Monthly Archives: November 2011

To Teach

I was very idealistic when I got my first teaching job at the Little Falls Middle School.  I taught Language Arts and Reading to sixth graders. I remember saying, “I will stay after school, come in early, evenings and weekends—anything to be able to help kids learn to read!” I also remember the more ‘seasoned’ teachers rolling their eyes at me, yet that didn’t curb my enthusiasm.

Having between 135-150 students per day, all on a variety of reading levels, interests, strengths and weaknesses, curbed my enthusiasm just a bit.  In my minds-eye I can see myself sitting at my desk long after the students had left, trying to think up ways to make the out-dated Houghton-Mifflin reading series we were using more interesting. No extra time, no extra help, no extra resources, just make the ‘magic’ happen.

During my third year I was blessed, and many teachers would say cursed, with the opportunity to work with a group of students who were far beyond the basal level materials we were using.  They were the ‘TAG’ –talented and gifted students- and no one really wanted to differentiate the curriculum for them, it was simply too much work.  I can still see Sarah B.’s face as she looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Do teachers really think that I am stupid enough to zip through this worksheet, just to be given another?  I figured out long ago that if I don’t do the first, the teacher will think that I ‘can’t’, and will give me less work.”  I went home that day and threw out all of my planned lessons for them.  I rethought what I would do for these students, and how we would do it together.  Many of them were leagues smarter than me, but I knew that I could guide them to learning new things, in new ways.

I turned to literature—not the basal reading books, but really well done literature from all genres. I remembered how literature had changed my life when I was bored with whatever was being ‘taught’~ whether it was spelling or math; I had a book in my lap. My mother was outraged when Sister M. called and told her that I had to stop reading in class. I knew then that I had an ally in pursuing any book that I wanted to read.

In literature I found for my students a wealth of ideas from poetry to historical fiction, to biography, to technical writing.  We found things to read, reflect on, write about, and act out.  At the end of that year I recall Sarah B. saying, ‘Ugh! Mrs. S., I hate it when you make me think!”  Success!

I continued to struggle to stay ahead of (and often didn’t!) and challenge my ‘TAG’ students throughout my career.  I realized early on that ALL students are talented and gifted, just in different ways, and all students deserve to have thought put into what and how they are being taught, all deserve a differentiated curriculum.  Literature, and their love of learning– and all students have that– kept me motivated for nearly 30 years.

What do I miss most about being a teacher in Morrison County?  The students and the literature, and that they made ME ‘think’!

-P. Sharon

Date of Essay: October 24, 2011

To Be a Frannie Girl

Those of us who attended St. Francis High school in the 1960s were called Frannie Candies. I started high school in 1962. We didn’t have to wear uniforms, but dresses or skirts. The skirts had to touch the floor when you knelt down. Of course, when waiting for the bus, we rolled over the band to shorten them up. We were an all-girls school – boarding and day students. The high school boys, of course, liked to drive around the school and try to talk to the girls – of course the public school girls hated us.

We played half-court basketball in those days – wore blue gym suits. You didn’t want to sweat, so tumbling was the most strenuous thing we did in Phys. Ed.

We were a giggly bunch of girls. One time in science class we all climbed out the window. We had a first year teacher. Well, we all had to write “I must be a lady,” 500 times.

President Kennedy was killed in my sophomore year. When announced, we went to the chapel to pray. I’ll never forget that day.

They were good years – we had fun. In our senior year we got to have one of the first proms. Of course we were told we could not dance body-to-body. What would kids think now?

During the Cuban Missile Crisis we filled sand bags to fill the ends of the tunnels in case of war.

We watched the first unmanned space flight in the gym on T.V. – of course black and white.

They were years of change. The Vietnam War was going on. People started to think about protests. Young men we knew were going off to war after graduation.

The nuns still wore the black habits, so you could always hear them coming. We always tried to guess their hair coloring and age.

I graduated in 1965. Those years you either got married, went to college, or went to work. I went to work at the J.C. Penney store as an office cashier. In those days we got paid every week in cash. I made $1.25 an hour. My rent was $40 a month. Things were a lot cheaper then.


