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A teacher and child reunion

When the Callaway Elementary School closed its doors on the last day of classes in May 2005, it was a particularly sad moment for the students and staff, because they knew they wouldn't be back in the fall.

Callaway Elementary was closed by the Detroit Lakes School District at the end of the 2004-05 school year, but last Sunday, July 9, about 70 of those former students, parents and staff reunited for an afternoon of fun, games and reminiscing at the Callaway Community Center.

"It was so much fun to see all the kids again," said Mary Edon, a former teacher's aide at the school who brought her family back from southern Minnesota (where they moved last December) just for the reunion. "And our kids loved being with all their old friends."

"It was a big success," said Margie Rousu, who helped to organize the event on behalf of all her grandchildren, nieces and nephews that attended school there. "We had a great turnout -- almost half of the students (who were there when the school closed), and most of the staff, along with the cook and custodian, all came."

The afternoon started with a short video presentation from the students' former physical education teacher, Mrs. Mollberg, who had taped some memorable moments from her classes during the last year of school there.

Then, the students went outside for a tug-o-war -- an event that had traditionally been an annual end-of-year highlight for students and staff at the school. Kim Meindl, who had traditionally organized the event each year, had even postponed his vacation with his wife, Marcy,

Then, former kindergarten and first grade instructor Irene Skaaland led the attendees in another tradition, the "Tootie-ta dance."

Following these activities, the kids went back inside for a special treat -- Little Debbie snacks, in honor of the fact that a little over a dozen past Callaway students had once had their picture published in People magazine as part of a photo contest sponsored by Little Debbie.

Then, it was time for bingo.

"They would have played (bingo) all day if we didn't stop them," Rousu said. "It took about two hours to finish, and we had prizes for them."

Rousu's granddaughter, Kelsey Corcoran, did some face painting, and while the kids were all kept busy with activities, the adults reminisced, Rousu said.

One very touching moment came when a former student passed out handmade wooden feathers engraved with a cougar and the initials "CC," in memory of the Callaway Cougars.

"All the kids got one of those," Rousu said. "It was one of the most touching things I experienced that day. It was such a sweet thing she did."

"It was like one big family at Callaway," Edon added. "It was really fun for us to come back and see everyone again."

The former schoolmates played on until 4:30 p.m.; as they walked out of the Community Center, one of the parents confided to Rousu that her daughter was feeling quite sad because it would be the last time they all got together as a group.

Well, not quite, Rousu revealed. An All-School Reunion is being planned for next summer in Callaway, as part of the community's centennial activities.

"The kids were really happy to hear that," Rousu said. "It will be really fun for everybody who went to that school."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454