Two 1962 Cokato High School alumni revisit their old stomping grounds
By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN - For his 65th birthday, Mark Anderson, a 1962 Cokato High School graduate, decided to pay a visit to the school he grew up in.
Anderson, who now lives in St. Peter, asked his high school friend, Jim Peterson of Annandale, to come with him on a tour down memory lane.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that turned out to be magic,” Anderson said, whose wife, Frani, asked him just days earlier how he would like to spend his birthday.
So, Sept. 18, Anderson and Peterson were given a guided tour through their old school by Cokato Elementary Principal Lorene Force.
On their tour, the Cokato alumni were able to see just how much their school had changed throughout the years, but also how much it had stayed the same.
One of the first stops was the former offices of then principal Ed Olander and superintendent Richard G. Rygh.
How familiar the offices were to the men was unclear, but they enjoyed visiting what has now become the parent volunteer/secretary rooms.
What really brought back memories was the auditorium/gymnasium, which had changed very little since their graduation ceremony took place.
The men also recalled the many home basketball games that Anderson played in.
“This makes my whole day,” Anderson said.
The high school friends recalled a home game when Hubert Humphrey came and watched, sitting at the end of the players’ bench.
Force told them the gym, which was built in 1927, survived the 1992 tornado without any damage.
Since part of the building, which is now Cokato Elementary, was destroyed in the tornado, the men saw some changes that were made when the building was built.
The parts that were most familiar to them were the gym/auditorium, the library, and lunchroom, Anderson said.
The most substantial additions to the building came after the men graduated in the fall of 1962, as well as 1993, after the tornado.
“The new school is just beautiful,” Anderson said. “I can see why people like to live in Cokato with that facility.”
Peterson was most surprised that so much of the former building was left, especially the 82-year-old auditorium.
Anderson is the son of the late Andy and Irene Anderson and for him, it’s been more than 20 years since he has been back to his hometown.
That day, Anderson even stopped by the home he grew up in at 430 West Third Street.
Peterson is the son of Gibb and Doris Peterson.
Force enjoyed the school visit by the alumni nearly as much as they did and invites other alumni interested in a tour to call the school to schedule a time.