It was a Friday afternoon in Govert, South Dakota, 85 years ago, less a week. October days in the North Country started cool and ended cold, but the afternoons were still comfortably warm. Leona Danielson waved good-bye to the children at the door of Govert School, even though she would see them again in just a matter of hours. The teacher of the first six grades quickly swept the floor and cleaned the blackboards one more time in preparation for when the children would return that night with their parents. As she set wood aside for the stove, Miss Danielson felt a flutter of excitement.
Soon darkness would fall and wagons would roll through the prairie grass toward the schoolhouse. The Govert community would stream through the door, one adult, one child, after another, until the single room was much fuller than it was during the school day. Her role tonight would be to advocate organizing the Parent Teacher Association for the Govert, South Dakota, country school. She was confident the community was in favor of a P.T.A., so she had no worries on that account. She knew already that Govert Van der Boom, the founder of the town, supported the P.T.A., and so did Charles Laflin, the editor of the town newspaper, the Govert Advance. These two community leaders would stand beside her and Mr. Williams, the teacher of the high school aged students. This evening was going to be a triumph!
The following Thursday, 4 October 1928, Charles Laflin reported their progress in organizing the P.T.A. in the Govert Advance:
"At the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Delbert A. Williams and Miss Leona Danielson, our teachers, the pupils and parents met at the Govert schoolhouse last Friday evening at which time a Parent-Teacher Association was organized with D.A. Williams, Chairman, Chas. Laflin, Sec-Treas., Miss L. Danielson, H.L. Scofield and Govert L. Van der Boom, Program Committee. Grown-ups as well as the children are to participate in making the programs a success.
"An impromptu, wholesome program led by our teachers and in which Mrs. Lydia Gee, Herb Scofield, Mitch Kulisich, Lester Hafner, Ira Grayson and a number of the children participated provoked much laughter. A Basket Social and Hollow-o-e'en program are to be the features for Friday evening, Oct. 26th, at the Govert schoolhouse. The proceeds from the sale of the baskets are to be used to promote school Athletic Activities.
"You are cordially invited - so come, please. The P.T.A. is doing much to bridge over difficulties that might arise in schools and to promote everything that is for the best interest of all concerned in other towns - so why not here.
"We heartily endorse the P.T.A. movement and pledge our best efforts toward its success."
A Program Committee of three people? A Basket Social? A Halloween party? That sounds promising!
The P.T.A. was embraced by the entire community and was a great success in Govert, South Dakota. This new civic organization encouraged an active interest in Govert School by every member of the community, parent or not. Perhaps even more important, the P.T.A. became a cohesive social activity drawing together not only parents and teachers, but all the children and adults in the Govert community and beyond.
Why? Opportunities for social interaction were important to this hard-working, rural population. What better opportunity for social interaction could be found than the increasingly popular Govert P.T.A. entertainments followed by supper. Skits. Dances performed by the children. Readings. Songs. Musical instruments. Many smiles and much laughter. And good food ... sandwiches, cake, coffee. Without a doubt, P.T.A. nights drew farmers and ranchers from as far beyond the township boundaries as a man or a woman was willing to ride in a horse drawn wagon. These were the Friday nights when wagons bumping through the prairie grass from every direction merged on the schoolhouse. Then, when the entertainment was concluded and the supper finished, deep into the night, the horses happily re-engaged in this unintended choreography, reversing the wheel-spoke pattern as they headed home to their stalls, carrying a tired, contented cargo to their own beds.
Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate