Collecting a century of Stacy history

Pictured (l-r): Stacy City Clerk Sharon Payne takes down a family story as told by Marlene Gray and her son Dale, with the accompanying photos from the family Bible on the scanner. Photo by Anne Thom
Pictured (l-r): Stacy City Clerk Sharon Payne takes down a family story as told by Marlene Gray and her son Dale, with the accompanying photos from the family Bible on the scanner. Photo by Anne Thom

Stacy City Clerk Sharon Payne and members of the History Committee—Mary Utecht, Cindy Bruss, Charles Lucia and Tony Olivolo—have spent five years collecting pictures and stories from residents, past and present.

In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Stacy, which was incorporated in 1923, the Stacy History Committee held a “Scan and Story” event April 2. The anniversary will be a celebration of “where it started and memories of Stacy,” Payne said. “It’s interesting to hear about the struggles and hardships.”

She has received some assistance with research and materials from the Chisago County Historical Society and many present and past Stacy residents. The history committee created a log form to catalog pictures and stories. Marlene Gray and her son Dale made good use of that form at the event.

Photos make for fond recollections

Marlene Gray brought the memorial Bible of her family, which commemorates the death of Alta May Gray, 1858-1945, and a photo album of the family in Stacy, which dates back to the early 1900s. Some of the delicate photographs bore the names of the individuals pictured, and each told the story of life in Stacy at that time.

Marlene Gray showed Payne pictures the family: ladies in ankle length skirts and “shirtwaists”; little girls in dresses with button shoes and giant bows in their hair; boys in knee britches; men in overalls or wearing suspenders and hats; farmhouses; haystacks and horses; and a few early automobiles.

Her family has been in the area since the beginning of Stacy, although Marlene Gray didn’t reside in the official city limits of Stacy until later.


Remembering a long-gone school

The Grays both recalled the Stacy School fondly. The Stacy School was located on a hill that now overlooks Interstate 35W, directly adjacent to the rear of where the Subway restaurant now stands. Marlene Gray and Jeanne Aslakson, who joined the party, laughed about how they had met each other at school.

Dale Gray said his best memory is of bus driver Lois Tischer.

“She always wore a rose in her hair,” he said with a smile.

Jeanne Aslakson attended the Stacy School after moving to Stacy from Fargo, N.D. Aslakson’s grandparents had arrived in Stacy in 1913. Her grandmother, Theresa Patak, ran the tavern in Stacy and the barbershop, which were housed together.

Aslakson’s grandfather, Lorenz Patak, drowned in Rush Lake during a storm. Her grandmother then sent for her children to come home and help her run the tavern and barbershop. Aslakson never looked back and declared she feels the same as Marlene Gray; she never thought of living anywhere else and she could never leave Stacy.

Payne said she was touched by a donation from Pam Beire.

Beire had contacted Payne and sent her several schoolbooks stamped “School District #11, Stacy, Minnesota.” Payne said Beire had learned the history committee was looking for donations. The Stacy school district was combined with the North Branch School District in 1968.


About the bars

In addition to the school and the train station, “It seems like we had a lot of bars here in Stacy,” Marlene Gray said.

“Yup, two or three churches, two or three bars,” her son agreed.

One of those bars is still in existence. Kristi Pavek, of the Rustic Inn, sent Payne old handbills advertising “Mileage and Groceries” and touting the Rustic as the place to stop in Stacy. “People would be waiting outside to go to the Rustic,” Marlene Gray remembered.


An increasing collection of history

Payne is accumulating quite a collection. She reached into a box and pulled out a hand-drawn plat map of Lent-Stacy dated 1915. Those at the event marveled at the number of women who owned property at the beginning of the 20th century, even though at that time women did not have the right to vote.

Payne said recently deceased Stacy resident Carolyn “Sis” Frenning had gone through her possessions in the years prior to her death in September 2012. Frenning donated a number of pictures and other memorabilia to the city. She graciously sat down with Payne in 2008 to tell stories. “Sis said the history of Stacy was really important to her—that it go on,” Payne said, looking through pictures Frenning gave the city.

“There have been a couple of people who have just said, ‘Do you want this?’” Payne said.

She showed off a nearly mint-condition Minneapolis Sunday Tribune magazine and opened it to a story titled “Small Town Christmas Program.” The publication is dated Dec. 20, 1959, and featured four pages of photographs of the children of Stacy. Front and center was a young Linda Anderson, facing her audience of fellow students and their parents, the wood burning stove glowing in the photo from the back of the old school. Also highlighted in the big city newspaper were Kathleen Keacher and Jeffrey Dufeck, each giving a recitation, respectively, of “My Bes’ Fellow” and “Planning for Santa.” The children were dressed in their Sunday-best clothes for the occasion.

Anyone with pictures or a story of Stacy can contact city hall at 651-462-4486.

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