C. B. Blackford, first principal of the Franklin Junior High school, is the best qualified person to tell about the establishment of that school in Brainerd.
The Franklin Junior High School opened in September, 1932. As is often the case when a new school building is opened, all the details had not been completed. Some of the classrooms, study halls and library did not have all the seats installed. The library did not have any books and many of the text books had not arrived. As a result, for a period of a few days some students had to sit on the floor and get along without a complete set of textbooks.
The students who attended the school came from north and northeast Brainerd and from the country. The railroad tracks was the division line. Those students on the south side of the tracks attended a Junior High school in the Washington High school.
When the Franklin Junior High school opened, it had an enrollment of about 300 students and 15 teachers. Of the 300 students, about 75 came from the country. In those days there was no bus service, making it necessary for the country students to get to school the best way they could.
The faculty for the most part was transferred out of the four elementary schools of Brainerd, since when the Franklin Junior High school was opened, the seventh and eighth grades in the elementary schools no longer existed.
In those days, the principal taught classes, took care of disciplinary cases and the many other details of the office. There was no office girl during the first year.
"A very active PTA was formed soon after the school started and showed much interest in the school and was very helpful in getting the new school started."
In 1929-30, when the educational planners decided that it was better for the students to have a transitional period between grade school and Senior high school, the idea of the Junior high school was inaugurated with Elementary school including first through sixth grades, Junior high school, seventh through ninth grades, Senior High school, 10th through 12th grades.
There had been a great deal of controversy when the new Washington High school was built on the same site as the one occupied by the burned school, because, many felt the site was not near enough to the center of the high school population and had no outdoor grounds and facilities for sports or festivities.
When there was a need for a new Junior High school building, it was agreed to build it on the block at 10th and Kingwood, with the entire abutting ravine north of the fill to be made into a stadium-like athletic field for all of the schools and for other outdoor events. This block, at that time, was the walking-distance center as gauged by the pupils attending. The cost of the building was $300,000.
As Principal Blackford stated, half of the Junior High students were attending classes in, the Washington Senior High school which was also housing the Junior college and the offices of the superintendent of schools. There was not enough room for everyone. All of the Junior High students had to be enrolled in the Franklin which finally had to have one addition in 1955 at a cost of $793,000 and another in 1962 at a cost of $483,570.96.
It was not very long before the schools were over-crowded once more. A new High school was completed in 1968 and once again, the Junior High student body was divided between the Franklin and the Washington which became the Washington Junior High school.
The principals at the Franklin Junior High school were: C. B. Blackford, 1932-40; Richard Penrose, 1940-59; Ed Tonish, 1959-64; Hale Hickman, 1964-68; Harvey Shew 1968-71. Principals at the Washington were: Richard Penrose 1932-40; Harmon Krause 1968-70; Richard Link, 1970-to the present time.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).