To Know Me Is To Know My Family: Dad’s school days (#8)

Red Butte School in Hazen, North Dakota was where my Dad, Albert would attend 1st through 8th grade during his childhood. It was a Consolidated School, having a Library, Stage, and a basement which was the teachers living quarters and a large room that was converted into 2 rooms by drawing a wooden curtain down the middle of the classroom.

Getting to school was a story in itself. The horse drawn School Wagon would come to all the farms where the driver would pick up the children to attend school. Funny Wing, the driver would come each school day to pick up Dad and his siblings. Dad remembered him fondly and regularly got to sit by Funny Wing while he would lead the horses. There was a ladder in the back of the wagon, which was difficult for Dad to climb when he first started to attend 1st grade because he was so small. It didn’t help that a fellow student, Milton would at times step on my Dad’s little fingers as he climbed the ladder, making him cry.

Dad remembers his first day of school. His Mom saw him and his siblings off, helping him up the ladder of the school wagon. He carried his penny tablet and pencil in his hand. Because Dad’s family spoke only German in his home, he only knew 2 words in English, yes and no. His Mom taught him how to write his name so he would be able to write it on his class papers.

There was a little girl named Ester in his class that sat in the desk in front of him. He thought she was cute. To get her attention he would put her hair in the inkwell on his desk. She kind of liked the attention but her parents were not to happy. She came to school one day and told Dad he had to stop. Dad said he didn’t get in trouble because he turned on his charm and smoothed talked her. They remained friends. However, he never put her braids in the inkwell again.

He only can remember getting in trouble one other time at school. It was snowing out. Dad and his friend, Earl, where throwing snowballs. One snowball “accidently” slipped out of his hand and right through the basement window of the school. Dad’s father had to pay for it to get fixed and Dad had to work off the cost.

Dad did very well in school. Upon finishing the 8th grade, he took a test and got the 2nd highest number correct in the class. His teacher talked with his parents and suggested that Dad should further his education. Unfortunately, his parents could not afford to send Dad on to the school.

Shortly after my Dad graduated from school he was hired on as the School Wagon Driver. He made $60 a month. He enjoyed picking up the children and getting them to school safely. He was taking care of the horses by the school one day when a fire broke out on the prairie.  It was getting dangerously close to the school. Dad did not hesitate and hitched the horses to the wagon. He then gathered all of the children and took them for a ride. The local people around the area took damp rags and bucks of water to the fire. Once it was safe and the fire was out and Dad could see that there was no more smoke, he returned the children to the school.

Another one of Dad’s adventures driving the school wagon was during a blizzard. Dad had successfully returned the children to their homes. He was on his way to return the wagon and team of horses back to the school, when the blizzard was getting worse by the minute. He had no gloves and his hands were so cold. Soon he could not see where he was going. After much thought he let go of the reins in hopes that the horses would know the path so well they would lead them right back to the school. He returned safely and stayed the night in the classroom as it was to dangerous to go home. North Dakota can have some mighty powerful blizzards. I’m so happy he made it home safely.

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