How Hot Is It?

As genial host of The Tonight Show for many years, Johnny Carson would from time to time walk before the cameras and center his jokes on extreme weather. Then the pre-prompted audience or sidekick would call out “How hot is it?” and jokes culled from many sources would become a classic monologue. One of my own favorites was “It was so hot the chickens were laying fried eggs.” Others featured groups walking in the shade of Orson Wells whose weight was giving his movie career problems or robins dipping their hot worms in an iced drink. The monologues became part of his trademark, and he won awards with his weather-related jokes. Some can be found on the internet today or in books of humor.

Having lived through the year of the reported highest and lowest temperatures in North Dakota, I knew those stats were in the Langdon Centennial Book. We are told the highs and lows available from NDSU sources originated in diaries compiled by farmer Jules Lebrun who was farming south of Langdon in that era. Bill Klemisch also kept track of the daily weather during his lifetime, and in more recent years the Research Center has provided statistics. So far, 1936 has had both the highest and lowest temperatures, and the numbers given in the centennial book are -51 on February 16, 1936, and a sizzling 112 on July 17, 1936. In my aunt’s diary, it was actually -52 in April that spring on the exact day when my father died. We lived in Minnesota in those days but did know that the cold and hot spells were not one day wonders. The extreme temperatures seemed to hang on and to return for second or third visits.

Weather watchers on the radio are predicting 2021 as another banner year. The hot, hot days of the recent baseball tournament are predicted to return again, possibly in June, but more probably in July or August. Weather people suggest air conditioning. Predictions are sometimes wrong. In 1936, the only fans we had were the paper kind you got at the fair or were provided to churches for use during funerals. A decade or so later there was a hot spell which apparently went to 104 before a storm, and maybe some hail, lowered the temperature. Years later, working in Illinois, I learned about sleeping porches where residents dragged the mattresses off their beds and put them on an upstairs screened back porch night after night as temperatures soared. Then one day we found a big headline in the morning paper. JULY HEAT WAVE BROKEN! Underneath in tiny print were the words “today is August 1st” and the temperature remained at three digits. Home air conditioners were costly, so after work we would head for air-conditioned movies. I believe Some Like it Hot was one of the movies featured along with High Noon and other classics.

Remembering Old Friends:

Last week’s column had been planned to include some thoughts about recent funerals, old friends, and classmates, but I held off writing it waiting for the obituaries to be printed. June 4 marked the funeral for Bernice Rath, who had been my friend since we met at one of the first summer church camps held at Cooperstown after World War II. This was an old CCC camp from the 1930s with straw mattresses, no plumbing, a large tabernacle in the center for group meetings, a central pump for washing hands and drinking, and a river to swim in. Some of the girls at camp formed a pen pal group from all corners of the state and wrote to each other for years. We met again and were roommates at college and many other events. Bernice and I remained lifelong friends. She had a lifelong career as a teacher and as a pastor’s wife, but our paths often crossed. Coming to North Dakota to teach in 1970, I found Bernice and her husband had been assigned to Cavalier Trinity Church so saw them there and when they were stationed at Cando, Rock Lake, living in Devils Lake. as well as when serving Clyde, Hannah, and later Calvin and Sarles. Before they retired to Arizona, they made many friends in our corner of North Dakota.

Around the time of her funeral, we got word of the passing of Dr. Dayton Burkholder on May 20 with services listed as pending as this is written. That led to contacting and being contacted by other classmates of one of the largest LHS classes before the missiles and the closing of outlying high schools in Cavalier County. Thanks to classmate Edna Bata who shared pictures from our 49th and 50th class reunions, plus memories of a multi-class event held at Nekoma a few years ago and a worn-out directory, I began a new list dedicated to those who have died in the last year or two including Elaine Bohn Machacek, Dayton Burkholder, Marion Boe Iverson, Sam Scott and his wife, Audrey, and possibly others we did not hear about. I will possibly miss a few who went on to military service or married before graduation. Reunions included all who wished to attend, and all were invited.

The alphabetical list (stars* indicate 12-year classmates) includes: Clara Agar Amoth, who had a real estate or travel business in Devils Lake before her death, and Joyce Agar Hanson, who met her husband, Gordon, when he worked at the Repulican and went on to many adventures (including being in a movie or two) before his death. She made her home in Rapid City and visited from time to time. Her sister, Betty (now Mikkelsen), was with our class part of the time. Fern Amoth Mattson lived in Moorhead. Lois and Willis Baker were the twins in our class. Lois married Bob Johnson, and they lived in Fargo. Willis lived in New Jersey and was planning to attend our fiftieth reunion when cancer claimed his life. Bessie Balsdon Penner spent much of her life in Starkweather and Devils Lake and died in 2012. Irene Balsdon Simons lives in Oregon. She was the original lady who made dishcloths for friends and relatives and distributed them on visits to North Dakota. Gerald Beiers* was in business in Langdon and in Montana and retired (?maybe) to a lake in Minnesota but was still out on the water or the slopes last I heard. Jerry and Barb welcomed their first great-grandchild just last year. Elaine Bohn and her husband, Chuck Machacek, were in business in Langdon until they settled in Arizona where she enjoyed Bingo and knew everyone at the Cavalier County picnics.

