'School's out forever'
"Out for summer, Out till fall, We might not come back at all, School's out forever," Alice Cooper, song lyrics from "School's Out." The song was one of many that was played over the intercom in the lunchroom in the late 1970s.
The eighth-grade band played the national anthem outside as fellow students, faculty and alumni gathered around and listened quietly at the old Cloquet Middle School's farewell ceremony Wednesday, May 31.
Alumni were invited to the 1:45 p.m. event to say goodbye and share memories.
There was a ceremonial flag lowering by local Boy Scouts and a time capsule presentation by student council members A.J. Maijala, Addison Loeb and Hannah Durfee, as well as several guest speakers. The students showed the audience what they put into the time capsule: slime, a cell phone, a lanyard with photographs of many of the current school staff, among other things.
After generations of families passed through the hallways and classrooms of the Cloquet Middle School (aka junior high, aka high school), the doors closed behind the last student for the last time.
On a gorgeous sunny day, a part of Cloquet's history ended and a page turned into a new chapter for the old building. The middle school began its life as Cloquet High School almost 100 years ago until the current high school was opened in 1968. Next the middle school morphed into a junior high school and then transitioned to the current middle school in the late 1970s.
The oldest portion of the school (the east wing which held sixth-grade classes and Community Education until the school closed) was built after the 1918 Fire as the new Cloquet High School and opened in 1920. Since then, there have been three additions made to the school: one in 1936, one around 1950 and the Herb Drew swimming pool in 1959, according to a May Pine Journal story.
Kay Johnson of Cloquet followed in her Aunt Alyce (Bruley) Rasanen's steps. Her aunt graduated in 1946 from Cloquet High School and Johnson's two children and two grandchildren also attended.
Johnson and fellow classmate Juanita Hoffman both graduated in 1965 and attended the Goodbye Celebration May 31.
"I actually got a little choked up hearing 'On Cloquet, pep up and play,'" said Johnson.
The women reminisced about what school was like in the mid-1960s. There was no technology, not even electric typewriters and definitely no cops in the school! The school liaison officer came in much later in the mid-1990s.
Very few kids had cars back then, so when the basketball team went to state in 1962 and 1963, it was quite an event. A caravan of 13 school buses headed to Williams Arena, remembered Johnson and Hoffman as they finished each other's memories of days gone by.
The fledgling boys hockey team was just taking to the ice outside at Washington Elementary School. The two laughed as they talked about the dress fashion at the time. Girls wore wool Bermuda shorts or mini-skirts with knee-high socks as they were not allowed to wear pants, the ladies said.
Hoffman remembered being late to Spanish class for a candy store run with her friends. When they arrived, the mischievous teens would put milk duds on their top front teeth and smile during class at the teacher, Gordy Nelson.
Mr. Gerlach was Johnson's favorite teacher.
"We loved him," said Johnson, adding that he even attended their 50-year class reunion.
Of course there were the clubs of the time, Future Homemakers of America, Future Nurses and Greek Club. The only sports girls were allowed to take part in were bowling and synchronized swimming. Otherwise they were allowed to join Pep Club and cheer for the male athletes.
The alumni members were invited to the second floor of the middle school after the ceremony to share memories over cookies and coffee.
Several of the alumni wandered through the hallways, looking for their favorite classrooms and asking, "Do you remember when?" to each other.
Larry Anderson, class of 1966, Louwanna Johnson, class of 1964, and Jane Oswold, class of 1968, toured the quiet hallways together, telling stories of their teenage years at the old high school.
They pointed to a wall and asked if anybody remembered the German classroom that used to be there, or a few favorite teachers, or the way they had to race to get to class because there was no hallway connecting the buildings on the second floor back then.
Anderson wanted to take a home economics class when he was in high school. It was unheard of at the time and the school counselor was aghast that he even broached the subject. After he followed the proper channels in an attempt to take the class, he was finally again referred back to a different school counselor who suggested maybe he needed a psychologist!
They stopped in to look at the current gymnasium, minus the bleachers that used to be on the second level where there are now walls.
The same thing happened to the old auditorium where Anderson remembered receiving his high school diploma on graduation night.
They all agree that while it was sad, the old building had served its useful life as a school and it was time to move forward with a more modern building.
Anderson and Johnson had both played the cello in band together, so the trio wandered to the band room.
Oswald pointed to one side and stated that was where a girl was murdered.
"I can still remember the white chalk outline of her body on the floor," said Oswald.
Kathleen Bodie was a 14-year-old band student who had been dropped off early at school in November 1966 so she could practice her instrument before school. She was found dead by another student.
She had been stabbed to death by a 15-year-old student, James Savage, who would later plead guilty.
After the dark reminiscing, the group moved into the band room and Anderson and Johnson proceeded to sit in their old places and laughed as they pretended to play their cellos.
Finally, Anderson, Johnson and Oswold walked out of the old school building for the last time, smiling at the years of memories made in their beloved Cloquet High School building.