I posted a story last weekend entitled “The Power of Music.” I wrote about how music can bring a tear to my eye, make me angry, or just fill me with energy, depending on my mood and the music I’m listening to. When I hear certain songs, even today, I travel back in time to a certain moment that will forever be linked in my mind with that song. I used the example of AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill.” I have heard the song hundreds of times, but it became the primary component of my most intense running experience when it filled my ears while I crossed the starting line during the 2011 Fargo Marathon.
My Dad called the next day, and told me that he knew exactly what I was talking about. He was quick to point out that our tastes in music vary considerably, but that we do share the ability to allow music to become a part of who we are. He shared an example that convinced me he was indeed affected by music in the same way that I am. With Dad’s permission, I’m sharing his story with you today!
Dad grew up on his family’s farm in central North Dakota during the 40’s and 50’s. I can imagine him as a fairly typical young man who grew to love his country and its culture. This was an era of modern dating, fast cars, drive-ins, cheeseburgers and malts, with music being at the center of it all. Dad was raised with a strong sense of duty to his country, and I believe that was at least part of the reason he enlisted in the US Army. His sense of adventure led him to the Army Rangers, and while a member this elite group of young men, he got to see the world.
Of course, seeing the rest of the world meant Dad was away from the world he knew and loved. For most of 1961 Dad was either in training, or in some isolated nook, living out of whatever rudimentary dwelling was made available to his unit. Long periods of time elapsed while living out of tents or worse yet, out under the stars with nothing at all over their heads. While I’m sure Dad would say poor living conditions were the exception and not the rule, this life had to be very different from what he knew in North Dakota!
In 1962, Dad was scheduled to finally return to the United States after a long tour of duty overseas. Dad told me that the plane landed on US soil at this huge military airfield that had flights landing and taking off 24 hours a day. Dad got down on his knees and kissed the ground: He was that happy to be back home! He then walked inside and started looking for something to eat. He found a malt shop, and ordered a cheeseburger topped with a thick slice of onion along with a huge malt on the side.
Dad told me that as he sat there enjoying the best meal he had eaten in months, watching the pretty American girls go past, a song came onto the juke box he had never heard before. A strong feeling of euphoria swept through him at that moment when he thought about how great it was to be back in the United States! He walked to the juke box and discovered that the song was “Hello Walls” being sung by Faron Young, and popped some more coins into the slot in order to hear the song over and over again. He later learned that “Hello Walls” had reached #1 the previous year, but he was hearing it for the just first time in this shop.
Dad told me that was a moment he will never forget! He added that to this day, every time he hears the song “Hello Walls,” he remembers those feelings and that a shiver still runs through him. Yes Dad, I am now certain that you too understand the power of music! I hope you enjoy the song one more time! “Hello Walls”