MUSIC AND MUSICIANS
at the James Valley Threshing Show
Robert Witt has been coming to Andover for many years to entertain with his accordian music. He took lessons as a freshman in high school and started playing with Marvin Johnson in 1990. Marvin played violin and belonged to a Senior group called the Kitchen Pantry Country Band in Bristol, SD. They would play at Nursing homes and different local activities. He will be performing with his accordian daily at the James Valley Threshing Show.
The Rollag Rovers would work hard at their own home town show in Rollag, Minnesota and then the next weekend come to Andover. Clinger, Walt, Gerry, Donna, Alvin, Betty, and Ray would play during the Andover show, for the church, or on the people carriers on the Moonlight Steam ride. During the day you could usually find them playing at the old gas station. Truly they are roving musicians.
Betty Breck played old-time fiddle tunes for visitors at the Threshing Show starting in 2003, when she took up playing the violin again after playing it briefly as a child. She calls her violin the “Family Fiddle” because her mother Myrle Newman Breck played it too, performing at her own eighth-grade graduation. Myrle was born on the Newman Homestead north of Ferney, as was her father (Betty’s grandfather) Earl Newman. In the 1920’s Earl played fiddle at barn dances in the Stratford area with his neighbor Mr. Hoops.
Alvin Anderson of Britton on the musical saw and Betty with her violin performed together several times at the Thresher’s Church and at the historic Waldorf Hotel. Alvin also played another unusual instrument, a fiddle he made entirely out of yardsticks. Alvin has since passed away, but Betty remembers those sessions fondly.
Betty plays mostly in the old schoolhouse at the Threshing Show. She commented, “A lot of people come in and say the schoolhouse brings back memories. I went to a one-room country school when I was in grade school, so it’s pretty nostalgic for me too”.
The one-room school Betty attended was the Lone Tree Country School near Bison, SD, where her mother Myrle was the teacher and 3 of the 8 students were “Breck Girls”. Education was always a high priority to Myrle, and she encouraged her daughters to continue their educations. Myrle, in the course of her long career in education, became the first female Superintendent of City Schools in South Dakota, right here in the Andover Public School System.
Betty playing the violin in the old One Room Schoolhouse at the Threshers Show in Andover is continuing Newman and Breck family traditions going back to homesteading days in South Dakota.