Many sites connected to Lee are lost to historyIndividuals wishing to touch a piece of the Peggy Lee history in Jamestown will have a difficult time. Most of the places associated with her life here have been lost.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Individuals wishing to touch a piece of the Peggy Lee history in Jamestown will have a difficult time. Most of the places associated with her life here have been lost.
“She lived in three homes in Jamestown,” said George Spangler, a retired farmer and history buff. “All those homes no longer exist.”
Spangler described the location of one home as near present-day Roosevelt Elementary School and another located to the east of the same area. The third location is unknown.
Lee was born Norma Delores Egstrom in Jamestown and lived in the community from 1920 until 1928 when she moved to Nortonville. She lived in Nortonville from 1928 to 1934 before the family moved to Wimbledon. She completed high school there in 1937 and moved to Fargo briefly before starting a career in Los Angeles.
Even in her youth, local people recognized her talent.
“What I remember most is she was already on her way to success in high school,” said Mary Young, Jamestown historian who knew Lee when she lived in the area. “I saw her perform in Fargo when I was going to college. I was so proud that she was from Jamestown.”
She faced many challenges during her time in Jamestown.
“She experienced two house fires,” Spangler said. “The house near Roosevelt and the depot at Nortonville when they lived there.”
That may have been why she selected the song “Is That All There Is,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The first stanza of the song is from the viewpoint of a little girl being held by her father as they watch their home burn.
The chorus suggests not taking the ups and downs of life too seriously and “break out the booze and have a ball.”
The other fire experienced by Lee destroyed the Nortonville depot.
“She was at the Methodist church when she noticed the fire,” Spangler said. “Her step mother Minnie broke her leg in that fire.”
“In her biography she wrote that when there was smoke coming out of the chimney at the town hall it meant a good time was going on,” Spangler said.
Other places associated with Lee in Jamestown have also succumbed to fire.
She worked as a waitress at the old Gladstone Hotel, which burned in the 1960s. Lee sang at the radio studios of what is now KSJB which were also in that building and burned.
Several locations do remain that were part of Lee’s life in the area.
The Wimbledon High School where she graduated in 1937 still stands as does the Nortonville Town Hall where Norma made her singing debut.
Other locations were lost to development.
An auto repair business run by her brother, Mel Egstrom, was demolished and the land is now the parking lot at the U.S. Bank location.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org