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Peggy Lee in Fargo, ND Part 2

Posted by sambr 
Peggy Lee in Fargo, ND Part 2
October 28, 2018 08:55AM
[b]Second Fargo period[/b]
The first move to California, in March, 1938, was not a success for Peggy Lee, career-wise or health-wise. In August she returned to North Dakota and underwent a tonsillectomy in Hillsboro, where she was staying with her sisters, Marianne and Della. In September she moved to Fargo for the second time.

A Jamestown newspaper report about Norma Egstrom's return to Fargo included the news that she was to go back to Los Angeles on 1 December, 1938 to fulfil a singing contract. She did not immediately start broadcasting on her return, though she was employed again at the radio station WDAY. She was recovering from the tonsillectomy and the resulting complications. In mid-October she travelled with her parents and her sister, Marianne, to visit her youngest sister, Jean, in Volga, South Dakota. Jean had been taken in by her aunt and uncle, Tilda and Julius Martinson, on the death of Selma Egstrom in 1924 (Tilda was Selma's half-sister). Jean was terminally ill and this was to be the last time she would see her immediate family.
[[i]Stutsman County Record: 8 Sep, 1938
Stutsman County Record: 27 Oct, 1938[/i]]

On the return to North Dakota, Norma stayed in Jamestown with her parents for a weekend. She appeared as a guest on a program broadcast from KRMC in the Gladstone Hotel where she had started singing soon after graduating from high school.
[[i]Stutsman County Record: 27 Oct, 1938[/i]]

Jean Egstrom died on 18 November, 1938. Everyone in the Egstrom family travelled to Volga for the funeral.
[[i]Stutsman County Record: 24 Nov, 1938[/i]]

Peggy Lee was employed at WDAY during the day and, starting in December, she was also holding down a job singing at the Coffee Shop in the Hotel Powers, a 5-minute walk up Broadway from the Black Building where the WDAY studios were located. She sang at the Powers Coffee Shop for the lunch- and dinner-time patrons (the 'Dinner and Supper hours'). Her accompanist on the Hammond electric organ was Frank Norris. The contemporary advertisements for the café indicated that they entertained 7 days a week. On Sundays, Frank Norris played from 1 to 3:30 pm and from 6 to 10 pm. Peggy Lee sang from 1 to 3 pm and from 6 to 8 pm. Monday to Saturday they performed from noon to 1 pm and 6 to 7:30 pm. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays they also entertained the post-theatre crowd from 8:30 pm to midnight.
[[i]Fargo Forum: multiple issues
Inforum: 27 Oct, 2015[/i]]

The [i]Noonday Variety Show[/i] in which Peggy Lee had started her Fargo broadcasting career in 1937 was phased out and replaced by two noontime programs, [i]Tune Time[/i] (12:30 – 12:45 pm) and [i]Dinner Bell Time[/i] (12:45 – 1:30 pm with news, etc breaks). [i]Dinner Bell Time[/i] was sponsored by McCormick-Deering dealers and was first heard at the beginning of December. [i]Tune Time[/i] was, in turn, phased out at the end of December and its time slot taken over by [i]Dinner Bell Time[/i]. It is not known if Peggy Lee took part in the noontime shows. She was on duty at Powers Coffee Shop from noon to 1 pm, so could have appeared in the last half hour of [i]Dinner Bell Time[/i]. Neither Peggy Lee nor her character [i]Freckle Face Gertie[/i] is mentioned in any of the published cast listings, but these are unlikely to be complete.

[i]Advertisement in the Fargo Forum of 5 January, 1939 (detail)[/i]

The first report of Peggy Lee headlining a broadcast at WDAY was 1 December, the day she had been contracted to sing in Los Angeles. The program was beamed live from the Powers Coffee Shop. She and Frank Norris had 15 minutes on the air from 10:15 - 10:30 pm. The broadcast was scheduled as a regular feature each Monday, Thursday and Friday night and continued until the end of May, 1939, when Peggy Lee left Fargo for Grand Forks. From 18 May, the program was broadcast earlier, from 8 to 8:15 pm, and the frequency of the broadcasts was reduced from 3 per week to 2, on Thursday and Friday evenings.

[i]Advertisement in the Fargo Forum of 1 December, 1938[/i]

An advertisement for a local music store featured Peggy Lee and Frank Norris at the Hammond electric organ in the Powers Coffee Shop. This may be Peggy Lee's first endorsement of a commercial product that appeared in print.

[i]Advertisement in the Fargo Forum of 19 March, 1939[/i]

A surviving WDAY script for one of the broadcasts indicates that during the 15 minute show Peggy Lee sang two songs accompanied by Frank Norris, who also played three solos.

