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Dinkytown’s magic moment

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Bill Savran is promoting his photos from Dinkytown and the historic preservation movement

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

The “Dinkytown Reunion,” a fundraiser to help ensure the preservation of the Dinkytown historic commercial district by the U of M East Bank campus, will take place 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23 at the Varsity Theater, 1308 4th St. S.E.

The event will include music by Willie Murphy, Preserve Historic Dinkytown presentations, and a clip from Al Milgrom’s feature film, The Dinkytown Uprising, about the 1970 occupation protesting the Red Barn fast food restaurant.

Helping promote the event is Bill Savran, who actually was there in the late 1950s, when Dinkytown was home to the folk-blues revival. By a stroke of luck, Savran has held on to some negatives of photos he shot at The 10 O’Clock Scholar more than 56 years ago.

In a biography he provided to the Jewish World, Savran recalls: “The folks that gathered at The Scholar were philosophers, alcoholics, grad students, writers, poets, wannabe writers and poets, hangers-on, musicians of all kinds: strummers, singers, tambourine shakers, bongo thumpers, mouth harpists and so on. Spider John Koerner was a standout and of unique natural talent. I met him the late summer of 1958, in San Francisco, just after he had been discharged from the Marines.”

“Spider” John Koerner on stage at The 10 O’Clock Scholar in Dinkytown, around 1958. (Photo: Bill Savran)

“Spider” John Koerner on stage at The 10 O’Clock Scholar in Dinkytown, around 1958. (Photo: Bill Savran)

Savran shot a photo of Koerner performing on The Scholar stage. Unfortunately, he and everybody else apparently didn’t think much of the skinny kid from Hibbing who also performed at The 10 O’Clock Scholar. So, there’s no photographic record of Bobby Zimmerman performing in Dinkytown, prior to his reincarnation as Bob Dylan, the global rock legend.

Savran first arrived at the University of Minnesota as a freshman, in 1953. After his freshman and sophomore years, he served in the U.S. Army in Germany, where he bought a Rolleicord Twin Lens Reflex at the PX. After his discharge in the fall of 1957, Savran enrolled again at the U of M, and took an introduction to photography course taught by the renowned photographer Jerome Liebling.

“I liked his style of black-and-white photography, where he emphasized light and shadow, as well as still-life subjects in a series appearing to repeat into the distance,” Savran recalls.

As an army vet at the U, Savran saw himself as a “beatnik fellow-traveler.” He ate lunch at The 10 O’Clock Scholar, and the Dinkytown coffeehouse became his hangout after classes and into the evening.

Savran went on to run the eponymous book store on the West Bank, on Cedar Avenue, for more than 20 years.

And his third go-round with Dinkytown involves the civic preservation effort. The funky commercial district is under assault by developers — there’s a Target Express store.

And Savran is selling prints of the photos he shot long ago at The Scholar. For information about his photos, contact Bill Savran at 612-870-7619 or e-mail: billsavran@q.com.

(American Jewish World, 11.21.14)

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