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Fargo hosted own Thanksgiving telethon years ago

Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist

When comedian/actor Jerry Lewis died near the Labor Day weekend this year, a flood of memories came to Maureen (Crowley) Kerce.

"My family, consisting of my husband and two kids," Maureen, of Lake City, Fla., writes Neighbors, "almost always had the Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon playing in the background all day on Labor Day holidays during and long after my children had grown up. Mr. Lewis always produced a first-class variety show during a time when this type of television program was slowly dying off. I was sorely disappointed when they finally pulled the plug on Mr. Lewis, because I knew I probably wouldn't see this type of programming any more.

"When I did an internet search of the history of the muscular dystrophy telethon," Maureen says, "I found most sources cited the mid-'60s as its time of origin. While I didn't completely doubt this, it left me slightly confused, because I thought I remembered an M.D. telethon produced over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend during the mid-'50s.

"Then lo and behold! I found one source that confirmed it.

"Why did I have such a memory? That is where Fargo-Moorhead, my hometown, enters the picture.

Dancing on TV

"I grew up in Fargo in the '50s and '60s," Maureen says. "I took tap-dancing from Bea Volker, who conducted classes in her Moorhead home.

"I was about 9 years old when our class was invited to dance and sing for the M.D. telethon show held at North Dakota State University's Festival Hall over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1956.

"The local CBS affiliate, KXJB, televised the local show as well as the national one, I think. Captain Jim Rohn, who was KXJB's weatherman at the time, hosted the telecast and introduced us.

"We wore 'Christmassy' costumes and sang and danced to 'I'm Gettin' Nuthin' for Christmas,' with my line being 'I broke a bat on Tommy's head; somebody snitched on me.'

"My questions for your readers," Maureen writes, "are: Does anybody else remember this event, and if, so, do they remember more of the details surrounding it? Was Jim Adelson (the KXJB sportscaster) there? Who were some of the other amateur talent acts?

"Does anybody remember Bea Volker, or her daughter Jocelyn who taught baton-twirling?

"The lady who played the piano for Mrs. Volker? I've forgotten her name, just as I've forgotten the names of my fellow dancing students, most of whom I assume resided in Moorhead; if any of them are still around, I hope they will contact you with their identities and relate their experiences, too.

"Mrs. Volker lived a block or two east of what was then Moorhead High School. I used to catch my return bus to Fargo at the corner where St. John the Divine Episcopal Church is.

"Thanks for any feedback you get for me," Maureen says.

Over to you, neighbors.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.

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