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Pioneer Memoirs

Written by Jewel Nielsen, wife of Elmer Nielsen, grandson of Thorvald Kloster. Jewel Nielsen was a country school teacher. She was born in 1915


Getting Hired to Teach in Fredonia Township

   Anyway I went  to college for 2 years in the 2-year teaching program and graduated.  Mrs. Fireovid took me to the schools in Fredonia Twp. that were looking for teachers. the first school was called the Mortenson School #4. They would hire me if their teacher wasn’t coming back, because she wasn’t sure. Only 6 students.

   Then we went to Fredonia #1—the Mulder School. They had just built a new school with basement, furnace, toilets for the boys and girls with septic tanks. It was wonderful. We also had a front porch and a hallway. There were 17 pupils.

   When we drove into the yard Mr. Mulder was in the yard, so we visited from the car and gave him my credentials and discussed the job. He told me he would let me know. Mrs. Fireovid asked me to check her tires on the car so I got out and checked them. Mr. Mulder was big man. After we left I asked her how come she had me get out and check the tires and she said, “I wanted him to se how tall you were.” Maybe that is how I got the job! I was almost 5’ 11’’. Tall for a young lady! That was 1936.

The Summer of 1936

   That summer I worked at the pit off and on. The 4th of July they hadn’t called and some of my friends were going to Sioux City to go to a movie because it had air-conditioning and it was a hot day, so I went to Sioux City and didn’t work. That was the day that Remsen caught fire and so did Oyens. We found out after we got home later in the day.

The Winter of 1936

   I didn’t have to look for a family to stay with the first year. Van Kompenburgs lived 1/4 miles east of the school and they offered to keep me. They had 2 girls in school, Esther and June. They had a boy who was a freshman in Orange City high school. It worked out well except that winter when we had all that snow. It was the worst in years. We got stuck by school. That was such a winding road and the snow was deep. I had school 2 weeks with just the Kompenburg girls. The other kids couldn’t get there. We needed horse-drawn sleighs. They made a road up in the school yard and by the windows on the south side.  The young fellow who lived kitty corner from the school would ride up and peek in the window and say in Dutch, “Nice day isn’t it, Teacher!”

   We had to have a dedication at the new school. The state superintendent of school, Parker, and Christine Peterson gave talks. I gave one also and  we had a program and lunch. A nice crowd.

   Mrs. Peterson visited the schools and we never knew when she was coming. We were located ideally to have field trips because the Floyd River passed through the pasture across the road and we could see lots of birds, turtles, swallow nests and some fish, different grasses, etc. The kids behaved very well and enjoyed seeing all the different things. No teacher had ever done that before. The kids did a good job in memorizing poems and song and we always had a good program. We had to do 3 programs a year. A money-maker to keep the standardization of the school. Always had lunch and coffee.

   I signed up to teach the next year for $60 a month. Had some new kids in March so I had 21 kids the next year. Van Kompenburg’s decided they didn’t like keeping the teacher, so Nick Kloster’s on the Hwy 33 said that they would. So that’s where I stayed. It was almost 2 miles to walk as the road that went to the school was very winding and there were no houses.  I was young and didn’t mind the walking. I walked to and from school all the time, rain or shine. Never was sick. The only time I missed was when my father passed away in October of 1937.

The Kloster Family

   The Kloster’s had a little girl, Judy, who was going to start school They had a boy named Gilbert and a little girl, Marilyn, who was just learning to walk. She would be standing by the window by the back porch waiting for me to come home from school because I would walk with her in the house. Emma made hot cocoa by putting cocoa and sugar in the bottom of the cup and pour in hot water and we would add cream to it and have good hot chocolate. We always cooked ours, but this was easier and faster. I said she should have had a patent for it.

   I helped with the cooking sometimes and  helped with dishes and the kids. It was a nice place to live with a young family. Sometimes Nick (Nis) and I played chess. He was better than I was.   

Meeting  Elmer

   Nick and Emma had an old Chevy. It wasn’t working, so they used the old high-sided wagon. The put bales of straw or hay in it to sit on and hooked up a team of horses to go to Grandpa Kloster’s (Nick’s folks, Thorwald and Sopia). They invited me along and I went!

   I had never done anything like that, so that was quite an experience. That’s when I met Alvin and Evalyn Petersen and Elmer Nielsen. I had already met Niels Kloster as he came to the school functions. I think those country boys were looking for a school teacher to marry because a lot of them married school teachers. I never gave that a thought because I was going to teach school and travel. I liked the young men as friends, but marriage wasn’t in the picture.

