Residents recall Sartell history on website

Dennis DalmanFeatured News, News, Sartell – St. Stephen0 Comments

by Dennis Dalman

Spoken glimpses into Sartell’s past can be heard and seen on the City of Sartell’s website.

Residents in video presentations reminisce about various aspects of the city, including the East Side, the School District, the Police Department and Rivertown.

The videos were produced by the Sartell Senior Connection in partnership with the Sartell-St. Stephen School District. Organizers of the videos would like to produce more of them. To make a donation for more segments or to offer suggestions, contact Ann Doyscher-Domres at 320-253-4036, ext. 4.

To watch the videos, go to the Sartell website at, then scroll down until you see “Sartell Stories” in blue on the left.

The following are brief summaries of two of the videos:

East Side

Resident Jan Sorell, a founding member of the Senior Connection, knows the east side of the city like the back of her hand. Originally from Richfield, Sorell and her husband, Dale, bought a motel on the east side many decades ago – the Winter Haven Motel. There was another motel in the same area, known as the Lackawanna.

Sorell recalls how her grandmother told her purchasing the motel in Sartell would be a smart move because the World’s Fair was about to open in Seattle, and so the motel would get good tourist business from people on their way Northwest to the Fair. Jan and Dale laughed at the idea, but, in fact, that is exactly what happened – lots of tourists passing through, and many of them stopping for a night at Winter Haven. The cost was $4 a night for a single, with $1 extra for TV service, with the TV brought to the room on a wheel cart.

At the time, early 1960s, there were only about 800 people living in the city. However, there was a lot of through traffic because at that time, what is now Benton Drive was busy Hwy. 10, and because of that the Sorells’ motel did a brisk business, even after the World’s Fair in Seattle closed. The Winter Haven was located near the Commodore Supper Club and two gas stations. When Hwy. 10 was moved to the east, business at the motel naturally declined.

Ken Schulte, a retired member of the Sartell-LeSauk Fire Department, recalls how his father owned a gas station near Winter Haven and how fun it was to grow up in east Sartell playing baseball with the east-side kids often versus the west-side kids. The expansion of the paper mill was a “huge thing,” and the building of the new bridge was a good development because people didn’t have to cross the railroad tracks anymore to use the old bridge, Schulte recalls in the video.

School District

It was a long and vigorous fight to get Sartell its own school district back in the late 1960s.

In the video, Bill Galarneault and Pat Saltzer recall the struggle, which at times resembled a virtual feud.

Starting about 1908, Sartell had its own school, where the School District Office Building now stands, but for many decades it was for grades 1-6 only. After grade 6, students would have to bus to St. Cloud for further schooling.

In the mid-1960s, a divisionism developed. Many Sartell residents wanted their own independent school district; many did not and preferred to consolidate with the St. Cloud School District. Many professional people in Sartell thought Sartell, on its own, would never have enough technical courses, like St. Cloud had, for students to get a well-rounded education to prepare them for good jobs. Thus, they argued in favor of consolidation.

At the time, there was virtually no state-aid to schools available as now, and just about everything had to be paid for via local taxes. Sartell’s biggest taxpayer was the historic and thriving paper mill.

The election campaign began, with arguments flying pro and con. A big blizzard hit the area on election day in January 1967. The City of Sartell made sure all the streets were plowed early so voters could make it to the polls.

The referendum for Sartell to create its own school district was approved by voters. However, not long afterward, there were four lawsuits filed against the school board saying the decision should not be honored. The state legislature, despite opposition, validated the decision.

Construction of Sartell High School began in 1968. A new one, at a cost of nearly $100 million, is now under construction.

contributed photo
During its heyday, the Winter Haven Motel in east Sartell was a thriving business, owned by Dale and Jan Sorell. The facility was located on busy Hwy. 10, which was later moved to the east. The road is now Benton Drive.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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