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Aerial Photo of Humboldt

My Home Town


Michael Rustad

I located this aerial photo of Humboldt taken around 1997. You can clearly make out the old Humboldt school buildings. I believe that the town had under 80 persons when the photo was taken. When I attended grades 1-12 in the Humboldt-St. Vincent School, we had approximately 100 students. Our high school graduating class had 13 students. We had two National Merit semi-finalists and one finalist. (I was not in that select group). We played in the eight man football conference called the Northern Lights. We had a basketball team that played a full schedule. One highlight of my senior year was when we beat St. James of Winnepeg on our home court. St. James was a high school of several thousand students and sent four greyhound busses full of fans for the big game. Our poor little town was ill-prepared for the invasion from the North. There was literally not enough space in our gym for all of the fans and I remember that they let fans sit on the stage and stand along the side-lines. The St. James team had beaten us soundly on their court during the early part of the season. They had a starting line-up that was tall as many Division II colleges. They had a 6' 11 center and several players in the range of 6'6." We somehow beat St. James in overtime.

Our school was best known for its strength in speech and debate. Martha Roberts was the driving force behind our speech program. Humboldt-St. Vincent was not only a powerhouse in the district and subdistrict, but frequently placed contestants in the Minnesota State Speech festival. We had a number of regional finalists. Our trophy case, as I recall, had far more speech trophies than sports trophies. The only sports trophy that I can take even credit for was a first place trophy that our team won in fifth grade. The Humboldt Men's Club sponsored the tournament and we managed to take first place. Humboldt fielded a debate team first in 1965-66. Our first debate team was coached by Virginia Ott.

I hope everyone is enjoying a nice spring. It's a beautiful day here in Vermont. It is upper 70s and bright sunlight after a harsh winter with many below zero days. Vermont is clean, green, and serene in the summer and has may humidity-free, glorious days. I am getting ready to teach in Sweden. This is my third stint teaching at the University of Lund in Sweden. Lund is located in Southern Sweden about 45 minutes from Copenhagen. You can actually see the bridge to Copenhagen from the top of our building which is the House of Masters, where I'll stay this year. I'll be teaching a course in international sales law also called comparative commercial law. We have a record number of students this year. In addition to the Swedish and U.S. students, we have a number of visiting professors attending our classes from Vietnam. Suffolk University Law School in Boston, where I teach will soon reach its 100th birthday. It is one of the nation's largest law schools. I am the founder of our IP concentration and presently a co-director. This semester I taught three large classes: two 100+ student sections of first year students and an advanced course in sales and leases. In both classes, I find occasion to make frequent references to Humboldt. One of everyone's favorite stories is about Jim Moris' beefalo. I tell the whole story about him deciding to raise beefalo after discovering a buffalo skull and then following him his interest at the Whapeton School of Science. I always get a great response when I hand out photos of "Alvin the Beefalo" who is now the source of lore and legend. Another favorite story of the class is when I talk about Bockwitz' bear. I use these stories to talk about the law of strict liability which applies to wild animals. The beefalo example is used because it is a hybrid on the continuum between domestic cattle and wild animals. Alumni often have vivid memories of these stories if not the concepts they illustrate. I always joke that when a client comes by their suburban Boston office with a beefalo problem, they'll be the first to solve it.

A few years back I began telling my farm stories and one of my students stopped by after class and told me that she was from Thief River Falls. She was the great granddaughter of writer Ole Rolvaag, author of Giants in the Earth. Now that Suffolk is recruiting more nationally, I have someone from Minnesota in my class every year. They are generally from towns like Edina and other Minneapolis suburbs, rather than from my little corner of Minnesota.