By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Seventy-five years ago a handful of teenage students began their first day of school in the newly built Box Elder High School.
"Before 1929 any kids from Box Elder who wanted to continue their schooling past eighth grade had to go to Big Sandy," said Herb Freier, Box Elder class of 1944.
Freier is the chairman of the Box Elder reunion committee, a group dedicated to keeping the high school's past and present students connected. He's been instrumental in planning three all-school reunions to celebrate milestone anniversaries for Box Elder High, including a 75th reunion scheduled for this weekend.
"I helped plan the school's 65th and 70th anniversary reunions," he said. "This year's the 75th; that's a biggie."
Freier said he enjoys reliving fond memories of high school in Box Elder with old schoolmates, from football games and plays to all-school mixers. And though his family lived 6 miles out of town, he and his eight siblings rarely missed a day of school. Education and school attendance were top priorities in the Freier family.
"Sometimes my dad would meet us after school after a big snowstorm and he'd shovel us a path home. We had great school attendance. We were probably the biggest family to graduate from Box Elder," said Freier, who had only one brother who didn't complete high school. "All of us kids went through the ranks, seven boys and one girl. We were a hard act to follow."
Freier's sister Anna Shelstad, who graduated in a class of four students in 1955, said the small class sizes in Box Elder helped the students form close relationships within the school environment.
"We had a lot of stability growing up and attending school in Box Elder," Shelstad said. "Not only did we have a close-knit family unit, but we also had the church and the school, which really served as our extended family."
Some of the school's most notable alumni are past Chippewa Cree Tribal Chairman Bert Corcoran, nationally renowned educator Edward Parisian, and the first head of the American Indian Gaming Commission, Harold Monteau. Many graduates of Box Elder High went on to distinguished careers in government and business, including Nora McKernan Nelson, class of 1942, who spent 34 years working for Hill County, including six years as a county commissioner.
"I have so many good memories from high school," Nelson said. "I'm excited for this weekend. The reunions are so much fun. Every once in a while someone comes to the reunion that we haven't seen since high school, more than 50 years ago and that's really neat."
Freier said that after the high school was built in 1929, it became a community center to the small farming town until a fire gutted the building in 1964. According to an article by Fran Smith in the Hi-Line Herald, the new elementary wing on the high school was the only section of the school that was saved.
Freier said the memories from the original high school didn't perish with the fire, and the reunions help preserve the school's past.
"These reunions are important and we want them to continue," he said. "We would love to see some new faces this weekend."
Registration for the all-school reunion begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the VFW in Havre, where all events will be held. A no-host cocktail party is scheduled for Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by a banquet and dancing. A brunch is planned for 10 a.m. Sunday, followed by an afternoon of live music by three separate bands. All Box Elder students, past and present, are invited as well as the public.