By Jack Puterbaugh
Isanti County resident, local historian
Each Spring the News carries a story about the Cambridge-Isanti High School Junior Senior Prom. The story usually has photos of some of the students attending, dressed in their formal attire along with their floral adornments.
This was not always the case. Back in 1943 when I was a senior at Cambridge High School, (how it became Cambridge-Isanti High School is another story), there was no such thing as a Junior-Senior Prom. Rather there was Junior-Senior Banquet.
The school board in those days frowned on the idea of allowing students to dance on school property. As a result to “allow the people to decide,” the school board held a referendum in the Spring of 1942 on the question, “Should dancing be allowed on school property?” When the votes were counted, there were 185 yes votes and 215 no votes. With that result the position of the board was upheld.
However, the board policy did not prevent dancing by teenagers. Floyd Pearson, a fellow classmate, organized informal dances that were held on either the second floor of the Fire Hall in downtown Cambridge, or the second floor of the Co-op Hall (a building that no longer exists). Those attending chipped in a dime to dance to the recorded music of bands like Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey. This was back in the era of the Big Band.
Of course, there were other places to dance the night away. There was a weekly dance at the resorts on Spectacle Lake. If you wanted to venture farther away, there was the Ranch and Golden Slipper in Kanabec County or Pine Camp outside of Pine City. At these places the waltz and polka were the crowd favorites
Next spring, as students’ thoughts turn to their big night at the Junior Senior Prom, they might be reminded that this was not always the way it was.
— Jack Puterbaugh has deep roots in Isanti County. His grandfather came to Isanti County from Sweden in 1882 and settled in Dalbo. Thus his mother was born here. His family moved back to a farm west of Isanti on November 4, 1932 where he grew up. His education was at District 17, a one room school; he then graduated from Cambridge High School in 1943. “Over the years I’ve wandered about, but finally returned in 2002. This place has always been considered to be where my roots are.” This story originally appeared in the Isanti County News, October 21, 2009.
by Robert Shogren
Isanti County Historical Society
So why did they decide to call my street that?
In my line of work, I hear that question often. There is plenty of history behind many of the streets and roads we have our addresses on. The name of a street may seem strange to us today, but when it was named, it made perfect sense.
Before we talk about any particular street, be aware that most street names in Isanti County are part of an address system…with street names following a specific grid. The numbered avenues in rural Isanti County are a continuation of avenues that have their origin in downtown Minneapolis. When driving on 261st Avenue, think of it as being 261 blocks north of downtown.
The named streets in rural Isanti County are named in categories. The categories are from west to east: Football greats, rocks and minerals, elements, animal names, Indian names, flowers, trees, presidents in order of service, cities of the world, historic battles, classic cars, astrology and astronomy, rivers of the world, colleges and universities, and baseball greats. An Anoka County highway engineer determined many of the categories in the early 1970’s. His job was to create an address system to replace the old rural route and box system developed by the United States Postal Service. In addition to the county’s address system, each city in Isanti County (with the exception of the small portion of Saint Francis in Isanti County) has its own unique address system with its own way of naming streets. There are many unique and sometimes funny stories that led to the name of a street. For example, many say Whiskey Road SW in the City of Isanti was named because it led to the whiskey. Many years ago, Isanti County was a “dry” county. It was prohibited to have on sale liquor establishments here. Anoka County had no such prohibition, and the road went to Bethel in the “wet” county of Anoka.
Other streets were named for bodies of water. Tennyson Drive NW is named for the small lake in Spencer Brook. Spirit River Drive located on the west side of Cambridge is named after the American Indian name for the Rum River.
Some streets are named for prominent families in the area. Strike Blvd NW is named for the Strike family that lives in Bradford. Peterson Trail NE in North Branch is named for a farming family in this town.
Historical figures and events influence street names. Dahlin Avenue NE in the city of Isanti is named for a policeman who was killed in the line of duty. Stanchfield Road NE is named for the town in which it is located…which is named for Daniel Stanchfield, the first man to explore the pine forests of our area. Stark Road NE is named for Capt. James Starkey, commander of the Saint Paul Light Cavalry. Pioneer Trail SE in Cambridge is named for the pioneers who settled this area. Elin’s Lake Road SE, located in the same area, is named for one of the wives or daughters of those same pioneers. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources calls Elin’s Lake, “Elms Lake.” Many think the name of the lake was copied incorrectly on maps used by the DNR. Long time residents in the Cambridge area will always call it Elin’s Lake. Sometimes a street is named for where it leads. Opportunity Blvd in Cambridge leads to the Cambridge Opportunity Industrial Park. River Hills Drive NW, also in Cambridge leads to the River Hills Senior Housing complex.
So, why did they decide to call my street that? History has the answer. Below are three books I often use to find the answers to many “why” questions. All three are excellent reading.
• Isanti County Minnesota – An Illustrated History By: Vernon E. Bergstrom and Marilyn McGriff
• Isanti County – Yesterday…Today…Tomorrow By: Marilyn McGriff
• Minnesota Geographic Names
By: Warren Upham
Cuttings Fall 2009