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#749 – Dick Bernard: Dr. Soren Kolstoe, naturalist, outdoorsman, poet.

Sunday, July 21st, 2013
Depiction of Dr. Soren O. Kolstoe at entrance to Kolstoe Hall Valley City (ND) State University

Depiction of Dr. Soren O. Kolstoe at entrance to Kolstoe Hall Valley City (ND) State University

ND Centennial Stamps001

A while ago I was researching answers to a 1957 North Dakota test for high school Juniors and Seniors about North Dakota History, Geography and Government.

Reviewing a 1963 Geography text by Bernt L. Wills I found a number of poems about North Dakota outdoors written by Soren Kolstoe, a name familiar to me from my days at Valley City State Teachers College. Dr. Wills was clearly taken with Dr. Kolstoe’s sensitivity to the land and fauna of North Dakota and wanted to include some of his work in his book.

The poems intrigued me and I set out to try to find out more about Dr. Kolstoe and his work. Thanks to Shirley Lindsay, daughter of “Koley’s” (Dr. Kolstoe’s) close friend, hunting buddy, and legendary Dean of Men Lou Bruhn, I made contact with a couple of Dr. Kolstoe’s children, one of whom sent me a signed book of poetry, Lyrics of the Prairie, written by Dr. Kolstoe years ago (access to all poems below the photos).

Dr. Kolstoe was also legendary at STC. He joined the faculty in 1924,and retired in 1958. (Turns out he was 70 when he retired, and I’m 73 now, which gives one pause.) A few weeks after his retirement I began my college career there, so I didn’t know him personally, though he was still an advisor to the Fraternity I joined in 1960. But he was larger than life, even as a retiree.

[UPDATE July 27, 2013, the Kolstoe family shared with me a 2003 memo written by a staff person at Concordia College, Moorhead, about Dr. Kolstoe’s bio: Kolstoe,Soren-History]

A residence building at present day VCSU is named after him.

Here is an undated photo of Dr. Kolstoe; a second of him ca 1959 in the college yearbook; and of the hall named for him, and following the photos are Dr. Kolstoe’s poems and some comments of Carolyn Kolstoe, wife of Dr. Kolstoe’s son, Ralph, himself one of two Kolstoe sons who achieved, like their Dad, PhDs in Psychology.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Dr. Soren Kolstoe, undated, at a State Fair in ND, with his display of wild bird eggs.

Dr. Soren Kolstoe, undated, at a State Fair in ND, with his display of wild bird eggs.

"Dr. S. O. Kolstoe enjoys EBC informal initiation" EBC section of 1960 Viking Annual, Valley City State Teachers College

“Dr. S. O. Kolstoe enjoys EBC informal initiation” EBC section of 1960 Viking Annual, Valley City State Teachers College

Kolstoe Hall Valley City State University July 5, 2013

Kolstoe Hall Valley City State University July 5, 2013

The family has given permission to share Dr. Kolstoe’s poems about North Dakota wildlife and environment, and because of their number – over 60 poems – they are presented here in three sections. (The first three pages in each are identical). It is believed these may have been published ca 1965, but that is uncertain.

Part 1: Lyrics of Prairie #1001
Part 2: Lyrics of Prairie #2002
Part 3: Lyrics of Prairie #3003

Here’s Carolyn Kolstoe, June 19, 2013 (shared with her permission): “I am delighted to know that you have enjoyed my father-in-laws’ poetry. He published this booklet of his love of North Dakota and the pleasures that he found there. [He sold the book] while he was displaying his bird egg and stuffed animals collection at state fairs. [Dr. Kolstoe] received his BA at St. Olaf, Northfield, MN, and his PhD at University of North Dakota. He taught at VCSTC for many years, then in retirement, was hired by the North Dakota Wildlife Federation to visit any school in the state to show slides and read poetry of animals of the state. We were living in Grand Forks when he came to visit the schools there.

He was born in Haugesund, Norway, January 4 1888, and died in Grand Forks ND February 12, 1978. [Sons] Oliver is living in CA, John is in Montana, and Ralph [Carolyn’s husband lives, depending on season, near Bemidji MN, Marco Island FL or Grand Forks ND]. Ralph retired from the UND Psychology Dept after having taught there for 35 years.

Soren’s egg collection was donated to the state of ND and while it was owned by Soren, it was one of the largest collections in the United States. He had the eggs boxed by the number in a usual nest, bedded in cotton with a glass cover. Many were displayed in the museum near the State Capitol in Bismarck. I am not sure where they are presently.”

Dr. Kolstoe had a special permit to do the egg collecting.

Anyone wishing to get a message to Dr. Kolstoe’s family can simply write dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom, with Kolstoe in subject line.

ND Wild Roses between LaMoure and Berlin ND, July 7, 2013

ND Wild Roses between LaMoure and Berlin ND, July 7, 2013

Leila Whitinger: Remembering Valley City (ND) State Teachers College

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Leila’s reminiscences are a part of a series of recollections about the place we called “STC” back in the late 1950s to early 1960s. The originating post is found here, at January 2, 2013.

(click on photos to enlarge)

STC Band Officers 1960-61, Leila 2nd from right

STC Band Officers 1960-61, Leila 2nd from right

Memories of Valley City State Teachers College
By Leila Whitinger, B.S. 1963

I attended VCSTC from the fall of 1959 until graduation in spring, 1963. By the time I finished, I completed majors in both Biology and physical education and a minor in German. Nearly all of the electives I completed were in music, and I was a member of the band for my first three years. I also sang in the choir. For fun, I took voice and piano lessons throughout my years in school. Because of the diversity of my classes, I had a lot of opportunities to become acquainted with students having many different interests.

Unlike most of my classmates, I was not from North Dakota. I was born and raised in Michigan, where my nuclear family still lived. I was in a unique situation, in that I moved into a totally new environment and nine hundred miles away from home to attend college at Valley City. Others repeatedly asked me why I chose to attend school there, and I had a ready answer for them. I told them that my grandmother was in the very first class at Valley City, my mother got her standard certificate there, and two of my aunts were also students there. I was just keeping up the family tradition.

