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LPA Elementary launches school history project

STUDENTS in Mary Softing's class interviewed past Audubon graduates for the school's history project.

Next summer, the original 1922 school building at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary in Audubon is scheduled for demolition, to make way for a new addition.

But as LP-A Elementary Principal Sam Skaaland pointed out earlier this week, there are those who will mourn the passing of this piece of Audubon's history -- which is part of the reason why the school has initiated a yearlong project to preserve it, at least in written form.

On Wednesday afternoon, the students of Mary Softing's sixth grade class at LP-A kicked off the project by welcoming a group of past graduates to tell their stories about the history of the 1922 building.

The students also interviewed them about their experiences.

Over the course of the coming school year, more past graduates will be visiting students in grades 4-6 for similar information-gathering sessions. The students will then write down their stories and create visual art presentations to complement them, depicting various historical events that took place in and around the old Audubon and Lake Park schools.

All of the stories and visual art pieces must be turned in by April 20, 2011.

Once finished, the stories and art will be compiled and published in a school history booklet, set for completion in the spring. To commemorate its publication, a "History Day" will be held, featuring live presentations of the stories contained within it. The History Day is tentatively scheduled for May 23, with all past and present LP-A students invited to attend.

Skaaland also noted that the children will be creating a school mural, depicting various aspects of Audubon's educational history. Some of the visual arts pieces created for this project will be framed and displayed on a "history wall" inside the school, he added.

Wednesday's group of past graduates started their presentation in song -- specifically, the former Audubon High School theme song.

Louise Jacobson, who graduated from Audubon High School in 1987, said "this room (Softing's classroom) was my kindergarten room."

"The first computer class offered at LP-A was in my senior year," she added, noting that the class was "a far cry from what's going on now (with computer instruction)."

When Iris Johnson graduated from Audubon High School in 1964, the only school building in existence there was the original 1922 structure -- which meant all students in grades 1-12 were housed in the same building (there was no kindergarten at that time).

"My first memories (from school) are of our cook, Anna Green," she said. "The first-graders sat in the kitchen with Anna while she was cooking. We had to be very quiet, very good.

"I was scared to death of Anna," she admitted, drawing some laughs from the students.

When Patty Nelson went to school in Audubon, the students who lived in town "went home every day for lunch."

Because all the students went to school in one building, Nelson said she dreaded being sent out into the hall for misbehavior, because she knew the high school students would be traveling the halls between classes, and might see her.

"I really looked up to them (the high school students)," she admitted, so she would often pretend to be getting a drink of water when they passed by, so they wouldn't guess why she was there.

The biggest change Pearl Peterson has seen in the elementary school since she went there, she noted, is the variety of things students get to eat for lunch now.

"We were served one thing, in a bowl," she recalled.

Barb Bakken recalled how girls were never allowed to wear slacks or shorts to school.

"We always had to wear dresses," she said.

On cold days, the girls would wear dress slacks underneath their skirts to stay warm when they were walking to and from school, added Jan Softing (Mary's mother), who went to high school in Lake Park after receiving her early education in a one-room schoolhouse.

"I had to walk to school every day, about one and a half miles," she recalled.

Duane Eilertson, who graduated from Audubon High School in 1952, said, "My dad went to country school, and so did I."

He attended District 3 country school, south of Audubon, for grades 1-8.

"My first year (of schooling) at Audubon was my freshman year in high school," he added. "I'll never forget this place."

Also on hand for the presentation were State Rep. Kent Eken of Twin Valley and State Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbrook.

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