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Emerson teachers know the meaning of friendship

The staff and spouses of the Emerson group gathered for a picture at one of their Christmas parties in recent years. (Back, left to right) Bill Kadlecek, Koresh Lakhan, Judy Stoke, Norma Postuvenik, Barb Ballou, Linda Bashaw, Pearl Olson, Gloria Hamman, and Dan Bishop. (Front, left to right) Jim Postuvenik, Amy Bishop, Jill Lakhan, Dale Stoke, Don Olson, Ed Bashaw, and Bob Ballou.1 / 5
A file photo of Emerson Elementary. Although this photo was taken long before Don Olson's time there as principal, it shows what the school looked like before being converted into apartments.2 / 5
Olson shared a staff photo from his first few years at Emerson. Many members of the staff became part of the group that meets every year.3 / 5
(Left to right) Barb Ballou (deceased), Amy Bishop, Kathy Kadlecek and Judy Stoke gathered at the Emerson school staff Christmas party in recent years. (Photo courtesy of Linda Bashaw)4 / 5
(Left to right) Linda and Ed Bashaw, Norma Postuvenik and Pearl Olson dressed in festive clothing for the annual Christmas party. (Photo courtesy of Linda Bashaw)5 / 5

When Don Olson became the principal of Emerson Elementary school back in the 1960s, he decided his school staff should get to know each other better. Little did he know that what started as a routine staff meet-and-greet would grow into a collective friendship that has lasted 50 years.

On December 12, a group of educators from Emerson will meet for its 50th holiday party. The tradition started in 1963 when Emerson Elementary absorbed Jackson Elementary. At the time, Olson was also the principal of Nettleton.

"The first year was really difficult because they closed Jackson and it was literally dumped into Emerson. So I had three schools to try to deal with," said Olson. "It seemed to me that the best way would be to try to organize some staff activities that we could do together."

Once a week, usually on Thursday evenings, Olson's staff would get together and go swimming or hiking. They'd play croquet or vollyball. They'd go canoeing or square dancing.

"You name it, we'd do it," said Olson.

"We floated down the Brule river once," said Pearl Olson, Don's wife of 60 years.

Olson reflected on taking canoeing trips with the group to the Boundary Waters.

"On the last day of school, we'd have everything packed up to go to the BWCA. We'd share lots of laughs and feel great relief because the school year was over," said Olson.

Although the building which once housed Emerson, on the corner of 11th Ave. West and Third Street, was converted into apartments in 1982, the educators continue to meet at least once a year for a Christmas party in one of their homes.

"It's fun to watch the families change over the years," said Linda Bashaw, who was once a third-grade teacher.

Bashaw says they plan the get-together a year in advance so they can all plan around it. Of course, with a span of 50 years, some members of the group have passed away or moved far off. But that doesn't stop the group from remembering some of the antics of their friends in Christmases past.

One of the faculty clowns was Dan Bishop. One year, he told the group that he had to leave early. Unbeknownst to them all, he had taken all of the winter coats, jackets, and boots into the bathroom, locked the door and left.

"Bob and Linda always had something going on. They're quite the characters," said Bashaw.

The following year, remembering Bishop's freezing fun, the staff took revenge. When he was distracted, Olson said the men snuck outside and filled his 1966 Volkswagen Beetle with snow.

"There were lots of laughs and lots of foolishness like that," said Olson.

Bashaw is looking forward to this year's gathering.

"I can hardly wait to see them again," she said.

"The thing that stands out to me is the relationships that we developed at Emerson. They have blossomed into personal relationships, lasting relationships with very strong bonds," reflected Olson.