom, PlaMor Ballroom in Glencoe, Palms Ballroom in Renville, Playland Ballroom in Kimball, Algon Ballroom in Alexandria, Georgia’s at New Ulm, Sauk Centre Ballroom, Lake Marion Ballroom by Stewart, Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted, Lakeside Ballroom in Waconia and many others that he couldn’t recall their names. Klammer also played in the town halls of Brownton, New Germany, Plato and Green Isle. “And every summer we played in a few parades in Glencoe, Hutchinson, Gibbon and Winthrop. All on a flatbed truck,” he said. The Country Dutchmen band made appearances on the Mankato television show called the Bandwagon.

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.


Klammer remembers the depression era well – 1933 and 1934. There wasn’t much money around. “It started to loosen up a little in 1935. Some economists called 1933 the peak of the depression. Banks closed. People lost money. We got electricity in February of 1939. It was on the sixteenth day of 1939. People ask me how do you remember that? And I say I remember 20 years before without it. That’s why I remember. We were energized on the 16th day of February, 1939. The first thing we bought was a little toaster. No running water. We had to carry wood and coal into the house and then carry the ashes out. Those were the days.”

“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.”


Klammer graduated in 1936 from Buffalo Lake High School and continued living on the farm. His father died in 1941, so he was busy managing the farm and playing in bands. “We milked cows, had hogs like all farmers did… poultry, and we had to take care of the work horses. He met his wife, Bernadine, on a blind date, via mutual friends, in the sixties. She received her teaching degree at St. Cloud State University and taught second-grade at Stewart from the fall of 1966 to the spring of 1970. She taught at other schools before transitioning to Stewart. She and Milton tied the knot on Jan. 2, 1965. They just celebrated their 50th anniversary this year. They have no children. Milton lived on the farm all his life until September of 2010. He still owns the farm land but had an auction for the homestead in 2010.


Memory is not a problem for Klammer. He remembers a lot of his band members throughout his 78 years of playing in the bands. Some that stand out to him are Harold Kaping, who ran the creamery in Hector, Herb Beske from Hector, who was a mechanic and a trombone player, and Lester Green was a drummer. “Green said they needed help in Hector in the trombone section. So about three or four years starting in 1937 we were sent to Hector on Saturday nights. They called it the Hector Citizens Band. We played in a few parades. They had caps and capes. Thorston Olson was a good young trumpet, player and he got sick suddenly and died. I remember him.”

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.


Lester Schuft, who lives in Hutchinson and works for KDUZ/KARP/KGLB radio, remembers Milton well and claims him and his wife as his closest friends. “Milton was one of the finest musicians,” Schuft claimed. “Of all the musicians, never a finer musician and finer human being. He was a number “one” kind of a person. Number “one” trombone player. They are very happy people.”

37 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page