   Bill and Jean Foley were in my school the first  year , then their father moved to town and opened an Ice Cream Parlor on the east side of Central Avenue in Le Mars. Myrne Detloff had gone to high school in Le Mars with me—only a year behind me—but we knew each other, so one Saturday night, she and I went to the Ice Cream Parlor to have a malt. We hadn’t been there very long and Niels Kloster came in and sat down in the booth with us. Myrne was teaching the school south of me. She was also from the country and knew Niels. 

   I don’t think ever met a stranger. Anyway, he bet me that he was older than me. I bet him a malted milk that was older. Anyway, I lost. After he left, Louise Albrecht (who was working there, she had also been my neighbor at one time, so I knew her very well) came over to our table and shook her finger at me and said, “You leave him alone, he’s mine!”.  I didn’t want him so that was no problem. As you know, she did get him!

   The first time I was at Grandpa and Grandma Kloster’s, Elmer was sitting on the back of a chair with his feet on the seat. I thought he was about 16. Evalyn, Alvin, Elmer and Nick were all in the dining room and the rest were in the kitchen. Nick and Emma also had Gilbert and Marilyn. I usually took Gilbert. He was cute little guy. Marilyn wasn’t walking yet. We went there quite a bit with horses and wagon while the weather was nice. Alvin and Evalyn lived with Grandpa’s because the other house on the farm where their folks lived was too small for the kids and they helped Grandpa and Grandma on the farm.

   Sometimes when Uncle Nick was busy and couldn’t pick up Judy, she would come home with me. The dirt road was winding road over the Floyd River and up to the highway. There were no houses along the way. She was so tiny that I would carry her on my shoulders when she would get tired.

   Myrne’s school was having a money-making program on April 1st, a Box Social, and Elmer asked me if I would go with him. I said I couldn’t because I didn’t have time to fix a box for it. We were at Grandpa’s when he asked me and Evalyn piped up and said she would make on for me. She did. My first date with Elmer!

   We had been thrown together a few times at chivaree parties, etc. but never had a date. He always hung quite close to me, but like I said, a boy friend was the least of my thoughts. I wanted to teach in town so I applied at Mondamin, Iowa. They needed a 6th grade teacher (home room) and a person to teach a couple of subjects in the seventh and eighth grades. I got the job! He didn’t like that.

   My mother had an apartment, then she fell and broke her hip in February and was in the Le Mars Hospital until May when school was out and an old teacher friend of mine from high  school in Le Mars (Levi Dedrick—his daughter is married to Tom Peterson’s wife’s uncle) took us to my sister’s farm by Nemaha, Iowa, where she stayed for several months. I had no home so sometimes I would take the bus to Sioux City and Elmer would take me to Grandpa’s or to Nick’s for the week and then take me back to the bus. Sometimes if we missed it, he would take me all the way back to Mondamin. We fell in love!   

   We were in love, but I couldn’t see how we could get married when neither one of us had anything. So I told him we might as well forget about us. He had given me a diamond at Christmas so we were engaged.  He cried and said we would make it somehow. I had signed my contract to teach at Mondamin again. He said that we should get married and not tell because I had a steady job at the sandpit for the summer. I could stay with Roberta Albright because she was going to work with me at the lake in the bathhouse.  I paid $10 a month for room and board.   

A Secret Wedding

   We decided to get married the last day of school—secretly! [Remember, school teachers were required to be single.]   He stopped in Onawa and got the license and picked me up May 13, 1939, at Mondamin, the last day of school.  In those days  you had to get married in the same county the license was gotten in. We didn’t find a church in Onawa, so we went on to Little Sioux. We found a church and the parsonage and got married at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 13th.  We never told anyone but my mother. They didn’t hire married people back then and I had a job at the swimming lake in Le Mars where I had worked for several years as swimming instructor, life guard when necessary, and now the supervisor of the bathhouse. I needed the job and the money. I had also signed my contract to teach.

   Roberta and I walked to and from the lake all summer unless Elmer came to see me. He only came when it rained and he didn’t have a lot of things to do. We couldn’t afford to go anywhere. Grandpa paid Elmer’s expenses at the gas station in Oyens that Jens owned. He never got paid because he got his living, clothes, etc. because they raised him as one of the family. If he needed anything they bought it for him. He got a dollar or two a week to pay for his smoking...Bull Durham — bag and papers.

   We rode around on country roads and sang songs that we both knew. “Let me call you sweetheart”, “I Love You Truly”, “Carry me Back to Old Virginia”, etc. He was a very good singer. We passed a lot of time doing that. We went to see my mother. She was the only one who knew we were married. When my job was over the middle of August, we told everyone we were married. Grandma was angry because, “he should have had a wedding like everyone else”. Grandpa just laughed.

   We were going to California to see if Elmer could get a job by his father, but Grandpa needed him on the farm. So we moved out to the farm and we stayed there until March 1st, 1940.






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