Bob, Carol, Mike, and crossing the Danube — it’s late AprilWORTHINGTON — Yesterday, by lifelong friend Bob Haken turned 60. Today, two great adult friends — Carol Olson Garmer and Mike Traphagen are celebrating birthdays. On April 23, 1945, the Daily Globe’s banner headline ran: “Third Lunges Toward Munich”
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Yesterday, by lifelong friend Bob Haken turned 60.
Today, two great adult friends — Carol Olson Garmer and Mike Traphagen are celebrating birthdays.
On April 23, 1945, the Daily Globe’s banner headline ran:
“Third Lunges Toward Munich”
“Russians Hold About Fourth of Berlin,” ran the subhead.
Yes, in late April — 66 years ago —the Allies were winning the war in Europe, as General George Patton’s Third Army had just marched across the Czechoslovakia border and had defeated the Germans at a battle along the Danube River, successfully crossing and coming within 50 miles of the major southern city of Munich.
Meanwhile, the Russians were fighting in the north, occupying more and more of Berlin.
After enduring the early losses through the first-year of the war in 1942, the mood in America had to be on a positive upswing in late April of ’45 when the news headlines told of the war’s approaching end.
V-E Day (Victory in Europe) was just over two weeks away.
Six years later, Bob Haken was born on April 22, 1951 to Tony and Joyce Haken, being welcomed by older sister Bonnie.
Until third grade, Bob grew up on farm north of Heron Lake — just south of Highway 62.
I lived half-a-mile north of 62 and my dad and Bob’s dad were farm neighbors, who frequently visited and talked “shop.”
So, it was only natural that Bob and I became childhood friends.
The Haken’s moved about four miles north in 1959 and Bob spent the rest of his school years as a Storden Tiger.
But, we still were friends.
We played a lot of basketball at Michelau’s barn (about halfway between our two farm places, just across the road from Springfield Township’s “Red, White and Blue” schoolhouse) on winter weekends, and then in the spring, we were pole vaulting rivals — something we took up as farm kids, using bamboo poles which were found — in those days — inside of carpets.
By high school, we had advanced to fiberglass — utilizing the red thermo-flex poles of the late 1960s.
In late May of ’69, we both cleared 12’¾” at the District 7 track and field meet in Jackson, setting a new district record.
Windom’s Bill Malady also cleared that height and had the fewest misses, so he won the event, while Bob was second and I placed third.
But all three of us had the district record until Windom’s David Caviness came along nine years later and obliterated the record, sailing over 13 feet.
I found it interesting that on the same day that Bob’s birth announcement would have been in the papers (April 23, 1951), a sub-heading in the Daily Globe sports pages about Worthington High School’s track team ran:
“Dominate Pole Vault”
In a four-school meet at St. James on Friday, the 20th, the Trojans took the top four places in the pole vault as Roxy Koepsell, Duane Schmidt and Daryl Voss ended in a three-way tie for first, each clearing 9-6 (bamboo or maybe aluminum, long before fiberglass).
Don McCollum placed fourth, completing the Worthington sweep of the vault.
The Trojans won the two-mile relay in a time of 9:46, as Dean Kohlhoff, Don Basche, Jim Like and Gordon Osmonson each ran half-miles for WHS.
Basche (41-1) and Don Martin placed 1-2 for the Trojans in the shot put and Martin won the discus with a throw of 105-5.
Teamwise, St. James won the meet with 57 points, followed by Worthington 48½, Windom 24 and New Ulm 19½.
It started raining halfway through the meet and the wet, cold weather — along with the loose cinder track — hampered performances.
Also in local sports, Worthington Cubs’ manager Jerry Gardner was calling for the amateur baseball team’s first practice of the season the following evening — Tuesday, April 24, 1951.
At the State Theatre, “Father’s Little Dividend,” starring Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor was showing, while the Grand Theatre was advertising a double feature: “Hunt The Man Down,” starring Gig Young, Carla Balenda and James Anderson; along with “Law of the Badlands,” featuring Tim Holt.
On the state sports’ scene, new Minnesota Gophers’ football coach Wes Fesler had just completed three weeks of spring practice and was impressed with the play of freshman quarterback Paul Giel, a 5-10, 180-pound converted fullback from Winona.
Giel would go on to earn All-American gridiron honors as a Gopher and would later become the U’s athletic director for many years.
In between times, the talented all-around athlete pitched briefly with the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins — including being part of the staff in the transition year of 1961.
In national sports, the Brooklyn Dodgers had just swept the New York Giants.
But the Major League Baseball season is a long journey — and on the final day of the ’51 campaign, Bobby Thomson’s famous home run lifted the Giants to a thrilling playoff victory over those same Dodgers, giving his team the National League pennant.
Thomson’s dramatic homer has been dubbed “the shot heard ‘round the world.”
The Yankees, however, won the ’51 World Series, as MLB’s top three teams were all headquartered in New York City — the year that Bob and I were both born.
The front page Daily Globe headline on April 23, 1951?
“Major Red Offensive Hurls U.N. Forces Back”
“Attack Launched Behind Heavy Artillery Barrage.”
Less than six years after WW II finally ended, U.S. troops were back in action in Korea.
Here’s the lead paragraph of the front-page story:
“TOKYO (AP) — United Nations troops pulled back as much as 12 miles under the impact of a major Red offensive which raged along 100 miles of the Korean front today.”
Red, of course, meant the Communists.
April 23, 1953
“Iowans Perish in Freak Accident,” ran the Globe’s banner headline on Thursday, April 23, 1953.
