Monday, May 12, 1958: Our glittery centennial

Posted on May 11th, 2008 – 11:15 PM
By Ben Welter

Minnesota’s centennial brought out the stars back in 1958, led by Judy Garland, who fought through a case of laryngitis to entertain 20,000 people at the U’s old Memorial Stadium. Also baking in the sun on that hot Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis were Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Princess Astrid of Norway, Prince Bertil of Sweden, the prime ministers of Denmark and Finland, and ambassadors from West Germany, Iceland and Yugoslavia. Longtime columnist Barbara Flanagan, writing here as the Tribune’s “Women’s Editor,” captured all the color and emotion in a story that ran atop Page One.

A Gallant Dulles, a Jittery Judy Spark Our Centennial

By BARBARA FLANAGAN
Women’s Editor

Secretary of State Dulles doffed his hat to a jittery Judy Garland Sunday as the two put the topper on Minnesota’s Centennial in Memorial stadium.

Grand Rapids-born Judy came on strong singing special material – “I thought it would never happen … I finally got here.”

Midway through the tune, she stopped the orchestra – 32 hand-picked members of the Minneapolis Symphony orchestra – and said:

“Can I start again? I missed the lyric. Isn’t this terrible? I was trying to be so good.”

More than 20,000 sun-drenched spectators applauded and Dulles tipped his homburg.

At the downbeat, Miss Garland lit into the song again and finished it with the phrase: “It’s hard to believe, but here … I … am.”

“Boy, I really messed that up,” she said. “But I really meant every word of it. This is a great honor and I’m really just terrified.

“This place is so damn big.”

Sitting behind the singer along with Dulles and Mrs. Dulles were such VIPs as Princess Astrid of Norway, Prince Bertil of Sweden, Gen. and Mrs. Lauris Norstad, plus prime ministers, ambassadors and state officials.

Wearing a black, glitter-trimmed knit chemise with long sleeves and white Buster Brown collar and cuffs, Miss Garland stepped from a sickbed to sing. She has had laryngitis.

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sat next to Isabelle Norstad, the wife of Gen. Lauris Norstad, a Minneapolis native who was commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.

She often seemed as nervous about turning her back on the dignitaries and would turn to sing to them occasionally.

Buster Davis, Hollywood, Calif., her conductor, steered into the next tune – the famous “You Made Me Love You,” and Judy seemed to calm down.

After it, he said: “Need a hankie, honey?” She did and dabbed at her nose with a paper tissue handed up from the orchestra pit.

Next came such hits as “Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” and “The Trolley Song.”

During “For Me and My Gal,” she urged the crowd to sing along. Norstad tried it and Gov. Freeman seemed to know the words.

Yugoslavia’s Ambassador Mates sat on the edge of his chair, grinning and bobbing his head to the music.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Hansen tapped his toe in time to it. Prince Bertil clapped vigorously after every number.

Then Judy asked for a glass of water.

Congressman Walter Judd, a doctor, leaped to his feet from a seat in the back row and rushed into the audience. He came back with a glass of orange-colored liquid.

“What’s this?” asked Judy. “Orange juice, I think,” said Judd. “Are you sure?” said Judy, and sipped it. “You’re right.”

She handed it back to Judd with a thank you and “Boy, it’s hot.”

Turning to Davis, she said, “Where are we?” “Rainbow, darling,” he said. And the orchestra began to play her most famous melody, “Over the Rainbow.”

Miss Garland sang it like new and ended up a little misty-eyed. The crowd applauded and she bowed off.

Off stage, she said: “I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m afraid I just wasn’t good.”

ASSURED that she was, Miss Garland said, “Now, don’t kid me. Was it okay?” Then she cheerfully signed autographs for youngsters who clambered down to greet her.

Miss Garland appeared just before Dulles made his speech. The secretary and Mrs. Dulles came on stage about 4 p.m. to a rousing welcome.

By that time the people in the stands and the personalities on stage were mighty hot. The sun beat down throughout the afternoon from a cloudless sky.

IT FORCED Prince Bertil – a man who prides himself on not wearing a hat – to borrow an old felt topper from a Centennial official.

Women on stage, including Princess Astrid, were given paper Japanese parasols to shield them.

The princess seemed cheerful in spite of the bright sky. She teased photographers in the pit by holding the parasol in front of her face. Then she’d smile and remove it.

Cedric Adams, Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Sunday Tribune columnist, was master of ceremonies for the rededication program.

HE INTRODUCED Gov. Freeman, who introduced the special guests.

Those who brought special messages to Minnesota on its 100th birthday included Princess Astrid, Prince Bertil, Danish Prime Minister Hansen, Finland’s Prime Minister Kuuskoski, Yugoslavia’s Ambassador Mates, Iceland’s Ambassador Thors and German Ambassador Grewe.

Bertil said: “Scandinavia as well as Minnesota will continue to change. But the roots we have in common will remain. The ideals we regard as fundamental – friendship, honesty, justice – are timeless. What we need is a rededication to the basic principles of the pioneers and this Centennial is a good opportunity.

“In my native language, may I say, “ja, ma Du leva, Minnesota,” (Surely you will prosper).

Princess Astrid paid tribute to Norwegian pioneers in Minnesota and added: “The compassion and aid you rendered to us in Norway during our darkest hour of World War II will never be forgotten. I, now, bring my father, the king’s, sincere and warm greetings to the people of Minnesota.”

SPEAKING for the Centennial commission was its chairman, Rep. Peter Popovich.

One of the most dramatic moments in the program came when actor Walter Abel – born in St. Paul and reared in Heron Lake, Minn. – read “Giant in the Wooded Earth,” by Herbert Krause, professor of English at Augustana college, Sioux Falls, S.D.

His moving words were accompanied by the symphony conducted by Gerard Samuel.

ANOTHER musical moment came from the Apollo club which sang “They Called It Minnesota,” the Centennial prize-winner by tunesmiths Sid Lippman and Sylvia Dee.

Other distinguished Minnesotans honored yesterday included Dr. Lloyd V. Berkner, president, Associated Universities, Inc.; Dr. Paul Klopsteg, associate director for research, National Science Foundation; Carroll M. Shanks, president, Prudential Insurance Co., and Gen. Norstad, North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Judy Garland and other VIPs sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a commemorative dinner the night before the big show at Memorial Stadium. Front row, from left: Lt. Gov. Karl Rolvaag, Garland and Robert Snook, a centennial organizer. Back row, from left: Judge Luther Youngdahl, Mrs. James L. Morrill and University of Minnesota President James L. Morrill, and Eleanor Pillsbury.

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