Six decades of graduates invited to Robbinsdale High all-class reunion

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2013 - 3:00 PM

Robbinsdale High School opened in 1936, grew into one of the state’s largest and closed in 1982. Graduates and the community will celebrate their alma mater this weekend.

More than 22,000 students passed through the halls of Robbinsdale High School during its six decades of existence.

The school opened in 1936, when Big Band swing was the thing. It grew into one of the largest high schools in the state by the 1960s, when rock ’n’ roll was the rage. The Robbinsdale Area School District closed the high school in 1982 — right around the time disco died — consolidating it with other schools in the area.

All those eras and all that music will be celebrated at Robbinsdale High’s All-Class Reunion this weekend.

Organizers have spent more than two years planning the event, which is so big it has turned into a community party. Thousands are expected to attend, including at least one member of the first graduating class.

“This goes beyond a high school reunion. It’s a community celebration. Robbinsdale High was a big deal for the seven communities it served,” said Mark Sorenson, chairman of the reunion committee. In addition to Robbinsdale, those are Crystal, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Golden Valley, New Hope and Plymouth.

Sorenson invited anyone in the community with connections or interest to Robbinsdale High to attend.

“There is no such thing as crashing this party,” he said.

Festivities will include a tour of the old high school building and sports Hall of Fame inductions on Friday; memorabilia, a storytelling session and dedication of the old building as a historical landmark on Saturday afternoon; an all-school dance with a live band at the Medina Entertainment Center on Saturday night; and a pancake breakfast and vintage car show Sunday.

Most of the events will take place at the former high school, which is now Robbinsdale Middle School, 3730 Toledo Av. N.

Sorenson, 65, graduated from Robbinsdale High in 1966. His adult son is a high school referee, and attending the sporting events his son refereed made Sorenson nostalgic and envious of other schools.

“I saw all their halls of fame and all their memorabilia and I thought, ‘Man alive, Robbinsdale didn’t have any of that,” Sorenson said. “We had such a great school. We need to do something.’ ”

Sorenson, who was an athlete in high school, said the nonprofit committee is also working to gather up trophies and memorabilia to create a permanent exhibit at the old high school. They’re also aiming to create a permanent archive of school documents and relics, likely to be housed at the Robbinsdale Historical Society, Sorenson said.

He said that he found boxes of old yearbooks, photos and memorabilia stored in one of the district’s elementary schools, but that many of the trophies are missing. He is asking alumni to bring in any old trophies they may find in a basement or garage — no questions asked.

Sorenson played three sports, and some of his best memories or high school come from his time on the football team.

“I remember the first time I put on a Robbinsdale football jersey. I was in heaven. I had been watching these guys for years,” Sorenson said. “I thought this was the coolest moment. I thought I’d better live up to this.”

The school board closed Robbinsdale High after the school suffered a 40 percent drop in enrollment throughout the 1970s. It was a contentious, prolonged process with packed school board meetings and a court challenge. News of the closure was met with anger and tears.

“It was the original high school in the district, and it had a powerhouse football team in the 1960s,” said Armstrong High Spanish teacher Mark Mertens, who wrote a 677-page dissertation on the high school’s closing. “There were so many ties to the school. … It’s what defined that small town of Robbinsdale.”

  • robbinsdale all-class reunion

    When, where: Saturday, Oct. 19, Medina Ballroom, 500 Highway 55, Medina. Dance starts at 5 p.m.

    Tickets: Saturday’s dance tickets are available for purchase online or at the door for $19.36, in honor of the high school’s first graduating class of 1936.

    Information: www.robbinsdalehighschool.com or call reunion committee chairman Mark Sorenson at 612-669-0082.

    Background: To learn more about the controversy surrounding the 1982 closure of Robbinsdale High School, Mark Mertens’ dissertation, “Where Have All the Robins Gone? Power, Discourse and the Closing of Robbinsdale High School,” is available free online at http://ir.stthomas.edu/caps_ed_lead_docdiss/37.

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