House cleaning projects usually take longer than normal because you spend extra time reminiscing as you go through old boxes.
I had that experience recently while doing some house cleaning at the Echo Journal office in Pequot Lakes. It took me a few weeks to sort through the seven long file boxes with hundreds of manila folders filled with old photos that were published in the former Lake Country Echo newspaper between 1984 and 1995.
I could have just dumped the folders marked with the dates of each weekly edition, but I opened every folder and individually went through the pictures. I did enjoy the experience, especially since I had been a reporter for the Brainerd Dispatch during that same time period and covered some of the same stories.
The photos brought back many memories of life around the lake country. Some of the most special was about a dozen photos that covered the change of the Paul Bunyan Trail from a railroad line to a paved trail that has been enjoyed by millions of walkers, bikers and snowmobilers the past 30 years. Some of the photos showed the final sections of railroad track being pulled up between Pine River and Nisswa.
Most of the submitted photos were local wedding engagements, fish photos or Echoing Around the World photos.
Some of the more common photos were taken by staff of area school activities, queen pageants, senior citizen activities or scouting events. I think the staff also photographed every emergency drill ever hosted by area first responders.
As for sports, the photos are a reminder that Pequot Lakes High School had the Indians nickname before it was switched to Patriots. There were hundreds of photos of Pine River and Backus High School basketball teams, just a few years before the two schools were eventually combined.
Some of the athletes who were most often photographed were Dina Kangas and Lynn Bueckers, who were members of the successful Pine River girls’ basketball teams, or Pequot Lakes basketball standouts like Mary Koch and Scott Schmidt.
There were probably 4,000 photos, and my guess is that almost every family in the Echo Journal circulation area was represented in at least one of the photos over the years.
The photos represented the important role and dedication of the community newspaper staff that still remains today - writing stories and publishing countless photos of area holiday events, special occasions and school events like graduations and homecoming and sports. The Lake Country Echo newspaper coverage was about the only publicity for many events since website coverage didn’t exist.
Even today, with the explosion of social media and internet coverage, newspapers still serve the important role of documenting history and providing memories for community events.
Our staff is smaller today, but we continue to work hard to cover the many area events. If we can’t attend an activity, we depend on our readers to help with coverage. Our goal is to document the events that matter to our readers.