by Joan Husby
While searching for another document on my computer, I came across this story, sent to me in the winter of 2008-2009 by my mother’s cousin, Ursula Wunderlich, of Voltaire, ND. Since then, Ursula has finished her time here on earth so I can’t ask permission to use this, but I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. She wrote it originally for her home-town newspaper, and I know there are many mid-westerners who can identify right now with the weather she describes:
“This bad winter weather brings to mind a time in this writer’s life, 60 years ago, to be exact. It was January 1949, and I was teaching a rural school in McLean County, Otis Township, in the Strawberry Lake vicinity. Fresh out of high school, I was asked to take on the job, as teachers were hard to come by. Having no college degree, or practice teaching to lean on, this was quite a challenge, to say the least. I had 11 students in all grades except the second & sixth grades. Patron families represented were Alvir Anderson, Ervin Golly, Miles Harmon, Palmer Madsen, and Henry Sheelar. [The Andersons were also cousins.] I was my own janitor, hot lunch cook, and custodian of whatever needed to be done. This included carrying coal from the shed near the school house, storm or no storm.
I stayed at the school during the week, if possible. Didn’t think of it at the time, but I should have had a rope strung from the school building to the shed, so as not to lose my way, as there were times when one could not see one building from the other. I firmly believe that the good Lord had angels watching overtime, or I wouldn’t be here today.
That January, we had full-fledged blizzards every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. No one came to school, except teacher and her pals– mice! Thursday & Friday as many of the students as could, arrived. On Friday I would ride home with either of two families to spend the weekend. This arrangement was designed to save the precious coal supply, as the weekend coal then could be on hand for [school] days.
via Sun Breaks: North Dakota Schoolteacher, Winter of 1949.