Never Give Up 2

Two weeks ago, the annual graduation column I had been adding to and correcting since late March refused to send by e-mail. Eventually I had to ask for help from the newspaper staff, and Part 1 of the story went through taking with it the rough draft of Part 2 along with a note to not use Part 2 as it would be re-written. After many corrections, Part 2 appeared to send normally a week ago. Breathing a sigh of relief, I went on to other projects that needed to be finished as well. The short story is that the column did not send and what appeared in the paper was the “not ready for primetime version” instead. In the spirit of “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again” I chose different topics this week, wrote another story, and that also vanished. Not only did it not send, but it even bypassed the trash and recycle bin that live in the computer. So, we begin with the title of a new book found at the library.

North Dakotans Never Give Up by Larry Aasen. Born near Hillsboro in 1922, he compiled this collection from his years growing up in North Dakota at the age of 96 while living in Westport, CT, where he has spent much of his adult life. A cover letter came with the book as a gift from him to the Cavalier County Library which says he wanted to put his memories in the hands of librarians who daily guide patrons to an important treasure---books. In the front are listed seven other books he has compiled since 1990 with almost all the titles containing the words North Dakota. This book deals with life on the farm during the Depression, country schools, UND, NDSU, World War II, weather, sunflowers, and even excerpts from his mother’s diary. Their family records tell when the first airplane flew over their farm and includes stories of Carl Ben Eielson, Charles Lindberg, Amelia Earheart, and the death of the first female pilot in North Dakota, Florence Klingensmith, whose plane crashed on Labor Day, possibly in 1932. The print is large, and there are many pictures which make it more interesting.

On the cover are the pictures of a dozen of his favorite North Dakotans who NEVER GAVE UP. Included in this collection are Roger Maris, Angie Dickinson, Eric Sevaried, and Lawrence Welk plus many others. At the end is his picture and story.

About the same time, Frank Jennings sent his 21st annual Jennings Family Newsletter which includes a copy of his 2010 story about attending Harvey School #3 that I may have read before but enjoyed again. Frank went to summer school for his first eight grades, and the school described in the Aasen book appears to be another country school much like the one most of my North Dakota relatives attended which functioned on the same schedule as town schools like Langdon where my brother and I attended and were enrolled. However, from time to time I also went to Hay #3 (unofficially) whenever Langdon closed for a few days at a time due to lack of coal for the furnace or other reasons. So I knew a side of country school that many town kids did not. The vanished story compared those three views of school in the 1930s and 1940s and is reprised without the original notes to refresh my memory.

1. Country schools had much better playground facilities than the Langdon School. They had more swings, some of the children rode ponies or horses to school, they had a merry-go-round, and they had balls and bats and learned from first grade on to play baseball. Langdon students had a shale parking lot where we could play running games like Tag or Not It or maybe Last Couple Out. We had sidewalks where we could play hopscotch, jump rope, a game called poison or bounce golf balls and do o’larries. No, I cannot describe that. We brought our balls, ropes, marbles, and other paraphernalia with us and guarded them carefully so they would not be lost or stolen. These items were not supplied by the school. Langdon had one outdoor basketball hoop which grade school children never got close to. We also had some evergreens planted after the cyclone on the southeast corner of the school lot where we sometimes played hide and seek.

2. All schools had desks, and Frank remembered their school had a bench in front of the teacher where the group reciting would sit when it was their turn to read or be helped with math. At Hay #3 they had individual desks for the older students (around 30 in the school at that time), but younger students sat two to a desk because the room was crowded. Aasen remembered the desks were bolted to the floor. In Langdon we thought our desks were nailed down as well, but actually they were nailed to long strips of lumber so that the whole row could be moved aside to sweep under the area and then pushed back in place. From first grade on we knew what it meant to be “in position”. Each child must be seated quietly with their hands folded on top of the desk before the teacher allowed us to be dismissed for noon lunch or at the end of the school day.

