Behind the Victory Flagpole – They called him “Boke”

Yes, they did! That was the nickname his fellow students gave him at Henry High. His real name was Harry Boquist, son of Dr. Harold Boquist and Marian Boquist, a teacher. Boke was always so pleasant, had an infectious smile, got along with everyone and had a great sense of humor. Well, I guess he had to be perfect, because he was right under his mother’s scrutiny, as she was the Latin teacher at Henry. Not that he would ever do anything wrong–he wasn’t that kind. His favorite part of school was playing in the band. That’s because he was a talented saxophone and clarinet player. He played at all the school functions–football games, the Pep Band, parades and even in the Robbinsdale City Band. This, being the “Big Band” era, led him to play in some of the popular touring bands for part of his adult life.

I met Boke in school. He was in the class of ‘42 and I was one year behind. I played (if you could call it that) in the band for a while. I was not good with the cornet, but did a couple parades. The most fun was having “band” parties in some of the kid’s garages in the evening. He lived at 2127 44th Ave. N. and all the parties were in the neighborhood. We would sit and play music that was more popular than marches, until we felt like dancing to platters. After that came the walk home. Boke saw that I got there safely. Oh, he was an attractive one alright. I could have easily been enamored, excepting I was already going “steady” with a boy from North High. So, Boke and I remained friends, but lost track after graduating. It was years later, around 2008, when I found him, and we got reacquainted.

When Boke graduated from Henry in 1942, it was right in the middle of WWII. He did his service in the Army, but remained stateside. After the war was over, he followed his passion by joining several bands, some of which traveled the country and some that played only locally. When one of the dance bands was playing out of town, the band members were allowed to “sit one out” now and then and go off stage to dance with some of the ladies in the crowd. This Harry did, and one of those lucky ladies was Marie. Their romance progressed, and they were married in 1946.

The most shocking thing I found out about him was that he and Marie had 12 children, six girls and six boys, and two of them were twins. They first lived in a small

apartment in south Minneapolis but when the babies started arriving, the space was so limited, they had to hang the diapers in the kitchen. This necessitated moving to larger quarters, so in 1949 they moved to a house in Rosemont.

Things really progressed with more and more babies, and at one time five of the babies were in diapers at the same time. Pampers were not yet invented, so Marie spent a good part of her day washing clothes. Harry explained the way they fed the little ones was to set them on stools and feed them production-line style. To get around with such a large family, Harry bought a hearse. But even so, he soon found they had to go to church in two shifts. The clothing situation was solved by the use of hand-me-downs and Montgomery/Wards, with their time payment system.

Meanwhile, Harry had a slew of jobs. Before 1956 he had been in the car business, with Bord-Warner Service parts. After that he worked at Auto Gear for 12 or 13 years. And at the same time he got a job with the University of Minnesota at the aeronautical laboratory as an assistant to the administrative scientist. This had to do with wind tunnels and testing models of things that could fly. He worked on that from 1956 to 1962. Later he worked at Rosemont Engineering and then at Dakota County Votech as a purchasing agent, having a second job as a salesman for a shelving business.

Through all those years, the love of music never went away. In his younger days, he played and traveled with big bands. He was the lead alto player in the Vern Wellington Band, then was asked to switch over to the newly formed Larry Elliott Orchestra. The booking agent had them criss-crossing mid-America in an old bus, playing one-nighters. He also had gigs with the Lee Williams Band and the Rich Clausen Band. On July 4, 1976, he was happy to attend the Lee Williams Big Band Reunion at Peony Park, Omaha and see a lot of his former fellow musicians.

As you can imagine, Marie needed him at home more and more, so out of town gigs had to cease. He ended up playing with the Moonlighters, who were a local favorite that played at all the American Legion functions and area ballrooms. This was enough to satisfy his never ending love of music, while being close to home and the family! So, family, music, lots of work and civic involvement were all a part of the life of the man we used to call “Boke.”