Museum documents life of singer Peggy Lee
WIMBLEDON -- This weekend is the culmination of years of work in honor of one North Dakotan who had decades of chart-topping success as a singer.
Today -- on what would have been the 92nd birthday of Norma Delores Egstrom, better known to the world as Peggy Lee -- the Midland Continental Railroad Wimbledon Depot Featuring Peggy Lee will open to the public.
The building's lower level serves as a railroad museum and the upper level serves as a tribute to Lee, her life's work and her time in North Dakota.
"She was an amazing lady," said Mary Beth Orn, treasurer of the Midland Continental Depot Restoration Committee. "We think it's a tribute to her North Dakota roots. An old music teacher said she didn't know the meaning of the word 'can't.'"
The upstairs room is all things Lee with historical displays detailing her time from Wimbledon to her later years in California.
"There's things here you can't find on the Internet, so it's pretty exciting," Orn said.
Few people may know that Lee was the president of her junior class in Wimbledon, as well as editor of the school newspaper.
Even the Thursday, May 27, 1937, edition of The Wimbledon News correctly predicts Egstrom's future.
"We had all heard Norma sing over KOVC and knew that someday we would hear her singing with some world-famous orchestra," the class prophecy read.
Four years later in Chicago she would catch her big break with world-renowned bandleader Benny Goodman.
The museum offers professionally created exhibits with glossy photos and 80 album covers throughout the years.
More than 100 of her songs are available for people to listen to on tablet devices. Three of her dresses are on display, as well as artifacts from the musician.
"You can see all of her dresses were gorgeous," Orn said. "She didn't have anything when she was young; it was the 1930s."
The rest of the Wimbledon Midland Continental Railroad Depot Featuring Peggy Lee has been restored to be exactly that -- a railroad depot complete with exhibits reminiscent of the depot's heydays in the 1920s and 1930s, when Lee lived and worked there.
The upstairs minus the Peggy Lee room is done just as the rest of the depot, complete with a kitchen and bedroom to look exactly as it did when the Egstroms called it home.
"We had to chip away at the paint to find out what color it was," Orn said of the paint job.
A plethora of information is everywhere you look in the building.
Small signs with "MCD" on them tell informational tidbits about the depot and the rail line. Other signs with "PL" on them tell about Lee's interactions and items from the depot that have been connected to her past.
From 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today the grand opening of the Wimbledon Midland Continental Railroad Depot Featuring Peggy Lee will be free and open to the public.
Rodgers is a reporter for The Jamestown Sun, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.