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As I recall: Central High School is long gone, but memories of students remain

Central High School burned down in 1966 in Fargo. Special to The Forum

Fargo Central High School is long gone.

Located at 1017 3rd Ave. S., between 10th and 11th streets, the school burned in 1966 as did the first FCHS that stood in that block and burned in 1916. But the school, its students and teachers are not forgotten.

Several things encourage memories of those times – the Fargo Central High School Alumni Association, The Cynosure and the Lakes Luncheons.

The alumni association started in 1985 after two successful all-class reunions in 1980 and 1985, which provided mailing lists of those who attended the reunions. Graduates paid $5 to join, and the group ended up with more than 4,000 members. The founders of the association were Jim Gompf, 1947; Fred Hagen, 1940; Norman Olson, 1935; Richard Blair, 1951; Ward Thorne, 1936; Rose (McLaughlin) Pawski, 1936; Lois (Koehler) Fritz, 1948; and Bill Snyder, 1935.

The group was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation that year and a newsletter, The Cynosure, named after the original FCHS newspaper, was launched. It is now mailed to more than 3,200 members. The decrease in membership is understandable since the first graduating class was in 1898.

The third thing that holds the group together is the Lakes Luncheons, which are held at the Detroit Lakes Holiday Inn in the summer.

These meetings are the outgrowth of a lunch date at Cormorant Village about 20 years ago. Sara Smith, class of 1942, invited classmate Jim Johnson to lunch. Sara said that day she had the best hamburger she had ever eaten. When others heard of the meeting, the two were joined by other classmates. To think of what Sara’s good hamburger has grown into is amazing.

For a while they met at the Cormorant Pub at Cormorant Village, Minn., but as the group grew, they moved to the Cormorant Roadhouse, and when that became too small for the gathering, they moved to the Detroit Lakes Holiday Inn in 2007.

The group takes over the lakeside restaurant and bar. You can order from the menu or partake of the buffet lunch. The average attendance at the lunches is about 100, but the largest group counted 264 alumni, friends, family.

There were so many that they were moved to the ballroom at the inn.

Sara Smith is still there to greet alumni along with Ann (Peterson) Carlson, 1956; Ruth (Engh) Westrick, 1958; Barb (McGraw) Youngberg, 1960; and Tom Askland, 1949.

The Lakes Luncheons are held the second Wednesday of the month through September. Last summer, I managed to attend all four gatherings, and I had a wonderful time. At one of them, there were at least a dozen members of my class, 1958, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years.

The alumni association is capably managed by Ann (Peterson) Carlson, class of 1956, from an office at Agassiz school in Fargo. She also edits The Cynosure, which is mailed out three to four times a year. The newsletter is filled with remembrances of graduates and, of course, obituaries. And it now costs $25 to join.

Carlson also coordinates the individual class reunions. This summer, the classes from 1954, 1959 and 1964 are holding reunions at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo.

Sources: Forum files, Sara Smith and Ann (Peterson) Carlson,