Thursday, April 3, 2014

Get Together, Pull Together, Stick Together (Part I)

Thirty-nine people paid two-bits apiece to become a member of the Govert, South Dakota, Parent Teacher Association (P.T.A.). Charles Laflin, the editor of the Govert Advance, would mark this bright enthusiasm as an unqualified success for the rural crossroads town of Govert. Mr. Laflin was not ready to admit the town of Govert, his town, the town into which he invested every watt of his own enthusiasm, was already beyond the glory days as a crossroads town, Depression or no Depression. The year was 1935. The month was February.

To learn of a thriving P.T.A. flourishing here within reach of the shadow of the Slim Buttes might have surprised the census taker for Govert township in 1930, when he wrote names on only 40 of the 50 lines of a single page of the official government census form. Govert township had 11 households in 1930. By 1935 only four of those families would have children of school age. But the census taker was a woman, June Laflin Knight, Charles Laflin's sister, and June understood the heart of Govert.

Just how important could the P.T.A. have been in Govert, South Dakota, that rural community in southeast Harding County? Thirty-nine adults supporting a mere handful of children is an eye-popping example of civic involvement by a small rural community. With the amusing entertainments and the excellent food, the P.T.A. served the important social function of drawing the community together in cooperative spirit. If the Govert P.T.A. had a motto, the message could have been "get together, pull together, stick together".

How could you not look forward to a P.T.A. night when laughter and friendly voices drifted from the schoolhouse to cover the prairie? The minutes prepared by P.T.A. secretary, Mrs. Gee, will speak for her, for the 39 members of the P.T.A., and for every other hanger-on who attended the meeting on February 22, 1935. The minutes were printed in the Govert Advance on 14 March 1935, published 79 years ago. Mrs. Gee wrote:

"The P.T.A. met in regular session Feb. 22nd.

"Reversing the usual order of procedure, the Program Committee took immediate charge and rendered a very entertaining, original and jolly program.

"Following the program, the business was opened by the Pres., who gave the object of the P.T.A. organization. The following were added to membership: Mrs. C.D. Calkins, Gust Toble, Bert Ellis, Howard Nichols. This makes a total of 39 members. Minutes were read by Sec'y.

"Nominations for committee then in order. Motion made by Adelaide Calkins, seconded by Mrs. Scofield that Mrs. W.B. Gee act as chairman of next program committee. Motion made by Mrs. Gee, seconded by Lillian Hafner that Margaret Wammen act on committee. Motion made by Dale Horton, seconded by Herb Scofield that Gust Toble act on committee. Nominations were then closed.

"John Donohue, Mr. Scofield and Lillian [Hafner] were nominated to act on supper committee. Nominations were then closed.

"Motion made by Mrs. Gee, seconded by Adelaide Calkins, that a program committee be elected for the April program, thus giving them ample time to make their arrangements. The following were elected on the committee of three. Lillian Hafner, chairman, Mrs. Joe Grandpre, Mrs. Herb Scofield.

"Mrs. Gee then reported that the March committee had been very fortunate in making arrangements with Prof. Taft of Newell High school to give a talk on Educational subject. He plans to be accompanied by members of his male quartet.

"The meeting then adjourned and the supper committee took charge and served a bona fide oyster supper to a large crowd. [signed] Mrs. W.B. Gee, Sec'y

The program Mrs. Gee mentioned in her minutes turned out to be, quite frankly, a product of creative genius. From Charles Laflin, the editor of the Govert Advance, we learn, "The get together, pull together, stick together spirit was evidenced by the response of each and everyone called upon in a novel, impromptu program put on by the entertainment committee, Miss Adelaide Calkins, Mrs. Wesley Horton and Frederic Laflin."

A "novel, impromptu program" ... now that is a P.T.A. program with promise, isn't it? The program was, without a doubt, "novel", but the "impromptu" part took buckets and buckets of planning and imagination. As evidence of an evening of unparalleled entertainment, please note the membership will increase by 10 to 49 by the March 1935 meeting of the P.T.A. The next time we meet here on the blog, we will look at February's "novel, impromptu program". For now, based on the coverage in the Govert Advance, we can gauge the cast of characters for the February 1935 P.T.A. meeting and program.

Mollie Brucker Calkins, age 58, wife of Clifford Delbert Calkins; in 1929 C.D. and Mollie Calkins traded Govert Van der Boom and Emma Vogt Van der Boom the Calkins house in Spearfish for the Govert store and residence.

Adelaide Christina Calkins, age 36, current schoolmarm, daughter of C.D. and Mollie Calkins; formerly married to "Odd Socks" Esler, a man said to be a small-time cattle rustler; she was well-loved by the children she taught.

John Donohue, age 25, single, rancher, brother to William.

William Donohue, age 20, single, rancher, brother to John.

Bert Ellis, age 50, rancher; Bert and his wife, Lottie, had no children but were loved by every child they ever met; they lived in the township west of Govert township.

