Harry Larson – Erling Landsverk’s first grade teacher
Story from Erling Landsverk (44): Portage, WI
The story is off to Janice Myhre, and I am attaching a copy for you along with many thanks for your help. I actually am thinking about publishing it. . Or perhaps include it in a book of short stories I have been working on. At 83 years of age, I guess I better do something before I begin to get elderly. I do spend a lot of time with my music. I play the guitar, both classical, and popular favorites along with Latin American and of course a smattering of rag time just to keep the audience from walking out too soon. Its been a great life, and now I can do some things I always wanted to pursue. Thanks again Gary for your most welcome help and kind words.
Erling, Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful well written story of your childhood school days with Harry Larson as your teacher. You bring back many memories to those of us a little younger too. You mention Florence Christianson in your story too. She married Vernon Williams. Several of her children are on our distribution. Lori is married to Ray Lagerquist, whom I know well.
Folks, Janice Myhre is Harry Larson’s daughter. She lives in Spokane, WA. Janice returned my phone call last week. We had a nice chat. She said her dad was dedicated to his teaching an absolutely loved every minute in the class room. Teaching was the love of his life. Until Erling got in touch with her, she had not known that her dad had taught at Loon Lake school. Harry Larson is listed in the Dunseith book as being hired to teach in Dunseith in 1937.
Folks, I have attached, in a Word Document, Erling’s story. I have also pasted a copy at the very end of today’s blog.
Reply from Jeri (Fosbert) Neameyer wife of Gordon Neameyer (55):Moorhead, MN
Seeing my aunt and uncle Grace and Benny Frovarp mentioned in Brenda Hoffman’s article I just have to share a little about the time we would visit with Grace and Benny. My sisters and I would spend a couple days every year with them and playing with Sharon and Charlene Pearson. They knew where to go and we would go through the tunnels and remember them being very hot. Had lots of treats at the commissary and ate in the dining room. I thought the apartment that the Pearson lived in was the greatest, it was at the top of the one building and could look out and see all over the area. It was fun times at San Haven. I remember the Hoffman name but Brenda was much younger. I think they lived in one of those green houses along the tunnel sidewalk. I thought those people had it made–they never had to clean house or cook meals.
I read about all of you having had Don Johnson as a teacher and I should have wrtten about how we in Rolette also had Don as our choir director when he taught at Rolette High School in the late 50’s. He was very well liked and remember he always closed his concerts with “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” He alwys had everybody singing there best.
Reply from Bob Hosmer (56): Lynnwood, WA
Hi Gary and all,
All the memories of San Haven and Mona Johnson’s remarks on the Laundry spurs me to comment as well.
One summer (or part of a summer) in the ’50s, I worked with Chuck and Mona at the Laundry as a teenager.
I remember the steaming of the prepared soap in the barrels used in those big washing machines. It was an amazing experience working with them–watching Chuck dump those bloody gauzes in the floor sink and running cold water over them to get all that blood washed out before washing them and getting them ready for use in OR again. They both were so gracious and patient with me during that summer. And seeing how husband and wife worked together as a team made a deep, lasting impact on me; so that my own marriage operates as a husband and wife team in all our work.
I miss the beauty of San Haven. I loved to go there whenever I could. We used to bicycle there, run in the tunnels and enjoy the freshness of everything. Once in a while the family would go up to have dinner on a Sunday in the dining room. It’s hard to go back and see the destruction done to the facility. But the memories are precious. Bob Hosmer
Reply from Aggie Casavant (69): Fort Mill, SC
I found Brenda Hoffmans memories of the San interesting. It’s like it was a little suburb of Dunseith,with it’s own stories within it self. I never realized so many families lived up there.
I worked night shift at the San for like 2years with my cousin David Casavant,and Gerard Barbot,after moving back to N.Dakota when my brother Jimmy got burned at his graduation party. I remember it being alot of fun,playing cards all night and telling ghost stories.You could really get attached to some of the patients.
I remember from where we lived on the farm,at sunset during the summer months,the sun would hit the windows of the San,and it would look like the whole place was on fire. I remember us kids would come running in the house hollering,”Mama!Mama! the Sans on fire! The first time we said it, it startled her,but after that she was like “whatever”.
