Farrah Fawcett posters were the rage. Patty Hearst was convicted of bank robbery. Wild Cherry was urging everyone to "Play That Funky Music."
It was 1976 and a new policy was unveiled at Carl Sandburg Junior High School in Golden Valley. Instead of girls taking home economics and boys learning industrial arts, the school opened the electives to both genders.
"In sixth period, I made some apple crisp with three girls in Mrs. Wilson's class," Danny Klecko recalled. "It was a whole lot better than repairing lawn mower engines."
A baker was born that day. Thirty-six years later, Klecko is the CEO, master baker and problem solver of the St. Agnes Bakery, which cranks out an array of loaves for 300 commercial customers from its ovens in St. Paul.
A big guy at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds -- with more than 40 tattoos gracing his arms and back -- Klecko is also a Little League coach, grandfather and poet who co-edits an online poetry magazine called Lief (tinyurl.com/cbjgbnh).
Here's a sample, his poem "Sourdough Vampire":
"The bakery's old, hallway's cold, condensation's causing mold.
On the baseboard, on the wall, clock strikes midnight, ovens call.
I'm going to rise tonight, close your eyes tight, knead the world while you sleep, pray to God your soul to keep.
Bones are cold, eyes are old, seeing stories never told.
Turn the dead bolt, darkness crawls, clock strikes midnight, ovens call."
He's also written a cookbook and his recipe for honey red wine jelly can be found on a blog via this link: tinyurl.com/carpvoc.
Klecko isn't his real name. It's McGleno (more on that in a minute). He spent his early childhood in California before his mother, whom he describes as a hippie, returned home when Danny was 8. He's lived in Minneapolis for 20 years and St. Paul for another 20. The difference: "Minneapolis is a major city with nightclubs; in St. Paul, you're known by who used to own your house."
His professional baking career began as a bag boy at the Supervalu in Golden Valley, helping out the bakers. When he moved on to Supermoms Bakery, his Polish co-workers didn't feel fond about the young Irish kid, so they put a "Klecko" nametag on his uniform and it stuck.
He has since baked for President Reagan (whose likeness is tattooed on his arm) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during his 1990 visit to St. Paul. Klecko and his wife, oncology nurse Sue McGleno, have two grown kids and a 3-year-old granddaughter. His first tattoo?
A "5-23" on the back of his neck. Why?
"That's the day my son, Ty, hit his first home run when he was 10 off one of Joe Mauer's cousins," Klecko said. "He crushed it."