Date of Essay: October 24, 2011

To Be a Paper Boy

The newspaper business has changed and evolved over the years. Little Falls now has “the Record,” a collection of local stories of interest, advertisements, and classified goods and services, and news of activities, events, and school information. One can find the St. Cloud Times, Brainerd Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and St. Paul Pioneer Press at vending machines outside local restaurants. However, for many years a classic paper was published on Broadway in downtown Little Falls called the Little Falls Daily Transcript.

Everyday a new paper was published by 3:00 p.m. and newspaper boys would pick up their ‘paper bag’ with the Transcript logo on the side and head out on their ‘routes’ through the city on bicycles. We didn’t throw the paper at the house or porch as seen in movies. We would walk up each walk and place the paper in the mailbox on the house. (At that time mailboxes were on the house or door, not out by the curb or in the country.)

The variety of characters met on a paper route is diverse, and taught me a great deal about people. Sun, rain, wind or snow, the route would have to be completed Monday through Friday after school.  Moving through the route took about an hour and fifteen minutes. My route wound through my Southeast neighborhood and covered about four miles.

We learned to put the bag over the back fender of the bike to prevent it from always being on our shoulder. If one walked, or in the winter, the bag would be carried.

It was a pleasant experience for the most part and people would be grateful for their daily paper. Sometimes we would encounter a territorial dog and this presented problems. At one house there were several large German shepherds who would dig large holes by the front of the house. They would be looking suspiciously at me each day as I walked past large bones they had gnawed on where they laid. Fortunately, they never decided I was a threat as I carefully laid the paper at the door and retreated.

Most frightful was a large brown dog at the Rosenmeier house; he would charge down the hallway and leap on the white curtains at the sound of the mailbox lid opening. Fortunately, he was almost always inside the house.

My brother, who also had a paper route, was, unfortunately, not so lucky. One time a small white dog growled at him as he approached and slowly laid the paper on the step and retreated. He would have escaped unharmed, but he decided to run when he reached the halfway mark of the sidewalk. At that moment the small dog bounded down the sidewalk and bit on to the seat of his pants. He ran several steps before the little dog decided to let go. Unfortunately, he needed a shot from the doctor as he had two little red marks on his bottom!

Every two weeks or so we would knock on doors of the customers and say, “Collect, please,” as the weekly cost of the paper was 25¢ in the early 1960s. Most people paid promptly. We heard several excuses why people could not pay on time. – one was, “My dog chewed up my wallet” – so we would return the next week.

To be sure, the memories of being a paper boy were mostly pleasant. I have saved my paper bag as a fond memory to this day.

-Dan G.

Date of Essay: October 24, 2011

To be a Member of the Genealogy Society

A new organization was being formed and started in Morrison County. I attended the charter meeting and wasn’t even sure what genealogy was or how to spell it, but had always enjoyed stories told by my grandfather, even if he was not from this county. But my spouse’s family had definite Morrison County roots, I believe. Needless to say, I have found my membership most fulfilling, but far from complete is my family search and, my, how the surname list does grow. Though my genealogy has not been on fast forward, the many special friends and projects are equally important. Who would think friends would consider a cemetery excursion exciting? Well, it can be, and especially if something searched for is found.

-Anne B.

Date of Essay: October 24, 2011

To be a Census Taker in 2010

I had seen the advertisement for helping to take the census in the newspaper. I was working part-time then, but thought this sounded like a job that would be fun and I would get to meet a lot of new people and get paid for it. I did apply and after a nice lengthy test, I was hired. The training was set up and a group of people were to meet for a week to learn how the government wanted the job done.

One of the very first things we had to do was fill out forms and be fingerprinted. I really was surprised that they did background checks on us, checking for any criminal history.

Then it was time to start learning how things were to be done. How they wanted the questions asked and the forms filled out. After a week of this, we were sent in a group to a certain area. The very first house we went to had a log chain across the driveway with a beware of dog sign attached. One of us finally got out and knocked on the door. Guess what? No one was home.

The job was very fascinating. It was fun finding new areas of Morrison County that I never knew existed. Visiting with some very nice people, even if you were to only ask the questions on the form.

There were quite a few vacant homes. This made you wonder if they were just summer people or if there was no one living there any longer. Some you could tell were not lived in when you saw broken windows or part of the house was burnt.

A very enjoyable job.


Date of essay: October 24, 2011