Many stories have been written over the past 4 decades about that little first-grade class and their music teacher, the late Rochelle Stensby, who sang "Christmas in Rochester, My Home Town."
The Answer Man even tried to answer a reader's question about it several months ago, and the song has been posted on the Post-Bulletin website. He did a pretty good job. But here's the rest of the story:
First, I'm running this story now because I've scheduled the song to air once a day sometime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on KFAN AM 1270. It will air 10 times from Monday to Dec. 20, as it has for several years. The whole program with short introduction takes 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
It was autumn 1970 when Rochelle arranged to have her Sunset Terrace School first-grade students go the top floor, 16 stories up, in the downtown Holiday Inn, formerly the Sheraton.
There, recording engineer Tom Jones captured the voices and it was put on a 45 rpm record. Two years later, she recorded her sixth-grade class, complete with a young drummer. Just think — those first-graders are 49 or 50 today and that sixth-grade class is around 52 or 53.
I interviewed Rochelle Stensby several times until cancer claimed her life at 58 on Christmas Day 1993. She was a vivacious individual, whether working with her students at Sunset Terrace, Churchill or Folwell Elementary schools or adult choirs.
This song will evoke many memories of that period of 43 years ago and later. We often promoted the record being available at music stores back then. I dare say, today you won't find it on sale. A few of you have copies from back then.
There are three verses to the song, but I'll just share that delightful chorus:
"Rochester, Minnesota, that's my hometown … where the hearts are full of singing … and the bells are full of ringing for the holidays. As we gather round together never minding wintry weather … there's no place that I would rather be … Rochester, Minnesota, that's my hometown."
This is my 30th year of presenting local and area high school choirs on AM 1270. Back in 1984, KWEB Radio Manager Jim Giebel sat down with me and set a plan to record some school choirs and then broadcast the music on Christmas Day.
It started with six schools. Today it's 17, plus 4 colleges and local singing groups. From noon to midnight on Christmas Eve and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Day, we'll bring you our 30th Annual 2-day Christmas Festival on KFAN AM 1270.
Talk about labor intensive, it takes some strategic planning to put it all together.
This year, six schools have all chosen to hold their concert on the same night. Sometimes I feel like a juggler keeping everything together.
My thanks in advance to all of those choir directors, including Jan Fiskum of Plainview. After three decades of directing choirs in Plainview and likewise for her husband Don, they'll present the Plainview Community Choir on Christmas Day from 3 to 4 p.m. The cantata "A Heart of Christmas" by Pepper Choplin, will be sung by more than 40 Plainview and area voices.
In a true Christmas Spirit, we'll close Christmas Eve, from 11:30 p.m. to midnight, with music from Handel's Messiah, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Next week: "Remember When" some Olde Time ads from the early 1900s.
Harley Flathers is a longtime Rochester-area broadcaster and historian. Got a comment for Harley? Send it to email@example.com or to Harley at Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903. His column runs on Thursdays.