To the editor:
What an excellent set of articles in The Messenger recently about the Phillips and Fair Oaks Middle schools that have now held their final classes. Both buildings have served the community well over many years and it made me reminisce about the venerable auditoriums of both schools.
Fair Oaks (formerly South Junior High) – I came to Fort Dodge in the fall of l966 as the high school choral director and conductor of the Fort Dodge Civic Glee Club. The annual Glee Club concert had been held on the Fair Oaks stage for many years. In l970, the high school musical (often called “The Operetta”) moved to Fair Oaks from the high school gym. The members of the school board at that time led me to believe that it would be temporary until an auditorium is built at the high school. Well, we continued doing it for 22 years. Many of the Community Concert Series performances were held here including performances by world famous Metropolitan Opera stars Robert Merrill and Richard Tucker. Mr. Tucker publicly volunteered to come back to sing at the dedication of a new auditorium.
Phillips (formerly North Junior High) – Most of the high school band, chorus and orchestra concerts at that time were held here. There were also a number of Choral Society concerts and some of the finest college choirs in the nation, including University of Iowa’s Cantorei, Oberlin College, Luther’s Nordic Choir and Fort Dodge native, Dale Warland’s Macalester College choir. One of the most memorable concerts for me was the Karl L. King 80th birthday concert. There were TV cameras and news media filling the front of the balcony and people were everywhere sitting in the aisles when the seats were filled. Talking to Mr. King later, I lamented the lack of a proper auditorium and he said, “You know, I’m an old showman, I like turn-away-business.”
I am sure many people eagerly await the auditorium at the new Middle School. However, even with both the college auditorium and this new one, they may not be able to handle all of the usage of the many performances that take place in our schools and our community. If that proves to be the case, I hope a well-deserved and long-awaited auditorium is one day built at the high school. They have been waiting a long time and surely deserve it.