Playing that old-time music

Dolan continues accordion traditions

Submitted photo Spike Dolan plays his accordion at Heritage Pointe in Marshall, where he now lives. He used to play in a band called Three Flats and a Spare who played polkas, waltzes and old-time country music.

BMILROY — Spike Dolan is an “old accordion man” to hundreds of friends and neighbors.

Dolan, currently a resident at Heritage Pointe in Marshall, spent almost 10 years after his retirement playing with a band called Three Flats and a Spare. They performed polkas, waltzes and old-time country music at dozens of events and nine different parades.

The band got its start shortly after the 2000 millennium. Two different musical families moved to Milroy and wanted to continue their involvement in music performances.

“They asked around town if we had musicians who might want to start a band,” Dolan said. “I wanted to join them. I knew it would be fun.”

Two band members, Earl Patrikus and his wife Mary, moved to Milroy from Wood Lake. Another band member, Jim Hensel, moved in from Iowa.

Earl was the official band leader and the band’s announcer. Three Flats and  a Spare played mostly at nursing homes. They gave residents a chance to enjoy the kind of music they liked while growing up.

“We’d play for about an hour and then stay to visit with the residents,” Spike said. “It was a pleasure. We all loved music. We enjoyed making people happy.”

The band broke up in 2009 after both Jim and Earl passed away. In their final year, they were assisted by two new members from Tracy and one from Cottonwood. They continued to have help from Alice Mahlmann, who found time to play with the band in addition to her job.

Dolan plays a button accordion, a small version of the standard accordion with large bellows that’s usually part of polka bands.

He plays “by ear” since he never learned how to read sheet music.

He got his start with the accordion with help from an older brother, who taught him several songs.

“It went forward from there,” Dolan said. “It takes a lot of practice to play by ear. I have to hear what a song sounds like and know that it sounds right.”

He spent more than 40 years as a Milroy area farmer before moving into the town, and later moving to Marshall to live at Heritage Pointe.

Dolan’s wife, Vicki, kept a detailed record of every venue where Three Flats and a Spare performed. Spike still takes out the accordion sometimes to entertain his neighbors at Heritage Pointe.

“The residents like it,” said Heritage Pointe Marketing Director Sara Dolan, who is married to one of Spike and Vicki’s grandsons. “They like the old-time music. It brings back many great memories.”