League's memories book includes pictures of early Luverne teams
A book depicting the 100-year history of the Minnesota State High School League includes photographs of Luverne students and credits a former Luverne Public School’s official as the “Father of the State League.”
However, the photographs, besides those of Bell, do not list who is pictured in them.
David Stead, MSHSL executive director, said the League commissioned the design of the 157-page book, “Minnesota State High School League 100 Years of Memories.” The photographs came from one of two sources: the Leagues’ archives or the Minnesota Historical Society.
While the book doesn’t identify the students, it is hoped they can been named with local help.
It is unknown when the pictures of Luverne’s 1932 debate team and its 1937 state girls’ basketball participants were received by the League. But both pictures appear in the book on pages 113 and 55 respectively.
Local newspaper archives shed a little light on who may be in the debate picture. School yearbooks were not as helpful, only being published sporadically until the 1940s. Neither the high school nor the Rock County Historical Society has yearbooks from 1932 or 1939.
According to the Jan. 15, 1932, Rock County Star, the LHS debate program made its debut that year with the affirmative team consisting of Altie Sterud, Lucille Larson, Lucille Townsend and alternate Mary Christensen.
They were deemed the best at defending the question: Resolve several states should provide for compulsory unemployment insurance.
Debating on the negative side were Luverne students Donald Clifton, Janice Cohen, Albert Christensen and alternate Katherine Enger.
Pictures of the debate team members appear in the Rock County Star, however, not the exact photo that appears in the League’s book. Those pictured on page 113 is possibly limited to the four female students on the alternative team.
While the debate team’s progress to their state championship received local news coverage, no stories followed the Luverne 1937 girls’ basketball team.
The “why” is answered in a chapter of the MSHSL memories book about girls’ athletics.
In Minnesota, girls were limited to playing intermural games until the Girls’ Athletic Association was formed in the late 1930s. It was unusual for girls to play other schools during that time.
Newspaper coverage of girls’ events could have been held to a minimum due to public perception and kept team pictures such as that on Page 55 from being printed locally.
“For much of the 60 years of the 20th century, critics of women’s athletics said that sports were harmful to a woman, destroying her femininity and possibly harming her reproductive organs,” the book detailed.
In 1964 an American Medical Association’s report contradicted those claims, and the League adopted rules for interscholastic athletics for girls by 1969.
When the League began in 1916, Luverne Superintendent Harry C. Bell was the chairman of the committee that helped form the MSHSL.
He became Luverne’s superintendent of schools in 1911 and was in the same position two years later when Luverne High School participated in the first state high school basketball tournament.
Information from the 157-page book, “Minnesota State High School League 100 Years of Memories,” stated Bell was concerned that there was “no adequate or equitable plan for the selection of the teams for such a tournament.” Bell was also concerned that the high school officials at the state had little control over the event.
Bell became an early advocate for school control and management over interscholastic athletics in Minnesota. As he continued to oversee Luverne schools, he was appointed to head the seven-member committee to study the formation of a governing body for high school athletics in Minnesota.
The State High School Athletics Association was formed in 1916 as a nonprofit, voluntary organization with Bell as its first president, a position he served in for six years.
Bell moved from Luverne in 1931, three years after the association changed its name to the Minnesota State High School League and expanded its scope to include all interscholastic athletic activities including speech and debate. Music and girls’ athletics were added in the 1960s.
Other area high school teams are also recognized in the book such as Edgerton’s 1960 boys’ basketball team. Individually, Hills-Beaver Creek’s legendary coach Hugo Goehle is included, along with Luverne native Marvin Helling, who was a coach and administrator in Jackson, Detroit Lakes and Minneapolis Washburn.