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Prime Time: Ann Daley/Pat Kroeplin: Senior Center develops over the decades

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

So, do you want to know what's most frustrating about writing this Senior Center story? It's those secretaries!

They would consistently record the month, the day and the time a meeting was held but seldom did they include the year. So trying to figure out what happened when has been a challenge. In any case I hope I am getting the sequence of things fairly accurate. If anyone has a better recollection of these events, I will be happy to make the appropriate corrections.

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For openers it looks like the '70's were the AARP years. There were hundreds of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) news articles, one of which told about the Holands being instrumental in organizing an AARP Chapter in Bemidji. Harry Holand was the first president. Many meetings were held and important issues such as nutrition, transportation, legal problems, health services and housing were discussed. Today, our Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center continues to be the site for AARP programs such as Driver's Safety and Tax Preparation for low income and elderly people.

On a lighter note, I read about a bus trip sponsored by the Senior Center in August 1974. The tour bus pulled up to the Northland Apartments at 7 a.m. Aug. 23 and 36 passengers hopped on.

"All Aboard for the Peace Gardens" - the geographical center of North America - in North Dakota. They stopped for coffee in Crookston, lunch at Devil's Lake and then they were on to Dunseth where they spent the night at Dale's Motel. After touring the Peace Gardens they went on to visit the Morden Gardens in Manitoba.

And what was the cost of such an excursion? The "Package," which included bus and motel costs, was $23 for a private room and $20.75 for a double. Quite a bargain I'd say. And they traveled a total of 666 miles.

On a more serious note, on March 18, 1975, Dorothy Chadwick, Lyle Caughey and Ida Geittman went to bat for seniors and testified before the House Higher Education Committee to get free college tuition for seniors. They asked for free or reduced tuition at all state institutions of higher learning and got it.

Bits and pieces

Mabel Sattgast was a community activist who said, "Seniors could fight a good fight without any personal bitterness, but with both determination and perseverance." It was said she never hesitated to express her views publicly when she felt it appropriate.

One interesting thing came to my attention. I discovered there were several senior groups besides the Northland Apartment group meeting in various locations during this time. Seniors were meeting at St. Philip's, First Lutheran and Presbyterian churches and then there was the "The Nymore Twilight Club" and a group that called themselves "The Grey Panthers." Never mind there were all these different groups, the issues were the same; transportation, hot meals and housing. And all this while the Concerned Citizens Council was continuing to explore ways to secure a permanent Senior Center.

There were several outstanding seniors during these years, and they were recognized at the Minnesota State Fair.

In 1975, Clifford Fredrickson came away with the Outstanding Citizen Award for the whole state of Minnesota. And in subsequent years, Ann Stennes and Ada Holand received that honor.

Seniors were obviously concerned about the problems of young people because I found where they donated $75 to the Youth for Christ and Timber Bay organizations.

July 1975 Board Meeting notes: The Board is "looking for suggestions from members to improve the program which seems to have gone into a rut." Surprise! Surprise!

Board Meeting Notes of September 1978 include this problem. Andy Edstrom, who provided music for the Senior Center dances, allowed as how he would need to charge more for his services. It was then decided to increase the price of the ticket from 50 cents to $1. Walt Edwards, who was the president at that time, talked about records or tapes to be used for the dance, but, "Since there is no way of slowing them up they would be too fast for the people who dance here." Mr. Edwards says he can have tapes made using live music to our speed. This would be strictly organ music.

The minutes of a meeting held Dec. 7, 1978, discussed plans for a Christmas Party. "Dora Olson will play for us. Mr. Edwards will show slides for about 30 minutes and also sing a couple of solos. Christmas songs will also be sung." Talk about an exciting party!

To make a long story short, it appears that the big issue continues to be "finding a permanent meeting place for seniors".

Next month, Chapter Four: Dissension in the Ranks.

Ann Daley and Pat Kroeplin and Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center volunteers.

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