My mother’s family homesteaded near Milnor, ND, while North Dakota was still a territory. My father’s family didn’t move to the Forman area until 1914, but they had a deep history in the area. Nora Mohberg, my mother’s sister, had just completed her Bachelor’s degree at Valley City when I graduated from high school. She was deeply involved in writing area historical articles and books, so I grew up reading about the challenges of pioneer life on the prairie. My grandmother still lived in Milnor not too far from Aunt Nora’s farm. One of Nora’s sons, Robert Mohberg, was a senior at Valley City during my freshman year.

To me, I didn’t feel as though I had left home. It felt more as though I was returning home. My parents and most of their brothers and sisters left North Dakota during the depression and dust bowl after losing their family farms. While Mother frequently reminisced with warm memories of her days at Valley City, she rarely had much good to say about their life on the farm. Because Mother’s mother was still living in Milnor, she and my father made annual trips to visit her. It wasn’t until my high school years that any of my five siblings or I could go with them, since they generally traveled with Mother’s sisters who also lived in our Michigan hometown.

When we were finally able to accompany our parents, we had a chance to meet mother’s “dozens of cousins” and get acquainted with our grandmother. I knew that I wouldn’t feel like a outsider, since I was related through my mother’s family to a whole lot of Andersons, Ankerfelts, Ericksons, Fladeboes, Toftleys and Johnsons. Her father was one of fifteen children, and most of them remained either in southeastern North Dakota or southwestern Minnesota. We visited many of them during our visits throughout the years, so I already knew what North Dakota women mean by, “A little lunch.”

Aunt Nora took us to Valley City during the summer between my junior and senior high school years. I fell in love with the place the minute I saw it, and I think that I may have even gotten an application on that same day. Mother was horrified at the idea of my moving so far from home, but it helped that my home would be with her sister and that Robert would be a student there. It definitely wasn’t an easy sell, except for the fact that it was so much less expensive than Michigan colleges.

Blowing Bubble Gum - Leila at right - one of her favorite pics in the 1960 annual.

Blowing Bubble Gum – Leila at right – one of her favorite pics in the 1960 annual.

I had been planning to go to college from the time I was a very small child. I visualized a college as a small cottage in the woods, and it sounded great to me! By the time I got older, I could see that it would take a miracle for me to go to college because we had no money. Our father was critically injured when I was eleven years old and out of work for over a year. Because of his injuries, he was unable to provide much for the family. I started working and saving for college at that time.

I baby-sat, worked for the school recreation and hot lunch programs, and taught dancing at my sister’s dance school. I saved every nickel I earned during that time. I baby-sat for our senior class advisor on prom night because I didn’t want to waste money on a dress I didn’t need and would never use again. Outside of band and Spanish club, I didn’t participate in any extra-curricular activities. By the time I moved to North Dakota before my freshman year, I was exhausted. My cousins wondered about me, since I slept for almost the entire six weeks I spent with them on the farm before the term started. The hypnotic wheat fields, bright blue skies and quiet farm life agreed with me, and I relaxed for the first time in a very long time.

Aunt Nora took me to Valley City before the beginning of the school year to help me set up my dance school. Charlotte Graichen was very helpful to us, and I was able to start teaching during the second week of classes. I lived in the dorm, of course, and I loved it. I was in a suite with five other girls, and we became good friends very quickly. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a small one-bathroom house with four sisters and a brother, but it didn’t feel crowded to me.

Leila dancing at EBC Hit Parade 1960

Leila dancing at EBC Hit Parade 1960

One of the benefits of living in the dorm was that my suite mates always brought “care packages” to me from their mothers. I learned about wonderful pfeffenusse cookies, krumkake, apfelkuchen and a myriad of other Swedish, Norwegian and German treats. On weekends, I was usually one of the few girls left in the dorm. Our housemother was a sweetheart to me. Mrs. Hedberg, AKA Hettie or Grendel, was also from Michigan. After my first week in the dorm, I requested a board to be placed under my mattress for support. I injured my back in a diving accident when I was fifteen, and was having problems with the mattress. In only a few days, she had a new firm mattress delivered to my room! I used it for the entire three years I lived there. When her sister sent Michigan cherries to her, she always invited me in to share them with her.

Marion Rieth mentioned something about wearing high heels to class. When I saw students going to class in high heels, I almost flipped. I remember asking myself, “Are they insane?” I started out wearing dress shoes, but quickly changed to tennis shoes. They had equally insane rules about wearing slacks, but nothing was written about shoes. By the end of the first term, most of the other girls from the dorm were also wearing tennis shoes.

The slacks issue was particularly galling to me, since it really was an outrageous rule. We weren’t allowed to wear slacks in any of the classroom buildings, cafeteria or library. I have no idea how many times I was kicked out of the library for breaking that rule, since I would often stop there after teaching my dance classes. It meant that I would have to go back to my dorm room, change clothes, and return to study. I quickly learned that logical arguments about subzero weather didn’t work, but it did motivate me to work towards getting rid of that rule. I also learned that I didn’t run into that kind of nonsense when I went to work in the biology labs in the evening. It took a couple of years for us to get rid of that rule.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in band. Fred Koppleman was a senior during my freshman year, and he was an excellent percussionist. Before our very first practice, he showed me his award for being the national rudimentary champion of percussion instruments, along with a terrific photograph of him with his drums. As a percussionist myself, I had the distinction of being the only snare drum soloist earning a first place during the Michigan solo-ensemble festival during my senior year of high school. Art Froemke was still directing the band during my freshman year, and his eyesight was practically gone. He kept calling me Fred as we were practicing, so the rest of the band frequently called me Fred after that. I guess if someone is going to mistake me for a national champion, it isn’t so bad!

If I were to say that there were a lot of interesting people in that band, it would be an understatement. Because of my dance and choreography experience, I taught the chorus line for EBC Hit Parades, and that was a lot of fun. I learned that I would never be able to cut it as a straight man/woman to a comic after doing a sketch with Lynn Clancy. I was supposed to keep a straight face while I was asking him questions, but I couldn’t hold it together. I also learned that it is almost impossible to deliver lines when you are choking with laughter.

