Stories about North Dakota’s famed singer Peggy Lee continue to come in.
Well, here’s another story about Peggy. This one comes from Scott Dolik.
Scott isn’t a North Dakota boy; he grew up in Orange County, Calif., now lives in Columbus, Ga., and is moving to McCall, Idaho, when he retires this year. But his late mother, Marjorie Kistler, was from Leonard, N.D., and she told Scott this story, who passes it along in the wake of a “Neighbors” column about Peggy he saw online.
Many years ago, Scott writes, “my mom was staying in a Fargo hotel (I think it was the Powers) when a young girl who had run away from home showed up named Norma Egstrom. According to my mom, she had no place to stay, so my mom took her in at the hotel. They were roommates.
“Norma wanted to sing on the radio at WDAY.
“Mom loaned her some dresses so she’d have something to wear to perform in, and she lied to the radio station that she (Norma) was 18 years old. (She was 16 at the time and was too young to perform on the radio without permission).
“Mom told me how Norma would not be chasing boys like the rest of the girls, but would be in a corner writing songs on pieces of scrap paper.”
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Norma was hired at WDAY, where she was given her Peggy Lee stage name by the station’s program director Ken Kennedy. And she went on to become a top recording and performing star.
“Mom always enjoyed her music,” Scott says, “and she would always recall how they met in Fargo.
“Mom stated that Peggy’s hit song ‘Is That All There Is?’ was autobiographical; especially, the part about the special boy she fell in love with.
“Years later, I was reading a biography about Peggy to Mom after she became an invalid; I always read whole books to her during dialysis (she was diabetic).
“This biography mentioned someone named ‘Jane’ who Peggy remembered as ‘one of the finest people she ever met’ who befriended her in Fargo after she had been mistreated by her stepmother. That would have been my mom, whose name was changed because Peggy had no way to contact Mom for permission to use her name.
“When I read it to her, Mom’s eyes lit up and she smiled.”
Scott adds that Helen Kistler, the widow of his mother’s brother Perry Kistler, still lives in Leonard. She is over 90.
Recently, “Neighbors” carried a story about people who lived in a log house on a farm near Gardner, N.D., in 1927.
That brought an email from Mike Sandberg, Fargo, saying, “We need more news like this story.
“It is great to be reminded of those days and simple wonders, unlike today.
“I built a scribe fit log home the way they did back in the day.
“Words are not at my command to describe the satisfaction of being in a structure that one has built, listening to the wood stove on a cold winter day.”
Sounds great, Mike.
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.