After 23 years, I’ve been strongly considering going back to school. I think it would enhance my work, my employment possibilities, my personal growth. I would choose Library and Information Sciences as that most closely corresponds to my current and chosen future work path. So imagine my surprise as I was talking to my mother this morning about this and she remembered her mother (Wava) mentioning that she wanted to attend University of Wisconsin for Library Studies but the family couldn’t afford the train ticket for her to visit and/or enroll. How pleased I was to hear our common interest and curious about how her path changed!
My grandmother was born in Minneapolis and moved with her parents (she was an only child like me too) to the Guthrie area of Northern Minnesota where her parents bought an 80-acre farm. She was enrolled in the local four room school, where she attended up until 10th grade. She then took the train from Guthrie to Bemidji (20 miles one way) to attend her last two years, working for room and board in town and coming back to the farm on the weekends. She graduated in 1927. [Mary Welsh Hemingway (author’s fourth wife) and Bronco Nagurski (football player and wrestler) were in her class]
So she ended up attending Bemidji State Teachers College for one year before teaching in rural schools for five years. She then said [in her memories, transcribed below] that she went back to college – 1932ish. Was this when she wanted to go to University of Wisconsin for Library Studies or was it directly after High School? Why Wisconsin and not the closer University of Minnesota in Minneapolis? (where she was born and still had relatives) University of Wisconsin had just opened their School of Education at Madison as a graduate program for teachers to continue their training – a balance between theory and practice which was novel at the time. But because many universities were increasing their tuition to offset the budget crunch of the Great Depression, perhaps Wava’s dream was too far out of reach. Especially if they couldn’t even afford the train ticket.
Wava’s two cousins from Canada, Wilbert and James Gregson, came to live with them after her father’s sister died in 1921 and so I can imagine that impacted the family finances and dynamics as well. In the 1930 census, about the time that Wava was thinking of college but was out teaching in the rural districts (and boarding with families), her father was renting a farm and had a wife and two teenaged boys to support. I wonder how much of her income she sent back home?
Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to have choices and how much poverty can change the course of people’s lives for generations to come.
Great shout of thanks to my mother for providing a heretofore-undiscovered-by-me oral history that my grandmother wrote for the “Guthrie Odds and Ends” spiral bound book published in 1987. It is solid gold and in the interest of documentation, I will transcribe it below.
p.s. My mother doesn’t remember that her mother went back to college, but took some continuing education and summer school classes
“My parents, Esther and Carl Hallberg came to Guthrie from Minneapolis in the spring of 1918.
Certainly enjoyed the freedom of our 80 acre farm. I ran, climbed trees and waded in the creek.
I attended Guthrie Consolidated School from 8th grade through second year of high. Lucky I came with a fair knowledge of reading and mathematics because I could only think and do something funny.
Did enjoy being in 3 act plays during our summer months – worked hard but fun, too. Gave our program and plays in the old Woodman Hall. It’s still in use.
My first job was picking potatoes for $1.00 a day. I bought a red hat that fall. Talking about potatoes, we would knock potato bugs in a can of kerosine. Had a potato warehouse in Guthrie.
Babe Waldon and Art took me to my first circus in Guthrie.
My cousins (like brothers) came to live with us when they were four and five years old.
Some of my best friends were Ruth Fuller, Bessie Moses, Stella Marin, Fred Balk, Dell Wilson and Orville Lindstrom, later Florence Wright and Ebba Peterson.
Then it came time to go to Bemidji High, no buses to us. We had to work for board and room or got a small room with a kerosene stove for cooking. I brought a lot of food from home every weekend. Did get to Bemidji on the M and I train. Graduated from High School in 1926. Mary Hemingway and Bronco Nagurski were in my class. After High School went to Bemidji State to take a one year rural course. Taught five years before going back to college. My first school was Cedar Park north of Blackduck Lake. Only the cement steps are remaining today. Next school was Shooks, East Inez and finally the last rural school was south of Akeley. Mr. J.C. McGhee was superintendent. He would visit the school and fall asleep until I’d wake him up when the children were gone. I loved these rural people and children were so good. Fine people to help and encourage their children.
I taught in International Falls, Cass Lake, Nary and the last school was J.W. Smith. Then I was 65 years old so must resign.
Had loved Orville Lindstrom since elementary school days. We would go steady and then part, but World War II got us permanently settled. Jan 13, 1944 Orville and I were married before he went to Europe. He was wounded in Normandy Invasion. After Orville’s discharge, we settled on Walters-Hallberg farm. Then Linnea Muriel Lillquist came in 1946. Barbara Jean Christenson came in 1947 and Orville, Junior in 1951. We have three granddaughters, Kristin Lillquist, Cara Christenson, and Amy Lillquist.
Orville never felt well since his wounds in St. Suzanne. He died March 11, 1979. My Dad died in 1954 and mother in 1959.
Had fun with the children but should have married earlier so we could have enjoyed them more.
We’ve seen a lot of advances – vaccination for many diseases, and electricity for lights, heat and bathrooms. The telephone was comforting on the farm. Know we’ll advance some more.
After Orville’s death, I moved to an apartment in Bemidji. I moved one more time and have an apartment at Red Pines Estates.
I want to thank my children, friends, Lindstrom family, Wilbert and Esther Gregson for being so good to me.“
This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, a year-long blogging project focusing on family history stories. This week’s prompt is “at the library.”
Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery.