The Forum - 12 July 2008
By Andrea Hunter Halgrimson
Long ago and far away,
In a land that time forgot.
Before the days of Dylan,
Or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents,
And they were you and me,
Long ago and far away
In the Land That Made Me Me.
– Author unknown
Tonight more than 150 members of the Fargo Central High School, Class of 1958 are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation. Joining us will be 75 to 80 of our classmates’ spouses, partners and assorted friends.
The event is at the Plains Art Museum in beautiful downtown Fargo. Although downtown Fargo is not quite the same as it was 50 years ago, it was there that we spent many of our recreational hours going to movies, eating at the restaurants, dancing at the real Crystal Ballroom and going to the YMCA and the YWCA.
Of course in our day, the Plains building was occupied by International Harvester. And, alas, our school – built in 1921 – is gone, destroyed by fire on April 19, 1966. It was the second Fargo Central High School at the same site; the first also ruined by fire in December 1916.
We have our own Web site courtesy of our classmate Mike “Dino” Peterson. It is not only filled with information about our class but with reminiscences by our old friends – many of whom we went to school with for at least three years, but often six or 12 years.
On our Web site, classmate Joel Thurlow, shares some observations on our lives. A few of them, slightly edited, follow:
- We survived being born to mothers who often smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
- We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles or helmets when we rode our bikes. As infants and children, we rode in cars with no car seats, seat belts or air bags. And riding in the back of a pickup on a warm day was a special treat.
- We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from doing this.
- We ate cupcakes, white bread with real butter and drank Kool-Aid made with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside playing.
- We left home in the morning, played all day, and went back home when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we survived.
- We did not have video games, cable television, cell phones or computers. But we had friends and we went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to their houses and knocked on the doors, rang the bells, or just walked in and talked to them.
- We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
- Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that.
- The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law.
- And in the kitchen, our moms had no microwave ovens or food processors and if they had an ice cream freezer it was loaded with rock salt and hand-cranked. On the back porch, the grills grilled with plain old charcoal.
- Although supermarkets had made their appearance in Fargo, there were still a good number of mom and pop grocery stores. And the arrival of strip-malls was in its infancy.
- We lived through blizzards and floods and polio epidemics to say nothing of the 1957 tornado. We got chicken pox and measles and mumps and most of us endured.
In 1910, my grandma came by herself from Norway on a ship and then across the country to North Dakota on a train. Many years later she returned to Norway on an airplane, and I thought that she had seen as many changes in a lifetime as anyone could. But no matter what our date of birth, if we are fortunate enough to live a long life, the changes from one end to the other are truly amazing.
Our classmates have gone to live in all but a few of the southern and northeastern states, to Germany, the Philippines and British Columbia. And many of us stayed at home.
Sixty of our friends have died and we’ve had our share of divorces and many have suffered the tragedy of losing a child, grandchild or spouse.
I went to Horace Mann and Ben Franklin schools on the north side. Kids from the south side went to other grade schools, to Agassiz Junior High School and then we all came to Central. We had no gymnasium at Central. We had our physical education classes on the auditorium stage.
And there were also the religious schools – Oak Grove Lutheran High School and Shanley, a Catholic high school. Of the three high schools, only the buildings at Oak Grove survive. Shanley was razed in 2002 and Central burned.
Many of my memories of my classmate’s families have been refreshed by writing this column and when I started to write this one, I had more than 20,000 words of recollections in my file. So I’ve had to leave some out.
Tonight we will recall not only our high school years but reminiscences of the 50 years between then and now.
Sources: Forum files, Institute for Regional Studies at NDSU, http://www.centralhighfargo58.org/
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The online Fargo Forum is at http://www.inforum.com/.
An image of Fargo Central High School before it was destroyed by fire in 1966 is shown above. The 1958 class is celebrating its 50th reunion this weekend at the Plains Art Museum.
Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at email@example.com .