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Cleaning reveals historic treasures

Mike Cadotte found more than 20 graduation photos from the East High School class of 1937 in his parents’ East End home. Now, he’s seeking to return them to the students’ families. (Jed Carlson/

Mike Cadotte had a brush with history in 1999 when he cleaned out his mother’s home in Superior’s East End. He found a cache of black and white graduation pictures of the East High School class of 1937, mounted in cardboard frames and signed by the students themselves. His first intention was to toss them, but his wife stepped in.

“Janet insisted I not throw them away,” Cadotte said. She went through old Wa Wa Ta yearbooks to identify 20 of the students, leaving five mystery faces. The photos have waited for 15 years, even making the trip to Indiana and back with the couple. The time has come to get them home.

“Maybe somebody will get some pictures back,” Cadotte said. “I think we generally don’t appreciate our relatives until later in life.”

Pieces of history litter our lives; whether they are clutter or heirlooms rests in the eye of the beholder.

“One person’s trash is another’s treasure,” said Tony Tracy, executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society. The organization deals with such memorabilia on a regular basis. In a digital age, Tracy said, it’s vital to hang onto such items.

“It’s that tangible connection,” he said, an actual physical piece of history that a grandfather, great-grandfather or great great-grandfather touched.

“They are treasures,” you just have to find the people who consider them treasures, Tracy said.

These items can pop up during expected moments, like cleaning out a parent’s home, or unexpectedly.

When Tarah Nichols’ father handed her a box of old elementary school papers, she had no idea it held a mystery. Nichols, the nutrition programs educator for UW-Extension, found an unopened envelope from the State Board of Health amidst the drawings and classwork. It was addressed to someone she didn’t know, dated Sept. 25, 1952, and had never been opened. Inside were the birth and baptism certificates for Superior resident Coletta McKinnon as well as an affidavit from her older sister swearing that McKinnon was indeed born July 26, 1904.

How the mail got into a box of school papers remains unsolved. The McKinnons aren’t relatives or family friends. The mailing address doesn’t match the Superior home where it was stored. In fact, it’s about 10 blocks away.

“I have no idea who this person is or their family,” Nichols said. So she started to research online, finding an obituary indicating McKinnon co-owned the V. McKinnon Insurance Agency in Superior with her brother until his disappearance in 1985. His remains were found in 2007. Another website lists a Vincent McKinnon as a police sergeant in Superior. Vincent was the name of McKinnon’s father.

Nichols, too, is hoping to reunite the documents with their family.

“It would be interesting to hear the rest of the story,” she said.

Cadotte, at least, has an inkling how the photos got in his mother’s attic. His father, Duane Cadotte, was a member of the Wa Wa Ta staff for the 1936-37 school year. A junior, he was listed as one of the class editors.

When people unearth these historical documents and photos, what can they do? The trash can is always an option, but not one Tracy would advise.

“I would like to think we are more a historical society that doesn’t throw anything away,” he said.

Tracy encouraged anyone who finds such items to contact the historical society at 715-392-8449.

“We’ll try to find the right home for it,” Tracy said. The society can direct people to a suitable organization or take a look at the item themselves. If it pertains to the historical society, they may add it to the archives.

“We can definitely be a place for them to call,” Tracy said. He suggested sites like, and for those who prefer online research.

Anyone interested in inquiring about family photographs from the East High School class of 1937 can contact Cadotte at 218-340-0202.

The identified photos are of:

Elayne Aardappel

Betty Anderson

Eileen Artcliff

Agnes Benson

Borghild Blackstad

Alice DeBlock

Eileen Brotherton

Dorthy Bryden

Marion Campshire

Alice Cronemiller

Joyce Domm

Delores Grills

Helen Gulland

Ruby Johnson

Margaret Leafblade

Florence Munnings

Lorraine Newberg

Fern Solin

Lennea Swanson

Russ Whalen

There are also five unidentified photos.

Class of 1937, first name Marion

Class of 1937, unsigned

Class of 1936, Howard

Class of 1936, Charles

Class of 1935, Rus

If this is a photo of your relative and you would like to have it, call Cadotte at 218-340-0202.

A full list of the students identified can also be found online at