I especially liked Mr. Lade’s classes, since he gave me some of the best advice a science teacher would ever need. He told us not to waste our time memorizing science facts because they are constantly changing. He said that the most important skill we could develop is to learn where to find information when we needed it. He encouraged lifelong learning with that simple piece of advice.

For me, at least, my years at Valley City provided me with the experiences I missed during high school. I attended formal dances, and enjoyed them. I had time to sit around with girlfriends and be silly. My activities with my Delphi sisters are treasured memories. I became acquainted with countless terrific classmates and teachers who positively affected my experience at Valley City. All of that prepared me to teach, to advocate, and agitate throughout my career in education. I really don’t think that a large university could have done a better job.

Leila at right on trampoline in Girls Gymnasium.

Leila at right on trampoline in Girls Gymnasium.

#687 – Dick Bernard: “Sykes High, oh Sykes High School of Dreams Come True….”

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Note to reader:
Note: There are six other posts about Sykeston:
There are several other post I have done about Sykeston:
May 4 (the main article): Thoughts on Sykeston High School at its Centennial
May 9 A 1957 Social Studies Test
June 12 Remembering Sykeston in late 1940s
June 28 Snapshots in History of Sykeston
June 29 Sports in 1950s small towns in North Dakota
July 3: Remembering Don Koller and the Lone Ranger

This is also one of a series of posts spawned by recollections of attendance at Valley City (ND) State Teachers College 1958-61. This and the other items are (or will be) permanently accessible at January 2, 2013.

I was a tiny town kid. Sykeston High School, class of ’58, included eight of us. A ninth had dropped out mid-year to join the Air Force. (The subject heading for this blog was the School Song, written in 1942 by two students. Sykeston School Song002) The previous year I had attended Antelope Consolidated, a country Grades 1-12 school near Mooreton, and the Senior Class numbered two: a valedictorian and salutatorian. The smallness didn’t seem to hold us back: long-time U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan was fond of recalling that he graduated 5th in his class of 9 at Regent, in far southwest North Dakota.

Most of us at VCSTC were from tiny towns. In contemporary terms, even Valley City (2010 population 6585) would be considered nothing more than a town; John Hammer, a colleague freshman in 1958 from the surrounding Barnes County (2010 population: 11,066) said that in his high school times, aside from Valley City itself, there were 16 school districts with high schools in Barnes County – perhaps one high school for every 300 total people.

Sykeston was probably pretty typical of those hamlets many of we students called “home”. In 2008, after my 50th high school reunion (held coincident with Sykestons 125th anniversary), I managed to cobble together the data about that high schools graduating classes from the first, in 1917. You can learn a lot about ND from that graph including the fact that my high school closed in 2005, leaving behind only the stately building from 1913.

(click to enlarge)
Sykeston HS Graduates001

Sykeston HS build 1913, photo in 1958.

Sykeston HS build 1913, photo in June 1958, Dick Bernard.

Valley City State Teachers College, then, was big-time for me, a country kid. It was founded in 1890, and was part of a State College system supervised by a Board. Here is the 1960 Board: ND State College Bd 1960001

Old Main VCSTC 1959

Old Main VCSTC 1959

STC’s sports teams, then, were excellent, and the 1959 annual, in the Basketball section, notes the competition. The ND State Colleges played that year were: Wahpeton, Ellendale, Bottineau, Mayville, Minot, Bismarck & Dickinson. Some of these were Junior Colleges. Private Jamestown College was next-door arch-rival. VCSTC also played University of Manitoba, and S.D. schools Huron and Aberdeen.

Here is the current roster of North Dakota State Colleges. Ellendale long ago “bit the dust”. Devils Lake and Williston may or may not have existed in 1958. I’m not sure.

For whatever reason, I seem to have developed early an interest in what “school” in North Dakota meant, even back in college and early post-college years.

In June, 1961, for some reason I did a little research piece about the history of North Dakota Public Schools and published it in the Viking News which I then edited. I can remember writing the piece, but not why I chose to do it, though I don’t think it was an assignment. You can read it here: VCSTC ND Educ Jul 5 1961001. On rereading it, I think I was basically quite accurate. I probably used the college library sources for research.

In February, 1965, during one of those vaunted three-day blizzards in western North Dakota, I whiled away my time in our tiny apartment doing some more research on Changes in the Small Schools of North Dakota. I used the simplest of resources: the North Dakota School Directories and census data. Blizzard over, for no particular reason, I submitted the unpolished piece to the North Dakota Education Association which, much to my surprise, printed it in the April, 1965 issue: Changes in ND Small Schs001.

Later that month, an editorial about the article appeared in the Grand Forks (ND) Herald – a minor brush with fame.

It would be interesting to see someone update that 1965 blizzard-bound “research”.

#672 – Dick Bernard: Remembering Valley City (ND) State Teachers College 1958-64

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

NOTE: There will be continuing updates and additions to this post, which will include all additional items. Suggestion that you bookmark this page, if interested in 1958-64 at VCSTCHere is a companion post including pdf copy of every page of the 1960-61 Viking News (13 issues, 76 pages).

In the era before phones were ubiquitous...1960 at the hall phone at VCSTC

UPDATES as of March 2, 2013:
1. Memories as shared by some graduates January, 2013: VCSTC MEMORIES JANUARY 2013rev2
2. VCSTC Faculty, Staff and Times: VCSTC Faculty and Times 1958-64rev2
2A. Photos of all Faculty and Staff at VCSTC 1958-64 should be accessible to all in a Facebook album accessible here.
3. Qualities of Memorable Teachers, as shared by teachers: here
4. Remembering Dean of Men Lou Bruhn: here
5. Some pages from the 1960 Viking Annual: Viking 1960111
6. Public Education in North Dakota, some thoughts: here
7. Leila Whitinger (class of 1963) remembers VCSTC here.
8. Mike, VCSTC’s Mr. Moore, a Civics Lesson and Freedom of Speech here
9. Catholic Pope’s remembered, Dick Bernard, here
10. A North Dakota State-wide Civics and Geography test from 1957, including a connection with Soren Kolstoe here
11. Loretta (Welk) Jung (class of 1964) presents a program about her cousin, Lawrence Welk here.
12. Hank Toring ’64 remembers construction of Interstate 94 near Valley City: HANK TORING. Here is a description of I-94 History in North Dakota.
13. Remembering two weddings in Valley City 50 years ago, June 8, 1963, here.
14. Dr. Soren Kolstoe’s poetry about North Dakota, here.
15. A visit to Valley City and Sykeston ND July 5 and 6, 2013, here.
16. A visit to the VCSU campus, October 24, 2013, here.
17. A road trip from North Dakota to California, Summer 1941, here.

