The Old Settlers group will celebrate Dan Clark of Gering as its Old Settlers president when it convenes for the 100th celebration of Oregon Trail Days.
Dan grew up on the northeastern Colorado plains in the town of Holyoke and earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Northern Colorado when it was primarily a teachers’ college.
“I ended up in Nebraska when the superintendent of the Bayard schools was at Greeley looking for someone who could teach physics and chemistry,” Clark said. “My major was chemistry but I also had a minor, of all things, in music. I started college as a music major but decided quickly I couldn’t make much of a living playing my trumpet.”
In addition to chemistry and physics, Clark taught some advanced math at Bayard High School from 1961 to 1965.
After his first year at Bayard, the vocal music teacher left, leaving the position vacant. School administrators saw Clark’s music minor and asked if he’d like to take over the vocal music program.
“I had no experience in vocal music because I was an instrumental person,” he said. “I foolishly accepted the new assignment and my last three years at Bayard had me teaching chemistry, physics and vocal music.”
After four years of teaching, Dan became interested in attending medical school and applied to be accepted into the University of Nebraska School of Medicine in Omaha. He started in the fall of 1965.
“I was always interested in general practice,” Clark said. “I grew up in a small town where the two doctors were both in general practice. That was just up my alley.”
He added that in 1965, there wasn’t widespread specialization in medicine, especially in small towns.
As an incoming freshman in medical school, Clark was familiar a lady named Jamalee, who was from Bayard and a senior at the University of Nebraska. They ended up getting married. As Clark and Jamalee’s kids were growing up, they always took part of the Kiddie Parade, so the annual Oregon Trail Days celebration is a great event.
Dan explained how he ended up heading west during his last two years of medical school. The school had a program for juniors and seniors to place them in medical clinics for real-life experience.
“There was a clinic in Gering that was on the list,” he said. “I thought it would be great because Jamalee could spend more time with her family.”
Clark spent two months with the Gentry Clinic in Gering and became very familiar with what was then called West Nebraska General Hospital.
“Scottsbluff was so fortunate to be a small town and still have a big city hospital at that time,” he said. “It was a combination I really liked.”
After Clark finished his training, the physicians at the Gentry Clinic invited him to join the practice in 1971. That turned into 42 years of full-time practice and five more years as a part-timer.
Clark said that as a small town general practitioner, he had the privilege to treat three generations of the same family.
Outside of medicine, the primary activity where Clark was involved pointed back to his minor in music.
“I became interested in barbershop harmony and discovered an entire worldwide society of people who also love it,” he said. “So 42 years ago, I joined what would eventually become the Barbershop Harmony Society.”
As a member, Clark formed a men’s chorus with Jerry Tallmon, Bill Tallmon and Gary Drown. Named the Sugar Valley Singers, Jerry directed the chorus for its first nine years until he stepped down. The group’s next director was Clark.
“We’re still alive although we don’t have a lot of singers,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to get together since March when the pandemic broke out.”
Clark’s son and daughter have both taken an interest in music and singing barbershop. His son directs a chorus in Colorado Springs and his son-in-law spent 15 years directing a big chorus in Denver.
“In the past few years, more and more women have become interested in joining some of the men’s choruses, especially if a women’s chorus hadn’t been organized in their area,” Clark said. “We’ve opened our doors to a couple of women who wanted to sing. Women have also been invited to be a part of the Barbershop Harmony Society.”
A Guide to Oregon Trail Days
Check out these stories about the events that will make up Oregon Trail Days' 100th Celebration this year.
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