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Lee, Peggylocked

(26 May 1920–21 January 2002)
  • Bruce J. Evensen

Extract

Lee, Peggy (26 May 1920–21 January 2002), jazz and pop singer, songwriter, and actress, was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, the seventh of eight children of Marvin Olaf Egstrom, a railroad station agent, and Selma Emele Anderson Egstrom. Both her parents were of Scandinavian descent. The town in which the Egstroms lived was small, boasting a population of sixty-six hundred, and located where the Midland Continental Railroad crossed the James River. Norma’s mother died when she was four years old. That December their house burned down. Within a year Norma’s father remarried. Beatings from stepmother Min resulted in bruises and cuts. A leather razor strap left a scar on one side of her face. The older children ran away, leaving seven-year-old Norma to keep house. At age ten Norma cooked, cleaned, milked cows, butchered farm animals, and did the wash. She barely survived a ruptured appendix. She started singing in the Lutheran church and, at the age of fourteen, in neighboring Valley City for the radio station KOVC. She toured locally with Doc Haines and His Orchestra for fifty cents a night. At age sixteen she was singing on KRMC and working in the Gladstone Hotel coffee shop. Ken Kennedy at WDAY in Fargo changed her name to Peggy Lee, where she made $1.50 a day on the ...

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