THE SILENT POLICEMAN

By the early 1902s, Cokato had become a village full of automobiles.  The recently completed Glacial Highway 10 (now Highway 12) had given area car owners a way to travel further than ever before. And while trains were still the main mode of transport, cars were here to stay.

But with these cars came new problems for city leaders.  Parking difficulties, horse owners complaining about the new-fangled machines scaring their animals, and excessive speed, were just some of the hazards that arose. Of particular concern was proper etiquette for cars at intersections.  While city ordinances specified that all cars must keep to the right of center and six miles per hour was the maximum speed allowed while making a turn, close calls and fender-benders abounded.

To keep drivers honest and make the streets safer, the city council--under the prodding of Cokato's firs and only woman mayor, Ida Sparks Clarke--approved the construction of two traffic guides, later called "Silent Policemen."   The guided stood in the middle of Cokato's two busiest intersections, 3rd & Broadway and 3rd & Millard.

Made of solid concrete by Sam Martinson's Cokato Cement Works, the guides featured a glass globe for lighting and flower beds maintaintd by the Women's Civic Improvement League.   Drivers of both cars and horse teams were to keep fully to the right of the guides.

But not all in town approved of the "policemen."  Some businessmen and council members wanted the guides removed.

So--as the story goes--shortly after Ms. Clarke's tenure as mayor ended in 1923, the policemen were lifted off the street hauled to Brooks Lake, and dumped into the water, where they likely settled deep into the muck as the lake's bottom.

© Cokato Historical Society, 1997.