Watching the 1960 United States Election Returns

(click to enlarge photos)

Dedication page of 1960 Viking Annual. See Carole Flatau text below.

Text from above page - 1960 Viking Annual

VCSTC Campus 1960 not including Euclid or East Hall. From Viking News May, 1961

Ordinarily I escape solicitors, especially by phone, so it was a happy mistake when I answered the call to enroll in the 2012 Alumni Directory project for Valley City State University, my alma mater over 50 years earlier. (Here’s an aerial map of today’s Valley City including the College)

There had been a previous Directory, in 2003, and I had purchased that as well.

Both are books. The 2003 version was 300 pages, and included only eight people with e-addresses who I knew ‘back then’.

The 2012 edition has about 335 pages, including nearly 40 people with e-addresses who I at least knew back in those long ago years. This edition also includes a CD-ROM.

At walking bridge, looking north Sep 21, 1986

The old walking bridge Sep. 21, 1986

September 21, 1986

Back in those long-ago college years, I doubt any of us, perhaps even our most astute faculty back then, could have even actively imagined the e-mails, facebook, twitter, etc., etc., etc. that exploded onto the scene about 20 years later! George Orwell in his 1949 novel “1984” talked about “telescreens”. 1984 was a long ways in the future, then. Wow.

Back in “ought three” as old-timers might say about 2003, I initiated a conversation of reminiscences with the few in the old crowd who I could reach by e-mail. Fortuitously (it turned out), I kept the recollections in an e-file, which even more fortuitously survived assorted subsequent computer crashes and a change from Microsoft to Mac technology three years ago. (I go by many accurate descriptors, but “geek” is not one of them. At the same time, I can do the rudimentary navigation required to survive in the 21st century).

Shortly after the 2012 Directory came out, I made contact with those brave souls who had chosen to reveal their e-mail addresses in the book.

I then decided to transfer the old memories (with permission of the writers of the time) to a pdf document remembering 1958-61 at Valley City State Teachers College, as written February-April, 2003. That 54 page document is accessible here, in 14 point Times New Roman: VCSTC Memories recorded Feb

During VCSTC times I had, for some unremembered reason, be come the Sports Editor of the 1960 Viking Annual, then Editor of the Viking News in 1960-61.

Thanks to Mary Hagen Canine, I have the entire set of that years Viking News (as I have the old annuals as well).

As a New Years Day project, I decided to make a Facebook album of the photos which appeared in the Viking News in 1960-61. You can see them here. Simply click on an individual picture to enlarge it somewhat. Since the original photos were screened for printing at the Valley City Times Record, they are not high resolution. (The news photographer, I learned from the 1960 annual, was Gerhard Ovrebo, who all aspiring scientists at STC would well remember!)

In fact, as a final part of this little new years project, I decided to pdf the Faculty pages of the 1961 Annual, which you can see here (Mr. Ovrebo and camera on page 22): VCSTC Admin 59-60001.

Ah, the memories.

It occurs to me, at age 72, that those faculty who I thought were ancient at the time I was a student, were actually much younger than I am today. So is how it goes.

If you wish to add to the memory bank of the reminiscences, feel free to e-mail me at dick_bernard AT msn, or me DOT com. Additional memories of others will be assembled and shared on or after February 1. If you wish a memory shared, please give your specific permission to republish when you submit the memory.

Some photos from Yearbooks 1959-62:

Old Main 1959-60

Bridge 1959-60

Assembly 1959-60

Dr. Lokken 1960-61

East/Euclid 1959-60

Mythaler Hall 1959-60

Then and Now….

Dick Bernard, Freshman VCSTC, sometime in 1958-59

Dick Bernard making a Peace Site presentation at Twin Cities public TV Channel 2, St. Paul MN, January 25, 2013

#533 – Dick Bernard: A Picture from the past, remembering Louis H. Bruhn

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

See Update from Carl Peter at end of this post.

Going through some old photographs recently I came across this one of Louis Bruhn, taken by my father in May, 1974, at a Valley City State Teachers College alumni gathering in Anoka, Minnesota. (click to enlarge).

Louis H. Bruhn at Valley City State Teachers College Alumni function in Anoka MN May, 1974.

I lived in rural Anoka at the time, and I remember my parents visit but not this specific event, though I’m sure I was there.

Both of my parents were graduates of what we called, then, VCSTC, Valley City State Teachers College. I graduated from there myself. Just this morning I mailed my annual small donation to the now-VCSU Foundation. A pleasant sounding student called me a few nights ago just to renew my acquaintance with my alma mater.

Colleges know how to keep in touch with their alumni!

Mr. Bruhn – that’s what we all would have called him – was Dean of Men and Director of Special Services at the tiny 700 or so student college in 1958-61 when I was a student there.

Two very important mentors: Lou Bruhn, and Mary Hagen Canine, pictured in the 1959 Viking Annual of Valley City State Teachers College

He seemed terribly old at the time, but through the miracle of the internet (which he could not have imagined then), he was apparently only 55 when I first darkened the college doors in the Summer of 1958. Here’s what someone wrote about him in 1976.

He was 71 when Dad took the above photo. GASP. That’s how old I am, now!

The bio says that Mr. Bruhn came to VCSTC in 1938 to teach Business courses.

