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The Classes of 1934

The recent death of Kathryn Marcotte Shablow marks the end of a long line of people who graduated from both St. Alphonsus and Langdon High School in 1934 and took a special interest in keeping me advised where classmates were living when we did the directory in 1976. Their help was also valuable when the all-school reunions came around and the earlier listings had to be updated. There were 10 members of the 1934 class who got their diplomas from St. Alphonsus and 38 whose 1934 diplomas were issued from Langdon High School. Some might have been the first group of “yo-yo kids” – those who bounced back and forth between the two schools for sports and curriculum reasons.

Kathryn would have been a person who merited a story on her own, but she was always willing to share the spotlight. In fact, as members of the two classes reached their days at Wheatland and Maple Manor, she was one of the ones who told me their classes had the most frequent reunions of any class since they shared meals and coffee hours on a regular basis. At 103 (soon slated to have another birthday), Kathryn may have been the only classmate to reach that age, but we do know others had reached 100 or more. For the last several years she has been the oldest graduate living in Langdon. A few alumni living elsewhere did reach 104 or 105 years of age.

We begin the story of the 48 graduates of 1934 with the St. Alphonsus group and, where possible, some notes on their lives: Florence Bimler Stein, Patricia Burke Carney, Lorraine Diemert Porter, and Edna Geisen Rose -who was one of Kathryn’s best friends until her death in 2019. A former teacher, a farm wife and mother, Edna was the second from this class to spend her long life in Cavalier County. Other classmates were Wendell Gunville, Marie Lothspeick Feckley, and Kathryn Marcotte, who came to North Dakota with her family in 1920 and attended grade school with Edna as well as high school. Kathryn held several jobs in Langdon beginning with working in Boyd’s Store and then as secretary/office manager for Pete Antony at the Federal Land Office. After that agency possibly changed its name and location, she went to work with Carl Wild at the Cavalier REA, retiring after her marriage to Frank Shablow - who had a long career in the North Dakota legislature.

Also graduating members of this class were Dorothy Perius Williams, William Shelley and Rosalia Waltz Moos. Rosie became the third member of this class to spend her life in the Langdon area working for several years at the Langdon Courthouse then as a farmer’s wife and eventually joining her classmates in living at Wheatland and later Maple Manor. I believe she also reached the 100 mark!

The larger group receiving their diplomas from LHS included Frances Anderson, Lois Barker MacLachlan (one note says they had a store in Langdon at one time), Philip Biewer (had an army career), Clifford Braaten, Florence Brudahl, John Everson (d. 1941), Erwald Fink, Jean Forrest Samz, Gordon Gilbertson, Elizabeth Harwood, Robert Harwood (there is a memory that Beth and Bob were twins whose father had a radio shop and that family members returned for Langdon’s Centennial), Dean Hunter (son of a Presbyterian pastor), and Zelpha Irwin Stalker Malo (who with her sister and cousins came to Langdon for high school, living with their grandmother and remained here for most of her life and was active in many community projects, the curling club and in later years riding her bicycle to the Presbyterian Church to practice on the organ. Zelpha, along with her piano and maybe her saxophone, spent her last years at Maple Manor as well).

Irene Iverson came to Langdon and lived with the Balgaard family (relatives) while attending school at Langdon. During the Depression she worked at the courthouse and other government offices before marrying Ike Welsh. Grandsons and great-grandchildren still farm their land. Irene also spent time at Maple Manor and contributed much to previous Long Ago columns. Following Irene in the list of graduates was Alfreda Klein Peterson and then Stanley Koehmstedt, who spent most of his school days at St. Alphonsus - which did not have a gymnasium until one was constructed in 1934--after their class had graduated. Stanley transferred and was chosen for Art Robertson’s 1933-34 LHS Basketball team. We learned more of the story of that team a year ago when the daughter of a team member came searching for family history. One player shown on the picture in the centennial book died in a car accident, and another was badly injured so those two did not graduate. Stanley went on to farm for many years, and, yes, he was part of the group who spent time together at Maple Manor.

Margaret Koehn worked her way through high school as a waitress at Jack Manson’s cafe and later married Manson. They moved to California, and her married name in later years was Dobbs. Clarence Krueger, also from Dresden, graduated in 1934 and died in 1936. Others in the class were Thelma Larson, Emil Lebrun (another former St. Alphonsus student who was pictured as part of the LHS basketball team, he later made his home in Las Vegas), Mary Lott, Alma Oakland (married Kathryn’s brother, Patrick, and they lived in Walhalla), and then came the Olsons.

Effie Olson Bingenheimer and her brother, Martin Olson, were both members of this class as were Elmer and Regner Olson (brothers) who were their first cousins. It would be 1973 before five Olsons graduated at the same time. Regner was the only one of the 1934 group born in Norway and was a baby when his parents came to America. With large families, many boys did not get to go to high school so Regner went off to work for a few years. The Depression brought lay-offs everywhere, and eventually he came back to North Dakota where he worked for Bill Porter’s Implement agency. Then a job opened up at the school. Regner could do janitorial work at night and attend classes. Later he would tell about the operettas the school produced. Olsons liked to sing, and he was chosen for the productions. He even had a chance to sing with a cute little Soli girl from Vang. They got married in 1934 – the same year both he and Myrtle graduated from high school.

Other classmates included Albertine Otteson Reynolds, Isabel Price Santana (who became a librarian), Frances Rassmusson Waind (who settled in Kansas), and then came Tom Ridley. What most people remember about Tom is that he married Rhoda Elenbaum, and they turned their farm three miles east of Langdon into a beautiful example of rural living. Tom and a classmate joined the Navy in 1934 and came home to take up farming as a fulltime occupation. He must have spent winters learning all about wheat because he grew so many prize winning crops that news headline began to refer to him as the Wheat King. If there was an award for wheat, he received it, and worked with the formation of the North Dakota Wheat Commission. The one headline not found was that they had named a variety of wheat named for him.

Remaining classmates were Lowell Rude (who settled in Michigan), Alice Samuelson Cooper, Myrtle Soli (Mrs. Regner Olson), Claire Stromberg Collins, Alice Swanson, Helen Walz Bauer, Marion Whalen Denman, and Robert Wilson.

Bob Wilson was a member of that legendary basketball team and, also, played on independent teams along with others in later years and then came the war. Bob enlisted in the Navy along with Tom Ridley in August 1934 and with the war he re-enlisted and was stationed in the Pacific. He married a North Dakota wife in 1939 and early on she was able to join him at various stations. His detailed story is in the Langdon Centennial book and well worth reading. He was a prisoner of the Japanese for over 40 months and released in September of 1945. After the war he remained with the Navy until his retirement.

Graduating from the basketball team that year were John Everson, Stanley Koehmstedt, Emil Lebrun and Bob Wilson. Underclassmen on that same team included James Bain (who became a doctor in later years) and Eddie Kiley (who worked for years at the Cavalier County Republican, led the Langdon School Board for a time and was one of the founders of Quality Printing) plus younger members of the Murie, Olson and Moore families who added excitement to games some of us still remember. The old Langdon gym vanished when a new one was built by WPA funding in the late 1930s and some games in that interval for both school and independent teams centered on the St. Alphonsus gym this team did not play in as high school students.

Special thanks to the classes of 1934 for leaving us so many good memories.

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