Keeping the memories alive

Glee Club scrapbook donated to Fort Museum

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Heather Kelly, left, and Pam Bygness look through a scrapbook that documents part of the history of the Fort Dodge Civic Glee Club. The scrapbook had been put together by Kelly's grandfather Warren Kelly, who was a member of the club. Heather Kelly found it recently and donated it to the Fort Museum and Frontier Village so that it can be properly preserved.

Heather Kelly was cleaning out a shed on her family’s property when she unexpectedly came across an irreplaceable piece of local history.

It was a scrapbook filled with photos, programs and other memorabilia documenting about a decade’s worth of Fort Dodge Civic Glee Club activities.

Her grandfather, the late Warren Kelly of Fort Dodge, sang in the Glee Club. He meticulously saved materials from his time in the club and put them in the book.

“You can see how immaculately he documented everything,” Heather Kelly said.

She likes to flip through the pages to show off a photo of her grandfather with three other men dressed as chefs for a Glee Club number.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
The late Warren Kelly, second from left, is shown with fellow members of the Fort Dodge Civic Glee Club in a photo in a scrapbook that he assembled documenting the history of the club from 1957 to 1969. Apparently this quartet performed a number that required them to dress as chefs.

There’s lots of other photos in the book. Programs saved in the book reveal that most of the Glee Club concerts were held in the auditorium of the former Phillips Middle School, which is today’s Phillips Luxury Apartments. There is also a program from a 1961 event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, called the Aquatennial at which the Glee Club performed.

Warren Kelly, a World War II Navy veteran and self-employed sign painter, became a member of the Glee Club on Oct. 12, 1957. He sang bass and put his painting skills to use working on sets for concerts.

The scrapbook covers the period of 1957 to 1969.

Warren Kelly died in 1986.

The scrapbook had apparently been out of sight and forgotten about until Heather Kelly found it while cleaning out the shed on her family’s Webster County property earlier this spring. She said the book might have ended up in a garbage can or a burn pile if she hadn’t found it that day.

As precious as her grandfather’s scrapbook was to her, she realized that it contained history that involves a lot of other local families. She also wanted it to be properly stored and preserved.

“I wanted to get it into the right hands,” she said.

To accomplish that, she turned to Pam Bygness and Dr. Janet Secor, who have assembled a collection of local history in one of the newest buildings at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village. Made from wood from an old grain bin and featuring a window from the home of Bygness’ parents, it is set up to look like a land office from the 1850s. But inside is an immense stash of local history, that ranges from high school yearbooks to milk bottles from local dairies.

Bygness said the collection started with 50 plastic totes full of materials. The building opened in 2015.

Thanks to Heather Kelly’s donation, the Fort Dodge Civic Glee Club is now represented in that historical collection.


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