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June 11, 1982      Bovard Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA

    see all from: 1982 | Bovard Auditorium | Los Angeles | CA

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Butch Thompson Trio. Odessa BalalaikasRobin and Linda Williams

Songs, tunes, and poems

My honey's loving arms (Butch Thompson Trio  )
New Orleans (Butch Thompson Trio  )
Sunday Rag (Butch Thompson Trio  )
Russian intermezzo (Odessa Balalaikas  )
Variations on bright room (Odessa Balalaikas  )
Pan American Boogie (Robin and Linda Williams  )
Lonely street (Robin and Linda Williams  )
Dixie highway sign (Robin and Linda Williams  )
Shores of Pontchartrain (Robin and Linda Williams  )
Old brush arbors (Robin and Linda Williams  )
Traveling man (Robin and Linda Williams  )

Sketches, Sponsors, People, Places

Bertha's Kitty Boutique
Bob's Bank
Fearmonger's Shop (fear)
Hageodom, Mary Margaret
Huff, Vern
Ingqvist, Yalmer
Jack's Auto Repair
Jack's Deep Valley Bed
Jack's Toast House (The Head Stop Program for the Over-Educated )
Magendnaz, Leo
Powdermilk Biscuits
Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery

'The News from Lake Wobegon'

I wanna come out here and talk a little bit about my hometown- just a little bit. A town I think of more and more. Especially when I leave home, brings it all back to me even more clearly than when I'm there. It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon from what I hear talking to Rollie Hocksteder on the phone. Vern Huff left home here on Monday. It was something people were talking about for at least a day or so- Vern Huff who's been farming with his dad out just west of town. This was the first year that Vern was put in charge at the age of 40 and he determined that he was finally going to get things straightened up and get the operation on the right track. And so set about to make a list of all the work that he should do and when he took a look at it, it frightened him and he left.

Most of it was stuff that could have been put off until later- building a new feed hopper for the chickens and a new tail board for the pickup. Fixing the sump pump. It was something he could have done sorta day by day as he thought of it, but all in one place put down on paper it was frightening. I'm sure he'll come back.

Especially if he thinks about his neighbors- the Norwegian bachelor farmers. Who have a philosophy that everything is in a constant state of decline. Things are more or less regularly breaking down all over. And the aim is to just hold it back as much as possible. Just not let it slip too much in any one place. And if you wake up in the morning and you're alive and your pump isn't shooting a geyser into the air 40 feet and your big Belgian horses aren't lying on the ground with their feet straight up in the air then probably you're all right.

It was never the aim of a Norwegian bachelor farmer to leave a beautiful, perfect shining operation to his heirs which they don't have any that they know of. As far as they're concerned, when they're gone it can just all collapse.

The big item of news, however, was that a car bearing California license plates was seen on the Main Street on Monday morning in front of the Chatterbox Cafe, which is something hadn't been seen in that town. And they ran down to the Lake Wobegon Herald Star to tell Herald Starr about it.

He came up with his camera, but it was gone by then. But the word had spread. Ralph at the grocery was excited because the California plate meant that he was finally able to finish a game of I spy that he had started some 20 years ago. That was the last license plate he needed. He couldn't remember who he was playing against, but he was the winner.

Later, the car was seen again. It was kind of a cream colored car with a sunroof- of a kind not usually seen in that town. And was driven by a portly gentleman who was wearing a white sport shirt open at the collar. And a yellsow port coat. And black shoes with white tops. And who had white curly hair. Some suspected a permanent. The car windows were closed, indicating possible air conditioning. And the car did not stop at the usual things that tourists look at- the statue of the Unknown Norwegian or Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility church. It cruised through the streets looking at the school and at the houses and by the time the Naomi Circle of Lake Wobegon Lutheran met that night, there were rumors about this fellow.

And the story was that he was a Hollywood producer who was scouting Lake Wobegon as a location for a feature film. And that Charlton Heston and Doris Day were going to arrive on Wednesday. And a lot of people in town would be in the movie as extras, some with dialogue. And that the Lake Wobegon Lutheran choir would be paid $25,000 to sing There is a Balm in Gilead.

By the time the rumor was squashed the next morning- John Forsythe and Loretta Lynn were in on it too. And the choir was going to sing 2 songs and get paid $75,000 and get a percentage of gross. But the rumor was squashed when the man in the yellow sport coat with the white curly hair sat down at the Chatterbox Cafe and ordered 2 poached eggs and hash browns for breakfast.

And Mary Margaret Hagadorn, who was helping Dorothy out because Darlene was sick took one look at him and said “Leo Magandaz”. And he looked back at her and he said, “Mary Margaret Krebsbach” which is what she was before she married Arthur Hagadorn.

He said, “I think you're about the only person in this town still remembers me.”

She said, “well, Leo”, she said, “I think probably a lot of people would, but you see, you never left here in the yellow sport coat and we didn't expect you to come back in one.” She said “you look like you're doing well. What brings you back?”

He said, “well, I just was curious.” Said “this town sure has not changed much in 50 years.”

I don't know what to think about that. He said” does the class ever hold reunion? It's been 50 years.”

She said “no.” She said “you're the only one who left.”

He said, “well, I'm curious what became of em.”

Let's have lunch sometime. She said “no need to wait till lunch. I'll get you your breakfast. I'll tell you right now.” And so they went off and talked.

Leo Magandanz, class of ‘32. Come back from California after 50 years. Nobody ever knew what happened to him. That whole branch of the Magandanz family was a mystery in town. They all left that year. Leo, his brothers and sisters, his mother and father. Otto’s farm went under in a couple of drought years. And though it was hard times for a lot of people in Lake Wobegon in 1931 and 32. Otto took his bankruptcy especially hard. He moved into town. His brother gave him a job as a hired hand at his farm. But Otto didn't like charity. He didn't like charity.