My parents, Henry L. Bernard of Grafton and Esther Busch of rural Berlin, had both matriculated at the college, probably in the summer of 1929, and like legions of country school teachers of the time they would teach school during the school year, then come back to college in the summer. They are both long deceased, but left behind many stories. They met in the halls of VCSTC, married in 1937, then taught together at Amidon ND during 1937-39. Most likely they were back at Valley City in the Summer of 1938 when Mr. Bruhn arrived.

During 1939-40 Dad became a full-time, full-year student at the college – the only full year he ever spent in college – and he received his degree a few weeks after I was born. They lived, that year, in the McGillivray Apartments just off campus, right behind what became Cinks College Grocery (and what is now the Valley City State University Student Center – which was actively being planned in 1961). For over 30 more years they remained in public education, Mom taking a few years off to raise us younguns to school age.

Dad most likely got to know Mr. Bruhn fairly well. They were, after all, about the same age. Eighteen years later, in 1958, it was my turn to do something with my life after graduating from Sykeston High School.

Truth be told, for this lazy kid in the summer of 1958, college summer school looked far better to me than wrestling a wheelbarrow full of dirt at the under construction St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sykeston. So, off I went. My mother went as well, to Summer School.

College caught on, and I went straight through, graduating 50 years ago last December. Those were memorable years.

Small colleges like VCSTC certainly don’t have the reputation of big or prestigious institutions, but I’m here to say, loudly and proudly, that with folks around like Louis H. Bruhn, we country kids from tiny high schools not only got a solid college education, but we left well prepared for life, accompanied by a strong work ethic.

The biography does not list a date of death for Mr. Bruhn, though I’d doubt he’s still with us. Doubtless someone will let me know details posthaste (you can comment on this post – see tab below).

Thanks Mr. Bruhn, Mom, Dad, and everyone who saw me and legions of fellow students through the growing experience from post high-school to college graduation.

Thanks once again.

from Shirley Bruhn Lindsay (Lou and Mabel Bruhns daughter, received Mar. 9, 2012): It is with an overflowing heart that I reply to you re the messages about my dad, Lou Bruhn. It is such a lovely tribute to him – a man who loved people (especially the students) and the town of Valley City more than he could ever really express. He served on the City Commission for several years and ultimately served as Mayor. A fond memory for our family is of the “Lou Bruhn Day” the city declared when he retired as Mayor.

My dad died late October 1988. He and my mother, Mabel, moved to the Sheyenne Care Center (SCC) several years earlier after she suffered a severe stroke. They had a wonderful quality of life in SCC and continued their enjoyment of people in the town they both loved.

Thank you for these tributes and memories. I have shared them with my brother Dave’s family.

My parents moved to VC in 1938 to “try it out for a few years”…they never left. Isn’t that a tribute to the town and state of North Dakota?

UPDATES: MARCH 8

From Valley City State University Alumni Association via Facebook: Dick – thank you for sharing this post. We enjoyed reading it. Looking at our records it looks like Lou passed away in the late 80’s.

Bob Zimmerman, Fayetteville AR: It’s good to hear from you again, Dick! It’s okay if you and others want to send e-mail to me at: BobzATuark.edu. Lois Nunn Zimmerman and I willl be married 50 years on June 3, 2012. We [recently] were vacationing at South Padre Island, TX. I met Myron (Ike) Luttschwager there for lunch. I will be retiring from my position as Associate Vice Chancellor for IT at the University of Arkansas on June 30, 2012. We hope to spend some time in SD, ND, and MN this summer. Best wisher to all! Lois and Bob

I had a recent letter from Bob and Marge Nutz Sogn. Bob and Marge Sogn sent pictures with David Thielman and his new wife. The Sogns live in Tuscon, AZ. Dave lives in Palm Springs, CA, in the winter. I have not seen Dave and Bob for many years and I hope to find them and some other long lost pals again. Bob

Lois and I had a conversation with Bob and Deann Horne about a month ago. They have moved to Fargo from Minot. Their home in Minot was severely damaged by the floods in Minot. We will visit my brother, Allan Zimmerman and his wife, Carol Schmidtz Zimmerman in Fargo. Buddy Schmidtz is a brother to Carol.

Duane Zwinger, Carrington, class of ’64: It was sure enjoyable reading your recollections about VCSTC and “Mr. Bruhn”. I truly agree with your statement that “tiny” Valley City State Teachers College
gave us all a great start in making our small mark on this great big world. The email also brought back some memories of myself and some of my hooligan buddies having a “close encounter” with Mr. Bruhn. We really didn’t mean to get into trouble, but it did seem to find us.

Duane Zwinger and Dick Bernard, February 2012, at Woodbury MN

Darryl Pederson, Lincoln NE: Got your email. I remember the dean well. He was also a sought after square dance caller. One cold winter evening he called a square dance in my home town of Kathryn. When the dance was over there was a full blown blizzard outside Some of the dancers and Lou Bruhn came to my parents store (we lived in the back) and the square dance continued in the store. As I recalled all spent most if not all of the night with us.

Larry Gauper, Fargo ND: Dick…YES…I remember Lou Bruhn…one of those classic Valley City college names

Wes Anderson, Valley City ND: We have about three audio interviews with Lou in our collection from Don Welch

Colleen Zick: I don’t know if you knew, but he also repaired bicycles. He made mine like new! I remember him and his wife well. Thelma Acker lived right next door to him, and she always cut and permed my hair! Her daughter married Eldwin VanBruggen, Gladys’s brother. The VanBruggens were my next door neighbors.

Larry Gauper: I remember that…and I think he was a ham radio guy too..not sure about that…but do remember now that you mention it the bike repair thing….neat fellow and apparently a great teacher.

Bob Horne, Fargo: Thanks for the Photo of Lou Bruhn, your excellent comments, and ideas added by others.
We remember Mr. Bruhn with fondness; he was a great guy and a friend to students. Also, I knew his son David quite well, as I believe we played Legion baseball together the summer of 1953, between my freshman and sophomore HS years. That summer I stayed with my aunt, Charlotte Graichen, before returning to Edmore HS. You probably know that Charlotte taught at VC State for about 30 years; they named the women’s gym after her. Charlotte and Bill Osmon were long-time leaders of women’s and men’s athletics at VC State Teachers College.

