Remembering Lincoln Elementary: Class of 1981 tours school before destruction

Lincoln Education Center, which used to be Lincoln Elementary School, will be demolished in summer 2022.

Ginny Knudson (left), Kevin Allenspach and Bill McCollough reminisce about their elementary school days while touring what is now Lincoln Education Center Friday, July 9, 2021. Six members of the Lincoln Elementary class of 1981 traipsed through the building one last time before it is demolished next summer. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

It was like a time warp as they walked through the hallways and passed the little desks, many visual elements remaining unchanged over the last 40 years.

Six members of Brainerd’s Lincoln Elementary Class of 1981 took one final tour of the school, for old time’s sake, Friday, July 9.

With the building — now Lincoln Education Center — set to be demolished next summer, the classmates thought it would be fun to see their old school one last time after having planned a reunion to mark the 40th year since their sixth grade graduation.


Ginny Knudson, Jenny Pelowski, Bill McCollough, Kevin Allenspach, Rick Peterson and Steffen Johnson came together for the tour, with assistance from Lincoln Principal Amy Jordan and school district archivist John Erickson.


The phrase, “Do you remember…?” crossed everyone’s lips more than once, as the classmates reminisced about their elementary school days.

“It’s just fun to listen to all the reminiscing, all the things that I didn’t remember or hadn’t thought of for so long,” Pelowski said. “It’s astonishing to me, the things you guys remember.”

Johnson remembered the room and TV where he watched coverage of famed Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s Olympic domination in the ‘70s and ‘80s, while McCollough recalled a classmate’s mom walking into the sixth grade classroom in 1981 announcing President Ronald Reagan had been shot.

Members of Brainerd's Lincoln Elementary School class of 1981 pose for a picture Friday, July 9, 2021, after touring the school. The classmates got together for their 40th elementary school reunion and decided to tour the building once more before it is torn down next summer. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

The gym and stage seemed much smaller today than it did 40 years ago, but memories of the dreaded Presidential Fitness Test were still clear, as were those of reading favorite books like “The Hardy Boys” in the library and playing games on the old Macintosh computers. Decades-old tunes from music class came rushing back, and the setup of every classroom was still ingrained in the mind.

“I’ve had a smile on my face and been on the verge of laughing the entire time,” McCollough said at the end of the tour. “Really fantastic memories, some that I didn’t know I remembered. You go in, you see the environment, and then it comes back to you.”

The tour wasn’t without its bittersweet moments though, as the classmates knew it would likely be the last time they stepped foot in their old elementary school. The building will come down next year to make way for more parking, a result of the school district’s successful 2018 bond referendum.


Lincoln Education Center2
Lincoln Education Center, on South Sixth Street in Brainerd, was built in 1938 as Lincoln Elementary School. It will be demolished in 2022 to make way for more school district parking. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

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. Those services will take place at the south campus of Brainerd High School after all building projects are completed.

“I’m sure the district has other priorities, but I have a little twinge of sadness that they’re tearing this beautiful art deco building down,” Johnson said.

But Erickson, who takes photographs and organizes the district’s archives, assured the group that many historical elements of the old building will be preserved before the demolition.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

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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