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USA Trip


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Clarinda – June 10th.
I arrived at Clarinda, Iowa, where Glenn Miller was born on March 1 1904, on the evening of June 10th. The reason for my visit to Clarinda, a small (only about 5,600 population), neat town, full of friendly people, was that it was time for the Annual Glenn Miller Birthplace Society's Festival, attended every year by people from all over the world (evidence Mr Hideomi Aoki and his TV crew from Japan, who attend regularly). Mr Aoki is President of the Japan Branch of the GMBS.

My first full day in Clarinda consisted mainly of saying "hello" to famous Glenn Miller experts like Marvin Negley, President of the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society, based of course in Clarinda, Dr Alan Cass, Curator of the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado (and his charming wife, Sue), Ed Polic, acknowledged as the number one GM music fundi in the world, Dennis Spragg, Senior Consultant to the University of Colorado Glenn Miller Archive (also Moderator of the Glenn Miller Fans Discussion Group, with headquarters in America), plus three foremost members of that Group: Pete Cruze, Bill Schaaf, Ray Eberle Jnr, Cary Hahn, George Aust and Tom Rupert. Of course I met many other fine people, just too many names to remember. I also posed in front of the Glenn Miller Birthplace House for pictures, notably with Mr Aoki.

Friday, June 12th, was very important for me. Marvin Negley had informed me months earlier that I had been voted onto THE Panel, a discussion and questions/answers group consisting of world authorities on Glenn Miller. A high honour for me, the only South African ever. But before that took place at 2 pm, the day started off with a ceremony at the Glenn Miller Birthplace House at 8 am, and thereafter a concert in the High School Auditorium at 10 am by the Tom Daugherty Big Band from Dayton, Ohio. An excellent orchestra !!

THEN came the Panel Discussion, and with me on the Panel were the abovementioned Messrs. Polic, Cass and Cruze, plus Ms Jan Eberle, singing daughter of Ray Eberle, who sang in Glenn Miller's civilian band between 1938 and 1942. I was able to relay to the audience, in person, the "Fred Shaw story", relating to Glenn Miller's disappearance.

I must confess that I held sway longer than any of the other panellists ! Oh, I almost forgot: During my email exchanges with Marvin Negley and Dr. Alan Cass before my trip, I promised both the GMBS and the GM Archive at Colorado University copies of my world record-breaking "Miller Magic" radio series of 2004/5/6 (115programmes).

They both accepted with alacrity, and after the Panel Discussion, both handing-over functions took place, with speeches from all concerned and much applause all round.

Grand Parade through Clarinda.

NOW: shortly before I left South Africa for the USA, Marvin Negley had emailed me with the cherry-on-the-top news for me: "Henry, we would like you to be the GRAND MARSHALL on the Grand Parade through Clarinda on Saturday morning at 9 o'clock.

You would ride in an open vehicle at the head of the parade". Well ! Another "First" for any South African, AND for any non-American ever ! SO, when I arrived at the starting-point of the Grand Parade shortly before 9 am on Saturday, June 13th, I found out that I would ride in a horse-drawn buggy ! Anyway, it went off smoothly, and I waved and smiled at the crowds in the streets of Clarinda, in true "Queen" style. Many pictures were taken of this, maybe the most important of my whole trip.

The sensational Saturday was far from over. At 3.15 pm Dr Alan Cass gave an outstanding audio-visual lecture titled "Portrait — Glenn Miller", also in the High School Auditorium, where the Panel Discussion was held. More hearty applause……..

My personal favourite, musically, followed at 4.30 pm, when the Official Glenn Miller Orchestra, directed by my long-standing friend, Larry O'Brien, took to the stage in the Auditorium. And did they cook ! A number of regulars to the Festival said that the band had never sounded better. For me, who had last heard the band in 1983, they were just fantastic ! And Larry picked so many not-often-heard numbers from the Miller library to surprise us with. And he succeeded !

As the second half was about to begin, Dr Alan Cass told me that Larry had invited us for dinner after the concert. But before discussing the dinner, may I tell you that halfway through the second half, Larry stopped the concert, and mentioned Alan Cass, Ed Polic and ME from the stage. And Larry said: "I had not seen Henry since 1983", so Alan nudged me and said: "Get up, get up !" Which I did. More loud applause. The dinner was tremendous. Larry and his charming wife, Judy, sat next to me, and we chatted like mad while the food kept on coming. What a way to end my Clarinda visit !!

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