Dick Bernard: The phrase “comfortable as an old shoe” now comes to mind with respect to Mr. Bruhn – but make no mistake, he was MR. Bruhn. As for Charlotte Graichen and Willis Osmon, I came to VCSTC with the idea that basketball would be fun. Things change. I’m guessing that one of the last credits on my transcript was for some required PE class I had neglected to take, and Ms. Graichen was the instructor at the women’s gym. In the spring of 1961, they were just completing the impressive athletic building just west of the campus, I think still named for Mr. Osmon, and I think I’ll dig out my old set of Viking News and scan the photo of me with the under-construction building.

Roger Taylor: I remember Lou Bruhn well. The Bruhn family lived across the street from my childhood home. He did repair bicycles, but not mine, my dad did that. They had a post at the end of their driveway on which they’d installed a backboard and hoop. It was one of the several hoops in our neighborhood which we used, probably the best as the hoop was regulation height and the playing area was flat (most driveways had slants which meant the basket had varying heights relative to the player’s position on the “court”). The Bruhns had two children I remember, a girl named “Shirley” and a boy whose name I don’t remember. They were at least four years older than we. The article also references Cink’s grocery store. That’s another place in which I spent a fair amount of time. But it wasn’t our primary local grocery. That one was on College Street about four doors down from the Bruhn home.

UPDATE March 9, 2012

Dick Bernard: This link Viking News Jul 61 Union001, from the July 5, 1961 Viking News (the college newspaper) shows the site of the to-be college Student Union, including part of Cink’s grocery, and the still under construction Physical Education building which was, in 1961, ‘state of the art’. In the photo, I’m the guy standing by the support beam. For some reason related to the times, I dressed up for the photo.

Ron Morsch: Boy, that’s a name out of the past. I knew the name right away, could faintly picture who it was but even after reading Dick’s post couldn’t recall anything specific. I think Beth is right about Kiwanis or maybe Elks or Toastmasters. My dad was active in them and maybe that’s why I know the name. The bicycle repair stuff also prompted a faint memory of my Dad and me being in his garage having something done to my bike, but I’m not sure.

Barb Lang: Mr. Bruhn’s daughter Shirley is living in Lake Forest, IL and my sister Mary sees her every now and then for coffee. Mary also thinks that possibly Mr. Bruhn was Mayor at some point . . .that’s her vague recollection! Mary notes that Shirley has a Facebook page (my sister is a big looker at Facebook).

Rhea Mills: Has been interesting listening to all the other comments on Mr. Bruhn. Having lived on the “north” side of the tracks, there are a lot of things I had never heard of that occurred on the “south” side of the tracks. I know a lot of names but I really can’t remember things about those names – if, indeed, I even knew those things in the first place – HMMMMM, that is one run on sentence that really doesn’t make much sense except to myself!

Dick Bernard: Of course, in Valley City, at that time, when you’d say “north side of the tracks”, the question would have to be “which tracks?” North of the Hiline, or north of the tracks downtown (or uptown? : – ) NP or Soo Line, or whatever the two railroads were. (My parents did the walk across the Hiline in the 1930s, I think. I never dared.)

I was born at Mercy Hospital in May, 1940, and probably lived in the very tiny McGillivray apartment (Dad once showed it to me – it was vacant at the time, basement, the side away from the college) for perhaps a month or two, then we moved to Rutland area.

I didn’t own or have access to a car during the college years. My ‘territory’ was virtually 100% walking. Farthest north was to St. Cate’s for church on Sunday. Otherwise downtown to Pillar or Omwick where I worked; or Mythaler Hall to the halls of STC…. An aunt and uncle lived in the St. Mary’s of Dazey community but it was real rare to see them out there. The first ND section of I-94 was built between Jamestown and Valley City during the time I was there – “a million dollars a mile” they said. My family lived in Sykeston, northwest of Jamestown, and while I seldom went back there once I started, I can remember driving that freeway including a portion that did not yet have completed shoulders.

The STC of my memory was something like an ant hill, full of activity and a community unto itself, small as it was. Having graduated with 9 colleague seniors, and gone to several other ND public schools which were even smaller, the college was immense. My roommate for three years at Mythaler, a kid from Wimbledon, is a retired teacher in a city high school in St. Paul, and he once told me that for we tiny town kids, VCSTC was much like high school experience for kids in much bigger towns (including Valley City). We came from places that might have three high school teachers, at most, and we got the basics: “Reading, ‘Ritin, ‘Rithmetic” and the occasional ‘hickory stick’ (a”likkin”). Having said that, those tiny towns, and that small college, turned out some tremendous folks who did something with their lives (including me, I hope.)

Yesterday I sent the posting to a guy I student taught at the Lab School at the college. He and I were work colleagues for years with the Minnesota Education Association. For the past six years he’s been Executive Director of the 130,000 member state teacher association in Ohio, and he’d been an Executive Director here in Minnesota, and in Wyoming as well. His Dad recently died and he would have been back to Valley City. It amazes me when I reconnect with people, as I am doing here.

Thanks for the memories.

From Carl Peter, February 25, 2013:

If I remember right, Lou Bruhn taught the college driver’s education class. I took this course, which was a textbook class plus machines. The second part was teaching a student how to drive with a dual control car. I took this course in order to get a certificate to teach driver’s education in high school. This certificate served me very well. I taught the textbook part of driver’s education in my first school. In the second school, I taught five years of behind-the-wheel driver’s education in addition to the classroom part. During that time, I logged in 10,000 miles of dual control teaching without having an accident.

One day I was walking down the hall and Mr.Bruhn stopped me and told me that there was an opening for teaching in McClusky, North Dakota. This was the during the spring of the year I graduated. He told me to call and ask if I could get an interview. At that time, this was just not ever done. In fact it was the first long-distance call I ever made from a pay phone. I called and the Superintendent said that he would like to have me send in an application and my credentials. He also indicated that I could come for an interview. The interview was on a Saturday. I met with him and the president of the school board. The next Monday when I was student teaching typewriting, my supervisor came in and told me that the Superintendent was there and he wanted to talk to me. He indicated that he would like to offer me a contract. The contract for nine months was for $4500.

