MOORHEAD — In 1939, the Great Depression had a grip on the United States and World War II had just begun. The new marching band at Moorhead High School was raising money for a historic trip to Winnipeg to play for England's King and Queen.
As Moorhead prepares projects and a book to mark the city's 150 years of education, a newly-discovered goldmine of history captures that day in Winnipeg, 82 years ago.
Brian Cole is a teacher at Moorhead High School, and is sort of the school's history guru. In fact, he is writing a book about everything "Spuds." But nothing has fascinated him more than that day in 1939.
"For these guys back then, this had to be a big deal," Cole said. "The music department sent them to Winnipeg where they represented the city, with a performance before the king and queen."
The high school band of 1939 got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform.
"I like school board minutes and we have them all the way back to the early 1900s," Cole said. "There was one line in May or April of 1939 that said the school board approved a marching band performance in Winnipeg for the King and Queen. It was literally one sentence."
The band raised money - during the depression - and made their way to Canada for the royal visit in Winnipeg.
Cole went on a mission, combing through newspaper archives and yearbooks, looking for any photos of the Moorhead Marching Band in Winnipeg. For months, nothing. But then he struck gold.
"I stumbled on this article, this gentleman bought a box of old home movies, and he didn't really know what he had other than he said one of them was from a parade when the king and queen was in Winnipeg in the late 30s," Cole said.
The color film was from 1939, but would there be any chance the film camera was rolling when the new Moorhead Marching Band rolled by the King and Queen of England.
"I am sitting on my couch, just thinking it was more of the same, more floats but no bands," Cole said. "Then all of a sudden, there was a banner that said, 'Moorhead High School.' It was pretty exciting."
In the film, baton twirler Shirlie Houglum and the band can be seen stepping down the streets of Winnipeg. It was rare proof of the day the Spuds performed for King George VI and his wife.
"They marched in another parade, and then the Moorhead Band was given the polo grounds," Cole said. "They were in the stands at the polo grounds, and the king and queen came by in this classy-looking car, and Moorhead's marching band played the national anthem for the king and queen."
Cole and a team have been digitizing yearbooks and old athletic events, creating a special history exhibit that gets bigger all the time. A chance to honor these trailblazers, forever captured on this stumbled-upon piece of film.
"Sometimes you look at a static photo, it feels like it was long ago," Cole said. "We are fortunate this happened to be a color movie, which is pretty rare. I mean, 1939 was the same year 'Gone with the Wind', and 'Wizard of Oz' came out."
Moorhead Schools has set up an email account at email@example.com for people to share Spud history, and to donate items from the past,