In addition to the Coffee Shop remotes, Peggy Lee was featured from the Black Building studios accompanied by the WDAY house orchestra on Tuesdays, with Rudy Rudd conducting. The early evening show (from 5:30 – 5:45 pm) continued until near the end of January, 1939. In February it was replaced by a new headline show, [i]Songs by Peggy Lee[/i], which ran on Wednesday evenings (from 5:30 – 5:45 pm) through mid-March.
[[i]Fargo Forum: multiple issues WDAY advertisement[/i]]

Peggy Lee's last broadcast on WDAY during her 1938 - 39 stay in Fargo was on 26 May, 1939. She was well established in Fargo and had her two jobs at the Powers Coffee Shop and at WDAY, but the majority of her income was from the Coffee Shop. The local colleges that were the source of many of the Coffee Shop's customers completed the academic year at the end of May, so Peggy may have been laid off from the Coffee Shop for the duration of the summer vacation. She moved at the end of the month to Grand Forks, North Dakota and started a new job singing at the Belmont Café. Her brother, Leonard, was a director at the Grand Forks YMCA at this period. Her sisters, Della and Marianne, were living in Grand Forks, having moved from Hillsboro.
[[i]Fargo Forum: 26 May, 1939
Grand Forks Herald: 28 May, 1939[/i]]

No record of where Norma lived during her second period in Fargo has surfaced.

[b]Live music in Fargo[/b]
Various sources, including Peggy Lee's memoir, claim that there was no live music at the Hotel Powers (or elsewhere in Fargo, or perhaps even North Dakota) prior to her debut in the Coffee Shop. This is an odd assertion; North Dakota may have been a relatively young state but entertainment was not hard to find. When Norma Egstrom arrived in Fargo in 1937 there were two ballrooms that used live music, seven cinemas, some of which were capable of hosting vaudeville shows, and more than a dozen halls where live music was sometimes presented. Prior to the Fire of 1893 there was even an opera house. It is well documented that Frank Norris played the electric Hammond at the Hotel Powers as early as October, two months before Peggy Lee joined him on the riser in the Coffee Shop. He provided a 'novel organ musical feature during the matinee, supper and after-theater hours.' The three sessions on weekdays totaled 5½ hours. He played two sessions on Saturday for a total of 6 hours and two sessions on Sunday totaling 7½ hours.

[i]Advertisements in the Fargo Forum of 14 October, 1938 and the Moorhead Daily News of 28 October, 1938 (detail)[/i]

In pre-Depression days, the Hotel Powers had regular musical entertainment in its dining rooms.

[i]Advertisement in The Spectrum of 6 January, 1928[/i]

The Golden Maid, where Norma Egstrom found employment on first moving to Fargo in 1937, had live music in 1925, shortly after opening for business.

[i]Advertisements in The Spectrum of 9 October, 1925 and the Moorhead Daily News of 20 February, 1926[/i]

One of the other musicians at WDAY, Lem Hawkins, led the orchestra in the [i]Noonday Variety Show[/i]. He also played regularly at one of the ballrooms in town.

[i]Advertisement in Fargo Forum of 2 October, 1937[/i]

[b]Entertainment at Le Chateau[/b]
'Meanwhile, we were doing so well at the Powers that our competition, Le Chateau, had to import a singer from Minneapolis! Competition or not, she turned out to be one of the best friends I have ever had in life...' - from Peggy Lee's memoir. Lee is referring to Jane Larrabee, known professionally as Jane Leslie.

Le Chateau was a confectioner's and café/bar at the southern end of Broadway, a somewhat less desirable area of town than the 400 Broadway block where the Powers Coffee Shop was located. The café was close to the Northern Pacific railway depot and a power plant with four smokestacks. There had been a confectioner's at 2 Broadway since 1915 when the Mirras Brothers opened the Broadway Confectionery. The three Mirras brothers, immigrants from Greece, were established confectioners in Fargo. Around 1923 three other Greek immigrants, the Ginakes brothers, joined the partnership. The newcomers took over the business around 1926. In 1929, they renamed the Broadway Confectionery to Le Chateau, and the restaurant side of the business became dominant. Early in 1937 the Ginakes Brothers undertook a major renovation to the café and in June reopened the art deco 'modernistic, air conditioned' new LeChateau (apparently dropping the space between the two words). They beat the 'new' art moderne Powers Coffee Shop by a couple of months.

Jane Leslie did not appear on the Fargo scene until 1940. She was first reported singing at LeChateau in February. During the 1938 – 39 season when Peggy Lee was singing at the Powers Coffee Shop, LeChateau featured their regular pianist, Mary Dean, and singer Betty Lyman (c February – May, 1939). When the following academic year began, Mary Dean was back at LeChateau, this time with vocalist Don Thrall (c October – December, 1939).

[i]Advertisements in The Spectrum of 17 February, 1939; the Moorhead Daily News of 12 October, 1939; the Fargo Forum of 16 February, 1940[/i]
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