Brenda,don’t worry about your spelling,no one can be as bad as me. It was the only subject in school I was good at,but as the years go by it looks like my spelling has gone the way of my “math,and history” grades. LOL …you know it’s bad when the computer age even offers spell check…and I still can’t get it right….don’t know how to use… Oh but lifes Great! Ms.Aggie
From Vickie Metcalfe (70): Bottineau, ND.
Hey there Gary and all,
Its Saturday afternoon in Bottineau town. I just rang up Ed
Berg, maternal Grandpa of Brandon Halvorson and inquired how that
cowboy is getting along. Grandpa Ed told me, Brandon is out of the
hospital and under the TLC of his mom Becky.
I said, “I suppose if I asked Brandon how he was doing he
would have, responded with a doing fine and shrugged it off.
Grandpa Ed said, “Yes, he would but, Brandon will have a long,slow
recovery probably up to three months. He’s in a lot of pain, as his
muscles were severely damaged. The doctors told him broken bones
would have been far less painful , taken less time to heal, and he
needs to also recover from that concussion. ”
Lets all continue sending warm thoughts and get well
wishes to Brandon the Halvorson cowboy who hung on in the saddle as
long as he could, then survived many of pounds of horseflesh rolling
over, squishing him in the muck and says……… “doin fine”.
Reply from Keith Pladson (66): Stafford, VA
Like you, I’m far from being a great bowler. But I enjoy the game regardless of what my average is. We are a money league, but also a fun league. The difference is that on the real money leagues, the players are very competitive, the prize fund is higher (thus it costs more to bowl) and many bowlers carry averages of well over 200. I’ve bowled on some of those and never really enjoyed them — too competitive. In contrast, our league is all about having a good time, and if you win some money at the end of the season, great! That doesn’t mean our bowlers aren’t competitive, they (we) are, but it’s just not the same. We have bowlers with averages of 220 or higher, but we also have many who carry averages of around 100. As for me, I’m somewhere in the middle. Last year I finished the year with a 172 (which is right around where I usually am). Unfortunately, this year (through week 6 of 32) I’ve been in a bit of a slump and am struggling to stay above 160. Oh well, there are many weeks to go. Keith Pladson (66)
Keith, It’s nice to be competitive, but having fun is the name of the sport. I inquired about the bowling fees for pleasure bowling here in the Philippines and one can choose to pay by the game or by the hour. By the game it’s $1.20. The hourly lane rate is $3.00. Our league collects $1.00 per game from each of it’s players and then pays the hourly rate. Our league makes money on the deal.
Reply to Angelina Metcalfe, Gary’s Granddaughter
From Ele Dietrich Slyter (69): Dunseith, ND.
A few years ago I heard of a diet that helps with some seizure patients. It is called the Ketogenic Diet (spelling?) and has done wonders for a lot of people. Johns Hopkins hospital was in charge of this diet, but that may have changed. Apparently, this diet can actually stop the seizures, but it is very strict and must be done very carefully under doctors supervision. If it works the patient does not have to be on it for the rest of their lives either. Johns Hopkins published an article that stated even those who did not stop having seizures at least were helped in that the episodes became less severe and did not happen as often. They said no one has regretted trying the diet.
Just a thought that may help Angelina, or at least be something that they may want to look into for her.
Erling Landsverk’s Story
The ensuing story is an account of my experience with an unforgettable individual who was also my teacher during my first year of elementary school.
It is important to remember that although I relate this story as a young boy, much of my understanding and comments about him, came later as a result of my vivid memory of what he did as a teacher and why. The setting of this story is equally important, because it reflects the economic conditions of our country,the feeling of distrust of our elected officials, and the banking industry, coupled with a drought so severe as to challenge that ofOklahomaduring the same time period. It was a beautiful area that at times was uninviting due to extreme cold, and unpredictable weather.However this same area wasinhabited by strong willed and determined high plains people that looked for ways to solve their problems, and did so with resolve.These same people had a high regard for education, and were determined to ensure a proper education for their offspring’s.My own parents were among those great folks for which I am most grateful.Many of the young students in this area went on to perform a great service to their community, their State and our Country.I am certain that the teacher in this story must have had an influence on many of these during his teaching career.
