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Paul Bengston

Paul Bengston

All-State Wrestling Coach & School Board Member

Born: Owatonna, MN, United States
Heritage: European American

If I can leave anything with you it is not to lie. If you do something wrong admit it. Try to be honest. I have a great big mantle across the fireplace. I have inscribed in German on the mantle, “to be an honest person, is to be a happy person.” I think I’m an honest person. Do whatever you want to do but do it in moderation. And don’t get yourself in trouble.

Paul Bengston

All-State Wrestling Coach & School Board Member

My name is Paul Donald Bengston. I grew up in Owatonna. I was born December 3, 1933. I loved where I grew up in Owatonna. I went to grade school and high school there. Everyone who grew up in Owatonna is so proud of that town. Our door was never locked. We never took the key out of the cars. Things were safe all the time. We had to be home during mealtime. Life was different then. When you grew up back then everybody in town watched out for you.

I came from a large family. I was called Donny, my middle name, because my father’s name was Paul. You can imagine living with a Tom, Jack, Dick, Donny and Sammy. We all got into trouble. My brothers and I fought all the time but also were good buddies.

In upper elementary I played little league baseball. In high school I played football, basketball, wrestled, track and baseball. I was a state wrestling champion. I was a center and a linebacker in the high school team. I was the Captain of the Southern All-Stars.

I knew this girl in Owatonna. I finally had the nerve to ask her out in 11th grade. She was tall and captivating, had dark hair and was very attractive and very nice. She lived on the farm. We dated five years. I never went out with anyone else. I came home from Basic Training and proposed to my wife. She’s still the one I want to be caught behind the wood shed with. We’re still married today and I love her very much.

The Korean War was on and everyone got drafted. I attended college for two years and decided it was tough. I decided not go to school for four years and then get drafted. So I volunteered to be drafted. I tell people I was drafted to fight in the Battle of Fort Lewis. Fort Lewis is in Washington, which means I never served directly in Korea.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota. My first job was in Amery, Wisconsin as a history teacher and a football, track and baseball coach. After that, I went to the University Of Chicago to be a coach until I heard about this job in Hopkins. In my interview I said, “My name Donny Bengston and I heard you’re looking for wrestling coach. If you hire me, we will win the state championship in five years.” They were not impressed so I said, “We’ll win in three years and if we don’t you can fire me.” They said, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” Nobody called so the next morning I called the Superintendent and said, “This is Mr. Bengston.” He said, “Yes. I’ve been waiting for your call. How quick can you get up here?”

Our team, with Gary Hoehn, Pat Marcy and bunch of those guys was good. The custodian would write on the black board, "Three years! Bye, bye Bengston." In my third year, we had eight kids for the State Wrestling Tournament and sure enough, we won the state championship!

I started the girls track program in Hopkins. We did wonderful things in Hopkins. We combined girls and boys program and changed the entire curriculum. I taught physical education, history, and health. I retired in 1992 and then I ran for the school board. I spent 13 years on the school board. The biggest contribution I made was the Lindbergh Center. I was the one who spearheaded that one issue.

I’m 73 years old. I exercise and keep my fingers crossed. I thoroughly enjoy my life. I get up in the morning and read the whole paper. I particularly like to read the editorial page. I’m very active right now. I jog around the Lindbergh Center and I lift a little weight.

Notation: Download PDF

Honoring Paul Bengston

To Be An Honest Person

To be an honest person,
Is to be a happy person,
To be an honest person,
Is to be happy, to be alive

I grew up in Owatonna,
a town I really love
In a big family and I the middle son
Each of us went to State
on the wrestling team
There was Jack, Tom and Dick; me and Sammy
Let me say I was not the best kid in my class,
I could have been a stronger student in the past
How can you trust someone
who does not trust you
To tell a lie is something
I would never do
Let me say my brothers
and I fought a lot
The more we fought
the stronger it seemed
we got
Baseball, football,
basketball, wrestling, track
Itching for four days after we fought
in a chigger patch
I got married to the same girl I knew
In high school I still love her
you know I do,
She’s still the one I want to be caught with behind
The wood shed by anyone,
anywhere, anytime
After college and the army
I did go
To teach and coach at the University of Chicago
Got homesick, heard about
a job in Hopkins town
For the interview, they said nothing at all when I sat down
“So what are you going to do
Bengston, if we hire you?”
“Win the State Wrestling Championship in three years, it’s true
And if we don’t, you can fire me, on the spot.”
“Well Bengston, ‘Fireball,’ do you want this job
or not?”
With Gary Hoehn, Pat Marcy
and a bunch of those good guys
The superintendent said,
“In 3 years Bengston-bye-bye”
It’s not if you win or lose
it’s how you play the game
On year 3, we took state,
what more can I say
Every person wants to learn, from the time
They are born into this world
if only you and I,
Could unlock the secrets in the many ways
That people learn,
we could all make a real change

Words by LARRY LONG with Mrs.Treiber’s 3rd grade class of Eisenhower Elementary School
(Hopkins, Minnesota)

© 2007 Larry Long / BMI