Added Note from Carl: I graduated from the STC summer of 1960 after having attended there three years and three summers. My first teaching job was at McClusky, North Dakota. I taught there for three years. During this time I bought a 1962 Thunderbird. This was the first Thunderbird that was ever sold in Sheridan County. The kids asked me how I could afford to get a car like that. I told them that it was possible because I didn’t smoke or drink, or attend parties so I was able to save my money to buy this car.

My next teaching position was at Page High School in Page, North Dakota. This was a brand-new school and I taught there for seven years. During that time I had several student teachers from Valley City that I worked with. Their supervisor was going to go on leave of absence, so he asked me to apply to teach in his place. I did and was offered the nine-month contract. I had hoped to be able to be part of a expanding business department, but in the spring there was no opening. The VCSTC registrar came to my office one day and asked me to apply to be his assistant. I worked as an assistant for 13 years before becoming the registrar. I was at that position for 28 years, retiring in 1999.

We are now retired and living in an apartment. My wife retired from Farm Service Agency (FSA) the same year. She worked with making government program payments for farmers. We are enjoying retirement very much.

#494 – Dick Bernard: On New Years Eve, A look back to 1960

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

“What are you doing New Years…New Years Eve?”

For us, our six year old grandson will be an overnight guest tonight. That makes for a reasonably predictable “New Years Eve”.

As for the year just finishing, and the year ahead: 2011 depends on the interpreter; 2012 is as yet unknown. They’re all important, these New Years. Collectively we’ll be fashioning that six year olds future in the days and years ahead. We’re all he and all of his cohort, everywhere, have to depend on.

My favorite blogger, Alan, writing from LA, summarizes the year now ending in today’s Just Above Sunset posting.

His columns are long, but always a worthwhile read.

Earlier this week I took a stab at what’s ahead by reflecting on a college newspaper column I came across from November 3, 1960.

What I wrote follows: (if you’re one of those who wants to ‘cut to the chase’ read the bold-faced sections.)

Watching the Election Returns, November, 1960, in the "Rec Room" at Valley City ND State Teachers College. (from the 1961 Viking Annual)

“A TIME TO THINK”

I’m old enough to live in the fog of the “old days”.

But there are lessons…and teachers…from that past – people who are most often ‘anonymous’ or ‘unknown’. Here’s one such lesson, from someone called “Mac”.

Over 50 years ago – it was September 23, 1960 – a headline of the Viking News at Valley City State Teachers College (STC) proclaimed “Bernard Chosen as Viking News Editor”.

That fellow, Bernard, was me. Somebody concluded that I’d do okay at the job. Newspaper adviser Mary Hagen Canine kept copies of the fourteen issues published ‘on my watch’, and somehow the issues and the memories they record have managed to survive until the present day.

When that first issue published in late September, 1960, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were vying for President of the U.S.

NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had whistle-stopped Valley City in June. He was a possible Republican candidate. I went down to the City Park to hear him speak.

In that first Viking News, I wrote an editorial, part of which referred to a column on the same page called “Meditations” by “Mac”. Mac, I said, was “Charles Licha [who] attended STC several years ago”. He had returned “for his last quarter before graduation. He is married and is the father of five children, and presently holds the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army.”

November 3, 1960, right before the election, “Mac” wrote a long column including a section, “A Time to Think”, directed to we students, many of us not yet 21 and thus ineligible to vote.

The column would fit today as well as it did then:

In part: “Walking down the hall the other day, I was suddenly struck by the thought that here at STC, a wonderful thing is taking place. I’m speaking specifically about two tables that are placed in close proximity to the rec room door. As closely as I can determine, one of these tables is strictly Democrat while the other is strictly Republican…What party are you for? Which man do you think is the Best Man? What are your reasons for your choices? Even if all of you are not of voting age, every one of you should have an answer to these questions and others questions equally as important.

He continued, “just remember that a portion of this country is yours, just as surely as though you held title or deed to it! For that reason the selection of the Chief Executive and lesser dignitaries charged with the affairs of the nation and the individual states should be of immediate concern to you. An attitude that smacks of “My one vote makes no difference, “I won’t vote because I don’t like either man,” or “I just don’t have the time” is not only anti-patriotic and stupid, it’s anti-you, and a direct denial of your responsibilities.”

Capt. Licha died in 1975 at only 48. By 1965 he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam (scroll down for photo). He had earlier served in WWII and Korea, and was career Army. Residual effects of Malaria contracted in WWII contributed to his death at a young age. The last few years of his career he taught ROTC at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

Compared with the rest of we collegians, he was a ‘senior citizen’ of 33 when he wrote his column.

He spoke much wisdom 51 years ago.

We his modern day contemporaries might well listen, reflect on his final piece of advice: to “vote intelligently and wisely” in 2012.

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

#485 – Dick Bernard: Christmas 2011 “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” Matthew 22:39; “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

UPDATE Related December 2011 posts can be seen here, here and here.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Back yard at home in Woodbury MN December 4, 2011

The first Christmas letter for 2011 arrived shortly after November 1 from Fargo ND. I don’t keep track of such things, but this one had to be the earliest I’ve ever received.

The correspondents were long, long-time Christmas card regulars. They were both college classmates. (Today is 50 years since the last lecture of my final college class at Valley City (ND) State Teacher’s College. It was a Monday, and I wrote it down on a slip of paper I kept for years. Out of the chains of classes and tests!!!) Oh, what I didn’t know, then….

Fifty years, of course, have brought ruts in the road of life; wrong turns, good and not-so-good luck, and lots of “good neighbors” (most not of the ‘next door’ variety, or even individuals) to ease the bumps in the road.

We aren’t individuals on our own islands. Nor are we autonomous towns, states, even nations. We’re stuck together on this sphere called earth.

