Saturday, September 1, 2007

1923-1942: Early Years to High School Graduation

On the family farm, near Barney, North Dakota: Philip's aunt, Lillian Lillestol Johnston (visiting from Seattle, WA), Philip, and his parents, along with cousins Beverly (later Janssen), Jacob, Duane and Jerome Lillestol, children of Philip's father's brother, who had the neighboring farm.

1923, December 17: Basil Philip Lillestol was born in rural Barney, ND (Barney is east of Wyndmere and west of Wahpeton, which is south of Fargo) into a family of Norwegian Lutheran heritage. Phil never liked “Basil” and never used it.

The town of Barney, ND is the red star between Wyndmere (high school & 1945 recital) and Wahpeton, ND (memorial service) / Breckenridge, MN (1950 recital). Like Fargo/Moorhead, Wahpeton and Breckenridge are separated by the Red River. Population from 2000 census: Barney, 69; Wyndmere, 533; Wahpeton, 8,586; all in Richland County.

From Lois Price, Philip’s sister and only sibling: Philip’s Aunt Oline was his first piano teacher. She was a musician and teacher. She also wrote a brief history of the Lillestol clan. [Included as a separate post.] Aunt Oline was also our schoolteacher at the one room country school we attended. (She taught Philip through 5th grade and me through 3rd grade.) Then Aunt Oline and Grandma Laura moved to town (Wyndmere) where Aunt Oline taught. She was one of our father’s sisters.

Our parents did not have a piano at the time Philip was born. Grandma and Aunt Oline lived 1/4 mile from where our family lived. I was told Philip would run to Grandma’s house to play the piano as soon as he was able to do so by himself, so I don’t know the exact year he started lessons with Aunt Oline.

The farm house was later insulated and sided, but we did not get electricity on the farm until about 1945; so Philip and I remembered many of the things Aunt Oline wrote about in her family history. We did grow up surrounded by many nice aunts and uncles -- and many fun cousins -- but there was lots of hard work to do on the farm, and Philip did not have as much time to play the piano as he would have liked. I remember he would sometimes “think” of a piece of music at night, and I would hear him rush downstairs to start playing the piano.

1938 Philip began studying piano with Sister Clement in Wyndmere around the beginning of high school.

Wyndmere High School Tumbling Team, 1940-41
Bottom Row:
Bob Baker, Arvid Transgrud, Duane Little, Norman Oberg, Phillip Lillestol.
Second Row:
Harold Wittkopp, Dan Stallman, Clifford Swanson, Jr. Puetz.
Third Row:
Mike Carver, Mel Hendricks, Don Rode.
Top Row:
Manny Dokken.

1942 High school quartet

1942 Graduation from Wyndmere High School.

From Lois Price: Philip won a North Dakota state contest with an essay on Americanism while he was in high school. He was awarded a set of World Book Encyclopedias.

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