Charlotte Buchweitz* Stander spent much of her adult life in Seattle and may still be playing the piano for events there. Dayton Burkholder became the medical doctor his mother had envisioned for his older brother (Ralph became a scientist) and had a clinic in Anoka, MN. He later was doctor for Minnesota State Prison on many Indian reservations with home-base in Rapid City, SD. Nola Chaput* Linser, our class president and organizer of many events, died in a tragic accident along with her mother and son in 1967. Daryl Crockett*, the first of three Crockett cousins to join our class, is remembered for playing basketball and probably every other sport. He lived at Grand Forks and is now deceased. Noreen Crockett Bishop joined us from Wales for high school and spent much of her adult life in Spokane where she died some time ago. Shirley Crockett also came to Langdon for high school, and we last saw her at either the 49th or 50th reunion. She died in Arizona a few years later. Carrie Cuffe married Marce Charbonneau on skip day, we are told, and last we knew they were living in California after years of living in Michigan. News travels slowly, but we count her as living.

Orville Lee Darling (we always knew him as Lee) makes his home in Wisconsin and Arizona but has been in business in Africa and other places down through the years. He usually gets to Langdon during the summer. Robert Domres began at Dresden and graduated from Langdon, married a Dresden area girl from St. Alphonsus (part of the reason classes from the two schools were friendlier than some other classes), and spent a long career with Burlington Northern as depot agent. Always interested in history, he compiled genealogy from his homes in Oregon and Arizona while battling MS for 40 years. He is now deceased. Allan DuBois also started out at Dresden and then retired to Langdon where he still lives. Rosemary Franta* Peterson married classmate Gary Peterson, and both went on to UND where Rosemary graduated as valedictorian of her class just before their wedding. Gary had military obligations, so it took him a bit longer. They both worked for Sundstrand in Illinois and probably Sundstrand in Seattle before Gary was offered a job at For-most in Seattle (a company begun by a Moscow Township neighbor) and rose to the top during his career there. Both are now deceased with their ashes brought back to North Dakota in recent years.

Larry Funseth*, better known to sports fans as Bud, had a long military career and retired to Spokane where he died about 20 years ago. Robert Groom came to town for high school, went on to military service and college, and married Margaret Rusten. They have made their home in Minnesota for many years, and I last saw them at the Nekoma reunion. Gary Hart was valedictorian of our class, went on to be outstanding at NDSU, served in the Air Force and became Dr. Gary Hart, professor and textbook author who traveled the world from their home at Texas A&M teaching his specialty: genetics. Russell Howatt came to high school from Maida. He used to quiz people on the names of his brothers and sisters (one sister still lives in Langdon!). Russ made his home in California. Gretta Lawson Buller came from Concrete to work at Wenzel’s and also lived with the Aleson family. She went on to become an RN graduating from Bismarck Hospital and serving as nurse for Westmar College in Iowa where she met her husband Bruce, a pastor in training at the time. After serving several large churches, they retired to Rochester where she worked with hospitals there and in Bruce’s words “baked a million cookies a year for Ronald McDonald houses”. Gretta died in 2014. Rita Maisel* went on to Westmar as well and to colleges wherever I worked and also taught and worked with schools wherever I worked. There is always more you can learn. Edna Marchell Bata also came from Dresden, was salutatorian of our class, went on to teach until she was married, and was a busy farmer’s wife. She and Joe traveled a lot, often curling in other states or countries.

Victor Moore*was another well-known sports star. When some of his family moved to the Seattle area, he followed and has made his home in Auburn for many years. We believe he is still living. Dixie Nelson Armbruster joined our class before high school and became a treasured classmate. She spent much of her adult life in the Seattle area, and we still miss her. Eunice Peterson Mutcher came from Loam Township and went on to teach school for many years. They lived in Grand Forks. For Gary Peterson see Rosemary’s notes. Marilyn Peterson Christianson, also from Loam Township, found her husband (or he found her) at Vang. She lives in the Fargo area now, and her father used to tell me all his granddaughters were nurses. Marilyn was not related to the other Petersons in our class. Bonnie Platzkow Hass and her family lived in White Bear Lake. Her sister, Delores Platzkow Evans, also graduated with our class and lived in California. We think one or both are still living.

Jean Ridley Myers moved to Saskatchewan, and we have not heard from her for some time. James Rourke became an artist of renown, lived in Moorhead and Fargo, changed his name to O’Rourke, and has a gallery named for him. He died several years ago. Arnold Schneider moved to Milwaukee and died there in 2016. Sam Scott followed the oil trail to Tioga, Mohall, and other sites; knew more about fracking and other topics than most of us could absorb; and died in 2019. Betty Sperling married Richard Ellefson from the Clyde area, and they lived near Fargo and had a cabin in Minnesota. She died before our remembered reunions. Lillian Sturlaugson Stoelting, one of the loveliest ladies around, went to work at the Langdon Creamery after graduation, and a new teacher came in to buy ice cream. They were married a short time later. Most of their married life was spent in Fargo where some of their family still live. Sadly, cancer entered her life, and she collected an interesting array of hats for all occasions.

Marilyn Walker* Scott was with us from day one and at all the reunions through the 50th and died quietly about six weeks after that event. Most of her life was spent in Hannah raising her daughters and running the Hannah Bar. Jim Welsh came to our class after grade school in Harvey Township, earned his credentials for teaching agriculture at NDSU, and went on to be a professor at universities in Montana and Colorado. We think he lives in Nevada today. Neil Welsh, a cousin, settled in Grafton where he died a number of years ago. Not mentioned previously but well remembered were Doris Shelp Klingenberg, Gerald and Carlton Flaten, Betty Erickson*, Buddy Ottem*, along with a long-time electrician Dale Soli, and retired to Colorado Bob Hahn as well as others living classmates will call to visit over. We suspect Wallace Osmon and Margaret Kertz had a soft place in their hearts for most of us.

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