Wimbledon railroad depot museum documents Lee’s successful careerThis weekend is the culmination of years of work in honor of one North Dakotan who has decades of chart-topping success as a singer.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
This weekend is the culmination of years of work in honor of one North Dakotan who has decades of chart-topping success as a singer.
On Saturday — the would-be 92nd birthday of Norma Delores Egstrom, better known to the world as Peggy Lee — the Midland Continental Railroad Wimbledon (N.D.) Depot Featuring Peggy Lee will open to the public.
The building’s lower level serves as a railroad museum and the upper level serves as a tribute to Lee, her life’s work and her time in North Dakota.
“She was an amazing lady,” said Mary Beth Orn, treasurer of the Midland Continental Depot Restoration Committee. “We think it’s a tribute to her North Dakota roots. An old music teacher said she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘can’t.’”
“We think it’s a tribute to her North Dakota roots. An old music teacher said she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘can’t,’” Orn said.
The upstairs room is all things Lee with historical displays detailing her time from Wimbledon to her later years in California.
“There’s things here you can’t find on the Internet, so it’s pretty exciting,” Orn said.
Few people may know that Lee was the president of her junior class in Wimbledon, as well as editor of the school newspaper.
Even the Thursday, May 27, 1937, edition of The Wimbledon News correctly predicts Egstrom’s future.
“We had all heard Norma sing over KOVC and knew that some day we would hear her singing with some world-famous orchestra,” the class prophecy read.
Four years later in Chicago she would catch her big break with world-renowned bandleader Benny Goodman.
The museum offers professionally created exhibits with glossy photos and 80 album covers throughout the years.
More than 100 of her songs are available for people to listen to on tablet devices. Three of her dresses are also on display, as well as artifacts from the musician.
“You can see all of her dresses were gorgeous,” Orn said. “She didn’t have anything when she was young, it was the 1930s.”
The rest of the Wimbledon Midland Continental Railroad Depot Featuring Peggy Lee has been restored to be exactly that. A railroad depot complete with exhibits reminiscent of the depot’s heydays in the 1920s and 1930s, when Lee lived and worked there.
The upstairs minus the Peggy Lee room is also done just as the rest of the depot. Complete with a kitchen and bedroom to look exactly as it did when the Egstroms called it home.
“We had to chip away at the paint to find out what color it was,” Orn said of the paint job.
A plethora of information is everywhere you look in the building.
Small signs with “MCD” on them tell informational tidbits about the depot and the rail line. Other signs with “PL” on them tell about Lee’s interactions and items from the depot that have been connected to her past.
From 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday the grand opening of the Wimbledon Midland Continental Railroad Depot Featuring Peggy Lee will be free and open to the public.
The Jamestown Drum and Bugle Corps will play at 10:40 a.m., there will be a program at 11 a.m. and a lunch picnic will be provided at noon. Other Wimbledon museum buildings will be open throughout the afternoon.
In the style of a legend
But before the museum opens to the public, singer Stacy Sullivan with Jon Weber on piano and Steve Doyle on upright bass have had a show dedicated to Lee in New York since Nov. 11, 2011. For the first time ever that show will be performed in North Dakota.
Sullivan became a devoted Lee fan after she researched her life and songs while writing her show.
“The jazz community has just embraced the show, and I’m working with the finest musicians in the world to create it,” Sullivan said.
Advance tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Friday performance of “A Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee” are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students. Tickets at the door at Jamestown College’s Reiland Fine Arts Center will be $20.
Tickets will be available in Jamestown at Globe Travel, Hugo’s Family Marketplace and Cork and Barrel. Tickets will be available in Valley City at the Barnes County Museum and Unique Antiques.
A very limited number of VIP tickets also will be available for $50 and will include preferred seating and a reception following the performance. For more information about VIP tickets, contact Kate Stevenson at 701-952-8253.
Merrill Peipkorn and his production company Prairie Airwaves are producing the show.
“She’s thrilled to be part of this I can just tell its genuine, her happiness to be coming to North Dakota and be part of this big weekend,” Peipkorn said of Sullivan.
The show will also be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Stage at Island Park in Fargo. For information about the Fargo show, call the box office at 701-235-6778.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by email at email@example.com