The year was 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt had just been sworn in as our new president, and the country was in the depths of a severe depression.This story takes place in theTurtleMountainsregion ofNorth Dakotathat was suffering a drought that was causing indescribable damage to the land and its inhabitants. This all sounds quite grim given the immediate outlook at that time, but to a 6 year old boy beginning his first day of school, nothing seemed to matter except the new adventure of attending school.The hot dry days of summer passed slowly it seemed, but finally the day arrived, and I trooped off with my three older siblings (Rolf, Borghild, & Ossie) into the next chapter of my life.
We walked on wagon trails that wound through deep woods, around meadows and over dry creek beds for a mile and a half until we caught sight of the little school.There were children playing near the building and then I saw a tall man waiting on the steps of the school. I asked my siblings who he was, and they said that he must be the new teacher they had learned was going to teach us this year.As we drew near he calledouta greeting to my older siblings, and asked their names, after looking at a note book he had in his hand, he turned to me asked them , “who is this young man? They told him that I was their younger brother and that I was just starting my first year. He smiled shook my hand and asked, can you tell me your name?I stammered my name, Erling, and he smiled and said “you must be Norwegian”.I nodded and he directed me inside to a seat. After a few minutes he took a small bell from his desk, went out on the porch and rang it summoning everyone inside to begin school. He began by calling out names and asked the pupil what grade he or she was in, then he seated them at appropriate desks. This took only a short time, but at the end of the seating arrangement he noticed four boys who looked older than my oldest brother Rolf, and Rolf was 14 years old.The teacher asked them if they wanted to attend classes.They told him that they were just going to watch.The teacher said that this would not do, and they should leave.The leader of the group stepped forward a few paces towards the teacher and said that they did not have to leave and that they were going to stay. After hearing this the Teacher took a couple of quick steps toward the leader, grabbed him by his shirt front and loudly told him, “I said leave”, whereupon he gave the boy a shove that sent him sprawling in the aisle.There was a dead silence in the room, and the big boys looked at the Teacher in astonishment and quickly left the school.The Teacher turned to the students in the class room and said, “Those bullies won’t bother you any more and you are here to learn and I intend to see that you do”.I learned later that the boys that the Teacher had directed to leave had been bullying students and intimidating lady teachers for the past couple of years, and so the school officials felt that it was time to stop it.That was quickly accomplished by our new Teacher, Mr. Harry Larson! That was his name and as he stood at the front of the room he wrote his name on the blackboard, repeated his name and told us that we could address him as Mr. Larson, or Teacher, and that he was there to help everyone learn and ask him questions anytime except for the time he was conducting a class.
Mr. Larson began with my two classmates and myself, by giving us instructions on how to write our names. And to keep practicing until we could do it well. He continued by giving us an encouraging word, he must have known how surprised and fearful we were after the initial scuffle that took place. His manner with us was entirely different and we began to look at him with admiration and wonder, as I believe all the students did. The morning recess came and ended to soon we thought. Mr. Larson continued to assign work to each class until the noon hour.We all had our lunch and began playing when Mr. Larson came out to the small playground and called everyone to gather around.After all were near, he asked how many of us would like a place to play ball. Everyone held up their hands or shouted yes.Mr. Larson pointed out an area east of the school and said, we will have to clear that land right there and we will begin tomorrow, and I expect you to all help during your morning and noon recess. The very next day, Mr. Larson brought an axe and at the morning recess instructed the older boys to pile up the small trees and brush as he cut it. He gave the girls a rake and a basket and told them to haul the leaves and twigs to a designated place off the playground.Everyone had something to do, and after about two weeks of hard work, the area had been cleared of the undergrowth and small trees.A nearby farmer brought a horse drawn disc over and leveled the ground so the players could run without stumbling.Mr. Larson gathered us all together at the new ball field and told us that we had a new ball diamond because we were willing to work and build one.Then he said the same applies to your school work, if you want to learn and have good grades, you must work for it. We all grew quiet; I will always remember that lesson. Looking back, onecould say it was basic, but I think it was more than a simple basic lesson, consider how we learned to set goals, we learned creativity and planning, we learned working cooperatively for a common goal, we learned consideration and compassion for each other as we moved towardsthe final outcome. Mr. Larson was more than a teacher of reading, writing and arithmetic.He taught human values that would sustain us for a lifetime.
