Realism: The practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two Room School

I am the product of a two room school, Clarks Grove Independent School District 21. After six years of this, we were bused ten miles down the road to Albert Lea for grades 7 through 12, so we could catch up. Most of my shortcomings in life are due to the fact that I was deprived of a kindergarten education, pissed away six years in unsupervised chaos trying to educate myself, and I've spent most of my life struggling to catch up. This grade one through three photo was taken in 1951.

I need help with some of the details here (Everett, are you listening?)

Row one, desk one: JoDell Johnson, my first girlfriend. Her father and mother ran the "beer joint" on the edge of town. Our young love was cut short when her father, drunk and angry over a card game, shot his neighbor dead. He went to prison and her mother took JoDell and just went.
Row one, desk two: Sue Rietveld, cute as a button then. Still is.
Row one, desk three: Eugene Thompson, he's a third grader, sitting with the first graders. I assume he was already being punished for something. Being a third grader, he already had a history. He and Ben were regularly locked in the coal room in the basement with the lights out for punishment. One time they got loose and made their escape out the back door. Which may explain the later rope incident.
Row one, desk four: I think she's a Meyers. If so, her father was electrocuted the next year in an accident at the grain elevator.
Row one, desk five: (?) Johnson. I think she moved during the year.
Row one, desk six: Me. I was in shock. I had never been called "Neil" in my life. I was not Neil. Neil was my grandfather. This is obviously taken on day one before it was discovered that I am as blind as a bat. That may explain the blank look.

Row two, desk one: Ruth Anne DeRaad. Never as innocent as she looked, but really nice. She died as an adult in a terrible automobile accident that killed four people. I still miss her when I remember.
Row two, desk two: Joyce Steinbeck. Known as Foyce, because she struggled with her cursive. She taught me a lot when we hit Junior High.
Row two, desk three: Karen Marie Peterson.
Row two, desk four: Duane Lembke. My cousin Dewey. We always had a tenuous relationship. I have no idea where he is now. 
Row two, desk five: Karen Meyers (See row one, desk four).
Row two, desk six: June Jensen. "Bugs".
Row two, desk seven: Shirley Jacobson.
Row two, desk eight: Kenny Nelson. "Mouse".

Row three, desk one: Karen Rae Peterson.
Row three, desk two: Joylene Hanson. My sister-in-law. Deceased. 
Row three, desk three: Jack Jensen. Lorna's cousin. I had dinner with them last Sunday. He's still smart.
Row three, desk four: Gail Ravenhorst. Another smart kid.
Row three, desk five: Jay Bowman. .
Row three, desk six: Steve Halvorson.
Row three, desk seven: Ben Schoen. Eugene's partner-in-crime.

Row four, desk one: A guess - Linda Phillips? Pretty sure on Phillips. Always kind of scary looking. She stared a lot.
Row four, desk two: Vallie Jensen. Bugsy's sister. Should have been a model. She's still a knockout at 67.
Row four, desk three: Another Johnson sister.
Row four, desk four: Leigh Swenson. "Polecat". A lot of memories, none of which are fit to publish. The preacher's son. He was always afraid God was going to strike him down. Eventually he did.
Row four, desk five: Chuck Wedge.

There they are, 26 kids in three different grades, taught by one teacher, Mrs. Violet Jensen, who probably had a year or two in a "Normal School". She tried her best. And they wonder why I'm... slow. So much of what I remember is either too personal or too hurtful to publish here. They are as responsible as my parents for what I have become (except for that genetic thing). In so many ways, they are me.


Old Nevermore said...

Kinda makes me wish I'd stayed at home.

Margadant said...

Ah, nostalgia. I remember M'sieurs Schoon and Halverson for imparting some of the dark secrets of adolescence; and the thought of the Jensen sisters still leaves me tongue-tied.

Anonymous said...

What the devil ever happened to Chuck Wedge? That SOB ruined the only date I ever had with Sue Blocker, who said as I was taking her home, after I said, Maybe we can do this again, "I'll have to babysit." Dex

Gunnar Berg said...

"Babysit?" She never used that one on me.
While I'm certain that Ms. Blocker was a good person and probably grew up to be a pleasant, sturdy Dutch woman, I was never that interested in her type. Your problem was that you weren't Dutch. As in, "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much." We Grovers knew better than to try and "pass".

Kurt said...

The shortcomings in your life are due not the size of your school, but to the size of your gene pool. Denmark is a small country and the Baptists in Denmark were a small minority. They all moved a small town in Minnesota and another small town in Iowa where they interbred for generations. There is something odd about seeing the same people at your mother’s family reunion as at your fathers reunion.

Gunnar Berg said...

True. But then again, my gene pool is wider than yours, but maybe just as shallow. I'm Danish, Scottish, and Swedish, rather than Danish, Danish and Danish.

Be well.

Justine Valinotti said...

I have absolutely no idea of where any of my elementary-school classmates are. I stayed in touch with a couple of high school and a couple of college friends for a time after graduating. So, my memories of my classmates are frozen in amber in some recess of my mind. In some ways, I envy the continuum of contact you have with at least some of your classmates. Then again, some of those memories are, I'm sure, very painful. But I admire your courage for setting them down in such a public place as a blog.

Mimbres Man said...

Interesting indeed Gunnar.
I grew up in a small town (NM not MN) but not that small...
When I am home, I see some of my old classmates, some of which go way back to kindergarten and 1st grade. Some are my friends, but others I don't care to see. When at Wal-Mart, I dread running into anyone (its the main place to shop in town anymore). I try to be stealthy, and get in and out in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the two-room school house.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... Hi, Gunnar, it's Gail Ravenhorst DeBoer, the one you identified as "another smart one." Not my favorite appellation, but it could have been worse.
I have the same photo at home ... My brother Greg alerted me to your blog. I agree with many of your observations and memories of School District ... was it 131?? For me, tho, I remember feeling like I was neither fish nor fowl. Didn't belong ... I lived in C.G. and went to school there, but my family went to church in Hollandale, and I had lots of relatives there. Dad had married a good Baptist girl and she chose to go to his church! (gasp!)
One person I don't see in the photo is Audrey Meyers; she lived W. of town on a hardscrabble farm with a big family and hard-working parents. Maybe they moved to CG after the photo, or maybe she was out that day. We were good friends in elementary, I think because we both felt like outsiders. I remember she took a lot of teasing, probably even bullying, from classmates because of her family's rundown farm and everything that went with it. It's hard to judge from this distance of years whether the cruelty was intentional or not.
I know she died young.
I also seem to remember that she was chosen Princess Kay at the state fair in the early '60s, when I was off in college ... anybody confirm that?
Ben Schoon - his dad worked for my dad, and was one of the best truckers he ever had at the tile plant. Knew every farm for miles around! What I remember of Ben was how he struggled in school. I wondered later, maybe he was dyslexic or had another learning disorder? Nobody cut any slack for that, "back in the day..."

Gunnar Berg said...

Gail, Good to hear from you. A long time.

Tough to crack the closed C.G. society. My family came a hundred years too late too. I think we were accepted because of the instant status of my grandfather as a preacher.

Cracking Hollandale as a non-Dutch would have been even harder. The lines were drawn pretty straight and hard.

Gunnar Berg said...

Drop me a note at: neilmberg(at) I think Mary Mcmannes (Sprankle) may like to get a hold of you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I can't help with a thing. I never went to 131 and was gone from C G until 1955. Maybe some other time I will be able to help. I do enjoy your blog a lot.