It soon became obvious why Bob and Deanne’s Christmas letter came early:This early report from Fargo is to alert all that we moved from Minot [ND] in mid-August after being driven from our home of 27 years by the raging Mouse [“Souris” in the original French] River.” There followed “good news, bad news”: they had been planning to move to Fargo anyway, and their house had been under construction since March; they had many family and friends to assist during the disaster and with the move. “We enjoyed a wonderful year until the end of May when we evacuated the first time. The dikes were raised and held, so we were allowed back by mid-June, only to be forced out later that month… [O]ur house suffered five feet of water on the main floor. We hired a firm to gut and sanitize (de-mold) the house which now is for sale as a “fixer-upper”. We hope to get at least 25 per cent of the pre-flood value.”

But, “[m]any of the 12,000 who evacuated from over 4,000 Minot homes still do not know where they will live this winter or if they will rebuild in the Souris [Mouse] River Valley. Officials may require about 1,000 homes be torn down…[under other circumstances] we now would be living in a FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] trailer while re-building our home…We take less for granted than before the flood.

The Christmas letter brought startling news, to say the least. It was easy to decide that this would be this years card (my 35th annual), with a “who is my neighbor?” theme. Personally, I was aware of the Minot flood, but that was all. For me, for most, being a ‘neighbor’ to Minot meant FEMA (Government) assistance paid through our taxes. This was a catastrophe much, much bigger than the neighborhood of Minot, or other smaller communities in the Souris River Valley, could handle by themselves.

The government (and its taxes) we’re being taught to despise is our base, our national infrastructure. We rely on good local, state, national government a great deal.

There are endless examples in all of our lives.

November 21 came a Thanksgiving card from Erlys, in a ND Nursing Home. She has been bed-ridden in a nursing home all the years I’ve known her. Only very rarely have I actually stopped in to visit – she was a nursing home friend of my deceased brother-in-law. Hers was just a brief note “neighbor to neighbor”. Am I her neighbor? Sure. Society is her “neighbor”. “Have a good holiday…and please return [the stamp] to me” (she apparently keeps them for some reason).

The “neighbor” text?*
For anyone Christian, this is the parable of the Good Samaritan – an outcast – who attended to a wounded and robbed traveler, while two righteous religious men passed him by along the dangerous Jericho road.

I’ve been on that actual road.

As in this example the Christian scriptures don’t give one slack when it comes to treatment of one’s “neighbors”, who are every one of us…. And the boundaries don’t stop at just “Christian”. (At the link, scroll down to Section II).
*
This message would have begun to end here, had it not been for another piece of totally unexpected news received Friday in the form of an e-mail from Fran Travisano of Glen Ridge NJ. Fran was instructor at a Retreat I attended in October, 2002, and she and her colleagues did an outstanding job. It was the only time she and I ever met in person, but we didn’t completely disappear from each others lives. We rarely kept in touch so this e-mail was a surprise.

Here is the e-mail:

[I] am writing this to you on [Fran’s] email under heartbreaking circumstances…

“My precious, Fran (Francesca) suffered a massive stroke Tuesday night and quickly fell into a coma. Her body was not able to repair the damage and she went home to be with the Lord Thursday night with her family by her side.

I’ve sent this email to everyone in her address book.

As you can imagine, our family is devastated by this unexpected loss. Moment after moment, we are reminded of exactly how many lives she touched with her deep love for everyone. Her charity work and involvement in so many organizations is testament to the incredible spirit within her.

I’d like people to remember her as “Francesca (Bongiovanni) Travisano” as she loved the identity her childhood name gave her.

There will be a wake this Saturday and Sunday with a funeral on Monday [in Kearny NJ].

In lieu of flowers, you can send a donation to one of her charities, “Good Grief.”

I passed the word along to a few I know who knew Fran, and even out here in the Midwest the affirmations came in.

And who is my neighbor?

Was Fran a “neighbor” of mine; and now, her family? Absolutely.

Everybody. Everywhere. All the time. We’re all neighbors, often invisible to the other; sometimes to be depended on; other times to depend on others.

Have a wonderful Holiday and Christmas

October 23, 2002, Fran Travisano is in 2nd row 4th from right.

SUGGESTED VIEWING: Now available on-demand, I Am, the Documentary. We saw it last spring. It is very positive, thought provoking, and related to this topic.

All best wishes this holiday season

* – Personal Opinion and Context for the “neighbors” text: At the time of Jesus, it is likely that entire area had a population of less than 100,000, perhaps half of that in Jerusalem; a population much smaller than today’s Fargo-Moorhead. The social safety net was people like the Samaritan. In our day, indeed for my entire life, the social safety net in our very complex and dispersed society has been “government”. We take the good of government for granted. Today “government” (excepting ‘war’ and ‘defense’) is being relegated to a status no better than the Samaritan. Watch the debates and read the news: “government” is now to be derided and ridiculed. Those looking forward to the continued strangulation and demonization of government best be careful lest they get what they wish for.

UPDATE Dec. 5 p.m.:
From a great friend in London who’s a lifelong Christian of Middle Eastern ancestry:
Loved it, & I have to admit I am envious of the view: trees in snow.

You are right the world is a very different place: 100,000 lived in that area then. 30,000,000 million live in the Tokyo area now & yet it is the safest metropolis where citizens are polite & helpful partly because of “do
unto others …”.

You are also absolutely right everyone is our neighbour. As a Protestant theologian friend in the (eternally!?) troubled Middle East wrote recently: “Christianity is not a political party that ultimately seeks its own
interests and considers survival to be the highest virtue. There is something very un-Christian, inhuman, and immoral about closing our ears and eyes to the brutal killing of even our enemies simply because they might do us harm in the future.”

Both of you are quite demanding. It’s really Christ who is that demanding & that’s what makes His message so compelling, for imagine what the world would be like! Could be like!?

From Flo in Park Rapids MN:
Yes, “Christ”mas. The focus seems to have eroded completely to the likes of Black Friday and everything that drives us toward consumerism and away from being good neighbors, first and foremost.

The very best of the holiday season to you and yours – throughout the new year! May neighbors far and near know peace with justice because of you!