We had given up some of our play time to achieve a ball field, but we had not given up class time, and with the encouraging words from Mr. Larson, the classes forged ahead with surprising result. Report cards that we all compared before bringing them home for our parents to inspect and sign began to show better and higher achievement signs.Deportment was also considered quite important by Mr. Larson, and the improvement in that area was also evident. I remember listening to older classes recite, and at times Mr. Larson would use a competitive quiz to spark more interest, and just when one would think he would only ask those who were waving their hands, he would walk down to the silent student and quietly ask for an answer, to the question he had just posed.Most times the student knew the answer but was to shy to enter into the noisy portion of the quiz.By going down to the student and receiving a correct answer he would say loudly, “that is correct” I know this helped the shy student build up self confidence.I know, because Mr. Larson also used this practice on myself, for which I am most grateful.He seemed to have an uncanny way of increasing a students desire to learn.
In those early days, there was no PTA, but Mr. Larson, simply visited the homes of the children that attendedLoonLakeSchool# 2.This gave him the opportunity to discuss the child’s progress with the parents, and to get an understanding of the child’s home life and get acquainted with the parents. As I reflected on these visits, it became increasingly apparent that he was accomplishing more than a single purpose, he began a friendly relationship with the parents, he looked for anything that might be the cause of a behavioral problem, if there were any and also find ways to improve the students study skills. By late October he had completed his visits to the families, and of course he had also visited our home.On that day, he walked home with us, and mother invited him to stay for supper.He accepted, and as the meal progressed, he discussed each of us with our parents.It went quite well for all of us and after the discussion, he looked around at us and said, they are doing quite well, but there is always room for improvement.I believe that was his way of saying that we were all doing O K. but he always encouraged us to do better.WhileMr. Larson, Mother and Dad were finishing their coffee, Mr. Larson mentioned that he had learned of our parents talents for music, and asked if they would play a couple of numbers for him. Mother and Dad never refused a request if they had time, so Mother seated herself at the piano and Dad took down his Violin and they proceeded to play a couple of classical numbers. Then Dad turned to me and said why don’t you get the banjo and show Mr. Larson how you can play.I had pestered my Dad for the past year to help me learn some simple chords on the banjo, and Dad was more than happy to do that, but I was pretty nervous when it came to playing for Mr. Larson, but Dad asked me, and I knew better than to disobey.We all three played some folk tunes, with my brother Ossie chiming in with his harmonica.When we finished Mr. Larson applauded and said he enjoyed the entertainment, then he excused himself and said he had to leave. After he left, Mother and Dad remarked that he certainly appeared to be a good man and surely was interested in our education,
Mr. Larson had innovative skills in dealing with nearly everything he was faced with.As winter came on snowy and cold, the recess activities were addressed in the most unusual ways. Because of the depression, the school district had no funds for playground equipment, so Mr. Larson proceeded to invent team games, using whatever materials were at hand, such as fire wood, logs, and an imaginative mind.The result was a game called by steal stix. A very exciting game that gave all the students an opportunity to participate.The game provided great physical exercise, good balance and quick decisions on the part of the players.This game was played outside only when weather permitted.On bad days, Mr. Larson organized tic tac toe contests between teams of players, and they used the two large blackboards at the front of the room. He used the little board on the east side of the room to teach us younger folks how to play the game. Sometimes he even let us make paper airplanes, and then he instructed us about air currents by flying a paper airplane over the warm air register atthe front of the room, explainingthat warm air rises and cold air falls toward the ground, and how it affects airplanes. A short physics lesson to think about.He applied learning to virtually everything including our recreational time. Attendance was very good, and reflecting on it years later, it was because he used many unusual ways of teaching that opened up new worlds for the students, and the students found themselves eager to learn more.
