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Family fun at The Old Schoolhouse: Three generations fill building with dance, arts

MAGGI STIVERS | BEMIDJI PIONEER (Left to right) Katie Meulebroeck, assistant manager of The Old Schoolhouse; Lois Dale, owner of The Old Schoolhouse and Diane Halverson, owner and instructor at Diane’s Dance Studio.

BEMIDJI — In the early 1970s, Lois Dale and Diane Halverson, mother and daughter, were searching the Bemidji area for building that could be used as dance studio.

Halverson was teaching dance classes in her mother’s basement. “We needed real simple things like high ceilings, a bathroom and a safe place for children — there was nothing,” Halverson said.

The family heard the Carr Lake Schoolhouse was going up for sale. The pair quickly drove over to the three-story, brick building.

“The door was standing open, the windows were all broken in and Diane said ‘I’ll wait here in the car, if you want to go in,’” Dale said. “There is a room up there that would be perfect for a dance studio.”

By 1973, the Dale family were the official owners of the building and the five acres it sat on. The building had been vacant for about a year and the building had been vandalized and deteriorated greatly in that time. “There was chunks of broken glass, rocks, and standing water all over the wooden floors,” Halverson said.

The families first job was to stop the vandalism and repair the windows and interiors that had been ruined. The family would make nightly trips to make sure that the building was unharmed. “It probably took us a year to relax about it,” Halverson said.

Halverson started to hold dance classes and Dale would manage the phones, just as she had done before. Although she had also brought up a few craft projects that she had been working on and started to sell a few items, if people were interested. The building was also being used to teach art classes, so Dale started stocking some art supplies students would need. Soon, The Old Schoolhouse was holding more and more art supplies including canvases, paint, sketchbooks.

Gradually, all three floors became of the building were being used, housing Dale’s crafts but also items from more than 1,430 consignees. Dale also has an area for her framing.

Not only do Halverson and Dale work in the building, Katie Meulebroeck, Halverson’s daughter has taken on the role of assistant manager.

The three spend several hours together each day.

“We always have fun, its never boring,” Meulebroeck said.

The business has kept the family close but “if we didn’t have the strength to begin with, we wouldn’t be here, thats the way our family is, makes it possible together,” said Halverson.

The Old Schoolhouse is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is located at 2335 Monroe Ave. SE.

Maggi Stivers

Maggi Stivers is a Multi-Media Journalist at the Bemidji Pioneer. She covers art and entertainment in the Bemidji area. She is a 2013 Bemidji State graduate majoring in mass communications with a minor in sociology. Contact her at (218) 333-9790 or

(218) 333-9790