A poem, song and a fancy one-step for Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2001

Old newspapers can produce some real surprises.

Friday, May 11, 2001

Old newspapers can produce some real surprises. For example, the Freeborn County Standard weekly newspaper published a poem with the title of &uot;Albert Lea&uot; in the April 3, 1873, issue. This literary creation may have been the first of its type intended to promote local pride.

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The poem, the Standard reported, was &uot;from the prolific pen of R. E. Richards of Toledo, Ohio, a gentleman who has visited these parts, and knows whereof he speaks … Mr. R. is a writer of some note, and has contributed largely to the press in different parts of the country.&uot;

Now, here’s that particular poem with the title of ALBERT LEA:


Settled down among the lakes

In far-off lands, I see

The village of Gophers –

The town of Albert Lea


With waters pure as crystal

With life and strength and health

With soil, whose every acre

Adds largely to its wealth.


With air that, mortals breathing,

Sends vigor through the frame;

With climate, which for clearness,

All seasons are the same.


With boundless rolling prairies,

For richness – to excel –

No country on this footstool

Can fill the bill so well.


With landscapes ever lovely,

With scenery grand – sublime,

The poet and painter

Need seek no other clime.


With hardy sons and daughters,

With loyal hearts and true,

None better can be found, where

Floats the red, white and blue.


Settled down among the lakes,

In distant lands, I see

The country of Gophers,

The land of Albert Lea.


I have two comments about this obviously corny poem. First, Richards obviously never visited the &uot;land of Albert Lea&uot; during the winter season. And, second, the connection between the little rodent called the gopher and this state evidently extends back to 1873.

The &uot;Albert Lea Song&uot; by Miss Bertha Jensen won first prize in a contest sponsored by the Rotary Club sometime prior to May 27, 1940. Anyway, that’s the date the Tribune published the lyrics, based on the golden oldie tune named, &uot;Tramp,Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Coming.&uot;

And here are those lyrics:


When I’m far way from home,

And my thoughts begin to roam,

Back to one dear spot I often like to dwell,

It’s a town I love so well.

She the Queen of Hill and Dell.

It’s our pride and joy to call her

&uot;ALBERT LEA &uot;


Hail! Hail! Hail! We all salute thee.

Queen of cities loved the best,

And we promise you that we,

Loyal citizens will be,

While we live and love and cherish

&uot;Albert Lea&uot;


As we hurry on our way

and our thoughts begin to sway,

Back to other days and times that passed away,

Scene of childhood days once more,

Bring back memories of yore,

And we’re thankful for our homes in

&uot;Albert Lea&uot;


In 1922, Paul T. Hagen of Route 4 composed the words and music for a one-step he named for Albert Lea. What he called a &uot;booster song&uot; was sold in sheet music form for a quarter a copy.

Out of respect for the copyright law, I’ll pass on duplicating the exact words of Hagen’s composition. Instead, I can give a fair idea of the theme for this song.

In reality, the Albert Lea one-step, a fast dance similar to the turkey trot, turns out to be a series of promotional messages for the community and various local businesses, plus a school. Listed in the lyrics are Skinner’s Department Store, Enderes Tools, Albert Lea Milling (flour), Payne Investments, Tarvestad Music, Wilson & Co., Hotel Albert, Palace of Sweets, Motor Inn, Western Grocers, Brett’s Department Store, Luther Academy, Lueck’s Drugs, Broadway Theater and American Gas.

Right about here let’s switch the topic to an unrelated topic.

In my March 30 column I tried to explain the many, many mixups with localities and counties on the Minnesota map. Now, I’ve found another contribution to the list. And the name is Deer Creek.

The plat books, but not the official state maps, show the almost ghostly existence of Deer Creek right on the state line in London Township. There’s also the town of Deer Creek, population about 300, up in Otter Tail County southeast of Wadena.

Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.