Family first

This is a sports page. I am well aware of the typical boundaries. We’re not here to discuss politics, religion or delve into other topics away from the athletic arena.

With that being said, please forgive this momentary tangent.

When my family moved to Fort Dodge almost 30 years ago, the first school I attended was Duncombe Elementary. My son has been a student there for four years. My daughter was literally days away from being a part of the building’s 104th incoming kindergarten class. My wife and I are currently booster club officers, along with my sister- and brother-in-law.

Long story short, the news of Duncombe’s sudden and immediate closure hit home this week. Hard.

Our deep-seated relationship with the benevolent brick Fort Dodge landmark is far from unique. There are stories to share and memories to preserve from the four generations of students it has welcomed with open arms every fall since 1912.

I’m not sure if this is a eulogy per se, but we should at the very least stop for a moment and pay our respects. Duncombe has been in our community for the tenure of 18 different United States Presidents and both World Wars. Roughly 50,000 of our children began their educational journey within its sturdy walls.

After more than a full century of use, wear and tear, it’s a testament to the strength of the building that we’re even at this point – not an indication of its weakness. However, the Duncombe we all know may realistically be on its last leg. The most recent wave of structural issues could signal the end of the road. At best, some very difficult decisions lie ahead.

Duncombe has long been antiquated in the eyes of some. It offers very few modern conveniences, and the comfort level of today’s student body is certainly tested from time to time. Yet despite its shortcomings, the kids still love the school unconditionally. By and large, so do parents and teachers.


Because this is about more than a building. We identify Duncombe as the common bond in our traditions and friendships and history, but Duncombe isn’t just the physical structure itself – it’s you, me, and everyone else who has a reason to remember its lineage and see it through for future generations.

We made this house a home. Fort Dodge’s students and teachers first brought Duncombe Elementary to life over 100 years ago, and its heart continues to beat as strong as ever. A change of address won’t weaken the ties that bind. Duncombe’s vibrant spirit will follow us anywhere.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at