His face is recognized everywhere by the residents of St. James. He was the long time sports editor of the St. James Courier and the Watonwan County Plaindealer. Bill Nordgren has been a part of the St. James community for 50 years.
He first came to St. James in 1963, moving from Olivia, Minn., after seeing an advertisement for an open news editor position here in a city twice the size of Olivia, St. James. Nordgren worked in a newsroom at the Olivia Times Journal starting in 1954 as a typer, floor sweeper, window washer and finally a sports writer.
Nordgren covered a wide variety of stories in his time at St. James. Stories from fires, car accidents, school board and council meetings to sporting events and the state champion teams of St. James High School.
“St. James has been good to me, and for me,” said Nordgren.
The city that has been so great to Nordgren has changed a lot through his 50 year residence. St. James has become more diverse, busier and businesses that were once spread throughout downtown have since moved on.
“There used to be a lot of retail, but now there isn’t,” said Nordgren. “There were two ladies clothing, men’s clothing a shoes store – there is nothing like that anymore. There weren’t any places like Shopko, you had to go to Mankato or New Ulm for stuff like that.”
While retail has slowed down through the years, the restaurant business has picked up in St. James.
“There are plenty of places to dine, there weren’t back then,” said Nordgren.
The only evening diner in the St. James area was in Ormsby, but that business too has been driven out of the area, replaced with the growing number of restaurants here in St. James.
The newspaper Nordgren worked at for so many years has changed a lot too, changes that are evident from an empty back room in the Plaindealer office.
“When I came in we were printing two papers a week, that was a chore,” said Nordgren. “Everything was set by line and type with a big press in the back.”
The once staff of eleven is now down to six in the Plaindealer office – and the printer in the back room has long since been removed. In fact, the whole office has moved. When Nordgren began in St. James, the paper was located in the MVAC building.
It has been five years since Nordgren quit proofing the St. James Plaindealer, and nearly 10 years since he was awarded the prestigious and rare Minnesota Newspaper Association’s 50 year award for working in the newspaper business for 50 years. That was a day he shook hands with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but it wasn’t the first time he had met someone important in government. Nordgren also spoke with Walter Mondale, who called the paper while he was Vice President of the United States.
Page 2 of 2 - Nordgren can still be found at nearly every sporting event here in St. James and still remembers fondly the spectacular wrestling and basketball seasons of 1972. And, if you’ve heard of the Champion Saints of 72, chances are you heard it from Bill Nordgren.