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