It was a proud day 60 years ago, on May 5, 1959, when renowned WDAY-TV sports anchor Bill Weaver came to town to MC the spring sports banquet at the Fergus Falls High School cafeteria on Friberg Avenue.
High school athletes, Otter coaches and cheerleaders were guests of the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce. The banquet chairman was Don Darby.
Weaver, in addition to being TV sports anchor, also was well known as a co-host for the popular WDAY-TV afternoon show, “Party Line.” His co-host was Verna Newell.
He ended each sportscast with a wink, a smile and the words, “Win or lose, be a good sport.”
Weaver was a decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot during World War II. He flew 81 missions over Germany and France. Awards included two Distinguished Flying Crosses and five U.S. air medals.
“Bill was an outstanding sports anchor,” said the late WDAY-TV news anchor and Weaver friend Marv Bossart, who had a summer cabin at West Battle Lake.
“He was a good-looking guy and many of his fans were women. Several years ago actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor came to Fargo. Bill interviewed her, and by the time the interview ended Zsa Zsa was sitting on Bill’s lap.”
Weaver also hosted live-studio wrestling at the WDAY building in Fargo. It was more acting, with good guy versus bad guy, than actual wrestling.
“I think it was Hard Boiled Haggerty who slapped him on the air when Weaver was hosting wrestling,” said 1966 Fergus Falls High School graduate Mark Oyloe.
An angry Weaver then handed over the hosting reins for live-studio wrestling to Roy Peterson at WDAY.
Weaver was raised at Webster, near Devils Lake, North Dakota, where his father managed a grain elevator. After his career at WDAY, he became an advertising specialty distributor.
He was 83 when he died in 2004.
The main speaker during the Otter spring sports banquet in May 1959 was John Kundla, former coach of the Minneapolis Lakers who had just been named head coach for the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team, a job he held until 1968.
Kundla told the Fergus Falls athletes they should adhere to good values both on and off the athletic court or field.
As an example, he cited his former Laker player Vern Mikkelsen, son of a Lutheran minister in Askov, a small town south of Duluth. Mikkelsen played college basketball at Hamline University in St. Paul before joining the Lakers.
Kunda lived to be 101 before he died in July 2017.
Downtown Fergus Falls in late 1950s recalled
Browsing through spring 1959 issues of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal, at the Otter Tail County museum, allowed me to gain more insight into the May 3, 1959, Otter sports banquet.
This was also an opportunity to see the value of a dollar in 1959 versus today. One dollar 60 years ago, adjusted for inflation, would be worth $8.69 today.
That’s the reason a smorgasbord dinner at the River Inn ballroom, in 1959, cost $1.75. That’s where our Congressman Odin Langen was honored by Fergus Falls area constituents on April 4, 1959.
Piggly Wiggly supermarket advertised fresh Armour’s chicken fryers for 29 cents per pound. The price for cut-up chickens was 35 cents per pound.
Service Food advertised Hills, Maxwell House, Folgers and Butter-Nut coffee in 2-pound cans costing $1.29 per can.
Two 6-bottle (seven ounces each) containers of Coke sold for just 73 cents.
O’Meara’s offered car coats for women, priced from $8.95 to $17.95. That coat selling for $17.95 would be more than $150 in today’s dollars.
At Norby’s, women’s dresses could be purchased from $7 to $13. St. Clair & Rovang sold men’s Kingsridge Tish-U-Wate suits for $55.
The year 1959 was when we admitted Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.