“Car Lands in Burning Ditch After Rear-end Collision,” was the subhead.
A couple from Hull, Iowa, were killed in the tragic accident, which happened five miles north of Luverne on Highway 75, shortly before noon on Wednesday.
Mike’s Spaghetti House (later Michael’s Restaurant) was advertising its Fourth Anniversary, featuring a Spanish meat loaf dinner for $1.25.
On the local scene, Globe sports editor Don Trunk’s “Sports Chatter” column told about ex Cubs’ (Worthington, not Chicago) pitcher Jerry Speck and his mound exploits with the Memphis Chicks in the Southern Association League, including a 5-2 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Speck allowed just six hits over nine innings, while striking out four.
Luverne’s left-handed throwing Loren Kruse — the defending District 8 champion in the discus (129-7) — had a remarkable performance at a quadrangular track and field meet in Worthington, uncorking a huge heave of 151-11¾, winning the event by over 30 feet.
Leading the Trojans were dual winners Jim Crockett and Daryl Voss.
Crockett won both dashes (100, 220) and also anchored Worthington’s winning half-mile relay team.
Voss won the high jump (5-8) and tied with teammates Jerry Kingery and Delmar Uphoff for first place in the pole vault (9-6).
The meet was the first on Worthington’s new track (cinders) facility.
Floyd “Baldy” Nelson was Worthington’s head track coach and was looking ahead to hosting both the Trojans Relays and the District 8 meet in May.
So, happy birthday, Carol, and there are a few of the things that were happening when you “arrived on the scene.”
Carol, a 1971 graduate of Okabena High School, became a close friend of my wife Cheryl when we first moved to Heron Lake in 1975.
Carol is now married to Dave Garmer and the couple live in Brewster and are regular readers of the “Blast-from-the-Past.”
How about 1956?
The front page headline on April 23, 1956 typified the “Cold War” era.
“Angry Kruschev Hurls Warning,” ran the banner across the top, with the subheading ‘Never Shake Your Fist at a Russian’ in smaller print just above the main headline.
Soviet Union Premier Nikita Kruschev issued a warning — at a meeting in Birmingham, England — that his country had developed a hydrogen bomb, which would soon have a guided missile, capable of being launched anywhere in the world.
It was the middle of the “Cold War,” but Elvis Presley was rocking the charts, having hit the top earlier in the year with “Heartbreak Hotel,” while the dual record “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog” was released in May and would peak in July.
But on April 23, the major national sporting event was the discussion about the Philadelphia Phillies’ pitching ace and Brooklyn Dodgers’ star Don Newcombe both having expectations to have outstanding seasons in the National League.
This, of course, was the year that Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle would win the Triple Crown, leading the American League in home runs (52), runs batted in (132) and batting average (.353).
Locally, Worthington edged Fairmont, 3-2, in high school baseball action, as Trojan second baseman Larry McKeever scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
McKeever reached first base on a leadoff error and advanced to second on Bob Preston’s basehit bunt.
McKeever then stole third as Dave Higgins squared to bunt.
A couple of pitches later, McKeever hustled home with the game-winner, sliding across home plate on a high and outside delivery with the suicide squeeze on.
Preston, the Trojan shortstop, had a pair of hits in the game to lead WHS, while McKeever scored two runs.
Lefty Harris Darling pitched five innings for the Trojans, striking out five Cardinals, before Bjarne Johnson took over and pitched the last two frames, getting the win.
Joe Roberts, who did the catching for Worthington, scored a run for the Trojans in the fourth inning, coming home after a Fairmont error off a sharply-hit grounder by Darling.
Eighteen years later, Mike Traphagen would be playing baseball for the Worthington Trojans, as he capped a fine high school career (cross country, basketball, baseball) for WHS in 1974.
After several years coaching at Heron Lake-Okabena, “Trap” returned to his alma mater and has been an integral part of Worthington athletics ever since.
Woelfle, Rohwedder shine at 1945 Tomahawk Relays
As Patton’s forces were pushing through southern Germany and the Battle of Okinawa was raging in the Pacific, Trojan track stars Don Woelfle and Willis Rohwedder were having sparkling performances at the 1945 Tomahawk Relays in Cherokee, Iowa.
Woelfle, a multi-sport star at WHS, won the high jump (5-8), placed second in the pole vault and fourth in the long jump to rack up 12 individual points — the second most in the big 24-school meet, leading Worthington to a fifth-place team finish with 18½ points.
Rohwedder — the defending state champion in the mile run and the winner of the 1944 state high school cross country meet (1.8 miles, 9:37) at Lake Nokomis Park in Minneapolis — outraced the entire field at Cherokee and won the mile, clocked at 4:49.5 and establishing a new meet record.
Jack Watson, who two years later — in 1947 — set an Indian Relays (Mankato) meet record of 11-7 in the pole vault, scored Worthington’s final half-point at those ’45 Tomahawk Relays by finishing in a four-way tie for fourth place in the pole vault.
J.A. Curran was Worthington’s head track and field coach in 1945, when Major League Baseball’s disabled list was known as the “Iodine List.”
So there are a few of the local, state and national sports “blasts back in time” — along with some of the major national and world headlines — of the last week of April during the springs of 1951, 1953, 1956 and 1945.
As for Bob Haken and myself.
We were colleagues again last fall.
Bob’s grandson Austin Haken was the quarterback on the same flag football team — in the Windom League — that my son Logan was a running back on.
Both Austin and Logan played in the defensive back and each intercepted several passes, helping their team strive to win games.
Happy birthday, Bob, Carol and Mike.