It’s that time of year again. “Summer?” you ask. Well, yes it IS summer and what every summer brings with it is reunions.
These might be family reunions, school reunions, or town reunions. And maybe all three of those types of reunions are rolled into one big get-together.
Here on the Iron Range we seem to have a special affinity for reunions. People enjoy coming back and those who live here are glad to welcome the visitors. It takes a lot of work to organize a reunion, whether it is a large All-School type of gathering, or a small “Let’s meet at Bennett Park,” type of day. If you’ve served on a reunion committee in any capacity, hats off to you!
The following is an editorial from the Hibbing Daily Tribune of August 14, 1958. The writer reflects on the importance of reunions- for both the community and the participants. Whether a person comes back from wherever his or her life has led, or a person just walks across the street from home to the reunion site, this editorial reminds us that there is value to be found in that reunion.
Look for more about that 1953 Jubilee in an upcoming Years of Yore.
~ Mary Palcich Keyes
No community on the Range has staged more school reunions than Hibbing in the past few years. The idea caught fire during the 60th anniversary celebration in Hibbing in 1953 and it has increased in interest from that time on. (More about that 1953 Jubilee in an upcoming Years of Yore. ~MPK)
This year alone there have been more than a half dozen reunions in the Ore Capital. They have attracted several hundred grads who return from all states in the Union to share again the pleasure of meeting old school friends, neighbors across the alley, or parents of classmates and discussing with everyone the days of the past.
No school class should permit more than 10 years to go by without staging a reunion and bringing together the grads of former days to share in the enjoyment that accompanies these parties. The Chamber of Commerce has a bureau with reunion information, files, records, etc. which is available to class officers or committees to assist in their planning.
Why not start the ball rolling for next summer and plan a reunion? The goodwill a reunion brings benefits our entire community. Whether it’s visitors or local citizens, getting together brings business and energy into the town. Whether for many events or a single night, it’s a great way to bring happiness to all. Enjoy old memories and make some new ones!
The big All-Class Reunions held in Hibbing, or Keewatin, or Chisholm over the years have been remarkable. I’ve attended quite a number of them in these particular communities because of my family’s ties there, and I loved the fun of meeting up with old friends, overhearing hilarious stories of past pranks, and eating lots of good food! And, of course, the Hibbing All-Class Reunions hold so many special moments for me since it’s my town, my school. I remember the first time Joe came to one and as we walked down the middle of Howard Street amid the flocks of people, he said, “This could never happen in most places!” Yes, the uniqueness of being a Ranger does have a special charm.
In the summer of 1993, as Hibbing celebrated its 100 year birthday, a big celebration was held and everyone was invited. People who grew up here but had left 50 or 25 or 10 years earlier came for the party. It was a time to celebrate the strong souls who built this town amidst a tough environment. All those years had not been easy, or happy, but many folks persevered. New ideas and a lot of grit kept Hibbing alive.
A former Ranger from Ely, Jim Klobuchar, a well-known journalist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, wrote a column in honor of Hibbing’s 100th birthday party. It was reprinted in the Hibbing Daily Tribune, July 22, 1993. What follows are some excerpts from his column.
This is a hard town to ignore. The Merritt brothers found iron ore in the 1880s and the immigrants swarmed in a few years later from Italy, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Finland, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries and anywhere elsewhere the ravages of Minnesota mosquitoes were unknown. Eventually, the Merritts got swallowed up by the Rockefellers and Carnegies because this area was (and still is) so rich in iron ore (now taconite) that 70 years ago U.S. Steel packed up a city of nearly 20,000 people and moved it 2 miles south. They did it because the old town was sitting on top of one of the biggest deposits of iron ore on Earth…
So they cut a deal, U.S. Steel and the city. U.S. Steel got the ore and made trillions. It paid the bill for tearing down the houses and shops, building new ones, and transplanting hundreds of others. It then put up enough money to finance the Emerald Palace of high schools. The Hibbing High School cost $3.5 million at the time. Today you couldn’t build it for $50 million. They put in marble floors, muraled the walls with the work of famous artists, and replicated a New York theatre, including chandeliers and stained-glass windows above the fire hoses.
That kind of history. Does this town have a right to celebrate?
“How big is this celebration?” I asked Al Zdon, the city’s conscience and town crier as editor of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.
This celebration is so big, Zdon said, that when they hold the all-classes-reunion-and-polka-party-with-relatives, they may have to move it to the Hull-Rust Mine…
There is nothing like Hibbing history in Minnesota…Does this town have a right to celebrate? Even their ghosts are larger than your everyday ghosts. Nobody could ever handle Frank Gotch. Frank Gotch gave rise to legends, but he was flesh and blood and iron ore tailings under his fingernails. He was Big Frank, the Paul Bunyan of the ore pits, and he wrestled professionally. He also took bets. There were immigrants who swore they saw Frank Gotch lift an ore car off the tracks to win a shot of whiskey.
That kind of town. The Hibbings of the Iron Range became the home and eventually the tomb of thousands of immigrants who had nothing where they came from, but left a treasure before they died—money for an education for their children and grandchildren. They came with fear and with vision, and they built a life for themselves with their hands, their desperation and their nerve.
If I were a descendant of people like that, I’d celebrate, too.
And I do.
The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.
June 5, 1918
A well-organized band of youthful thieves, ranging in age from nine to 11, who have been making away with hundreds of dollars of goods from local stores, have been apprehended by Probation Officer C.E. Everett and the leader, only 11 years, has been turned over to juvenile authorities. All parents have been notified and a request made that they watch their boys from now on.
January 15, 1949
Hibbing’s oldest living pioneer, Dennis Haley, spent his 93rd birthday at work yesterday at the city hall where he is a watchman. “I’m feeling pretty good,” he said, but I’m not as young as I was a couple of years ago.” He was a personal friend of Frank Hibbing.
June 6, 1958
Hibbing High School junior Susan Beasy, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Emil Beasy, has been selected to attend a national high school institute of dramatics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Miss Beasy was selected from numerous applicants all over the U.S. on the basis of character, academic standing, dependability, and dramatic achievement. This is a deserving honor to the young lady, the school she represents, to her instructor, Orville Olson, and to the community.