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A trip down memory lane: ‘62 graduates reunite with kindergarten teacher

Graduates from the Washington High School class of 1962 gathered for their 60th class reunion and invited a special guest -- one of their kindergarten teachers from 1949.

Brainerd Class of 1962 with their kindergarten teacher
Dorothy Adamson sits front and center surrounded by 11 of her kindergarten students from the 1949-50 school year. The students invited her to their 60th high school reunion Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at the Nisswa American Legion. Back row, from left: Gary Benson, Roger Halverson, Terry McCollough, Dwayn "Maurice" Olson, Mickee (Mansfield) Norberg, Bob Bahma. Front row: Ginny (Kampan) David, Nancy (Paine) Gould, Karla (Nelson) Nelson, Penny (Smith) Johnson, Steve Esser.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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NISSWA — It’s important to remember where you came from and who helped you along the way.

For Dwayne “Maurice” Olson, one of those places was Harrison Elementary School, and one of those people was Dorothy Adamson. It was 1949.

Back then, Adamson was known as Miss Berkeland, a kindergarten teacher at Whittier Elementary School in the morning and Harrison in afternoon. Olson was one of her pupils, as were 10 other members of the Brainerd High School (Washington High School at the time) class of 1962, who gathered for their 60th class reunion Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Nisswa American Legion. Adamson was also among the crowd, sharing stories and laughs with her former pupils.

“It’s fun to see how they are, what they look like and what they’ve done,” Adamson said. “These kindergartners have branched out in many ways, and they’ve been busy.”

She herself is 93, making her just 21 years old when she taught kindergarten class during the 1949-50 school year. It was her first — and only — year of teaching for a while, as she later married high school teacher Don Adamson during a time when spouses could not work in the same district.

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But the rules eventually changed, and Adamson went back to teach at Riverside Elementary School for a few years, back when the school was a small building where high rise apartments now stand along the Mississippi River.

She recalls having apple parties with her students when there was an especially good crop of apples and singing songs with them. And she can’t believe her kindergartners are as old as they are today.

“No, my kindergartners aren’t 78,” she joked.

Age is exactly the reason Olson felt compelled to invite his teacher to the reunion, which included a total of 90 members from the class of 1962.

“I was just thinking about, you know, 73 years is a long time, and she’s still alive, and I thought she’d enjoy it,” Olson said. “And I thought the class, the students would enjoy it. And you can’t do it when you’re dead.”

At 78, that has become Olson’s philosophy as he continues to live life to the fullest. A retired teacher himself, Olson now teaches drawing at the Crow Wing County Jail. During his career he taught all throughout the district, including in the same kindergarten classroom he learned in so many years ago.

“I think sometimes people tend to forget where they came from,” he said.

But Olson remembers his humble beginnings and the simple lessons from his kindergarten teacher, who he recalls taught him never to run in the street.

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The profession and the students have changed in the time since Adamson taught Olson’s kindergarten class.

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“I have a granddaughter who teaches kindergarten now,” Adamson said. “The difference in kindergarten is night and day. I mean, I taught back in the Dark Ages.”

While those “Dark Ages” are long gone, the memory lives on through Adamson and through the students who gather every 10 years to reminisce about the past and look back fondly on the people and places that made them who they are today.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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