Mike Worcester, Cokato Historical Society, In the Midst Of. (Winter, 1999) vol. 19 no. 1.
Tuesday, March 12, 1912, was a usual spring day in Cokato. Temps were in the low-thirties, the sun was shining, and the dirt streets had turned to ankle deep mud. So why then, did the entire
student body of the Cokato public school slog through those messy streets and gather in front of city hall on the morning of March 12? That particular Tuesday was not just any day for the
town—it was election day.
Election days in Cokato had, since the inception of the village, been the scene of the annual ritual of deciding whether or not saloons were to be permitted to operate within the city. The story of past election battles between the "wets" and the "drys" are full of intrigue and
scandal. But in 1912, a new factor was added to the mix—the students of the Cokato schools.
John Monroe served as superintendent of the Cokato schools for only three years (1909 - 1912). He was a booster of athletics, including a track program. (It has been said that some of the older residents of Cokato looked with strong disfavor on young men running down the street in short pants.) Monroe was also a fierce opponent of saloons.
It was Monroe who organized the students into a mass march on city hall that election day morning. With a drum corps keeping beat, they marched right down Broadway Avenue, primary grades in front, high school students in back. They all wore sashes proclaiming "Vote Dry For My Sake." The students assembled in front of the hall and sang songs such as Onward Christian Soldiers and My Country 'Tis of Thee. They also gave a cheer: "What's the matter with Cokato voters? They're all right. Why? They're dry!"
The march was so successful that town officials and saloon opponents asked for a repeat performance that afternoon. Of course, Monroe and the students obliged.
As always, Gust Akerlund was there to capture the image. The photo seen above was of the afternoon parade. The white badges on the students are the "Vote Dry" sashes.
It should be noted that the "dry" forces won the election that day, 128 - 64. It was also the last time that pro-saloon forces serious challenged Cokato's status as a "dry" town.
Cokato stayed a dry town from 1910 to 2006!
To learn more about Cokato's history with the Temperance Movement click below.