In the Midst
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Museum Staff, "The Fire Chief's Worst Fire," Firefighters to the Rescue A Century of Fires in Cokato, 1896-1996 (Cokato Historical Society, 1996) 39-40.
Cokato Hotel Fire, June 8, 1977.
Being a volunteer fireman for 31 years is quite a record. Lyle Severson became a fireman at the age of 23 at the urging of his father-in-law, Eldon Wessman, who was a fireman. He served as chief from 1976 to 1981. As long as he is able to pass the yearly physical, he wants to continue on the department, especially since he and Alvie Cole are vying for a friendly record of service.
His biggest challenge was the Cokato Hotel fire. The alarm came in about 2:30 a.m. on June 8, 1977. By noon the structure was ready to collapse. Firefighters were on the scene until that afternoon when the scene was turned over to investigation by the state fire marshal's office. It was a traumatic time since five lives were lost. He knew the victims as good old guys who lived in the only affordable housing for single people at the time.
From the Cokato Historical Society's newsletter In the Midst Of, July, 2020, Vol. 40 No. 2.
Dr. Theodore Greenfield administers the polio vaccination to Cokato first and second graders. Also pictured from left to right are Paul Constenius, Sandra Boltz, Karen Boltz, and Keith Barberg.
From the 1920s-1950s, Cokato residents lived in fear of polio, a contagious disease that
particularly targeted Cokato’s youth. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system, with symptoms ranging from asymptomatic, to paralysis, to death. Although most cases of polio were mild with little or temporary symptoms, the severe cases involved permanent paralysis, which was enough to cause panic when an outbreak occurred in the community. Adding to the anxiety, scientists at the time did not know how it spread and there was no known cure. In Minnesota, many severe polio cases were treated at the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis.
Cokato Historical Society's newsletter In the Midst Of, July, 2020, Vol. 40 No. 2.
Spanish Influenza, so named because Spain was the first to publicize the crisis, came from unknown origins. In a war torn world brought on by World War I, soldiers carried the disease from one camp to another. By the spring of 1918, the Spanish flu reached the United States with the first case appearing in Kansas. In September of 1918, the virus reached Minnesota and spread at analarming rate. What was so terrifying about the malady is that victims could be healthy one moment then near death after only a few hours. Symptoms included cough, chills, fever, congestion, body aches, exhaustion and bleeding. On top of all of this, the flu was often followed by a bout of pneumonia, that proved deadly to many. By the time the influenza epidemic waned in Minnesota during the spring of 1919, over 10,000 people were dead. Even small rural communities like Cokato did not escape the reaper. 1