As the prom and graduation rites of spring get played out in all their youthful glory, Jerry Walsh is here to remind us that not much and quite a bit has changed since he was a high school senior in 1945.
Jerry Walsh is my dad. I’m feeling sentimental and very close to him these days, because he turned 84 this month and his memory’s not what it used to be. At the same time, a few weeks ago I started rifling through his file cabinet in the basement of our parents’ house in West Bloomington. I found a bunch of cool stuff, including his dog tags from the Korean War, papers from his days as an employment counselor and furniture salesman and letters and birthday cards from all six of his kids; but nothing as cool as the batch of columns he wrote as a senior in high school.Turns out my dad was a helluva writer. While working for the DeLaSalle student newspaper “The Islander” (the first paper I wrote for), he won a writing contest to pen the “High School Huddle” column for The Minneapolis Daily Times. It appeared regularly throughout 1945, often on the same page as up-and-coming writers Sid Hartman, Dick Cullum and Walter Winchell. He wrote about music, babysitting his kid sister, the war, and his generation.
To read his words all these years later has been inspiring. In honor of him and all our parents, grandparents, and other unforgettable heroes this Memorial Day weekend, here’s a few “Huddle” highlights:
• “By this time [Salk’s corner drug store on S. Lyndale and Diamond Lake Road, now a Starbuck’s] is filled to capacity with almost every kid in South Minneapolis. The air is filled with flying soda straw wrappers. In one corner a crowd of girls have captured the movie magazines and are gazing rapturously at the profiles of Van Johnson or Dana Andrews.
“The back booth is taken up by a crowd of boys singing ‘Chickery Chick,’ with George Konop, the hottest man on the drums next to Gene Krupa, giving them a rhythm accompaniment on the paper napkin holder.”
• “On Friday nights after the show, basketball game or club meetings the kids usually drop in on the Catholic Youth Center (CYC) dances for cokes and weekly gossip. On a typical night after club meeting we begin to drift toward 2120 Park Ave., all set for a riotous evening and maybe even trip the light fantastic with that certain someone.
• “Putting out a high school paper seems to be really more fun than work. The thrill of seeing your own story in print is almost indescribable. After writing a few stories you begin to think that maybe you’re good enough to apply for a reporting job on a citywide newspaper. But after you try to write a story in the same style as some foreign correspondent, or a columnist like Walther Winchell, it dawns on you that these writers have a little more talent than you thought.”
• “Today the teenagers go mad over boogie riffs and bases and their parents sit back and say, ‘Oh, it’s just a fad. It will vanish in a couple of years.’ But will it? Those who attended the Hazel Scott concert at the auditorium will remember sitting patiently and politely while Miss Scott played some of the classics. Then, in the second part of the program, as she started playing the famous New Orleans walking bass, the crowd gave one joyous moan and from then on the joint was jumpin’. Who were these people who went crazy over Miss Scott’s bass rhythms? Was it just another gang of bobby soxers? NO! It was some of their parents, the people who said they didn’t like boogie.
“What I’m trying to say is that when little Johnny Jones comes home from a hard day at school and sits down to listen to some hot trumpet solos, or deep-throated piano rhythms, his mother should leave him be, even if he does play the same record 392 times. Little Johnny is just in one of his musical moods. So in due respect to parents, we ask them to please let us have our jam sessions, record sessions and music magazines in peace.”
Jerry Walsh grew up in East Harriet and lives in West Bloomington. Jim Walsh grew up and lives in East Harriet.