Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Cokato girls’ basketball essay now on international scene in England

April 27, 2009

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

COKATO, MN - Dan Conrad, author of “Why Did They Take that Game Away from Us: The Story of Cokato Girls’ Basketball: 1903 to 1931,” liked the idea of people in a London library reading about Cokato.

So when Tony Jeffs, a University of Durham, England professor, read the former University of Minnesota professor’s book, which had been laying on a colleague’s coffee table, he contacted Conrad.

Jeffs, who worked for the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham, was collecting essays for his own book focusing on the history of youth and community work.

Conrad recalled Jeffs saying he really liked the article just as a story in itself, but especially so for his audience of British youth workers and historians, who would know nothing about girls’ basketball in those days, he said.

“And while it lasted, it was such an important activity, not only for the girls, but for the entire community of Cokato,” Conrad added.

Jeffs also liked the book so much he asked Conrad when the movie was coming out.

For Jeff’s compilation, Conrad’s original essay would have to be shortened, which he thought, at first, might be too much work.

Then, he thought of people sitting at a library in London reading about Cokato, and really liked that idea.

He sent his revised copy to Jeffs in November 2007, and the book, “Essays in the History of Youth and Community Work: Discovering the Past” was printed in March 2009.

Jeffs did change the subtitle to “The rise and fall of girls’ basketball in the US” and a few other pieces to make the Cokato story more of a national one.

Since the book was only printed for a particular audience, it’s already sold out, but it can be printed on demand for a more expensive charge through International Specialized Book Services in Portland, OR, at (800) 944-6190, or www.isbs.com.

Conrad, who lives in Minneapolis, has roots in Cokato. His father graduated from Cokato High School, and his grandfather, Rev. Swan Johnson, was the pastor for Stockholm Lutheran Church from around 1906 to 1925.

His aunts, Ruth and Ruby Johnson, were captains for the Cokato girls’ basketball team in 1919 and 1925, respectively.

“I just felt the efforts and accomplishments of the young women who played in those days should not be forgotten,” Conrad said, explaining why he wrote his original essay.

To see Conrad’s original version, contact the Cokato Museum at (320) 286-2427.


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