The old Cherry School is gone

I attended Cherry High School, graduating in 1998. Cherry is a township at the edge of Hibbing’s rural eastern borders on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota.

On Tuesday the old part of the school, built in 1928, was torn down to make way for a major renovation. I’ve written more on the topic to appear in essay form somewhere later this week. Stay tuned. I also wrote an essay called “Cherry Reds” for my book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” which explores some of the history of this situation.

Meantime, for those of us who spent meaningful time in these old rooms, today is a day for reflection.

(Photograph by Kathy Bloomquist from Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Kathy was my 5th Grade advanced English teacher at Cherry, advanced classes being something we used to have. Several generations of the Kathy’s Wiinanen family have lived in Cherry, the first having literally built the school that was torn down yesterday.)

UPDATE: Earlier in the day I had incorrectly identified the Bloomquists as the part of the family with original Cherry ties. Legendary Cherry journalist Lee Bloomquist, Kathy’s husband, rightly corrected me. It was the Wiinanens, on Kathy’s side, that go back to the beginning of Cherry, including the naming of the community for cherry growing that allegedly took place early in the township’s founding.


  1. Apparently you graduated from Cherry the same year my daughter graduated from Cook. She never had any advanced classes; they weren’t offered. My recollection was that the school used to have classes for gifted, etc. but these were dropped long, long ago because of budget issues, including all the money that needs to be spent on other types of help for special students. She was fortunate to have Bill Durbin for her English teacher. He later became a full time author.

    I am, of course, very familiar with the emotions surrounding the issues of the county schools. Most of this is second hand emotions for me because I didn’t go to school here. I went to school in Milwaukee, 3600 kids in high school, grades 10 – 12, so my emotions about my school are not in the warm fuzzy category. But I certainly understand well how the school is the heart of the community in small towns.

    This whole issue has really pitted neighbor against neighbor, which is truly unfortunate. And there have been misrepresentations of situations, which hasn’t helped. But it also seems that for some of the adults, the warm fuzzy feelings they had for the school in the old days is of more importance than the education of the current and future children.

    The one argument that really blows me away because it is all wind and no substance is the one about how hard it will be for the kids to change schools and be lost in the new big school. The new schools aren’t “big.” See my history above. And millions of kids all over America change schools every year because they move, they go to the next level, or other circumstances. And millions of kids are not traumatized.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Yes, my feelings here are purely nostalgic, not related to educational policy whatsoever. On policy I think we agree. I wonder about the longterm wisdom of the district’s plans, but I suppose I can’t comment on the specifics of what exactly these communities need.

    Our advanced classes ended by sixth grade. My memory might not serve, but I seem to recall that they gave the group of us a test, never showed us the results and said that none of us passed, therefore the special classes would end. Maybe that is true. Either way, it would ultimately have been a money thing. It was money considerations that has led to the end of most music program, shop and stripping down of other curriculum to state standards only.

  3. I went through Cherry en route to my son’s basketball tournament. I can relate to the demolition of a school being the end of an era.

    When the Kerrick School was demolished about 10 years ago, the mayor invited my husband to keep the playground equipment as long as he hauled it away himself. The equipment included a merry-go-round and a set of monkey bars straight out of The Birds. Postwar-era playground equipment, when farm kids were strong and substantial and able to spin heavy wood-and-metal merry-go-rounds with ease. The playground equipment seemed to aptly symbolize the substantiveness of education in the past.

  4. Mr Miller says

    I went to Cherry until my freshman year. Class of 1990. I was fortunate enough to have been part of the “gifted and talented” program due to my academics. It was a great program. It was designed to encourage kids with above average grades to excel farther and not get bored. We got to fo on learning field trips to Isabella survival camp for a week and the history center among other places. It’s sad that financial reasons cause great schools and programs to be changed or eliminated. Cherry was at one time a great school. Our education system is broken in a bad way. Shameful on the people in charge.

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