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Fifty years later, Metzger still plays sousaphone given him by Worthington

CRAILSHEIM, Germany -- Fifty years ago this summer, Crailsheim's Guenter Metzger boarded a ship and set off across the Atlantic Ocean, bound for Worthington and a year-long experience as the 1967-1968 exchange student.

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Guenter Metzger, an exchange student to Worthington 50 years ago, still plays the sousaphone given to him by Worthington. He is a member of the Crailsheim Stadtkapelle. (Special to The Globe / Ute Bartels)

CRAILSHEIM, Germany - Fifty years ago this summer, Crailsheim’s Guenter Metzger boarded a ship and set off across the Atlantic Ocean, bound for Worthington and a year-long experience as the 1967-1968 exchange student.

His stay in Worthington is filled with many wonderful memories, and he need only pick up his sousaphone to remember just how special the people of this southwest Minnesota town were to him.

When Metzger arrived in Worthington, he’d already had five years experience playing the tuba in Crailsheim’s youth band. He quickly joined the Worthington High School band, then under the direction of Glenn Evensen, and joined the eight-member tuba section.

But at the high school, Metzger discovered the tuba players sounded their tubas in concert band, but had sousaphones for marching. The sousaphone is a tuba, but built for ease in marching band. It was an instrument Metzger had only before seen in the U.S. Army bands that played in Germany.

As a gift from Worthington, Metzger was given his own sousaphone in the fall of 1967 - one he took with him when he returned to Crailsheim in August 1968.

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“I then lived with the Duba family and Dick Duba had a sheet metal business,” Metzger shared. “He built out of metal a case so I could transport my new sousaphone from the U.S. back home to Germany.”

By September 1968, Metzger had rejoined the Crailsheim city band - the Stadtkapelle - in which he played the sousaphone for both concert and marching band with pride.

“After some years being back (in Crailsheim), when you have a hobby sometimes you wonder if you should continue or do something else,” Metzger said. “I always said, ‘Guenter, you cannot do that because all of the friends who spent the money for the sousaphone would be disappointed if Guenter has the sousaphone for just a few years and he quits.’

“I said, no, I must do this - I must keep playing the sousaphone so they are not disappointed over there (in Worthington), which means I still play today,” he added.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Metzger’s receipt of the sousaphone, and he said the musical instrument is still a much appreciated gift.

Next June, when the Worthington High School Class of 1968 gathers for its 50th anniversary class reunion, Metzger plans to be present.

“Worthington was a big key in my development growing up,” he said. “It was a very good experience.”

Metzger’s selection as the exchange student to Worthington brought with it his first experience abroad.

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“Today, the young kids go on a plane and go on holidays,” he said. “(Back) then it was very special. My longest trip as a young boy was visiting relatives in the area of 60 to 70 kilometers out of town.”

Metzger said he would not be the person he is today without having been an exchange student. It affected his life and his career.

“I’m very pleased that I was part of this program and it still goes on,” he said. “I think it’s very good that this program keeps on going for years.”

After returning to Crailsheim, Metzger eventually landed a career as a salesman of packaging machines. He traveled to many countries, and it was his expertise in the English language that helped him get the job.

Metzger retired two years ago, at age 68, and continues to live in Crailsheim.

 

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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