Breckenridge, Minnesota – my hometown for a year

Come with me down memory lane. I want to show you Breckenridge, Minnesota, my hometown while I was an exchange student during the 1975 -76 school year. These photos, except for one, were taken when I visited in 2006. Breckenridge sits at the junction of the Otter Tail and Bois de Sioux rivers, where they form the headwaters of the  famous Red River of the North. My host father told me that this position protected the township from tornadoes.

It had never even occurred to me worry about such things. I thought they were a  Kansas phenomenon. (Guess why that was!) But on Facebook, a few years ago, one of my friends posted some very scary footage of tornado damage in the Breckenridge-Wahpeton area.

Breck water tower

Breck water tower

Water towers are a feature of every small town on the prairie. There’s one very similar across the river in Wahpeton, North Dakota.They  strike me as a quintessential Mid-western form.  Get this  – I used to think the town’s water supply was stored in them! I know now that’s not right – or rather  not totally right.  Their main  function  is to  do with water reticulation – especially the use of pressure to ensure supply. Here’s the main street of Breckenridge, Minnesota Ave, in 1975. Check out that Dodge pickup!

Market Day, Breckenridge 1975

Market Day, Minnesota Ave, Breckenridge, 1975

The same street, in 2006. Not much has  changed.

Minnesota Avenue, Breckenridge, 2006

Minnesota Avenue, Breckenridge, 2006

These photos were taken after a very tasty lunch at the Wilkin Bar. I don’t know about back in the 70s (such places were out of bounds for exchange students)  but in 2006 it reminded me of the country pubs I visit here at home. They were planning a Halloween Party which looked as if  it might be fun. Unfortunately our itinerary meant we weren’t able to attend. Less than a mile down the road is 14th Street and the home of my host family in 1975

My host Mum and me, outside the family home

My host Mum and me, outside the former family home

Back then it was on the very edge of town. From our yard fields stretched to the horizon. The population of Breckenridge might have declined slightly but the area occupied by housing has increased. There is a 15th Street now. Cheryl , one of my good friends who happily showed me the ropes when school started, lived right across the road.  Cheryl, if you’re reading this – I have photos …  The Wilkin County sheriff lived next door. He had a gun although I don’t remember ever seeing it. He was nothing like the sheriffs on TV – he was kind, mild-mannered, and very tall. Two blocks along 14th Street is Breckenridge High School. In the photo below you can see the school buildings at the end of the street. It was the centre of my life outside the home. The school is opposite the tennis court(!) – the scene of previously documented embarrassment.  It was only late October when I took this photo but you could already smell the coming snow. During the winter the snow was piled along the road side and the wind howled along the street. The northerly might as well have scooped me up and dumped me at the North Pole – it was cold like I’d never been cold before, or since.

14th Street, Breckenridge

14th Street, Breckenridge

Go the Cowboys! and Cowgirls

Breck High School: Go Cowboys! And Cowgirls

Often it was much too cold to walk those two blocks to school – something I never quite adjusted to. I was used to cycling or walking one and a half miles  to school every morning. However, the climate is much drier than New Zealand  (we get lots of rain) so  if there was a sunny, windless day it could be  pleasant especially if you were active. (More about  that in a future post.)

Generations of AFSers at Breck High School

Generations of AFSers at Breck High School

Inside the school building I was shocked to find my photo still on display. When I looked at that photo I  wondered what on earth had been going on with my hair!! The only consolation is that judging from my year book we were pretty much all doing the same thing. Although, now I wish I had been doing it a little less enthusiastically. On the second to bottom shelf is a photo of Edgar, an AFser from Brazil, who was at Breckenridge with me in 1975 – 1976. The school has continued to host exchange students through the decades. When I looked at their photos I felt privileged to have been there, fortunate to be able to go back for a visit, curious about how things turned out for all the students since, and incredulous that the girl in the photo was me.   For more community walks check-out Jo’s Monday Walk

17 replies »

  1. Jill – I enjoyed this – and love the color of that ranch style house with the double garage! I can tell it was edgy for back then – πŸ™‚

    Also, my husband and I got engaged in Breckenridge – but a different one – the one in Colorado – we were there on a small get-a-way and we were on a bridge – and it was snowy and cold. and so not town is always special to me because of that –

    anyhow, when you mentioned the cold you felt – it reminds me as to why we joke around and call that state “Minn-e-snow-da” which I am sure you have heard.

    Lastly, doesn’t it feel like 2006 was just yesterday! Gosh – it does to me!


    • Ah, Breckenridge Colorado! When the news came that I was being sent to a place called Breckenridge the only one we could find in my Dad’s giant atlas of the world was Breckenridge Colorado! And you’re right 2006 does seem like it was only the other day! And that is very scary.


  2. Jill, that is so cool that you got to go back and they still had your photo! And I remember the “hair thing.” You’re right – everyone was doing it! I had a “flip” – remember those? My youngest sister found my yearbook photo so amusing she made it into a Christmas cookie – with frosting for hair. πŸ™‚ I love this series you’re doing. ~Terri


  3. HI JIll, this piece was made me a little homesick. I was raised in a very small town on the west coast with very similar feel to the pictures you have here. I love the pic of the school and you and your host mom. πŸ™‚


  4. Hi Jill πŸ™‚ Many thanks for taking part and for the link. My grasp of geography in the USA is not all it could be. My only other Minnesota contact is Nicole at Thirdeyemom. Don’t know if you know her? I’ll have to Google Breckenridge.
    We have lots of water towers in the Algarve too, but no longer fulfilling their original purpose.


  5. The school looks like it was built from the same plans as those used to build the high school in our little town in New England. This town could be anywhere. Your experience helps make it unique. I’m glad to see they are still hosting exchange students.


    • Hi Dan, it’s interesting what you say about the the school design – I noticed the other schools I visited did all seem very similar – I thought it might have been a regional thing.


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