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Judy Spooner: Where 'Park' got its name

Some readers have told me that my columns about local history are interesting, so I'll continue to write them.

I heard from Granville Smith, known as "Granny," about the naming of Park High School.

Granny taught at St. Paul Park High School on Third Street in St. Paul Park before moving to the new high school in Cottage Grove that was built in 1965.

I looked at the school board minutes to find out how the decision was made, but the only thing in the minutes is a motion to name the school "Park."

I wrote that many people in St. Paul Park were unhappy about losing their high school.

Granny enlightened me with more details.

The board chair at the time was Bill Axelrod, who lived in St. Paul Park.

At the time, Woodbury was just a wide spot in the road and just starting to grow in population. If you can imagine it, there was nothing at the intersection of Radio Drive and Valley Creek Road but farm fields and two-lane roads.

At the time, District 833 board members were not elected at-large as they are now. The district had seven precincts with one member from each one.

No board members lived in the newly developing areas of Cottage Grove and Woodbury.

Axelrod, some time before the meeting when the decision was made, said that the name of the school would be "Park High School," Granny said.

People ask me why the school is not named Cottage Grove or Park Grove High School. The truth of the matter is that no one attended board meetings to object. The board made decisions and that was that.

Several years later, with the rise of Jaycees, athletic associations and board members from the new areas, there might have been another decision.

I started attending school board meetings in 1967. I got out of the house for an evening, it didn't cost anything and there were homemade cookies and fresh coffee. I listened to the discussions while knitting mittens for our daughters.

Most of the time, I was the only member of the public attending.

Board members asked me why I was there. The more I said: "I just came to listen," the more suspicious they got.

By the beginning of 1968, however, I did have an issue because the district didn't offer kindergarten. Most of the moms in my neighborhood blamed the school board because there were no members from the new areas

Along with other moms who were friends and neighbors, we went door-to-door urging people to "throw out the farmers."

Three new members were elected to the school board that November.

However, after they took office, it seemed to me that they didn't make any better decisions than the guys we threw out.

Having written my first news story for the Bulletin that June, by November I was writing regularly and found a better way to effect change.

I never looked back.

Next week: How and why new schools were built for "the new people" in Cottage Grove and Woodbury.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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