Howard Lake Herald, July 27, 1998

Meister School and other memories

By Jeannie Lockwood Bowers

Growing up on a farm northeast of Howard Lake with my brothers, Stephen Duane and Ronald, and sister, Carole, brings back some fond memories of attending the one room rural Howard Lake country schoolhouse.

Named after Steve Meister, it sat atop the hill on the west end of the Meister property, known as Meister School, District #36. In later years, that adjoining farm was owned by Al Sawatzke, and Al's siblings still own the property today.

The old Meister School had no indoor plumbing. A huge oil burner sat at the back of the room where the students toasted cheese sandwiches on the top during the cold wintery days.

Trudging the one mile thru the snow-crusted gravel roads on a thirty-below-zero day and climbing that last quarter mile or so of steep hill at the foot of the Steve Meister farm could get a little rough. The teachers we had over the eight years, Mary Berg, Lucille Rabens and Sylvia May, often heated water to warm the hands of the frozen students, such as the Horsch children and the Lockwood children.

Periodically, the oil burner in the school would go out. Ted and Eunice Youngren, near-by neighbors, brought the teacher and all the students to their home until the stove was repaired.

Meister School, District 36 consisted of the Tom and John Marketon children (that made up the majority of the school), Ted Jr. and Tim Youngren, Norris Hirsch, the Steve Lockwood children, the Raymond Horsch children, Louie Smith children, Kenneth Cardinal and a few others that left during those eight years.

Pails of water were carried daily by two students from the Ted and Eunice Youngren farm; same being pumped from their windmill at the foot of the hill in their farmyard. A stage was erected before Thanksgiving in preparation for the holiday programs of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Mary Berg, daughter of William "Bill" Berg was our first teacher. She was a great teacher and so well liked by everyone, that we were all sad when she married and moved away. Mary's dad, Bill, was on the school board and loved to entertain the students with his jokes and tales of the past. We all looked forward to his visits as he was loved by all.

Lucille Rabens of Montrose was the second teacher, and she also married and moved away after a couple years.

Sylvia May, was the third and final teacher to teach at Meister School. She was the daughter of Alvin May of Howard Lake. She was a good teacher and well liked by all. She always had a smile and a "good morning" and joined in some of the fun and games on the school ground.

The fabulous fifties brought most of us to the old Howard Lake High School where Rekedahl Drugstore was the favorite hangout for the teenagers during lunch hour. All booths were filled by teens, including myself and my best friend Arlys Rieck, enjoying mudballs (vanilla ice cream, chocolate and peanut topping)sundaes, and those delicious glasses of ice cold coke from the soda fountain.

A heated nut machine stood near the fountain where we purchased those delicious nuts when we were fortunate enough to have a good baby-sitting week or setting bowling pins at the Waverly Bowling Alley.

Money was scarce and most teens had jobs. I recall the Banke twins, Martha and Mary, working the old switchboard above the Rekedahl Drugstore on weekends and possibly after school. Al's Gas Station, west on Highway 12, was our "Pepsi stop", where we helped ourselves to bottled ice cold Pepsis from the Ice and water cooler.

Those Pepsis really tasted good after a few games of basketball at the Herb and Helen Gruenhagen farm, west of Howard Lake. A number of Elton Gruenhagen's friends hung out there, including Ronald Lockwood, Irwin Hauseladen, and Kenny Scherman. Herb and Helen showed much hospitality to all, and treated us to snacks and some of Helen's good baked goods. At times, they played basketball at Rieck and Jeannie Lockwood, when the boys wanted our expertise.

Emil Wagner owned the Breezy Point resort where my uncle and aunt, Wilbert and Myrtle Jackson, would come during summer vacations. They would allowed the Lockwood children to take turns staying with them at the cabin. We caught and cleaned fish, drove Mr. Wagner crazy playing the old player piano in the main building, and had a wonderful time.

Howard Lake High School ball games were especially exciting when playing our hardest to beat opponents, Delano and Cokato. Harvey Luhman, Lowell Schrupp, and Craig "Picky" Wells were some of our best players that stand out in my mind. Baton twirlers were Shirley Douglas and Dorothy Gerber. They were also cheerleaders along with Martha and Mary Banke, Joan Rathkamp, Beverly Kubasch, Shirley Stock, Marjorie Shepherd, Yvonne Wayziniak and others.

The coach in those days was Richard Sabin, who was fussy about the team players getting enough rest before games. He also enjoyed taking your treats away in study hall by tapping you on the shoulder and sticking his hand out. I do recall losing a few bags of M & M's that way. He returned to his desk in front of the class and ate whatever he retrieved. I learned he really liked M & M's, much to my dismay. If it was something he did not like, he would return it after study hall let out.

Many football fields did not have lights, so games would be played during the afternoons of school days. Mr. Leukenan was principal, advising students they were not excused to go to those games in the surrounding towns, so needless to say, many students skipped out at noon to hitch-hike to those games as most did not own vehicles.

I recall Mr. Leukenan catching me still within a foot inside the school ground after afternoon classes had begun, and marched me to his office for the afternoon, while my two girlfriends got away and enjoyed the Howard Lake-Cokato football game. I also recall they spent more time later sitting in front of Mr. Leukenan's desk than I did!

Gone are the days of most of the drugstore fountains and hitch-hiking to get where you wanted to go, and the regular neighborhood get-togethers before TV became popular. I recall fun times at the Arvo Davo home, Herman Grangroth home, Ray Horch's, Charlie Hirsch's and others, where we celebrated birthdays, just visited, played horseshoe etc.

Ronald and Jeannie Lockwood also had good times at the Deb Cochran home with Mona and Arden Cochran. Life was harder in the 1940s and 1950s without some of the modern conveniences of today. However, everyone seemed happier during those past years when money was tighter and neighbors joined together during thrashing times, to play music, play games, and also during the sad and bad times.

Children had daily chores and/or jobs to keep them busy and out of serious trouble, for the majority. I cherish those years of happiness and friendliness of growing up in the Howard Lake community, and keep track of hometown happenings, partially thru the Howard Lake Herald newspaper that I have subscribed to for a number of years, and thru my son and daughter-in-law, Les and Bev Libor of Cokato.

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