Friday, September 4, 2009


Picture this: First grade in Minnesota around 1920. Daddy is in first grade and walks with or tags along with his brother, Harry who is three years older. Remember schools were built according to where the swamps were. No, that that they were in the swamps, rather, New Solum had several schools because of the swamps. Daddy and Harry would walk two miles to school carrying their meager lunch in a molasses bucket. It is important to note that both of them had perfect attendance that semester.

The school's name was Rosebank. It was built by the Opseth Brothers, the uncles of the two boys. Many children would pass through that school which, in the beginning offer grades one to eight. In later years, the cut off was sixth grade. My children' father and most of his siblings also attended Rosewood before starting at Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls.

Stanley went through the eighth grade; Harry graduated from Lincoln High School in 1929. Both worked in the summer for farmer's around the area. That means that daddy started working full time as a thirteen year old about the time Harry was finished with his studies in Latin and other at Lincoln. No one ever said why daddy didn't get more education, I would think it may have been money, after all, it was the depression era.

Think about one room school houses and how the little kids sat in the front in the small desks and as the children became older, they moved to the back in the bigger desks. Class lessons were conducted in the front of the room. That means eighth grader lessons where within ear shot of the little ones. It leads Old Trunks to believe the exposure gave them a great education.

First grade for me was at Washington. The first grade teacher was not very nice. She smacked my fingers with a ruler because I didn't have a hanky, rather, I had tissue. I had tissue because by now, mother was in the SAN with TB and hankies were considered a harbor of bag germs.

When did mother go to the SAN, you ask. Sometime in my kindergarten year, when it was cold, we took her to Arizona for warm sun and baths. The doctor said she was nervous and needed rest. after two weeks in the sun and she only laying in bed, daddy loaded both of us into the Buick and headed north. He dropped her off at Mayo in Rochester and took me to my great aunt's in St. Paul. By the time he returned to Rochester, she had been diagnosed with TB. Daddy took her to the SAN in Thief River Falls, then came back to St. Paul to get me.

So first grade was yet another year with the pleasure of having my grand parents as the nurturing source in my life. They were wonderful people.

After we returned from St. Paul, I rested in the sun on the floor of the living room. I had lung scars from the exposure but rested at home rather than being instituionized. Grandma made pancakes the size of silver dollars and grandpa and I had a race to see who could eat the most; his were four inches. As wellness came, I won more pancake races.

I do remember we were expected to stand in front of the class and recite numbers from 1-100, Roger and I did it to two hundred. We read from Dick and Jane books and to this day can see Spot the dog and Puff the cat. Their sister's name was Baby. I questioned why she didn't have a name and recieved no answer. Although the expression was, sound it out, the system did not teach us how to sound it out, it was sight reading.

We had milk break in the morning. The bottles had foil tops and some kids saved them which made their desks smell foul. Yes, we did eat lunch in the basement and I unwrapped my wax papered sandwich, perhaps there was a cookie. Thermos bottles were glass insides and once dropped it was gone. Although I don't remember, perhaps milk was provided at lunch too. I do know it was a penny a bottle and paid well in advance. There was no reduced program, some children didn't take milk. I just thought they didn't like it. How sad is that? No chocolate milk on Fridays. How cruel.

Rachel came home from first grade in tears. Her long legged blond teacher had not chosen her for the advanced reading group. We fixed that, she learned to read Police Small books and took off like a rocket. Yes, she was moved to the new group, although she still hated doing the work books. Mrs. Lewis caught on.

Bud was tested for reading level. They weren't sure just what to do with him as he tested to fourth grade level. Rather than being in a group, he sat at his desk and had no reading until I discovered it. He was a first grader; put him in a first grade class. He didn't like the work books either. They would not be convinced workbooks showed the teacher students understood the material. Mrs. Huggins looked like a little hippy with her bobbed hair and big round glasses.

Ryen was reading before first grade. I have a picture of him sitting on the deck reading a Bernstein Bears book. The beauty of it is, he had a sister which he admires to teach him in a very natural setting. He had tubes put in his ears that year and the teacher told the kids to not make a lot of noise. He was sent to school with ear muffs encase it was too noisy for him.

Think about your first grade, what do you remember?


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