Thursday, June 3, 2010

Old Haunts and New Friends

It was great having G. Oliver with us Wednesday as we retraced his life in Crookston and Grand Forks.  Even though this G. Oliver was only a cardboard cutout, the handsome, tuxedo-clad bandmaster helped us break the ice as we tried to explain to people we met why we were so interested in old photos and historic buildings.

I especially felt that the force of G. was with us when we entered the Crookston Times building seeking information and left as the subjects of a news story.  G. Oliver constantly was feeding news items to the Crookston papers about his bands back in the early 1900s.  He recognized the power of promotion long before people commonly used the term "public relations."  My dad and I are hoping the upcoming story in the Crookston Times will help us find more band-related items or information about G. Oliver's career – and perhaps inspire others to investigate their family histories.

Here are some highlights of the day:

 G. Oliver and Dad outside the Riggs family's former home in Crookston. 
 • Old haunt: the former family home on Washington Avenue, south of downtown.  This is where my grandfather Ronald and great-uncle Percy lived as teenagers.  The house certainly has seen better days, but it was a thrill to find it still standing.

 The former City Hall, 123 S. Broadway, once was used for band rehearsals.
• Old haunt: The former City Hall and Fire Station, where G. Oliver once had an office.  It's now owned by Ellen and Larry Leake, who operate a beautiful gift shop, Willow & Ivy, on the building's first level.  Larry took us on a tour of the upstairs to see the council chambers room where G. Oliver conducted band rehearsals.

Kay, G. Oliver and I pause for a photo toward the end of the tour.
 • New friend: Kay Hegge, a Crookston resident and preservation dynamo who blogs about efforts to save Crookston's historic buildings, including the Palace/Wayne Hotel.  Kay accompanied us on our walking tour and introduced us to several people.
A side view of the Palace Hotel, which already was a town landmark when G. Oliver moved to Crookston in 1898.
 • Old haunt: The Palace Hotel, built in 1891, once was considered the most impressive building in Crookston.  It's still impressive, but it's vacant and in danger of being demolished.

The Morris Building, which now houses the Crookston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
 • Old Haunt: The Morris Building, designed by architect Bert Keck, a friend of G. Oliver's.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it originally housed Morris Jewelry.  Did G. Oliver ever buy his wife, Islea, something there?

The new library, right, was built adjacent to the old library, now used for storage.
 • Old haunt: The Carnegie Public Library.  G. Oliver's orchestra played at the library's dedication in 1908 (see my previous blog post).

 New friends: The chocolates at Widman's Candy Shop in Crookston, and ...

 ... at the Widman's in Grand Forks, N.D.

A postcard of the Metropolitan Opera House from the University of North Dakota library archives.
Old haunt: the Metropolitan Opera House where G. Oliver's Grand Forks Band played concerts in 1909-1910.

New friend: the Metropolitan Opera house as it looks now.  Wow, what a building!


  1. AWESOME! What a great trip and wonderful pics with G.

  2. It sounds like everyone, including G. Oliver, is having a great time! Can't wait to read the Crookston Times news story.