Lydia Vogt Gee, age 48, homesteader in her own right in Meade County in her youth, now wife to Walter Benson Gee, mother to Melvin Gee and Russell Gee, who earlier attended Govert School; former schoolteacher, community organizer; sister to Emma Vogt VanderBoom, wife of Govert Van der Boom, founder of Govert.

Joseph Leo Grandpre, age 41, rancher, and his wife, Amanda Bekken Grandpre, age 44, who was born in Norway.

Delore Grandpre, age 16, son of Joseph and Amanda Grandpre.

Lilian Gudmunson Hafner, age 28, former schoolmarm, married to George Hafner, who was the son of Govert pioneers.

Dorothy Horton, age 9, and her brother, Rayford Horton, age 6, children of John Raymond Horton and Alva Oline Bekken Horton, sister of Amanda Bekken Grandpre.

Evelyn Marie Horton, age 12, and her brother, Dale Vernon Horton, age 10, children of Ida Wendt Horton, age 33, and Wesley Horton, age 42, brother of John Raymond Horton.

Waldon Jerome Jorgenson, age 15, raised by his Uncle Gust I. Jorgenson and Aunt Bessie Eugenia Holt Jorgenson, on the Jorgenson ranch.

John Govert Kulisich, age 13, named after the town where he was born, and his brother, Anton M. Kulisich, age 15, children of Mitchell "Mitch" Kulisich and Nikla Mijas Kulisich; Mitch and Nikla were born in what is now Croatia and were Govert pioneers.

Charles Eugene Laflin, age 61, owner, publisher, editor and distributor of the Govert Advance, president of the P.T.A., unofficial mayor of Govert, South Dakota; lived in the township to the north of Govert township; a Govert pioneer.

Frederic Orr Laflin, age 22, single, farmhand, son of Charles Laflin and Mary Zee Campbell Laflin; lived in the township to the north of Govert township.

William A. "Billy" Lale, age 8, and his sister, Elsie Lale, age 13, children of Nick Lale and Pauline Guka Lale. Nick and Pauline were born in what is now Croatia and were Govert pioneers; Nick Lale is a cousin to Mitch Kulisich.

Walden C. Lemm, age 24, single, rancher.

Howard Nichols, a man of singular mystery.

Herbert Leroy Scofield, age 38, and his wife, Signey Adela Bekken, age 32, sister of Alva Oline Bekken Horton and Amanda Bekken Grandpre.

Gustave Herman Toble, age 57, who immigrated from Krummenflies, Flatow, West Prussia, as a child; rancher, coal miner, and widower, uncle of Lydia Vogt Gee and Emma Vogt Van der Boom.

Margaret Wammen, age 22, single, schoolmarm at the Govert School beginning September 1935.

Who else beyond those mentioned in the Govert Advance would squeeze into the schoolhouse that night in February 1935 ... brothers and sisters, parents, bachelors and spinsters, neighbors old and young, from Govert township and from beyond the township boundaries. Consider this ... if Anton and John Kulisich were part of the P.T.A. program, their mother and father and little sister, Marie, who would start school in September 1936 with Margaret Wammen as her teacher, would have been there, too. Little Marie Kulisich would not have missed a P.T.A. meeting for a world of presents.

If these Goverites have names you've seen before, you can influence the direction of my next posting. Leave a comment or write to me at

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Based on an article published in the Govert Advance, March 14, 1935, entitled "P.T.A."]

1 comment:

  1. Sweetheart,

    It’s nice to have you blogging here again after your absence of several weeks. It’s always a pleasure to read your interesting, informative, and well-written postings.

    It’s also nice to read again about the PTA in Govert, and be reminded of how integral and important it was in the lives of Govert’s residents. We again see that the PTA was a hub of social interaction for the area residents around the town, and how the PTA was vital in organizational planning for school and community programs. We get a good insight into the workings of the PTA by reading its minutes for the meeting on 22 February 1935, and from your posting this week we learn a great deal about many of the PTA’s members and Govert residents in the mid-1930s timeframe. We again see several familiar family names, like Kulisich, Laflin, Gee, and Lale.

    So, you are successfully continuing to fulfill your mission of educating us about the town of Govert, about its residents, and about prairie life in general in the early decades of the 1900s.

    Any names or lingering questions for you to pursue in future postings? Well…the PTA had a “bona fide oyster supper”…interesting…seems like a very unusual meal in that setting (PTA, 1930s, prairie location so far from bodies of water, etc.)...were oysters a commonly eaten food item back then and how would they have gotten them in Govert? I assume it was a specialty item, a delicacy of some sort…was that part of why PTA meetings were so well attended…another desirable aspect of the PTA and social life in Govert which drew people in?

    Also, I’m intrigued by the Bekken sisters and their origins in Norway. Were there many Norwegians in that area at that time…what brought them to that part of the country…and, what’s the story on the Bekken sisters themselves? That all may take you down a path you’re not inclined to go, and that’s okay, but it struck me as interesting.

    Thanks again for another great blog posting this week.



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