Who knew Dana Altman was so multitalented? Well, actually, a few people did -- those who hail from Altman's hometown of Wilbur, Neb., a tiny, 1,800-person town in the southeast corner of the Cornhusker State.
That's what George Schroeder, a writer from The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore., found when he visited Altman's hometown for a feature story on the Oregon Ducks' new million-dollar man.
Like so many small towns in Iowa and Nebraska and other awesomely flat Midwestern states, Wilbur is a town based in a near-monolithic cultural heritage. In this case, it's a Czech town with a Czech cultural festival and a population largely comprised of Czech descendants. Along with that, apparently, comes the "kolache," a Czech pastry that I'd never heard of until today but sounds utterly delicious. Growing up, Altman worked in one of the town's kolache bakeries, where he rose at 2 a.m. to prepare the dough for the day's pastry output. I'll let Schroeder take it from here:
He was up at 2 a.m. to prepare the dough. Someone else baked the kolaches, but the bread was Dana’s responsibility, and danged if a lot of people didn’t say it was better than before. “So he was doing something right,” Lyle Altman recalls.
Dana also participated, because everyone did, in the Czech Festival, though less enthusiastically than some other family members. Lyle was president of the festival in 1965, and for several years, he oversaw the traditional roast duck and dumplings feast, cooking as many as 500 ducks a day in the basement of what’s now the Czech museum. Dirk Altman continues to teach traditional Czech dances to Wilber’s schoolchildren, who then perform wearing traditional garb during the festival each year.
Dana? He still shows up every year, but as a spectator. “He was supposed to dance, but he hated it,” Lyle says. “He used to bug out every time.”
Lessons abound, Oregon fans. For one, if the Ducks ever decide that Phil Knight's Nike money isn't quite enough to keep Oregon's athletics budget alive, they can have Altman organize a bake sale, complete with delicious Czech pastries from the old country. And if at Midnight Madness, someone doesn't convince Altman to do the traditional Czech dance seen at Wilbur's Czech festival, well, you will have let us all down, Eugene.
In the meantime, I'm going to go scour my neighborhood for pastry. Did anyone else just get really hungry? Kolache would be great, but I'd settle for a donut.
(Hat tip: Beyond the Arc)