Two veteran firefighters, Leila Kath and Bob Hager, have been promoted to Fire Equipment Operators with the Owatonna Fire Department and are now serving shift rotation. Leila Kath, an OHS grad, has served the Owatonna Fire Department as a part-time and resident firefighter for the past five years. Leila served on the fire department explorer program during high school and following high school graduation studied fire technology and administration at Duluth Lake Superior College. She grew up in Owatonna and always had her sights set on working at the Owatonna Fire Department. She is now qualified to drive and operate the pumping apparatus on each of the trucks in the fleet. Leila’s parents are Merlin and Tamera Hager. Her father will be retiring from the department next month after 35 years of service.

Bob Hager also was a member of the Fire Department Explorer program while a student at Owatonna High School. He was 21 years old when he joined the fire department. He replaces Kelly Hanson, a long-time firefighter who recently retired. Bob is a grandson to the late fire chief Frank Anderson. He is also qualified to drive and operate the pumping apparatus of each truck in the fleet.

Both Leila and Bob have a long family history of serving the Owatonna Fire Department. Fire Chief Mike Johnson said, “We are fortunate to be able to promote within these very qualified firefighters to our fire equipment operator roster.

Freestyle and Greco training camp opens

The 2019 Freestyle and Greco training camp opened this past week in Owatonna, sponsored by the Owatonna Wrestling Association. The camp will run through May 12 and is held on Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Owatonna training facility located on the second floor of the Choice Technical Academy (former Pillsbury Campus) using the private entrance on the north side of the building. Outside wrestlers are welcome. Cost is $75.00 and free for Owatonna registered pre-k through 8th grade wrestlers and free for OHS wrestlers, but you must purchase a USA wrestling card in order to attend camp.

An experienced and talented coaching staff is featured at the camp. Former OHS wrestling coach Scot Davis, the winningest coach in amateur wrestling history with a high school career coaching record of 1129-197-4 and 46 years of coaching wrestling. Coach Michael Kroells, four-time letter winner, and four-time All-American at the University of Minnesota. He was a three-time top-finisher in the Bib 10 tournament, four-time academic all-Big Ten, 119 career wins, among the top 20 in history at the University of Minnesota. Coach Brett Pfarr, four-time letter-winner and two-time All American at the University of Minnesota. He is a seven-year coach of Greco-Roman and freestyle coaching. He is currently competing worldwide in freestyle with the Minnesota Storm.

For additional information, call Scot Davis at 727-600-4820 or e-mail at

SACO ball team resumes spring training

Yes, it’s baseball spring training time for the college and professionals. Spring training also involved the legendary SACO ball club of which the late Sy Hennes was long-time manager. The SACO ball club stories went on for decades and Sy and I would always have entertaining chats about team personnel.

Where was SACO? I never did discover the exact location. I know it was located south of Owatonna in the Skunk Hollow area. Hennes always bragged about the 5,000-car parking lot connected with the ball park and stadium.

Reportedly, members of the SACO ball club even traveled to the Met Stadium once a year to hob knob with Twins players. This was referred to in the late 70’s by Peoples Press editor Jerry Ringhofer in his “Ring Around” column. Jerry wrote, “Well, some of the dust has finally settled after the annual excursion of the SACO baseball team to the Met where they showed the Twins how to play ball.

Lloyd Guthier and Gary Johnson were the chief organizers of the SACO date with destiny. And, who could forget the tremendous cheerleading of Eagle’s manager, Doug Farnquist? It started with a modest “SACO cheer” lustily chanted by the 40 SACO partisans who made the trip.

Ringhofer went on to write, “We have a lot of problems at home with the SACO story. My number one and two teenagers and number one pre-teenager admit to doubts in their minds about the highly touted SACO stadium with its gigantic parking lot.”

The SACO bunch includes guys and gals who journeyed to the Met behind Elmer Reseland’s great banner proclaiming SACO to be the number one farm club of the Minnesota Twins. Reseland had enthusiastically termed the Twins as the number one farm club for SACO, but Guthier had second thoughts and altered the message saying guardedly, “We didn’t want the Twins management jealous, but we surely showed them how to play.”

A big win

Led by fearless John McGaheran of Mayoral fame, SACO scored a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Mike McGaheran, the Mayor’s son, drove in the winning run with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Up to that time is had been a close pitcher’s duel between Roger Johnson and the Chicago crew. John got a little wild, and had to be bailed out by Don Dooney, backed up by some great fielding work by Sy Hennes, Len Wendorf and Dick McCann. Dick Haberman was inspiring in outfield play. Clayton Nelson managed the dugout strategy and City Engineer Maynard Leuth was the field general.

Labor problems

Even the legendary SACO ball club had its labor issues. Ringhofer wrote, “There is some evidence that a player’s strike is in the offing. Wendorf is said to be holding out for a nine-cent raise. Lefty Ringhofer refused to play shortstop any more without a backup man, claiming that first base is so far away these days. Mayor McGaheran has petitioned Guthier for an additional free interchange at SACO to handle the stadium traffic. Meanwhile there was a rumor that Todd Hale has applied for the job as game commentator.