3. Both Frank and Mr. Aasen wrote about bringing lunch to school every day in either a lunch box or possibly a syrup pail. Aasen remembered that girls carried the lunch boxes since boys needed their arms free for throwing snowballs and baseballs. The contents of school lunches was commonly a source of conversation at the homes of other students later that day – sometimes in hopes of having possible treats in their own boxes the next day. Children at all schools seemed to want to trade lunches with others who had more enticing items to eat. At one school a first grader brought a thermos of coffee (not served to children at most homes), and everyone wanted to taste her coffee. In Langdon we went home for lunch and ate while the radio played Whoopee John’s Polkas or stories of Ma Perkins and her friends depending on the station favored in our homes.

4. Frank mentioned his school was a summer school with a week off for Bible School. Each district set their starting date and days off, but the state had a set number of days you must be present to pass to a higher grade. When Langdon had a severe hailstorm with many broken windows, the days missed were forgiven by state officials, but older members of my mother’s family remembered being kept out to help in the field or to work to supplement family income, and some of them did not pass out of third or fourth grade. Laws had changed by our day. Frank wrote about a small school and that he was the only child in his grade except for one day when another boy was his classmate for one day. In Langdon the classes were large, and the class I was in was always the largest during the time we were enrolled. Mostly we were two classes to a room except for first grade when the room was full with just us. Cousins and friends at country school often told us they had “all A's from day one” and probably did. In town we got A, B, C, D and red F grades for academic subjects and for conduct and effort. Several parents gave spending money to match the grades received. My mother’s rule was that you paid her if you got lower than a C.

5. Country schools, in general, did not have running water or indoor plumbing. On that score, Langdon School ranked much better since homes on the edges of town did not have those facilities either. At country schools they sometimes had a dipper and a pail much like you found in farm kitchens for drinking water and washing hands. Outhouses were common with often one for boys and another for girls. Children in town adjusted well to the modern version, but we were not fond of standing in line and all drinking out of the same water fountain. There are many books compiled by former teachers that will give you hilarious versions of this topic.

College and University Colors Years ago when making items for our church bazaar, some boys in the church asked me to make them dishcloths “to wipe up spills and put their hockey trophies on”, so I did. The first ones were in colors that would go with UND or NDSU where the recipients hoped to one day be stars. Not all reached star status, and they began asking me to make something to match their car, their pickup, their motorcycle, or their combine, and I tried to match them with a school they might someday attend. Many of the teams today wear black, and my eyes do not do well with dark colors so I tried to find colors that might work in dorm rooms of local North Dakota colleges and universities. In response to some recent color questions, here is what I found:

Bismarck State – Green and Brown. The green is a lighter leafy shade on their advertisements. Dakota College at Bottineau – White and Forest Green. This is a carry-over from the years they were the School of Forestry under NDSU. Dickinson University – Dark Blue. Lake Region at Devils Lake – three shades of blue possibly with the light blue for the sky, the mid-blue for the lake and the royal blue for their teams known as the Royals. Mayville State – Blue and White. Minot State University – Green and Red with the Green appearing Gray in advertisements. NDSU – Yellow and Green with yellow originally for the harvest and green for other growing things. North Dakota State School of Science (Wahpeton) – Red, Black, and Silver. United Tribes at Bismarck – Red, Black, and White. This school is affiliated with several different tribes but also open to others who wish to attend. University of Jamestown – Orange and Black. This school was begun by the Presbyterian Church. University of Mary at Bismarck – Dark Blue and began as a Catholic University; their logo has a white cross as part of its design. University of North Dakota - the original colors were Green for the prairies and Pink for the prairie rose which is our state flower. When athletics were added the athletic colors were Green and White. Black has been added in more recent years. Valley City State College – Cardinal Red and Blue. Originally a teacher’s college they have branched out into technology as well. The red shade appears to be more of a magenta or burgundy color on their website. Williston State College – Dark Green and White.

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