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Reminiscing of school days past

Top row, left to right: Celeste Podolske, Irene Iverson, Jan Shogren, Brad Lantz, Carole Wall Fleischer Magnuson; bottom row: Helen I. Johnson, Shirley (Hope) Bisek, Claire Morrison, Kathryn LeBrasseur, Harold Podolske.

Retired teachers will share their memories in the country schoolhouse at the Douglas County Fair. Everyone is invited to come talk with them and hear their stories. Retired teachers taking part in this year's fair are listed below, along with the time they will be in the schoolhouse.

Irene Iverson

Friday, August 21 • 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Irene Iverson graduated from high school in 1954 and took a nine-month teacher training course in Fergus Falls. She did her practice teaching in Dalton, and in 1955 began teaching 11 students at District 150 "Island School" in Hewitt, earning $250 a year.

She remembers the oil burning stove and outdoor toilets and recalls calling the school board in after catching a boy smoking in the outhouse. The school closed the next year. She then taught at Hiway Park for two years, with 18 students in grades 1-12, earning $255 a year. She had to shovel coal for the stove, but this school had indoor toilets.

In 1956 she married Willard Iverson. While he was in the service, she stayed at school family homes while teaching in Holmes City and Garfield. She took evening classes in Elbow Lake and Wadena, completing a four-year degree at St. Cloud State. She taught at the Leaf Valley School from 1967 to 1970 and did tutoring in Alexandria. She eventually got a special education degree. Her last teaching position was at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria. She retired in 1996.

Romayne Strand

Friday, August 21 • 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Romayne Strand was born and raised in Alexandria. She attended teacher training for two years at the Colorado Women's College in Denver. She finished her degree at St. Cloud State.

In 1951, she started teaching at St. Paul Park, earning $2,400 her first year.

From 1952 to 1957 she taught in Osakis, and in 1958 she started teaching for the Alexandria school district, teaching at Washington, Lincoln, Carlos and Garfield at various times. She recalls being required to wear dresses and nylons. She also recalls earning $6,765 in 1971. Her salary increased to $35,998 by the time she retired in 1991.

Some of the biggest changes she has noticed over the years are the changes in family structure, and the fact that children are growing up more quickly today.

The highlight of her career was being chosen Teacher of the Year for District 206 in 1981-82.

She said she enjoys going to school for her grandchildren's activities to see how things have progressed.

Claire Morrison

Thursday, August 20 • 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Claire Morrison graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School. He attended St. Cloud State College for two years and finished his degree at Hamline University. In 1949, he began teaching in Alexandria, earning $2,450, plus an additional $100 for coaching football. In 1951 he received a master's degree from North Dakota Agricultural College.

Morrison taught social studies, American history, and later a consumer education class. He coached freshman football, losing only one game in eight years, and assisted the varsity level coach.

Morrison also served as executive secretary of the athletic conference for many years. During the summers he was a baseball umpire and worked for the telephone company.

Morrison retired in 1984 after 36 years of teaching and 25 years of coaching. He has remained active in the athletic world. He was a KXRA broadcaster for the Alexandria football team for 21 years. He and his wife winter in Fort Myers, Florida, where he works for the Minnesota Twins in security and ushering.

Carole Wall

Fleischer Magnuson

Thursday, August 20 • 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Carole Wall Fleischer Magnuson recalls moving from a rural consolidated school in 5th grade to a one-room rural school, noting the differences were "huge." She said the winter wind seemed to blow through the building, there were outdoor toilets, no screens on the windows, no play equipment, and parents had to bring water.

Teaching was a family tradition - her mother, two sisters and brother all taught. In 1960, Magnuson went to Valley City Teachers College, earning a two-year degree that allowed her to teach elementary in a town school.

In 1962 she taught 2nd grade in Oakes, North Dakota, earning $2,200. Two years later she taught 4th grade in Breckenridge, increasing her salary by $1,200.

She later married and had children, but did go back to school for her preschool certification. She taught at Zion Preschool in Alexandria from 1977 to 1990. She retired after teaching a total of 16 years.

Harold & Celeste Podolske

Thursday, August 20 • 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Celeste Podolske graduated from high school in Butterfield in 1953 and attended Mankato State for four years to get a teaching degree. She married Harold Podolske in 1957, and started teaching in Janesville for $3,700 year. She taught kindergarten two years, teaching 36 children in the morning and 34 in the afternoon without an assistant.

