The good ol’ days: Handke reunion drifts into past

Elk River High School’s classes of 1931 to 1961 that attended Handke gathered to reminisce about their recollections about growing up in Elk River and attending school


by Briana Sutherland

Contributing writer

Imagine seeing faces that you haven’t seen in almost half a century. Faces you sat next to at lunch, practiced your spelling words with and sledded alongside at Handke stadium each winter.

After graduation your classmates scattered themselves across the country and connections were lost until you received a letter in the mail announcing an upcoming reunion.

Graduates from Handke school from 1931 through 1961 gathered at Elk River High School on June 25 to reminisce about their school days, Mr. Handke and old crushes with fellow classmates.

But finding people from so long ago was no small task. Anita DeMars was one of the coordinators for this event and part of the ’61 graduating class from Handke who took on the challenge. One of her first steps was to contact the Sherburne County Historical Society. They have a list of graduates and from there the committee began to track people down all across the United States of America.

“Without the list we never would’ve accomplished this,” said DeMars, regarding the reunion.

With the list the coordinators began to find contact information for each graduating class and began to send letters to graduates to see if there was an interest in a reunion. There were 425 responses expressing an interest. In the end, about 300 people RSVP’d after a second letter was sent out so people could register.

Placemats featured the artwork of Glenn Quist, showing Handke stadium being used as a sliding hill back in the day. (It is still used as a sliding hill and for ice skating in the winter.)

“My favorite part about being involved was seeing everyone once a month,” said Pat Rasmusson, another coordinator for the event and 1956 graduate. “Some classes there were no people to get a hold of so we couldn’t reach all the classes. It was hard trying to find people from 60–70 years ago.”

DeMars agreed. “I enjoyed getting together and reminiscing every month. Those were the best years of our lives. The teachers were the best.”

Two former teachers also attended the reunion and received a warm welcome. Mr. Carlin taught various subjects such as math and physical education from 1948–1952 and Mr. Schumacher taught history and also had a signature “Jiffy Quiz,” usually regarding current information about their school sports teams.

During the morning and early afternoon the group boarded a bus from Elk River High School to tour the Handke school building with the help of the Elk River High School football team. They also enjoyed a lunch with classmates, courtesy of the Elk River Area School District.

Stan Wheaton of the class of 1933 also enjoyed the day’s activities. Still living in Elk River near his childhood home, he’s watched the town change since he was a young boy.

“I know a lot of people here and I’ve enjoyed seeing old friends,” said Wheaton.

Each graduate didn’t leave the day empty handed. A book of Handke memories was compiled from other graduates, including warm memories of Principal Handke, a photograph of the stadium and other information regarding the school.


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