The Way We Were – 1967-70

Part Thirty-four by Warren Thomas

My first days as teaching principal at Forestburg beginning in August of 1967 don’t conjure up many memories regarding personnel issues. Superintendent Knut Holmstrom was in the last of his three years at the same time I was in the first of my three years as principal. Harvey Preble served as coach and math teacher; Allis Fairfield as American and World History teacher and librarian. In my high school days in 1942-45, the library had a quiet attraction for me. Long and narrow with bookshelves lining the south wall and part of the north side, it was a small haven for readers. Coming out of one of Floyd Township’s five country schools, I had never seen such a vast array of books, possibly 500 or so. In those days, the library seemed generally unsupervised, since only two teachers and the teacher/superintendent T.E. Sather were on hand to manage the upper floor. We checked books in and out quite on our own, as I recall. I’ll not forget the mystery/mayhem novel “Black Caesar’s Clan” by Thomas Payson Terhune, with its orange cover and water moccasin intrigue inside. I read it several times.
Access to the library from the study hall was obtained by pushing open a swinging door perhaps 30 inches high, a novelty quite absent from the starkness of design of a country school with one room. By the time I returned in August of 1967, that door in the northeast corner had been removed to allow free entry to the library. In later years, when diminished enrollment brought an end to the Forestburg School, I made a small discovery, relevant only to myself. As I rummaged in the attic prior to the auction sale of various school items, I found an item dust covered and forgotten—the former swinging library door. It was long gone and forgotten except as it stirred my memories of days gone by. And in those memories were Bertha Joerger, Marg Lefler, Alfred Long, Gene Ellingson, Cork Petesch, Mary Hinde and a bunch of others.
Now back to the staff I would be working with in 1967. Dennis Schutt instructed English III and IV, speech and high school music. Behind the study hall in the typing room was first-year teacher Margaret Long, who was assigned four commercial classes. I joined the teaching ranks, having been assigned U.S. government, biology, and English I and II. Those were the old days. My college major had been biology, a minor was English, but for government I had no college preparation and only one semester of high school government a quarter of a century prior. Interestingly, I thought that perhaps I did my best teaching in government—student opinions not included! In those days, a teacher could possibly end up teaching outside his studied field simply because when school commenced, there was an unfilled position. If that teacher had had reasonable previous teaching success, he or she was deemed capable of adapting to the circumstances of the moment.
Remembering teaching assignments without college preparation takes me back to Woonsocket Rascal #1 of one of my former stories. It was he who told me that I’d be teaching government. In the previous summer he had insisted on my teaching French. That was his trade-off for honoring my request to move from the elementary ranks to the high school where the pay was better. Former readers will recall that my one year of high school French and one year of college French had run their life expectancy some eleven years in the past. During that interval, I had not spoken a sentence in French, nor could I.
Elementary teachers in 1967, all pros and in need of little supervision, consisted of Lucille Murtha, Margaret Zoss, Elvina Moe, Vera Fouberg, Martha Bergeleen, and my wife, Luella (Lolly), who taught remedial reading and, later on, elementary music and elementary library supervision. Lolly’s teaching room was in the imported Rhoads schoolhouse, one of two rural buildings moved in from the country. To the south stood the Maurer School in which my wife conducted elementary music classes.
The 1967-68 school year was generally uneventful with genial, slender, white-haired Mr. Holmstrom keeping the educational process on an even keel. On the school board were Bill Hinker, Harold Edwards, Jim Davis, and the two who approached me about replacing the departing Floyd Elenz, Ray Judy and Orville Schefsky. Jim, to my knowledge, is the lone surviving board member.

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