LHS Class of 1942
By Rita Maisel
This week’s column would not be possible without the help of a scrapbook kept by Helen Jennings Olson who saved many clippings neatly organized for readers to enjoy both while she was alive and, also, after her death. As it happened the honor roll for students at Langdon Area Elementary and Munich High School for the fall of 2018 was printed on the backside of Helen’s obituary in November of 2018. Had she been saving the clipping herself, she might have smiled over how fitting that was. She probably did have an exceptional mind for learning, but she also had an exceptional work ethic, and when she was chosen as valedictorian of the Class of 1942 the newspaper recognized both in citing her 4-point average for her first twelve years of school.
Helen went on to North Dakota Agriculture College (now NDSU) to train in home economics and could have likely gone on to graduate with those impressive Latin words on her college diploma, but when her father died she dropped out of school to work on the farm. In reading her scrapbook the pictures of the first home economics teachers for LHS and St. Alphonsus can be found with her high school memories – an indication that those ladies must have provided her with future inspiration. She was part of the “first class” to have a style show where 65 models entertained by showing their creations to the community.
Thanks to her scrapbook we know Helen was not the first to have an outstanding academic record. James Bain (later Dr. Bain) graduated with a 3.9 record in 1936 (the highest recorded by LHS students to that point). Some distinguished graduates followed who became doctors, high court judges and even a college president, but it was not until 1940 when Joan Johnson reached the 4.0 level, followed in 1941 by Janis Rutten and then in 1942 by Helen Jennings- each tying the records of their predecessors. All are remembered as setting their sights high and their high school careers overlapping.
Helen kept clippings from the various school activities with band and music high on her list of personal activities. Before graduation Principal Ray Flom presented 25 letters to students for band (only juniors and seniors with two or more years of band qualified) and others for “extra-curricular activities”. Since younger students were listed in that second group these may have included the junior and senior plays or work on the school newspaper. No annuals were produced in that era partly because of cost and partly because of paper shortages due to the war.
Their Junior-Senior Banquet was held on a Tuesday with a Pan-American setting at the Masonic dining room. Special guests were Rev. Forster and Rev. Lindsay, faculty and board members and spouses. Music was by graduating seniors as well as other students. Dorothy Johnson read “Retrospect” (class history) written by Dorothy and Don Peterson. “Looking Forward” (class prophecy) was written by Robert Field and read by Gerald Dick. Supt. Ottem spoke on the class motto “Through Trials to Triumph”, and Edna Seeley had written “Last Words” which was read by Valerie Johnson.
The banquet story lists the entire committee for the event (six girls and one boy). However, Lynn Haaven, who was the sole male member of the group, was assigned the music for the evening, and the dance program listed “San Juan Shuffle,” “Rio Grande Jive,” “Guatemala Glide,” and “Cuban Conga”.
Baccalaureate was held on Sunday evening at the school auditorium with Rev. Forster speaking and Rev. Lindsay assisting. Graduation was at the same location on Friday evening with H. S. Thorgrimsen from the North Dakota School of Forestry at Bottineau. Graduates in 1942 were Duane Aune, Rae Backes, Elda Banasik, Duane Crockett, Agnes Cuffe, Gerald Dick, Robert Field, Elmer Goschke, Melva Greene, Helen Jennings, Dorothy Johnson, Harold Johnson, Valerie Johnson, Iris Kelly, Alfred Krahn, Alvin Krahn, Clarence Krahn, Clifford Krahn, Bette Kuball, Dale McDonald, Cerita Metzger, Bennie Mueller, Della Murie, Ronald Olson, Vernon Parker, Donald Peterson, Kenneth Ridley, Edna Seeley, Lorraine Sturlaugson, Frances Timian, Agnes Wirt, and Mabel Zarn.
An earlier mention of this class gave the figure of class members as 35, but it was wartime, and when Uncle Sam called you answered. I never found the listing of who did not finish but, along with other changes, was told that Don Peterson was not originally Donald but Donovan and the son of Vic Peterson who ran a lumber yard in Langdon at the time. The three Johnsons listed are thought to have been either no relation or distantly related. The five Krahns represented cousins, brothers and half-brothers according the information at the time the school directory was done. This was the first class to have five students with the same last name at either of the Langdon schools although many sets of cousins have graduated together. Helen Jennings went on to marry classmate Ron Olson in 1947. Edna Seeley married classmate Ken Ridley, and Helen’s scrapbook contains wedding stories for many of the other classmates.
While a number from this class did see military service and several married people they met through military channels, we believe the class of 1942 survived the war. Which brings us to the question of how many survive today. The ones who live locally have discussed this from time to time, and there was a time when Edna and Ken lived in Langdon and six of the graduates could have had a reunion without going far from home. Three of that group are now deceased: Ken, Edna and Helen. Ron Olson now lives in Wheatland Estates as does Della (Murie) Crockett. Dale McDonald and his wife, Bonnie, live in their own home. I have been told that one of the Krahns is still living “somewhere in Washington”. The only one of that group in Washington in 1976 was Clifford Krahn, but others might have moved there when they retired. Others who moved away and married or re-married may still be alive, but many with relatives here are now deceased.
Included in Helen’s scrapbook was a typed copy of her Valedictory Address where she points out to her classmates that graduation may seem to be the end of the line but what they are seeing in the future is only the first milestone of their journey through life. And as they tend to linger at that spot she encourages them to be leaders rather than followers, thinkers rather than machines. And she challenged them to go forth with the determination of proving to the world that their high school was one of the best schools in the world for educating individuals that are worthwhile. She hoped that they would become men and women that the United States, as well as Langdon High School, would be glad to claim as their own. That lofty challenge might be one she would have been proud to share with the many classes who have followed them down through the years.
SAS Class of 1942
There may be several surviving members of this class, but if so they do not live in the Langdon area today. Graduating from St. Alphonsus in 1942 were Donna Angleburg, Thomas Backes, Jacqueline Beauchamp, Geneva Delebo, Kathleen Fox, Mary Gellner, Robert Giles, Eugene Groff, Mary Elizabeth Backes, Dorothy Jakoubek, Alvin Kartes, Victor Kertz, Louise Lorenz, Betty Lou Lothspeich, Angeline Paulick, Edward G. Wild Jr. (a flight officer killed in training), and Kathryn Wild.
When writing about Milton’s first graduation there were some questions about why the program and announcement listed 1911 but the later centennial book listed 1914. No one called to dispute either claim, but Darryl Dahl found a copy of the Milton Jubilee Book (1962) which not only lists the first graduation there as 1911 but lists the same students as their first graduates. That first book was done from memories and from copies of the Milton Globe. The centennial book did use those sources but also used some existing school records. However, the Milton School burned in 1919, and we have been told that many records were lost at that time.