From the Echo Press archives, 1971: Blizzard strands wrestlers, travelers overnight in school gym

This week in history in Douglas County.

This week in 1971, 50 years ago: Over 200 people were “snowed in” following the Region Six wrestling tournaments in Alexandria when a blizzard struck. Teams and fans found they couldn’t leave when blowing snow closed most of the highways in the area so they bedded down in the Jefferson High School gymnasium. People slept on wrestling mats and bleachers throughout the night, according to High School Principal Wayne Elton, who stayed with the group all night. Elton also said that a number of people traveling on the freeway came to the school seeking shelter when they were brought to town from stalled cars.

1971, 50 years ago: Douglas County’s official population in the 1970 census was 22,892, up 7.4% from the 1960 figure of 21,313, the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, reports. The county’s 1970 population was classified as 30.5% urban and 69.5% rural.

Bank debits in Alexandria during January 1971 showed an increase of 6% from the same period a year ago, according to statistics released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In dollars, Alexandria bank debits volume during January was $18,573. In the same month in 1970, the total figure was $17,581. Bank debits for the most part are checks against depositors’ accounts and thus represent payments for goods and services, debts, etc.

1996, 25 years ago: By 1998, all city council members in the state, including Alexandria’s, will be elected for four-year terms instead of the current two years. A state law passed in 1994 mandates four-year terms. According to the bill’s author, elections for four-year terms would save up to $3.5 million statewide in election costs

After 29 years and two months on the Alexandria police force, Dave Benson is taking off his badge for good. He will be honored at a retirement party at Maid Rite this week. In the mid-60s, Benson was working for the Alexandria Park Dept. when a job for a police officer opened. He applied and got the job, starting his first day on the beat March 20, 1967. At that time there were only six cops on the beat under the leadership of the late Police Chief George McKay.


2011, 10 years ago: The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission named Douglas Scientific, LLC of Alexandria as a “Distinguished Economic Development Partner.” Douglas Scientific is a biotech company of Douglas Machine Inc. of Alexandria. The company, which began as a research and development team in 2004, now engineers revolutionary high productivity laboratory automation through its patented “Array Tape” media.

American Solutions for Business, headquartered in Glenwood, turns 30 years old this year. Although its founder Larry Zavadil began writing orders in January 1981, the actual incorporation date was February 17 of that year. In 1982, Zavadil hired his first employee who worked part-time out of an office located in the Zavadil home.

Just for fun 1911 110 years ago: The population of Alexandria is 3,001, an increase of 12% over the past five years.

A bill to provide rural mail carriers with an annual salary of $1,000 passed through the House. Five chamber members were opposed.

With 100 automobile owners in Douglas County, an automobile club was organized. Annual dues are $2.

Sports trivia 1971 – 50 years ago: From Dennis Johnson’s Time Out! sports column: “If you missed the Area Tech-Diekman’s Jewelry basketball game, you missed one of the best games played in Alexandria this year. There was a real duel between center Rick Podratz and Pat Garrison. Podratz ended up with 30 points and Garrison with 27. The game was that close too. Tied 74-74 at regulation, the Diekman Jewelry “old timers” pulled out an 82-78 contest.”

Rachel Barduson of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist to the Echo Press Opinion page.

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