The Time Machine: What's next?

My current plan is to research track and field upon completing the remaining WHS football scrapbook. After that, I hope to eventually research wrestling, baseball, cross-country, tennis and golf.

Cleon Time Machine.png
Cleon Erckenbrack in his Wadena High School football uniform in 1944. He was a junior.
From the Wadena Pioneer Journal archives

WADENA — When I first considered approaching the Wadena Pioneer Journal about writing an occasional Wadena sports history article, I was unsure of myself and of the stories I wanted to share. However, I knew it would be a huge mistake not to share them. Based on the feedback I have received to date, I am pleased with the response, and confident going forward.

So, where will the future “Time Machine” trips take us? Not to worry, as the inventory of destinations are many.

The WHS basketball research for 1900-80 is complete and documented in two scrapbooks. Wadena High School football, 1900-69 is complete and documented in three scrapbooks. Only WHS football, 1970-80, has yet to be researched and documented. The stories unearthed from these efforts will be more than enough to keep your interest. And stories from other WHS sports may be on their way.

T. Edison Smith.png
T. Edison Smith
Contributed photo

My current plan is to research track and field upon completion of the remaining WHS football scrapbook. After that, my hope is to eventually research wrestling, baseball, cross-country, tennis and golf. So many more stories, so little time! Now that you know what the future may bring, let’s review where we have been.

  • T. Edison Smith (’36) , was a great athlete in high school and college, but he really made a name for himself because of what he did between the ages of 60-94. He golfed his age over 3,300 times. A world record documented and acknowledged by “Golf Digest.”
    1937-09-30 squeek johnson mn gophers pic (1).png
    Leland "Squeak" Johnson
    Contributed photo
  • Leland “Squeak” Johnson (‘35) , had a remarkable football career at WHS and was a great surprise as a walk-on for the legendary U of M head coach Bernie Bierman. The Gophers were busy winning national titles and Big Ten championships in those days. “Squeak” was a major contributor, when healthy, as he ran with both speed and power. The Gophers’ football team was 27-5 during “Squeak’s four-year tenure.
  • Cleon Erckenbrak would have graduated from WHS in 1946, but he had other plans. After being a starter, as a sophomore and a junior, on the WHS back-to-back undefeated football teams of 1943 and 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. At that time America was at war with Germany and Japan.
    Russ Askew, front row, middle.jpg
    Russ Askew is located in the front row, middle.
    Contributed photo
  • Russ Askew (’34) was the starting center for the WHS basketball teams for five seasons, ending in 1934. He earned All-Conference honors as a freshman and as a senior. I had dubbed him, “The Center of Attention.” It took me some time to figure out what value he brought as a five-year starter. Then it hit me. A “jump ball” after every made basket. That was the rule, until 1938. This led to dozens of jump balls in every game. Russ must have been a leaper because he “controlled” most of the jump balls in the games where I saw the records. A huge advantage.
    Bob Hedstrom 1950 (1).jpg
    Bob Hedstrom
    Contributed photo
  • Bob Hedstrom (’50), “The Cream of the Crop.” Upon completion of my research into the first 80 years of WHS basketball, I came to some conclusions about players, teams and coaches. In my humble opinion, Bob Hedstrom was one of the four best WHS players in the modern era (post-1938 — when there was no more jump ball after each made basket).
    Melford "Whitey" Aus, former Wadena High School basketball coach.
    Contributed / Wadena County Historical Society
  • Mr. Aus taught physical education and health at WHS and was the head basketball coach from 1964-70. Earlier he was a graduate assistant basketball coach for the University of North Dakota men’s team. His tenure at UND allowed him to learn from three future NBA coaches, two of which are enshrined in the NBA Coaches Hall of Fame, namely head coach Bill Fitch (Celtics, Rockets) and star player Phil Jackson. The UND assistant coach, Jimmy Rodgers, eventually became the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first head coach. Jackson went on to a 13-year NBA playing career for the NY Knicks and later won numerous NBA titles coaching the Chicago Bulls and the LA Lakers.

Those were fun stories to share, and you don’t have to wait on me for more. While I may share a story or two before fall of 2023, you can take a trip without me and visit the glory days of yesteryear all by yourself. Visit the “Wadena County Historical Society” where you can check out the current collection of five WHS Scrapbooks for basketball and football (75-100 pages each).
Each is available for sale, with all proceeds going directly to them. In the meantime, I can be reached at Thanks!

What To Read Next
Get Local