Jaycees’ hold 50th anniversary reunion during Snowflake Days

“Exhausted roosters” and “pooped pullets” gathered at the Coon Rapids American Legion Saturday to remember the first Coon Rapids Snowflake Days 50 years ago and reminisce about the Coon Rapids Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees, who launched the annual winter celebration in 1964.

Some members of the Coon Rapids Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees from the 1960s gathered at the Coon Rapids American Legion for a reunion lunch Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days celebration which Chuck Austin and his fellow Jaycees launched in 1964. Photo by Peter Bodley

Some members of the Coon Rapids Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees from the 1960s gathered at the Coon Rapids American Legion for a reunion lunch Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days celebration which Chuck Austin and his fellow Jaycees launched in 1964. Photo by Peter Bodley

Back then, the Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees were thriving organizations in the city of Coon Rapids, young men and women between the ages of 18 and 35; they became “exhausted roosters” and “pooped pullets” once they reached the age of 36 and were no longer eligible to be Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees.

The impetus for the Feb. 15 reunion lunch and program came from Chuck Austin, the Jaycees member who in 1964 was responsible for the launch of Snowflake Days and was later its first marquis.

Austin, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, drove to Coon Rapids for the Sno Ball Dance Feb. 14 and contacted Jan Ruiz, a member of the Mrs. Jaycees back in the 1960s, to organize a reunion lunch for Feb. 15.

Ruiz, who now lives in Blaine with her daughter Linda – her husband Mark, who was an active member of the Coon Rapids Jaycees, died in 2010 – and Doris Schulte, a longtime Coon Rapids resident and former Mrs. Jaycee, set about contacting past members from the 1960s for the reunion.

Besides Austin, who emceed the event, Ruiz and Schulte and her husband, Mel, past Coon Rapids Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees who attended the reunion included Merle Fiereck, Bob and Dawn Clark, Tom Christensen, Dave Allen, George and Janice Jensen, Ron and Joanie Strand and Dave and Caryl Larson.

Several were active in other aspects of Coon Rapids civic life in addition to the Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees. Dave Larson and Mel Schulte both served on the Coon Rapids City Council; Dave Allen and Ron Strand were members of the Coon Rapids Planning Commission; George Jensen founded Jensen’s Foods, which has been located at Northdale Shopping Center for more than 50 years; and Caryl Larson was the first head nurse in Mercy Hospital’s newborn nursery when the hospital opened in 1965.

There were two special guests at the reunion – Melody Livengood and her husband Kevin drove up from their home in Cedar Rapids. Livengood is one of Austin’s daughters and attended school at Morris Bye Elementary School and then-Coon Rapids Junior School when her family lived in Coon Rapids from 1960 and 1969.

Two of her classmates at Morris Bye were Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe and Eileen Matson, a member of the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days Committee.

Livengood was four years old when the Austins moved to Coon Rapids and 13 when they left. While surgery to remove a benign brain tumor in 2010 has largely robbed her of her long-term memory, she recalled her years in Coon Rapids with affection.

“It was an innocent time,” Livengood said. “I enjoyed life in Coon Rapids. It was a happy time. “

She recalled being a crossing guard at Morris Bye and once turning in her younger brother, Mark, a second-grader at the time, because he had been running and not walking, Livengood said. “He has never let me forget it,” she said.

And she was delighted to see that Morris Bye still has crossing guards when she drove by the school with her husband on Saturday morning and saw the crossing guard flag in a window.

Livengood described Coon Rapids in the 1960s as a “unique, incredible community, in which the people took pride,” she said.

Since the family left for Portland, Ore., she had only been back to Coon Rapids once before until Saturday. That was right after she and Kevin married in 1976; they spent a few days in the city while on their honeymoon, Livengood said.

Returning to Coon Rapids Saturday was a real eye-opener because of the growth that has taken place, she said. “All the fields I remember have gone,” Livengood said.

Livengood has been impressed by what Coon Rapids has become, but “I hope it has not lost some of its innocence,” she said.

She graduated from high school in Farmington Hills, Mich., where her father was working at the time, but when her family moved back to Des Moines, from which they had come to Coon Rapids in the mid-1970s, Livengood went with them.

Since her marriage, her husband’s job in banking and finance has meant they have moved several times, mostly to different towns in Iowa, but also to Illinois. However, they have lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, since 1999 and Livengood has been para-educator working with a special education children in mainstream classes at a Cedar Rapids junior high school for 15 years.

The Livengoods have four children and two grandchildren.

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