Even though my dad is still with us, I noticed some of the letters in my mother's heart-shaped Valentine's Day box did not have that familiar blue and red airmail border, so I peeked.
Yea, I said I wasn't going to, but I love old stuff. The envelope had a printed return address and a three-cent stamp – purple, canceled and dated June 7, 1944. Inside was a ledger-sized typed letter written two days earlier. The periods poked through the paper from the backside, so I think these letters were typed individually by Mr. Ed. Doerr's secretary.
Who, might you ask, is Mr. Ed Doerr? Well, Mr. Doerr was the county superintendent of schools in Ashley. My mother's letter was addressed in the care of her father, Albert C. Meidinger, Zeeland, N.D., congratulating her on graduating the eighth grade.
A copy of a certificate of completion torn from a book that I can only imagine looks like a cashier's duplicate sales book with three subjects:
The transcript continues, but the grades end there. The letter begins with congratulations and a diploma for the eighth-grade students (I went back and looked, but I couldn't find it). The second paragraph included this, "Because of the war conditions; tire and gas shortages, we will not hold rural graduation exercises this year. With the European invasion started now, we hope that this terrible war will be over by next year so that all of us can again live normal lives once more."
You know what I am thinking. What is a normal life? Even my parents didn't have the privilege of "normal" lives when they were young. Let's not bring war into this story yet.
Mr. Doerr encouraged the seventh graders not to become discouraged about their grades and return to complete their education in the fall. He suggested the eighth-grade graduates find a high school to attend. My mother, however, must have moved on.
After marrying and having five children, my mother never underestimated the importance of education. My oldest brother graduated from Kulm High School, joined ROTC at NDSU, and served in the air force until he retired. The rest of us were told we HAD to attend one year of college before making decisions on careers, marriage, etc.
I wanted so badly to be an artist like my mom. It's all I ever thought about. It wasn't an option at that time as there was no good to come from a "job" that didn't produce food or children. I tried. I loved photography and did most of the photos for the high school books. It would have changed my life to have had the means and courage to attend the Brooks School of Photography in Ventura, Calif. Like that school and the program I did attend at NDSSS (now NDSCS), it's no longer available. That's maybe a story for next week.
Even after I graduated and left home, my mother never gave up on her education and completed her high school GED somewhere between work and raising my twin brothers, who were eight years younger than me.
Some years back, I wrote a column about my mom and said she only had an eighth-grade education. Well, I got reprimanded heartily for that faux pax. Following in her footsteps, if I don't learn something new each day, I feel I have not accomplished much. Currently, I am working on learning tapestry weaving techniques. Think of that what you may. It's still learning. I suggest you find something to learn until winter melts in spring when we can learn to garden together.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.