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Standing a century: Carr Lake Schoolhouse celebrates 100 years

The Old Carr Lake Schoolhouse, 2335 Monroe Ave. SW, turns 100 years old in 2017. A potluck picnic to celebrate is set for July 22. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 3
Alfred Moen, Herman Fenske and Ed Rako and families gather on the steps of the Carr Lake Schoolhouse for a photo in 1918. Pictured from left to right in the first row are Alfred Moen, Herman Fenske and Ed Rako. In the second row are Laura Rako, Ellen Fenske, Edwin Fenske, Mrs. Fenske and Mrs. Moen. In the third row are Helen Moen, Anna Moen, Dorothy Fenske, Eva Rako, Ethel Rako, Mrs. Rako and Leo Fenske. In the fourth row are Roy Moen, Walter Fenske and Arthur Fenske. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
John Bleth (left) and Alfred Moen hitch a ride on a horse and buggy in the 1960s out behind the Carr Lake Schoolhouse. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Over the past century, Bemidji has boomed and flourished from its first days on the Mississippi into the regional hub it is today. But for all the change the city has seen those 100 years, the Carr Lake Schoolhouse has steadily been standing tall.

The building was constructed in 1917, hosting countless first- through eighth-grade students over the years.

Todd Moen, a student from 1963 to 1969, couldn't imagine a better place to have started his education.

"I loved going to school. I couldn't wait," he said. "I loved being there. It was such a great atmosphere. The teachers would visit with us on a personal level. We really had this bond, even before the teaching took place."

Three miles south of Lake Bemidji and just a several minute's walk to Carr Lake, the schoolhouse quickly became a popular spot among more than just the elementary students who were enrolled.

"The school itself was the place to be. It was the centerpoint of the whole community," said Moen, now 59. "A community that cared for each other was really just the most wonderful experience."

The final bills for construction were paid in January 1917, finishing off the $18,375 cost for the schoolhouse, and students moved in soon after. For its first full school year—1917-18—94 pupils filled the four-classroom building, which had two additional rooms in the basement for manual training and domestic science. Teachers were paid a salary of $1,715 during the 1917-18 term.

Moen didn't attend the school for another 46 years, and it's been longer now since he finished, but the memories of his cherished schooldays are still as clear as yesterday.

"Every time I go in there, I have so many flashbacks of what it was like being there in school as a kid," he said. "It's kinda like a full circle, coming back to it and remembering things... It brings back memories that I'll never forget."

More than school

In addition to the building itself, there was a ballfield—complete with dugouts and a grandstand—for students to practice baseball and softball during recess. Additionally, the children played on a sledding hill and skating rink during the winter, as well as the popular marble pit, hopscotch spot, monkey bars and swings. The school even had a reputation for great plays, musicals and holiday programs according to Moen, something all the students took part in.

But it wasn't just the extracurriculars that made Carr Lake Schoolhouse so special to Moen.

"When your dad went there, and your grandfather went there, and you and your brother went there, and your cousins, it's an extension of the family. And then the additional bonus of having my grandmother cook for us, that was icing on the cake," he said. "To actually have your family so involved with the school... it seemed like an extension of our home."

The final students passed through the schoolhouse in 1972, as they transitioned to the new Horace May School the following year. Before it was turned into an art center and dance studio by Lois Dale in 1972, an all-school reunion that summer provided more than 700 students from past and present with a way to celebrate the school's rich history.

Now, 45 years later, another reunion is scheduled for the school house's former occupants.

A potluck picnic gathering is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 22 at the Carr Lake Schoolhouse—2335 Monroe Ave. SW—to celebrate its centennial anniversary. A photo session is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. at the front steps, as well, open to all former students who spent their grade school years climbing those very steps each morning.

"The comradery that you form when you get a group like that together, it's life-long friends," Moen said. "Obviously many of us have gone on to our different lives and different paths, but we all have one common thing. When we come there, it's always happy memories that we bring forward." For as much of a staple the Carr Lake Schoolhouse has been in Bemidji over the years, it's been just as prominent in Moen's life, as well.

"This is near and dear to me because this school is so much a part of my life and part of my family," he said. "I really feel proud to be part of this... It's very much a part of Bemidji's history."

If you go

What: Potluck picnic for the Carr Lake Schoolhouse centennial

Where: At the school house, 2335 Monroe Ave. SW, Bemidji.

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, July 22. A photo session is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. at the front steps; open to all former students and staff.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Echo Press in Alexandria. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Alexandria area sports updates and jokes he thinks are funny.

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