In 1959 the couple moved to Osakis, where Celeste taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. She was also a spring primary teacher, which prepared students for 1st grade, since there was no kindergarten at the time. She was there until 1967, when she left to teach for two and a half years at Washington Elementary in Alexandria. She served as a substitute teacher for 24 years.

Harold, also a graduate of Mankato State, completed his schooling with the help of a $75 scholarship. He did his student teaching in Norwood Young America, and later taught industrial arts in Osakis, where he also served as audio visual advisor. An allergy to dust forced him to quit teaching. He spent 27 years in the insurance business prior to retirement.

Helen I. Johnson

Date and time to be announced

Helen Johnson grew up in Alexandria. She recalls attending the "old, old Washington School." She graduated from high school in 1935 and attended one year of training at the old Central High School.

She completed her practice teaching at Washington. In 1936 she started teaching in a school by the Evergreen Cemetery, known as the "Roth School" because of all the Roths that attended.

She later taught in District 9 by Lake Louise for three years, where she was paid up to $60 month. She went to Moorhead State to get a two-year teaching degree, and then taught grades 3-5 for one year in Nelson under the county system.

She taught for two years in Evansville, taking a Greyhound bus back and forth her first year. The second year she drove a 1948 Dodge. She then started teaching 4th grade at Washington School and later switched to 2nd grade. She stayed at Washington for 30 years.

In 1975 she retired.

Shirley (Hope) Bisek

Friday, August 21 • 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Shirley (Hope) Bisek graduated from high school in 1934 during the Depression. She couldn't afford college and there were no jobs available, so she signed up for an extension course in teacher training. Thirteen people were accepted from each county for the training, which was held for one year at the old Central School in Alexandria. Her last six weeks of training were spent teaching kindergarten. She also spent time in other schools practice teaching.

Bisek started teaching in 1935 for $45 a month. She taught for seven years at Jefferson School, District 30 on the Carlos prairie. She usually had about 15 students in grades 1-8. Her pay increased to $60 a month. She then taught one year at Union Lake District 6. There she had to build fires in the stove, and there was only outdoor plumbing. For a couple years the government provided canned food, which was warmed on the stove for lunch.

Kathryn LeBrasseur

Saturday, August 22 • 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Kathryn LeBrasseur graduated from the University of Minnesota. She taught junior and senior high English and social studies in Cloquet for $3,400 a year. In 1953 she taught in Tuscon, Arizona, adding speech classes to her duties. In 1954 she married and moved to St. Louis Park, teaching there five years. From 1959 to 1968 she taught in Willmar, and from 1969 to 1975 at a Catholic school in Superior, Wisconsin. From 1975 to 1979 she taught in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she received Teacher of the Year honors.

The students in Alaska took on a project, which she notes is a highlight of her career - they built a log cabin. They raised money, purchased materials, took classes to learn how to build it, and did the construction. It has become a school exhibit and is located in Alaskaland Park, a commercial recreation area. LeBrasseur later moved to Alexandria, where she was unable to get a teaching position, and instead became director of the Douglas County Senior Citizen office.

Brad Lantz

Saturday, August 22 • 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Brad Lantz obtained a four-year teaching degree from Mayville State College in social studies with a minor in physical education. He served in the Navy for 13 months at the time Japan surrendered. He started teaching in 1949 in Gary, MN for $2,900 per year. He coached basketball, football and track for no extra salary. He introduced six-man football to the school. Of the students who played, only one had seen a football game; one had never seen a football. His next position was in Finley, ND. He then traveled to California, where he taught English, social studies and drama for eight years. He then moved to Alexandria, where he taught at the junior high school for 28 years. He retired in 1990 after 41 years of teaching. A career highlight was a speech class he started. He painted the room black and installed special lighting to enable students to express themselves. It was called the Black Box.

Jan Shogren

Saturday, August 22 • 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Jan Shogren was raised in Forada. Her father encouraged her to go into teaching. She took a two-year teaching course at St. Cloud State. In 1949, at age 19, she started teaching grades 1-8 in District 36 in Lake Ida Township, earning $200 a month. She taught there three years, getting married her second year. In 1952 her husband enlisted in the Navy, and they moved to Washington, D.C. where Jan worked for the Chamber of Commerce. They then lived in Chi Chi Jima Island in the Bonin Islands for two years, where she taught Japanese children. They moved to St. Paul, where she worked for the Chamber before moving to Alexandria in 1958.

They remained here seven years before moving to Des Moines for 27 years. While there, she taught adult education and worked for the YMCA. She received a boiler operation certificate. She also served as executive director of the Iowa P.T.A., served on the area agency for aging and as senior program director at a bank. In 1993 they returned to Alexandria.