FF baby boomers filled grade schoolsPublished 8:19am Monday, February 18, 2013
The wave of baby boomers, in the years following World War II, created a challenge for school board members all across the nation during the early and mid-1950s. Fergus Falls was no exception.
Not only were expansions made at existing grade schools, but Fergus Falls also planned for new elementary schools.
Eisenhower and Cleveland schools opened their doors for students in the fall of 1957. Until then, Washington Junior High was forced to make room for some grade school classes.
All of this was the result of Fergus Falls projecting an enrollment increase of 40 percent in succeeding years.
Kids who attended grade school at Washington included those living downtown.
Others came from the north, along South Lakeside Drive and Whitford. Cleveland Avenue was the east boundary with Broadway the west boundary.
Mary Melby Christenson, who graduated from Fergus Falls High School in 1966, recalls that her first year of school was at Washington Grade School, near Cavour Avenue north of downtown.
The elementary rooms were on the two floors on the south side of the west wing. The gymnasium/auditorium made up the rest of the wing.
“We entered the building at ground level through the small door on the south side. I remember watching the big junior highers as they gathered at the steps leading up to their portion of the building,” said Christenson. “There was a grassy area outside our wing where we could play during recess. Our favorite game as first graders (1954-55) was Colored Eggs. We also liked playing Red Light, Green Light.”
They learned to read with the Dick and Jane reading book series.
“I remember the large book our teacher, Mrs. Maacki, used in the front of the room when we were in our reading groups,” said Christenson. “We earned a pencil when we turned in a paper where we had correctly counted from 1 to 500.”
Baby boomers received their first disease-prevention shots in the first grade.
“Our teacher pinned strips of construction paper on our shirts. There was a different color for each type of shot,” said Christenson. “DPT, small pox and TB are the ones I remember.”
She said kids were pretty apprehensive in the hallway.
“We were trying to be so brave but we were sure it was going to really hurt. The teachers and nurses were all very kind and reassuring as we filed through the gym, going through the various stations,” said Christenson. “When we were done we were pleasantly surprised to be led into a small room where we got to watch a movie and had a bottle of cold 7-UP, the reward for our bravery and a diversion from the pain.”
The soda pop was compliments of the Minars Bottling Company of Fergus Falls.
Back then, kindergarten classes were only held in the spring. Christenson attended Washington School through second grade because the family moved to another area of town.
A few of her classmates at Washington School included Shelley Hagge, Margaret Larson, Sandra Christopherson, Margaret Welle, George Aas, Henry Rasmussen, Paul Brooberg, Fred Pehler, Cathy Donoho, Deborah Anderson, JoAnne Halvorson, Susan Rockwood, James Dell, Peder Becken, John Morstad and Maynard Neuleib.
Washington School didn’t need to hold classes following the completion of Eisenhower and Cleveland schools. Kindergarten rooms were added at Adams and Jefferson schools.
A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic post-World War II baby boom from the years 1946 to 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Baby boomers comprise 76 million Americans.
“Time” magazine selected the Baby Boom Generation as its 1966 “Man of the Year.”
Boomers are often associated with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the women’s rights movement of the 1970s. Now entering retirement, they count their blessings.