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Lincoln Elementary alumni gather in front of school before demolition

Nine alumni gathered in front of their former elementary school on Tuesday, June 28. They shared memories from their childhoods and reminisced one last time before the building is demolished this summer.

Reflections of Lincoln School
Workers take out the windows at Lincoln Education Center Thursday, June 30, in preparation for the building's demolition.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The smiles on the faces of the Lincoln Elementary School alumni were bittersweet as they stood outside the building and reminisced.

Nine alumni gathered in front of their former elementary school on Tuesday, June 28. They were gathered there by George Cooper, who wanted to give everyone a chance to remember the building and all of their memories of it together.

Cooper, who graduated from Brainerd High School in the ‘60s, called up his old classmates and told them he wanted to get together at the school one final time. However, they were not expecting the building to be gated off when they got there. They were hoping to roam the halls one final time before it was torn down for good.

Built in 1938, Lincoln is among the district’s oldest buildings, serving first as an elementary school and later transitioning into an education center providing special education services for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

Reflections of Lincoln School
George Cooper, left, and Mike Selisker gather Tuesday, June 28, in front of Lincoln Education Center and share stories of playing at the school during their childhood.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The building is in the process of being demolished, and the special education services offered at Lincoln will move to their new home at the old south campus at Brainerd High School. Lincoln’s demolition is part of the 2018 referendum, with the high school renovated to make room for the services offered at Lincoln. The place where the old building stands will become a parking lot.

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“I really don't believe this is progress,” Cooper said. “A parking lot is not progress. I think that (Lincoln) would be at a great old folks home. There's so many possibilities that could have been done here, besides the parking lot.”

Cooper spent his childhood playing basketball and football in the yard of the school with other neighborhood kids. Mike Selisker was one of those children.

Reflections of Lincoln School
Lincoln Education Center, which is schedule to be demolished this summer, is fenced off from the public and some of the windows are already removed, Tuesday, June 28.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I was born and raised right here on the corner of Fifth and Oak (streets),” Selisker said. “Lincoln school grounds was our hangout as kids. My brothers and my sister and all the neighborhood kids, we had the Lincoln school grounds.”

Cooper and Selisker were a year apart in school, but it didn’t stop them from being close friends throughout their childhood. The two would ride bikes together and play outside with each other every day.

“We were outside,” Cooper said. “It didn't matter if it was 40 below zero or what it was. Our parents used to have to drag us inside.”
The two friends have very fond memories of hanging out together at Lincoln with the other kids, but they also have fond memories of attending school together.

Reflections of Lincoln School
Kay Johnson, left, Mary Jo Anderson Hesse and Jaci Baker gather Tuesday, June 28 outside of Lincoln Education Center and share stories from their childhood.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“Yeah, this was a tremendous school,” Cooper said. “The teachers here are always really great. It's a great school and it’s going to be a very big loss to this community. Very big.”

Those who gathered around all remembered the various activities that they partook in as children. The memories expressed were nearly identical to those of their old classmates and friends.

“The whole neighborhood, everybody in this whole neighborhood played at Lincoln school,” said Mary Jo Anderson-Hesse, a Lincoln alum. “This was our spot.”

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IMG_20220628_232758687 (1).jpg
The fourth grade class of Lincoln Elementary School in the year 1958-1959.
Contributed / George Cooper

The school building’s demolition is expected to be completed this summer. Even though the building will be gone, those who attended Lincoln will still have their fond memories of playing with each other in their youths.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com

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