From the Echo Press archives, 1971: Last westbound Burlington Northern train leaves Alex

This week in history in Douglas County.

This week in 1971, 50 years ago: John Gustafson, head basketball coach and physical education instructor in Alexandria, resigned his positions. Gustafson was a member of the 1950 Alexandria state tournament team and went on to gain All-American honors at St. Olaf before returning to the Alexandria system in 1958.

1971, 50 years ago: The last westbound Burlington Northern passenger train arrived in Alexandria at 11 a.m. on April 30, 1971. On hand to greet it, and take their first and possibly last ride were 60 school children from Evansville and Nelson. They were accompanied by teachers and mothers for their annual spring excursion from Alexandria to Fergus Falls, but this year, they were part of history – a part of the last passenger train through. The group got off the train at Fergus.

About 6,000 of Minnesota’s 14,000 Future Farmers of America (FFA) members will participate in “FFA Operation Rain Gauge.” FFAers from the state’s 268 chapters will keep accurate day-to-day rainfall records from May through October, a project with the U.S. Weather Service and the University of Minnesota climatologists and soil scientists.

1996, 25 years ago: Rural Cellular Corporation (RCC/Cellular 2000) broke ground on a $2.2 million facility along Dakota Street near Alexandria’s Industrial Park. Located on 10 acres south of Highway 27 West, the 46,244 sq. ft. two-level building will serve as an office, warehouse and distribution facility for the rapidly growing cellular company. RCC President is Rick Eckstrand.

Bethany Home in Alexandria broke ground on its new $500,000 Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit. The 3,700 sq. ft. addition will house 40-43 residents with Alzheimer’s and other related disorders. It includes dining space, a commons and a chapel.


More than 45 dump-truck loads of metal trash were picked up in Alexandria during the city’s “Free Metal Pick-up Day.” For several years the city has sponsored the program, which allows people within the city limits to get rid of metal items by having city workers haul them away – for free.

2011, 10 years ago: The official “ice-out” date on Lake L’Homme Dieu was Friday, April 22, 20 days later than last year’s date of April 2. The newspaper has been keeping track of the ice-out times dating back to 1867. Lake Osakis was originally the official lake but the site was changed to Lake L’Homme Dieu in 1965.

Just for fun – 1971 - 50 years ago: Sometime during the week of May 3, a United Telephone installer put the 400,000th telephone into service in the Midwest Group of United Telephone Companies. According to United’s district manager, H. James Boyd, the number of new phones being installed throughout the Midwest Group area each day makes it impractical to pinpoint the exact location or exact date and time the 400,000th phone was installed. “However,” said Boyd, “local pride leads us to believe that it was indeed installed right here in Alexandria.”

1996 – 25 years ago: Alexandria mayor John Perino remembers when a man came into his office seven years ago with a cellular telephone. “What the heck is that?” he asked. Today, the cellular phone has become indispensible for many families and businesses. RCC President Rick Eckstrand noted that today RCC provides a wide range of cellular services to 35 counties in northern Minnesota.

Sports trivia 1996 – 25 years ago: Vern Ostrom of Evansville was named 1995 Conservationist of the Year by the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and the Fish & Wildlife Legislative Alliance. Ostrom has worked to protect wildlife habitat, especially the area’s wetlands. He was a charter member of Ducks Unlimited in the Alexandria area and helped start the Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust and the Evansville Sportsmen Club.

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

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