By Rita Maisel
With Mother’s Day this weekend, a few special events are planned at local churches and for family gatherings so thoughts of long ago celebrations brought to mind events readers may never have known existed.
Going to church as a family and sitting with your mother, grandmother(if living), and assorted relatives was always part of our family observance. As a child I remember wearing a flower to church that Sunday. These may have been artificial flowers and came in two colors: red if your mother was still living and white if she was deceased. In those days Langdon did not have a flower shop so the flowers were possibly purchased at the dime store and kept in a box on a top cupboard shelf to re-use another year.
We did not have much in the way of traditions for Mother’s Day, but I do remember the family members often told about an earlier Mother’s Day when my mother and one of her sisters had invited their mother to take the train from Osnabrock to Fargo for the weekend and spend Mother’s Day with them. They would attend Calvary Church (famous in that day for its organ which I believe Mark Forkner later played for many services), eat at the Powers Hotel and go to a movie in downtown Fargo. This was often spoken of as the only movie my grandmother saw in her lifetime and may have been part of the reason our family did not go to movies on a Sunday! Cooler heads prevailed and told us Sunday was for church, not movies.
By the 1970s Langdon Floral must have been open, but some of the flowers and corsages worn were still handmade with petals and instructions available from a craft shop where many of us first met Mary Ann Geisen, whose funeral was this week. By that time the array of colors had expanded greatly, and some mothers wanted not just one flower but a corsage that matched the outfit she would wear that day. With live flowers available there were also real roses, carnations, violets and even orchids available. It is fortunate no one had heard of allergies in those days. Flowering plants and sprays from fruit trees and bushes were also displayed, turning the sanctuaries into a garden in bloom. By the year 2000 families still sat together, but if you looked carefully you might see fewer flowers worn and more four-generation groups sitting together in the pews.
This year at least one church asked members to submit their mother’s favorite hymn, and they would work the songs into the service. In recent years we have learned that some mothers favor songs that may not be in the hymnals and sometimes are not considered hymns. Don’t be surprised to hear some of those songs used at funerals – or more often requested for funerals and passed over because others in charge think them less than fitting for the occasion. Personally, I tend to associate friends and family with the songs they enjoy whether it is for an informal sing-a-long or a celebration of their life.
For many years a group of high school girls had an organization called Signal Lights begun by Mrs. Woolner and a Mrs. Walker, who was the grandmother of girls in the group when I was a teenager. Each year we had an end of the year program around Mother’s Day and would sing songs like “My Mother’s Prayers Have Followed Me,” “Precious Memories, “ or “ Faith of Our Mothers,” set to the tune of “Faith of Our Fathers”. Mothers were our guests at these programs.
At school we might make Mother’s Day cards using the poem which begins “M is for the million things she gave me, O is just because she’s growing old…..” Some mothers objected to that second line. Today there is a modern Mother’s Day Song sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious” which you may hear played on local media. The child supposedly singing this tune is understood to have begun with good intentions. Not everything comes out as dignified as they begin.
People spend money on Mother’s Day. One of my students was ecstatic when telling us his mother’s gift was going to be a riding mower – something she had always wanted. My mother loved earrings so early on I gave her some made at camp or in girl scouts. Later, when actually earning money, I would scour the stores for unusual earrings as Mother’s Day approached. Beautiful or questionable, she wore them all!
North Dakota weather being uncooperative at times, clothes planned for Easter might not be worn until Mother’s Day. Thankfully those horrid long, brown stockings children wore from the first snowflake every fall until mothers decided it was warm enough to discard them, were boxed up for next winter and new shoes with light or bright colored socks were appropriate wear. Slacks had been invented but were not deemed appropriate for wear for school or church. A big change in that attire came when you were a senior in high school and the P.E.O. put on The Senior Tea. For that event we wore suits, heels, gloves, possibly hats and carried matching purses. An outfit that would be very suitable if we were applying for a lifetime job at a law office or for a first-time teaching position.
Mother-Daughter teas were standard social situations. I remember some held at the Masonic Temple for Girl Scouts and their mothers. Others were held at churches and might be an afternoon event with dainty sandwiches, a silver service offering coffee or tea, dishes of mints and nuts and then a program of poems, music and sometimes a skit or two. On a Mother’s Day years ago, I was the greeter at church, and a lady who I knew but had never seen at church came to the Sunday morning worship. She apologized for not having been there for years and asked if I would sit with her during the service, so I did. While reading the bulletin she noticed that a Mother-Daughter Tea would be that afternoon. Her own mother was no longer living, and her daughter lived in another state. Would people be offended if she came? Of course not. My mother was no longer living so she could be my guest. The friendship lasted until her death years later.
An event that also seems to have temporarily vanished (events like this tend to go on hiatus at times) was a Ladies Spring Luncheon given for many years at Langdon’s United Lutheran Church. It must have been a fundraiser as it was open to the public, and we purchased tickets ahead of time. There was usually an interesting speaker, lovely decorations, door prizes and lunch would always be something new and different. If they had a new cookbook out the recipes for the menu of the day would be included in that book. If the speaker was an author, we had a chance to purchase an autographed copy of their newest book.
This year your church may have a Mother’s Day breakfast. They may sing songs that are your favorite or ones you remember a mother or grandmother claiming to like. Some may wear flowers in their hair or pinned on a spring outfit. And in the pews around you will be grandmothers and great-grandmothers smiling at the family members around them. Happy Mother’s Day!
Last week’s column listed five Krahn boys as members of the LHS class of 1942, but the typed version had only Alfred, Alvin, Clarence and Clifford listed. The fifth member of this group should have been Elmer. Relatives still in the area remembered others as a number of cousins and siblings also attended LHS at other times. I am still not clear on which ones survive.
In the listing of St. Alphonsus graduates from 1942 Thomas Backes and Mary Elizabeth Hughes were listed. This was a couple who had grown up living near each other and later married. Reading the story was Katherine Hughes Beiers who was glad to see their names listed, and I was very pleased to hear from her. Most years I have had a chance to write about Katherine, who has competed for quite a lot of years in the Boston Marathon. Last year she was the oldest competitor in that race which ended in rain and wind and an extended finishing time for her so this year she was not registered to run. Kathy did not begin running as a sport until her own children were grown, but her outstanding running career may have entered a new phase. Her nephew, David Perius, has a son, Jacob, who is graduating this year, and David had read some of the stories about Aunt Katherine to his son and his friends. As a result, Jacob’s class invited her to be their commencement speaker on June 2nd.
Katherine was the youngest of the original Hughes family from Langdon, and another older sister, Margaret, went on to graduate from St. Alphonsus in 1945. Margaret married Dick Perius, SAS class of 1943, and they went on to have twelve children- most of whom completed their high school years in Langdon. David was in the LHS class of 1975. Jacob is the third generation and quite possibly he also likes to run.