You talked to the Magandanzes who remain in Lake Wobegon now they'll tell you about all they did for Otto and his family and all that they tried to do, but Otto was so stubborn he wouldn't accept it. But you know, it's the difficult thing to be the recipient of gifts, especially in a town like Lake Wobegon where sometimes the giver expects more gratitude then by rights, they ought to have. Expects recipients of charity to be humble and good and kind and clean and reverent. Perfect people. They say Otto drank a lot and I don't doubt that he did. And he stayed on for six miserable months so that Leo could graduate from school.

And finally, unable to get his son a suit to graduate in, he took him down to the high school the day of graduation. They went in the back door, got the diploma from the principal and that afternoon left town with all their belongings in a pickup truck. So shamed by their poverty that they never let anybody know where they were going. And never wrote back afterwards.

And Mary Margaret Krebsbach was the last person whom Leo had seen as he rode out of town in May of 1932 in the back of a pickup with all the family furniture around him- he saw Mary Margaret Krebsbach walking down the Main St in a white dress and he ducked down so that she would not be able to see him.

Well, they went through all this. They went through all their history. Less had happened to her. She'd stayed in Lake Wobegon all her life. Married, had five children, had eight grandchildren. They all lived within a couple miles of her. Secretary of the Cemetery Association. Program chairman of Toast and Jelly Days. President of the Naomi Circle of Lake Wobegon Lutheran. “There isn't much to tell”, she said.

Well, he had a lot to tell. He'd come out to Los Angeles and gotten a job with a siding company that was run by a friend of a friend that Otto knew. He went to work for this man who had inherited the company from his father, and who liked to play golf a lot. And so was willing to let Leo run the business. And Leo soon knew more about it than the owner did. And when some 20 years later they had a little spell of some hard times the owner panicked, not knowing how much the company was worth and accepted Leo's first offer for it. So he'd done well.

He said to Mary Margaret, He said, “you know but. The best thing ever happened to me was when I got divorced five years ago. Terrible thing to say”, he said. “But” he said “when she finally left me, I realized that I could finally live life for myself and there was no one keeping score on me. And I sold the company and I sold the house. I got an apartment out near my children’s places. And one day I was driving by the Los Angeles airport. And I saw a plane taking off and I thought to myself, you know, I've always flown east out of here. I never flew west – I ought to do that someday. I ought to do that tomorrow.”

And then he went home and he threw some stuff in his bag and he drove his car to the airport, gave it to a parking lot attendant, told him to take care of it, and got on the first plane going west and went around the world. Came back, his parking bill was $900.

But he said to Mary Margaret, he said “You ought to travel.” He said “there's something about traveling. The whole world is not like this town. Always investigating people. Always having to put people in some kind of order. Always looking into other people's lives. You go travel around with other people and you'll find people are better when you're traveling with them than when you're living next to them. They're more accepting. They don't give out with a lot of opinions that do nobody any good.”

Lord, he’d been all over. She sat there and listened to him for a long time, sitting out by her garden and the two steel lawn chairs either side of the birdbath. They sat out there for the better part of two days. Now she's a widow. She has a right to do what she wants. But still people were looking. They figured it's her business, but be sitting there talking to that man where everybody can see it, my goodness. Kind of a scandal.

“Well”, I says to Rollie, “What happened? is he still in town.”

Rollie says yes, Leo is still there. He proposed to her on Wednesday. He said “you ought to travel. You ought to see the world. The world is not like this. The world is not like this down.”

She said “ ohhh. I got no sense of direction.” She said “I... I get 5 miles away from here, I'm lost. Ever since Arthur died, I just stay here. I got nobody to travel with.”

He said, “well”, he said, “I'll take you.”

She saide “well.... that'll give people something to talk about the rest of their lives wouldn’t it?”

He said “no, we’ll make it proper. We'll make it legal.”

She said, “are you proposing to me?”

He said, “I think so. It sounds like it.”

She said, “oh, I couldn't do it.

“Why?” he said.

“My children”, she said. “They need me. They're at that restless age. The late 30s.”

He said “ahhh... didn't get along without you.”

She said, “but not as well. Church needs me. Cemetery needs me. Toast and Jelly days coming up in July.”

He said, “why not? Why not do it?”

She said “I'd hate to leave this garden. All these irises- the rose bushes. I can't just let it all go to weeds. Spend two months going around the world, this garden be in terrible shape when I got back.”

He said “then your answer is no.”

She said “Today it is.”

He said, “well, I'll ask you again tomorrow.”

And he did. On Thursday they had moved from her garden into her front porch. And today they had moved into her kitchen. In which, however, they were still somewhat visible.

I said, “Rollie, do you think she's gonna marry him?”

Rollie said “Down at the Sidetrack Tap they'll give you odds at 2 to 1 that she won't.”

But then on Wednesday the odds were three to one. So I'm not sure. I hate to leave it there. But today is Friday. And I'll just have to wait and see when I get back.

That's the news from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota where all the women are strong and all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.

Other mentions/discussions during the show

Yalmer Inkvuist's nephew brought a trunk-load of Powdermilk Biscuits to Los Angeles but Ralph's Grocery would not take them. Years ago, God decided that GK and PHC are a practical joke on the SAT. Margaret Haskin Derber's poem,'Ode to Southern California,' describes an awful 4-month vacation in LA.

Related/contemporary press articles

Los Angeles Times May 26 1982

Notes and References

1982.05.26 LA Times / Berto: It was re-broadcast on July 23, 1988 / Ad from May 26 Los Angeles Times.

Archival contributors: Frank Berto

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