Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 6, 2003

Back to 1965: 'Lester Prairie to make splash'

By Ed Mlynar

I have kept this news article that appeared in the old Minneapolis Tribune for some 37 to 38 years.

Every so often, I would pull it out, read through it, and put it back in the file. Little did I realize that it would be used again today.

For many of us that were around at that time, it brings back some old memories. For those of you that have moved into our community since that time, too young to remember, or just weren't around as of yet, it does give you some idea as to how the pool came about to be.

Over all these years, I have always felt that it was such a large plus for our small community. We certainly have to be thankful that we had a core of people at that time who pursued their vision.

They had the foresight to provide a recreational facility to the youth in our community. Yes, and there have even been adults that have used the pool, and some of these same adults used the pool after hours. This is why a taller fence surrounds the pool today.

The newspaper article mentions some of the key people that were involved. I would have to say that nearly everyone in the community pitched in and got the job done. Some by dollar donations, some by many hours of volunteer labor, and many that did both.

Now here we are, 38 years down the road, and the community has the opportunity to again get the pool back into a "state of the art" status.

It has been felt to accomplish this, it will be more important to look for dollar donations versus volunteer labor. Many people just don't have the time.

Very little has been "cast into concrete" up to this time. This is why we are calling a special meeting for the people of our community.

Whether you live in the city, or one of the townships around us, we need your input for pool improvements and how to reach our financial goals.

The community pool task force meeting will take place Thursday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m., at the Lester Prairie City Hall.


Minneapolis Tribune, May 28, 1965

By Ben Kern, Minneapolis Tribune staff writer
Reprinted with permission

I had forgotten what pretty rolling hills Hwy. 7 goes through before it gets up on the flatland west of Minneapolis when one drives out to Lester Prairie.

This is a nice drive and especially interesting if you want to see the results of community co-operation culminating in an area swimming pool.

I should guess that what is happening at Lester Prairie will be repeated many times around the upper midwest in the next decade.

Lester Prairie is "off the main drag" (south of Highway 7 and east of Highway 261), but it has been doing a lot more than vegetating in recent years.

It has a thriving steel equipment manufacturing plant (the Schwartz Co.), a big lumberyard, other respectable businesses, quite a number of pretty houses, and a new school.

Not too different from a lot of other country towns, in fact, and apparently that was the trouble. It's citizens felt the need of a little more zing in their community pride.

"We wanted something that would give the area identity," Art Schwichtenberg, the lumberyard owner, told me.

"We investigated several possibilities." Louis Jenneke, filling station owner and president of Lester Prairie Area Swimming Pool, Inc., told me more about that.

Some elaborate ideas were looked into, but Lester Prairie is no plungers' paradise.

"We made a survey," Jenneke said. "Our first idea was to get about 60 acres and put in nine holes of golf, a lighted softball field, horseshoe courts, skating and curling areas, a trap shoot and rifle range. and a swimming pool."

After talking with government loan agencies and figuring interest payments, the surveyors thought it over calmly.

"The trouble is," Jenneke said, "you have to pay it all back."

After all, there were two golf courses not too far away, at Glencoe and Hutchinson. That took care of the golf.

"We decided a swimming pool would be used by more people," said Jenneke.

It will be installed without borrowing a nickel. Bill McGowan, who came to town to join the Schwartz Co. less than a year ago, gave me a run-down on that. He is the finance chairman.

The community will wind up with a swimming pool worth $65,000 to $70,000, but the cash outlay will be something under $40,000, nearly all pledged by contributors. The difference will be made up by volunteer labor and contributed materials

A swimming pool firm (Minnesota Pool Co., Hopkins) is under contract to supply steel, concrete, and concrete forms, and to supervise construction.

A plumber is contributing fixtures for the bathhouse, somebody else is giving building blocks for the filter plant, and so on.

A volunteer worker whom I found on the construction site with small dots of wet concrete scattered over his face was Harold Lemke, owner of a furniture, draperies, plumbing, and electrical store.

He outlined the dimensions of the L-shaped pool as 82.6 by 40 feet one way and 35 by 75 the other way ­  12 feet down at the deepest end, where Henry Ristow, plumber, was standing on the edge as if to take a dry dive and thus arousing the jocular derision of other volunteers.

The pool is going into an 8-acre park containing a baseball diamond (the site of Crow River Valley League games on Sunday afternoons) and other space. It should open around mid-June.

Swimming fees (something like 25 cents or $15 a season for a family) will make it self-supporting. But that won't be the end of the Lester Prairie recreation project. Some are thinking of a rink for skating and curling as the next step.


Donations have been great for LP during half century

By Ed Mlynar

The Community of Lester Prairie has had an outstanding record of volunteer labor and cash donations.

Community park

The community park has been very fortunate due to these generous donations. Looking back at the past 50 years, there has been many improvements and additions made to the park, such as:

· The relocation of the baseball field to its present location (the old grandstand and field was across the street from the Earl Machemehl home).

· Building an open park shelter and picnic tables.

· The many hours of donated labor and donations for the pool complex.

· The concession stand and public restrooms.

· One of the first lighted softball/football field combinations.

· Two tennis courts.

· An enclosed park shelter with kitchen and serving counter.

· An energy forest with many trees, plants, and flowers.

· Two additional softball/youth baseball fields

· Concrete pad and net for basketball practice.

· Childrens playground equipment.

· Football field press box/crows nest.

· Outdoor ice skating rinks with warming houses at other locations.

Lester Prairie churches

The churches in the Lester Prairie community have also seen some changes in the last half century, and received volunteer labor and cash donations to enable them to have what they have today:

· Bethel Lutheran Church and its parsonage were built in 1966. It also recently had a major addition built onto it a few years ago.

· St. Peter Lutheran Church, which was located in Bergen Township a mile west of the city, was hit by a tornado in 1965. The congregation built a new church in 1966 and and a new parsonage the following year in the southwest corner of the city.

· The Prairie Community Church (formerly the United Church of Christ) built a new parsonage in 1957. Numerous remodeling and additions have been done to the church.

· The St. Paul Lutheran Church built an education building in 1956, a narthex to the church in 1979, and an addition to the educational building built in 1956.

· Changes to Holy Trinity Catholic Church of Winsted have also been important to many Lester Prairie residents, as well. Holy Trinity has undergone extensive remodeling, with the educational complex update and additions made.

Lester Prairie Fire Hall

Nearly every home and business in the city, Bergen Township, and Winsted township that are protected by the Lester Prairie Fire Department pitched in to construct the Lester Prairie Fire Hall and office back in 1995.

The donations received far exceeded the need, and the overage was used to cover part of the cost of the new rescue truck.

Let's keep these worthwhile traditions happening in the Lester Prairie Community.

And today . . .

The concern today lies in the future of the swimming pool in Lester Prairie.

The attendance of each Lester Prairie resident is requested at a meeting for what we feel is an immediate need in our community.

The community pool task force meeting will be Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m., at Lester Prairie City Hall.


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