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Pat Rupp: My how Farmington has changed in 44 years

Pat Rupp

I haven't resided within Farmington city limits for almost a quarter of a century now and with the exception of attending Tiger sporting events, taking my trusty Toyotas to Pedersen Auto for maintenance and trekking to Jon Falkowski's Dental Health Center for oral hygiene needs, I don't spend much time in the place I called home for 20 years.

On a recent oil change run to Pedersen's, one of my Farmington golfing buddies picked me up so we could head out to the golf course for a few hours of frustration. After picking up the car later in the day I decided to take a drive around town just for old time's sake.

The first stop was the old neighborhood, an area then and maybe still known as Sunnyside. On the corner of Centennial and Fairview the old homestead stood as tall as a rambler could, albeit in a coat of foreign-colored paint.

The asphalt slab and accompanying basketball hoop in the backyard have seen better days but the puny lilac hedge I long ago planted along the east property line has reached dizzying heights. My nursery man father would be pleased.

Driving back north I passed by Farmington Elementary School where my children learned their ABC's and where I regularly jogged around the ancient cinder track. I swear I got a little leg cramp just driving by the place.

A couple of blocks up the street sits the now District Service Center, the scene of an interview with Leslie Lindell in the spring of 1973 that led to my hiring as a counselor and coach at Farmington High School. Then grades 7-12 were housed in the old, overcrowded structure where two shifts were required to accommodate all of the students.

Later that building also served as the locale for my nine years on the Farmington School Board. In the stuffy board room, long before television cameras entered the picture, we debated issues such as annual budgets, teacher contracts, new building plans, annual budgets, athletic conference affiliations and the like. It was the best of times and the worst of times.

The look of the downtown business area hasn't changed all that much although familiar names of yesteryear like Duebers, Town and County Clothing and Harbee's were long gone. From the outside, Gerster Jewelry looked like it hadn't aged much and the familiar aroma was still wafting from the venerable Farmington Steak House which I am sure still serves the biggest slabs of meat in the northern hemisphere.

From downtown I drove by the old Feely's grain elevator, Farmington's lone skyscraper, past the FAA Center and finally out to Boeckman Middle School which was the new Farmington High School when it opened its doors in the fall of 1974. The old new high school went through a couple of expansions before the new new school opened its doors on Flagstaff Avenue early in the 21st Century.

On the way out of town, I passed McDonald's, another sign of how Farmington has grown over the past four-plus decades. In the old days one had to drive to Apple Valley to grab two all-beef patties on a sesame seed bun. Now it's within walking distance.

When I got home from my Farmington nostalgia tour I decided to match my observations with numbers. I exhausted my internet browser and found raw data that told the story of the past 44 years much better than my rambling.

The 1970 census listed Farmington's population as 3,140. By 2000, it had tripled to 12,365. Over the next 10 years the population increased another 70 percent to 21,086. That's almost a 700 percent jump in 40 years.

During the the same time Farmington High School ballooned from a total student population of around 500 to a current enrollment of 1,894, the 18th largest in Minnesota.

No wonder things look a little different.