The days passed quickly and soon we found ourselves preparing for the annual Christmas program. Mr. Larson approached the program with the same enthusiasm as other academic work.He handed out dialogues, for the Nativity scene, then he listened to trial readings, and chose the participants by their ability to perform well, giving other parts to those who preferred less exposure. Everyone worked hard on their parts, and Mr. Larson was very determined to teach all of us the true meaning of Christmas, in the Christian sense, and avoided chatter about Old Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, although he never objected to students talking about it on their own time.The Christmas Carols were rehearsed and rehearsed until Mr. Larson was satisfied with the performance. On the day before the program, Mr. Larson asked me to bring my banjo to school. During our final practice, Mr. Larson asked me to play the banjo and then he assembled about 6 boys and told them to sing Oh Susannah, while I played the Banjo. Everyone knew the words because the song was heard a lot and was heard on many records of vaudeville entertainers.After he heard us, Mr. Larson said he was going to have us entertain the next night. The evening of the Christmas program was a beautiful and somewhat warmer evening, and our little school was filled to overflowing with parents and neighbors. The Program was an important part of the school curriculum, and about the only live entertainment in our little neighborhood, given the state of the nation, and the distance to the nearest town. The program went well, and just before the closing Carol, Mr. Larson trooped out myself and the 6s boys including my brother Ossie, and with a smile announced to the people gathered in the school room that he had a special treat for everyone, where upon he signaled to us to begin.He had placed some old straw hats on our heads and we sang Oh Susannah at the top of our lungs with me doing my best to play the banjo.At the end of our number the applause was deafening.The closing carol was Silent Night, Holy Night, and Mr. Larson asked everyone to join with the students in that beautiful Christmas song. The response was immediate as if the whole world were raising their voices to Heaven. Whenever I recall that particular Christmas, I believe something special happened that night and the entire crowd sang as one that brought a sacred aura into our little school. Somehow, Mr.Larson had managed to reach the people witha message of hope that Christmas that brought them peace of mind despite the many problems that prevailed, and also to give theman opportunity to laugh and enjoy our little act, all in a way that must have given anxious parents a more positiveand optimistic outlook. Harry Larson distributed the bags of candy for all the children, including yours truly and when he handed me my bag he whispered a thank you for the banjo music. Everyone there exchanged Christmas greetings and enjoyed a good old fashioned visiting session.Then it was a ride home on the bob sled and enjoy the two weeks of vacation ahead.
When we returned after our Christmas vacation, we found that we had more snow to walk through and the temperature seemed determined to stay below zero most of the time.No Matter, Mr. Larson continued to urge all of us to improve in our particular grade, and make every effort to make the last half of the year just as good as or better than the first half.I found myself and my classmates doing work in the second grade, Mr. Larson also encouraged us to memorize many things because he said when you have memorized them you will always remember them when you need them the most. I also remember his lesson in honesty and ethics very well.One of the students in a higher grade was caught cheating on a test they were taking.Mr. Larson asked the student why he hadn’t studied the text book so he would know the answers to the test questions.Then he said, “If you got away with cheating, do you think it would be fair to deceive your parents by having a grade you didn’t deserve”.Then he turned to the rest of the class and said that if you cheat on a test you are only cheating yourself, because sooner or later you will be found out, and then you would be considered not trust worthy and undependable.He explained further that if you fail to get a top grade, at least the grade you got was an honest one and that if you really want to you can improve by studying harder. The school year ended with all of the students maintaining a great attendance record, and a marked improvement in their grades,learned this from my older siblings.Mr. Larson did not return to LoonLakeSchoolthe next year, and we missed his way of making learning an interesting way of life.I saw Mr. Larson 4 years later when our family moved to Dunseith for one winter, and our 5th grade class had a math class across the hall in an adjoining classroom.I walked into the class room and looked at the front for the teacher and there was Mr. Larson. He noticed me at about the same time, and he came to my desk and called me by my name, shook my hand and asked about myself.I was delighted to receive so much attention from him, but then I remembered that he treated all his students that way.I never saw My Teacher after that, but I am often reminded of him and have never forgotten the way he taught, and great lessons he taught us all
He made our schoolwork an adventure in learning, which only encouraged us to study harder and learn more.We also learned about Ethics, Honesty, Compassion for others, Fair Play, Courtesy, working together respect and Belief in Deity, Help one another.I am sure that many teachers work very hard to help their students in similar ways, but to me Harry Larson is the epitamy of what a teacher should be. Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t relatethis humorous incidentthat aptlydescribeshim as a teacher; My sister borg had the good fortune or seeing him at one the earliestall school reunions held at Dunseith, wherein the course ofdiscussing old memories she asked if he remembered how embarrassed her and her class mate Florence Christianson were when he had them demonstrate some foolish prank they weredoing when Mr. Larson caught them, andthen suggested firmly that they should perform this prank in front of the entire school, which they did.Yes he said, however he said, “you deserved it didn’t you”?He laughed and gave her a hug.
Most of us have a teacher or someone special whom we remember with fondness and respect.I am certain that Harry Larson has many of his former students including those who are not with us now that number in the hundreds as someone we all remembering with fondness and respect.