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Bemidji 2010 All-School Reunion: Meet the class of 1940

From left, Kenny Dunlap, Harold Quern, Marian (Kembitskey) Quern, Bernice (Walburg) Dow, Dorothy (Saltee) Conrad, LaVerne (South) Whelan, Helen Kohl-Swedmark met at noon Friday at WindSong for the Bemidji High School Class of 1940 reunion. Dunlap, Marian Quern, Dow, Conrad and Whelan were five members of the original BHS class who attended the reunion lunch. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

This was not your typical class reunion. Not one person could "one-up" another by telling a better life story. They all walked four miles, one way, to school in snow up to their knees at some point in their life.

Meet the Bemidji High School Class of 1940. Though not everyone could attend the class reunion Friday at WindSong, the handful who came were proud to say their class was the first to graduate in the old Bemidji High School auditorium.

Of course, things have changed since then, but for some, memories of the "good 'ol days of high school" are always in the back of their minds. It was made obvious time has not tarnished their pride for Bemidji and the place where they went to school.

Bernice (Walburg) Dow said she was always an "outdoorsy" girl in school.

"I played baseball all the time," she said. "I was also a 4-H girl. That's all we had in our day. But we always had fun."

LaVerne (South) Whelan talked of her involvement in academics.

"I was a member of the National Honor Society," she said.

Before attending high school, many of the classmates of 1940 attended schools in neighboring communities.

"I was just a little squirt from the country," Kenny Dunlap, who grew up in Becida. "I went to a country school there before I went to the high school."

Dow said she attended the little old school house located on Carr Lake Road in Bemidji.

Whelan said she attended the little old school house now showcased for display at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds.

Dunlap said after middle school, his parents paid for his room and board in Bemidji so he could live in town and attend the high school.

As their luncheon continued, the classmates shared stories of high school memories from more than 70 years ago.

"Nobody had much in those days, but we always had fun in school and we were close to siblings," said Marian (Kembitskey) Quern.

The classmates of 1940, most of whom are now in their upper 80s, reminisced about their old high school, now torn down.

"It was terrible for everybody," one classmate said of when it was torn down. "I'm still angry," said another.

"It was a beautiful school. They could've used it for something," Dunlap said.

Today, all who attended the reunion now live in Bemidji. Some have always lived in Bemidji; others left and have since moved back. A few have children and grandchildren who graduated from BHS.

As they finished their last cup of coffee and prepared for a group photo, they all agreed how lucky they were to gather together to witness their 70th anniversary of graduating from BHS.