Dozens show up for Central High School memorabilia sale

Boosters bid readily at a Saturday. Aug. 6 auction in Duluth that featured keepsakes from the long-closed school

Central Auction 2
Auctioneer Forrest Evavold presents to potential buyers dozens of trophies from the long-closed Central High School on Saturday, Aug. 6.
Joe Bowen / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — It was about two and a half hours into a seven-hour auction, and Don Ness had built up a tableful of old t-shirts, sweaters, marching band hats, posters, and other accoutrements – nearly $1,000 worth, he estimated, of Central High School memorabilia.

The former Duluth mayor and current head of the Ordean Foundation was one of a few dozen people at an auction on Saturday, Aug. 6 who bid on items that used to dot Central or, after the school was closed in 1971, a museum dedicated to preserving its history. Auctioneer Forrest Evavold sold a vintage poster for $15, a flapper-style dress for $50, and a century-old blueprint machine for $500. In between were antique cabinets, magazine racks, taxidermied animals, and scores of old photos and paintings.

Ness said he was interested in items he feels have some measure of historical significance: a collection of old photo slides, for instance, that he hoped to buy and digitize for the public at large to view.

“Things that, when you look at it, you say that this came from Duluth Central. This kind of represented the history of the school,” he said.

A sweater donated to the museum years ago by Ness’ great-aunt went into the pile he was assembling. Well-worn tables and old science equipment that was at the school but not necessarily unique to it might not make the cut.


“They’re historic,” Ness, who graduated from Central at its newer location on E. Central Entrance, explained. “But they’re not necessarily the history of this particular school.”

Central Auction
Nordic Auction staff sold hundreds of pieces of Central High School memorabilia on Saturday, Aug. 6.
Joe Bowen / Duluth News Tribune

After 1971, the older Central building was mainly a home for Duluth Public Schools administrators and officials, but a pair of rooms and the interior of its iconic clock tower housed hundreds of school mementos. They comprised a museum that was maintained by a group of volunteers called the Central High School Museum Committee, which slowly grew its collection as alumni or their families donated pieces following Central’s closure.

After school board members agreed to sell the building in October 2020, committee members worked to find new homes for the exhibits in their museum, but were only partly successful. Whatever wasn’t taken by the St. Louis County Historical Society, the Duluth Public Library, and other regional institutions last fall went to Saturday’s auction, to the chagrin of Ness and other alumni or boosters.

With their home in new hands, volunteers who maintained a museum of Central keepsakes gave large tracts of their exhibits to Duluth-area institutions. They plan to auction the rest on Saturday, but many Duluth-area Facebook users, worried about discarding relics of the school's history, criticized the move.

Their plan, ultimately, is to put together a museum similar to the one that used to be at Central before it was sold.

“We’re very excited about all the things that we have,” Barb Darland, who was working alongside Ness at the auction, told the News Tribune. “Looking to complete our collections, there are a lot of holes. So we’re going to have to call out to other people in the community because there may be things in people’s attics and basements of their parents, grandparents, if they don’t know what to do with it, they can donate it.”

David Kragseth was there to temporarily complete a collection of his own.

The Duluth Central graduate earned 23 varsity letters playing seven sports in the 1940s for the Trojans and was a member of the Super Bowl XIV officiating crew.

Kragseth’s father is Norman Kragseth, a decorated athlete, coach, and NFL official who graduated from Central in 1949. David flew to Minnesota from New Jersey for an Aug. 14 memorial service for his father, who died in January, and heard about the auction late last week. He drove to Duluth from the Twin Cities on Saturday morning to scoop up for the memorial any trophies his dad helped win as part of a team sport, but said he’d be comfortable donating them afterward.

“He was a member of the team, but it wasn’t his,” Kragseth said.


Central Auction Novacheck High Bids
Some of the items Ann Novacheck won at an Aug. 6 auction in Duluth that features Central High School memorabilia. Novacheck said she wanted to respect the efforts of people there who hoped to buy items of a particular historic or personal interest from the long-closed school.
Joe Bowen / Duluth News Tribune

One woman’s aim at the auction, though, was seemingly the inverse of Ness’ and Kragseth’s. Ann Novacheck, a Twin Cities resident with a Northland lake home, was there to purchase vintage items, rather than those with a particular historical or personal significance. Wary of winning anything that was of particular interest to the Central boosters in the crowd, Novacheck put in high bids for a table, a windup tricycle toy, a few printing press plates, and a fencing mask, among other lots.

“The appeal for me isn’t the Central,” she said. “I’m more vintage.”

The district seeks to be reimbursed for costs caused by a fire that delayed Cooper Elementary School's opening by a year.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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