by Wilma Fast Harder Jungas
I must needs include something in my early years that had a great impact on my life and to the whole family and that was when my Dad, who loved people and working with and for people, decided to add to his Life by trying to be a part of the Minnesota Legislature as a Representative. When I think of his dedication and perseverance in taking a Correspondence Study of Law and studying those twelve heavy tomes with not a picture in the lot but just heavy reading and study, I am amazed. In the winter, evening after evening, he studied plus wrote tests and it was not easy for any of us. There we lived way in the Northwest corner of Watonwan County, so he had to make himself known. He attended every Farm Bureau Meeting and all of the County meetings where people gathered so as to meet people. He spoke at many meetings and I remember there were times he took us three oldest girls along to sing for them. We harmonized easily and sang songs like "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," etc. and a round my Mother had taught us. "Campaigning" to us was not fun or easy but it was a necessity and he was elected to two successive terms and did a good job and loved it. This must have been in the late Nineteen Twenties or Thirties.
Then came the Depression Years of the Nineteen Thirties and high school graduation. My Dad wanted his girls to each have some college, so I got two years at (then) Mankato Normal School which would give me the right to teach at a country school. I stayed home one year after graduation to help at home and this was a most miserable year for me! I didn't "belong" in school anymore and so many of my friends either were off to some college or working.
After college graduation I was now ready to teach country school. That was "made to order" for me. Since my Dad was the Clerk of the School Board for the country school where I had been a pupil, there was no need of a formal application or interview - I was "in" as a Teacher of District 24, Watonwan County. I am "thrilled" when I think back and see what I did! I knew I got "help" again! I had 36 pupils, every single grade, built my own fires, did the janitor work and walked two miles to and from school most of the time. There I had six darling first graders who, I said to myself, "must learn to read and write for their future lives." (I had a pair of twin boys, husky and tall, in 6th grade who couldn't read so were in school just to reach 16 years of age and could "stop.") I had four 8th graders who had to pass the State Board exams in order to go to high school! They were two years of hard work, but, oh, the "satisfaction" of results as my first graders became very good readers and spellers and the 8th graders all passed the State exams.
After my two years in my home District, I was next hired by a School Board of a very "high achieving" country school, Northwest of Mountain Lake, District 80E. Again it was a large school, but very well behaved children and I could "Room and Board" at a dear couples' farm home close to school and an easy walk for me. I enjoyed my years of teaching (3 years) here with dear people to live with, pupils eager to learn and no discipline problems.
By this time, I also had a very attentive steady boyfriend who came to get me every Friday eve and brought me back every Sunday eve. His name was Sam M. Harder and later became my husband.
I think it was this summer that we made a trip to the West Coast--my sister, Bertha, and I--with our Aunt Marie Kay Fast who was the Superintendent of Nurses at the Mountain Lake Hospital. She had purchased a new car and wanted to show her two nieces the "Wonders of the West" and have help a bit with the expenses and to help drive. But, poor Aunt Marie! When we reached the mountains, I sat petrified beside her, fearing our tires would swerve sideways off the still graveled roads and into the abyss below, while my sister was flat on the floor in the back seat, too afraid to look! We were awestruck at the Grand Canyon and stayed far from the edge! But, oh, what a revelation regarding our country for us at that "youth time!"
That next summer on August 31, 1939, I was married to Sam M. Harder outside in our front yard lawn in front of a picket fence arbor. No more teaching after that.
My Mother, with young brother, Bob, moved to town. Sam, who was a very ambitious farmer, plus astute and capable businessman, took over to help my Mother "handle" the farm, since my Father died while I was teaching school. My Father was elected to two terms as a member of the Minnesota State Legislature from Watonwan County and now there was no one to handle the farm. So, capably, Sam took over the farm, making it all hers and debt free.
Sam and I worked hard. He was an ambitious farmer who loved farming and we milked cows by hand and even sold registered cattle and weeded fields by hand so we could sell Certified Seed to growers. But we were happy and busy. I kept up steadily teaching Sunday School Class, plus sang in the Church Choir and served on Mission Society Committees. I so loved it when Sam expressed - "one of his greatest joys was to come home from town, turn onto our land and be home again!"
(to be concluded in next issue)