George Borgerding

by Randy Olson, Bonanza Valley Voice

While growing up in Belgrade, George Borgerding saw many changes to the landscape of the town as the country bravely faced the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II. Then, as a senior, he etched himself into the record books of Belgrade High School when he scored 55 points (27 field goals, one free throw) in a 100-10 win over Murdock during his senior year.

Borgerding, a 1946 graduate of BHS, was a very talented three-sport athlete for the Redmen. He was a member of the U.S. Air Force as a young adult and, as of June 1 this year, has worked in the banking industry for 65 years with North American State Bank of Belgrade, Elrosa and Willmar.

In the fall of 1936, a brand new gymnasium opened up in a three-story wing on the south side of the Belgrade K-12 school building. Prior to that year, the Redmen basketball team played in the Opera House, which was located where the funeral home stands today. 

Another big change for the school came in the fall of 1938, when six-man football was added to the athletic program.

Borgerding was a member the 1945 team that went 4-1. Coached by banker John Sullivan, the Redmen had just nine guys on the roster.

“I was a running back. We had two running backs, the quarterback, one center and two ends on offense,” he recalled. “The quarterback was basically a blocking back. He could also drop back and fake a handoff and try to pass.”

On defense, it was normally three on the line and three lined up as linebackers or corners.

“When we were seniors, because we had such a strong running game, teams would put four on the line. Then we developed plays where the ends would go down and break out to pull the defensive backs. Then one of the running backs, usually me, would delay a count or two and shoot down the middle.”

How good was his team? Borgerding recalled the New London coach asking Coach Sullivan if the Wildcats could play with seven guys. 

“He declined, and we trounced them. We met our match when we made the trip to Renville. I remember thinking that town was on the other end of the earth. We went there and got hammered in the first half. We returned the favor in the second half, but came up short.”

His first team, 1942-43, went 12-5. His sophomore team was 10-9, and as a junior they went 10-5. They were Sub-District North champions in 1943 and then 1946 in his senior year.

“Before my junior year, the War took its toll on our school and roster. One player graduated, but we lost three more players who joined the Armed Forces.”

In 1945-46, Lowell Formo was the first-year Redmen coach, and the talent-laden team went 20-2 and set a school record for wins that stood through consolidation with Brooten.

“I was a forward, and I remember I didn’t post up much as a senior. It was on our court when I scored 55 points against Murdock. It was just one of those nights where everything went in.”

In the second meeting with the Irish at Murdock, the Redmen varsity team didn’t make the trip. The B-squad Redmen beat Murdock 28-24.

“Gerald Peterson was our center, and he and guard Donald Skimland were co-captains. Gerald was sick with the flu for our game at Melrose, and that was our only loss before playoffs (30-26). We clobbered Melrose on our floor.”

In Sub-Districts, the Redmen easily won the North title beating Paynesville 51-24 and New London 55-39. In District 20 at Litchfield, Delano edged the Redmen 34-33, but they regrouped and easily beat Willmar 29-18 for the consolation title.

“The Delano loss was a heartbreaker,” recalled Borgerding. “We had high hopes of getting to regions. We had big home crowds that year and at some of our away games. Most of my high school career was during the war. Gasoline and everything was rationed, so most fans had to stay home for away games.”

Borgerding played first base in baseball, and he recalls many memories in that sport, including summer town team baseball. 

“Town team started in the 1930s, and the field was across from Highway 71 on the west side of town. Once the war hit, the team folded when we lost many of our players. In 1944, the Reigstad boys from Norway Lake came to Belgrade to start a new team”

Borgerding recalls being part of a group of guys who went to Norway Lake to reclaim a grandstand that was built on the lake bed that dried up in the 1930s. It was surrounded by two feet of water at the time.

“We dismantled the whole wooden grandstand, put it on trucks and brought it to Belgrade to reassemble on our new diamond. We were happy to get it. You couldn’t buy lumber or even steel.”

The new baseball diamond was adjacent to the school property to the south.

Borgerding remembers playing basketball as a kid at the Opera House. 

“Sometimes me and neighborhood kids would sneak in to play ball. The floor was tiny. On one side, the out-of-bounds was the wall. It had a stage at one end and a balcony on the other end.”

Borgerding played forward at St. John’s University. He recalls being an average player among some outstanding talent.

After graduating from St. John’s in 1950, Borgerding worked for six months at North American State Bank before joining the Air Force in January 1951. He served as a figher jet pilot in North Africa and on the east coast of the U.S. until his discharge in February 1955.

In June 1954, Borgerding married his wife, Shirley, of New Jersey.

Borgerding was president of the bank from 1986 to 2000 and was mayor of Belgrade from 1974 until 1992.

The Borgerdings raised seven children, all graduates of Belgrade High School: Jean, Betty, Jim, Mary, Brian, Paul and Laurie. Brian, the oldest, graduated in 1973, while Laurie, the youngest, graduated in 1987.

“I’ll never forget growing up in Belgrade. Kids were always playing sports, usually basketball. We’d play in hay barns when the weather was bad. We stayed active year-round. It definitely helped shape the great basketball teams we had in high school in those early years.”