When you and I went to school we studied North Dakota history in 8th grade. This was mandatory before receiving an 8th grade diploma which was governed by a state law in the days requiring eight yearsof public or private education.
By Rita Maisel
My memory is that our teacher or textbook probably mentioned that North and South Dakota, Montana and Washington all became states on November 2, 1889, but the date was not a red-letter day on most calendars. When it came time for statehood anniversary celebrations they tended to be held in the summer with weather more conducive to travel, parades and other special events.
About a month or more ago there was a phone call from Debbie Dawley, who is temporarily teaching social studies and some other subjects to both sections of Langdon Elementary’s fifth grade. She was looking for research suggestions on local history and mentioned there would be a program on November 2, 2017. Would I like to attend? She would let me know the time and other details. It sounded like fun although my history of children’s programs has been limited to times when I was the teacher or to events where I might be met at the door by students in tears or furious over something I had little control over. The most common of those situations had been family history displays where the children found another student had “stolen their grandmother…..” When families have been in an area for several generations grandparents can overlap and children are often not aware of cousins several times removed. Thinking I might know some of the children in the fifth grade class, the date stayed in my mind, and in spite of falling and accumulated snow, parents, grandparents and I arrived at the appointed place and had a delightful view of history through the eyes of today’s fifth graders.
I wanted to write about this because whether they knew it or not, the students had just the right amount of energy and information to make our shared history delightful. A small handful of children had recognizable surnames which were around when I went to school. While the students themselves may not be aware of it, a good guess would be that half of the class are fifth or sixth generation (or maybe more) living in Cavalier County – some on several lines of their personal ancestry. Others are brand new to the area, and, in a sense, in the same boat as our long ago ancestors who came from other countries, spoke other languages and probably questioned why they were here. Homesteaders writing their stories years later would claim they had only 35 cents in their pocket and that was too little to go back to their original homes. So, they went to work, lived in hastily built housing and eventually owned enough land to raise crops or were able to establish a business in one of the area towns.
A Cavalier County legend of changing hats or clothes and coming back to vote twice might have given the students courage to play more than one role in their short production as they scanned history from Napoleon to Governor Burgum, many of the people honored today by portraits in the state capitol, and the highlights of the founding of Langdon and Munich. We had railroad music and Lawrence Welk with even a few notes from Peggy Lee, a glimpse of Mr. Bubble, Sitting Bull and Sakakawea, Carl Ben Eilsen, Roger Maris and Phil Jackson. And then there was the map in living color which appeared in alphabetical order. The books we studied from did things in chronological order but this was more fun. Thanks to Mrs. Dawley and to all the children who did such a good job. They even had a North Dakota birthday cake.
Programs and Twins
A few years ago a crowd attended an earlier fifth and sixth grade production with a prelude of K-4 musical numbers – a spring presentation at Langdon Elementary. News had circulated that “this would be a good program” and it was. It was a night when many in the audience were quite vocal about seeing double, in part because the program featured quite a few children from the same families. Each of the classes involved had a set of twins and a set of triplets so the audience had fun trying to guess who was who. People sitting around me and reading names from the program insisted the sixth grade had two sets of triplets: Andy, Danny and Lizzie Muhs and Sydney, Savannah and Peyton Ullyott. Peyton was actually a cousin, of course, but often seen with the other two. On the fifth grade level Hannah, Hope and Hailey Thorlakson were the triplets and the twins were Simon and Grant Romfo. The audience was quite adept at identifying Lizzie and Savannah, most failed to be sure of the others. While I did remember that the Romfo boys were twins, I had not met them personally so took for granted a fellow member of the audience was correct in describing them as “one is taller than the other and one wears glasses”. If you have seen them in recent football or baseball pictures they look the same size and neither one has visible glasses.
Fast forward to a more recent high school concert. I could not pick out the Romfo boys who may have other interests, but all the others were there looking taller, more grown up and a good deal more confident. Band members included Hannah and Hailey Thorlakson, Danny, Andy and Lizzie Muhs, Syd, Savannah and Peyton Ullyott and others remembered from their long-ago musical play. Several were in both band and choir. Hope chose choir over band, and I suspect there were many that I simply did not recognize now that they are grown up! An upcoming large group of twins (four sets at last report) are now in sixth grade and will probably have their day in the spotlight at a program coming soon.
The interest in multiple births is one that I did not grow up with. We knew Pat and Mike Mulligan of course and some of our relatives were related to families with twins, but multiple births seemed rare in the Langdon community and public school. Even the three Petersons in our class told us they were “no relation”, and other groups were often cousins. Twins Lois and Willis Baker joined our class for high school and a year or two later the Twaddles moved to town and things changed for the future.
When working as a secretary at an elementary school in Denver, the principal asked me to help compile a list of the twins and triplets in Sabin School, then known as the largest elementary west of the Mississippi. She had read that on the national average there is one set of twins for every 100 students and one set of triplets for every 1700 children enrolled. Sabin School with almost 1800 students K-6 had one set of triplets and exactly 17 sets of twins. To make the study more detailed we had to anonymously include the IQ numbers for each set of twins and for the triplets. None of the children in that school differed by more than four or five points from their twin on intelligence tests which later would be recognized as a common result. Children from multiple births seem to be closer in intelligence scoring than brothers and sisters separated by several years in age.I\
Some years back we did a listing of twins in Cavalier County for this column with a great deal of help from people who were either twins themselves or had twins in their family. We found approximately 400 sets who had lived in Cavalier County over the years and probably missed others. The youngest twins on that list were two little girls who had just been baptized at Mt. Carmel Church – Justine and Brianna Stremick, now grown and married. Lawrence Kartes might be the oldest living twin from that earlier listing. Today his twin brother is deceased, but their family had another set of twins, and his younger sister, Alice Metzger, survives from that second set. Years ago mothers felt obligated to dress twins and triplets in identical fashion. Today they have their own colors, their own special skills, their own styles and are just fun to know.