Fading stories

The stories about the SACO ball club are fading. Until his death, Hennes would come up to me with the latest scouting report adding names such as George Dawes, Biff Barrett, Eddie McCarthy, Don Reigel, Bill Brick, Tom Brick, and Bill Kottke to the roster. It was all in fun, but the stories stayed alive for decades. The anticipated stadium expansion never took place. There were many baseball fans in Owatonna who were stockholders in SACO Sports Enterprises.

Did you know?

Do you remember when the name of the OHS sports teams was changed from the “Indians” to the “Husky’s”? The new Husky mascot as announced at a pap fest on April 22, 1994. The change was voted on by members of the student body. The entire town was talking about what the new name would be. It got to be such a big thing that we actually broadcast live the pep fest where the new name was revealed. Other choices for the mascot’s name were “Lightening” and “Royals”.

Young Life cake auction just around the corner

April 13 is the date for the annual Young Life Cake Auction to be held at the OHS gym. Doors will open at 9:00. There will be 100 sale cakes. Live bidding will begin at 10:00. You can bid in person, KRFO will broadcast the auction live, the auction will be carried on Owatonna live .com and live on facebook. Check details at

Teacher of year nominees announced

This year’s nominees for Owatonna Teacher of the year have been announced. The list includes Martha Bloomenrader, Wilson 5th grade, Ryan Conlon, ECSE teacher, Owatonna Education Center, Jen Koziolek, McKinley Kindergarten, Michelle Simon, McKinley 1st grade, and Dustin Thorson, PE teacher, Lincoln. The end-of-year banquet is May 8 at the Monterey.

Remembering Kate and Kurt Kowatch

Every time I pass the little house at the bottom of the Lynn Ave. hill, I remember a couple that lived in that house for years, Kate and Kurt Kowatch who were originally from Germany. How they got to Owatonna escapes my memory. Kurt was a talented metal artist, and Kate kept a finger on what was going on in Owatonna. When Kate got on the wrong side of a city councilman, it was not a pleasant experience that that city father!

Kate was a great listener of all our programs on KRFO. She would often call our Party Line show to express her personal feelings about decisions made in Owatonna. She really had a heart of gold and was proud of her German heritage. She would often share German baking with our radio station staff…always delicious!

A bit of LTO musical history

With the loss of Sharon Stark, who was my source for Little Theater of Owatonna history, my memory serves me that LTO has presented the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” twice, once in 1994 and the first presentation in 1974. It was interesting to look back at the first time the musical was presented to see who was involved. Today, many names connected with LTO not only come from Owatonna but from neighboring towns. In 1974, those involved were also all from this community.

Ev Pecore directed the first presentation of Fiddler. Technical director was Ron Harten. Mary Hymans was vocal coach, Bob Rowley was in charge of set building. Medora Baumgart handled costuming, Chris Etherton was stage manager, Bev Leuth, properties, Dick Reinhart, lighting, Jeanette Pirkl, makeup, Faye Kottke and Linda McEnaney, tickets and house manager was Jim Martineau.

Cast members

Now to the cast of that 1974 production. Judge Charles Cashman (Trevye), Janet Moening (Golde), Julie Chappius (Bileke), Debbie Ringhofer (Yente), Mary Leach (Motel), Jerry Qualley (Perchik), Dave Kurud (Lazar Wolf), Jim Hoffman (Mordcha), Dan Smith (Rabbi). Other cast members included Bill Jungbluth, Dan Hymans Turner Lake, Marla Willert, Sherry Ankrum, John Hallenberger, Steve Wilker, Georgine Alt, John Anderson, Ray Larson, Jo Frisbie, Sani Ekstrom, Jan Mittlestadt, Brian Rysavy, and Mike Kubiatowicz.

Board members

In 1974, Bob Rowley was LTO Board president, Jim Martineau, vice president, Jeanette Pirkl, secretary and Sharon Stark, treasurer. Board members then included Ev Pecore, Bill Kottke, Karen Killen, Tom McEnaney, Bev Leuth, Sally Oswald, Larry Pierce and Tommy Thompson.

Kids missing winterwear

Any parent who has kids riding Owatonna school buses and are missing some pieces of their winter-wear should stop at the Owatonna Bus Co. and check out the bulging lost and found bins. There’s a huge collection of mittens, scarves, hats, backpacks and even boots that have been left on buses. Stop in during business hours and check out the collection.

Joke of the week

In honor of stupid people: In case you need further proof that the human race is doomed through stupidity…here are some actual instructions on consumer goods:

• On a Sears hairdryer: “Do not use while sleeping

• On a bag of Fritos: You could be a winner! No purchase necessary…details inside

• On a bar of Dial soap: Directions: Use like regular soap

• On bread spudding: Product will be hot after heating

• On Nytol Sleep Aid: Warning, may cause drowsiness

• On airline pack of nuts: “Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts

• On a Swedish chainsaw: Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.

Todd Hale can be reached at or write him at 632 14th St. S.E. Phone contact is 507-456-7304.

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