The Superior Express -

Editor's Notebook

 

February 24, 2022



Doug Anderson, a former Superior resident, has written at least six books and scores of academic articles and papers. His latest book, “A Lifetime of Remembrances,” resulted from a suggestion made by his wife, Claudia. It was written as a memoir for their daughters and granddaughters.

While Anderson is younger than this writer, we have similar memories of growing up in Superior and attending Superior High School.

I don’t own a copy of the book but a friend graciously let met browse her copy I suspect the author’s family will long enjoy reading his reflections over more than 70 years and how his life had been influenced by family, friends, classmates, teammates, teachers, coaches, mentors, colleagues, clergy, superiors and students.

The book begins with his earliest remembrances of the devoted, caring family into which he was born. Chapters 2 through 5 trace his growth as a student and athlete through the undergraduate years. Chapter 6 covers highlights of the 1970s including his marriage, newspaper work, doctoral studies, the birth of his two daughters and the launch of his career in higher education. Chapters 7 and 8 focus on his two decades at Arizona State University. Chapter 9 provides an overview of his 15 years at Penn State. The book concludes with thoughts on retirement.

I identified most closely with the stories from his high school years. The following passage is taken directly from the book with only slight modifications because of space constraints or clarification:

Pre-season football practices were underway as classes began (for the first time in the new high school constructed on a portion of land that had been part of Lincoln Park). I had a full schedule of general science with Ole Engleson; social studies with Ken Major; typing with Gary Kile; geometry with Lois Hunter; vocal music with Linda Moulton, instrumental music with John Mills; and for English and speech, Marjorie Smith.

As I was walking down a hallway during the second week of classes, I was approached by Mrs. Smith.

She said, “I’m told you are interested in sports. We are in need of another sportswriter for the school newspaper. Would you be interested in enrolling in the Journalism I class and writing for the newspaper?”

I replied, “Thanks for asking, but I already have a full class schedule and I’m busy with after-school athletics.”

Mrs. Smith: “The journalism class is easy—and does not require much work.”

My naive response: “That sounds good.”

As I think back about that conversation in September of 1964, it is apparent that in the final analysis, it started me on a lifelong career path in journalism—as a reporter, writer, editor, professor and university administrator.

Another observation. Mrs. Smith strategically misrepresented the journalism class. It was not easy; it was in fact, demanding and it was certainly time-consuming.

But it was without doubt a life changer.

Mrs. Smith instilled in us the fundamentals of journalism, the importance of clear, crisp, writing; and that it is crucial to meet deadlines and get facts straight. As a teacher, she possessed a unique ability to get her students to do their best work. She gave us—confidence —and for that alone, I always will be grateful. During an oral history interview in my retirement years, I noted in retrospect, Mrs. Smith expressed confidence in me as a student before I had confidence in myself. I looked up to her; I respected her; I didn’t want to disappoint her.

She knew how to build a pipeline of students to work on The Flashlight (the school newspaper). Our junior class of journalism students included Roxie Langer, Jolinda Graham, John Stineman, Linda Gratopp, Kay Adams, Linda Hansen, Bill Blatchford, Carol Mariska and me. Mrs. Smith expanded our horizons and by taking us to journalism conferences at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and at Hastings College and by requiring each subscribe to Time magazine. We were tested on the magazine’s contents each week.

She made sure we were ready to take the leadership reins of The Flashlight and the yearbook when we were seniors.

Holder of a master’s degree from Kansas State University and the wife of a farmer, Mrs. Smith took mandatory retirement from Superior High School but she continued to teach at Guide Rock. She lived to be more than 100. Her last months were in Brodstone Memorial Hospital with a tall stack of books always on her bed stand.

Mrs. Smith opened new vistas for me in English literature. In speech class, she emphasized the importance of knowledge of the subject, preparation, eye contact, confidence and ease of delivery—advice that would serve me well in ensuing decades.

In addition, she directed the class plays.

I was selected to play the male lead in our Junior Class Play—not because I sought the role, but, as was the case when I believed journalism classes would require little work and would be “easy”, basically because of my naivete.

Students were invited to audition for a role in the play, I sat down and was instructed to read lines from a script. I looked at the pages in front of me — and with no forethought simply read some of words to be spoken by the character, Jesse Stuart

Turns out the play, The Thread That Runs So True, was a story by the American writer about the challenges he encountered while teaching at a rural school in the Kentucky Hills. The role called for the memorization of far more lines than any other character. I was selected to play the part and thus, on top of preparing for my classes and going to basketball practices, each night I had to immerse myself in the script to nail down my extensive speaking parts.

The play drew capacity crowds both nights. More than two dozen students played roles. Jesse Stuart’s sweetheart was played by Cheryl Norgaard the first night and Linda Hansen the second evening.

I felt a sense of satisfaction —and relief— when the second night’s production came to a close. And I vowed to not read for a role in the following year’s senior class play.

———————

If I am ever inclined to write a memoir, I can just copy his references to Mrs. Smith for I experienced the same thing.

I was one of two sophomores to take her speech class. Others in the class were either juniors or seniors and they, along with Mrs. Smith, challenged me to do my best.

My career plan was to obtain an electrical engineering degree. That plan had been spurred along by a story Mrs. Smith wrote for the Omaha World-Herald about a fish thermometer Maurice Bradrick and Paul Leslie helped me constructed as a science club project.

When Mrs. Smith asked me to help with the School Bell, a 15 minute school news and feature program which aired Friday afternoons on KRFS, I agreed. I connected radio with electronics and thought the gig would provide valuable experience for an electrical engineer.

Heading up that program in my junior and senior years should have been enough to keep me busy but Mrs. Smith had other ideas.

In early summer, she stopped at my father’s gasoline station. She had been asked to exchange her Spanish classes for journalism. She explained the school’s journalism department needed a photographer and asked me to fill that role.

I said I didn’t know a thing about photography, couldn’t spell and couldn’t write and would not take journalism.

She had an answer for each of my objections. And my mother, who had served as the Flashlight editor when attending Superior High School, added additional persuasion.

Mrs. Smith said photography was science and since I liked science she had enrolled me in a home-study photography course. By the time school started, I was expected to know enough about photography to serve as the school photographer. I had to learn about focus, f/stops and shutter speed. Leon Mariska would develop the film and make the required prints.

As to spelling and writing, she said if I agreed to take the needed pictures, I not only wouldn’t have to write, I didn’t even have to come to class.

I was hooked. After a summer of exercise to strengthen my left arm so I could hold the camera stead and with 15 minutes instruction from Howard Crilly in how to operate a Speed Graphic press camera, I went on my first assignment.

When it came time for the senior class play, she roped me into playing Buffalo Bill. Vestey Tremain and Connie Busch took turns playing Annie Oakley. I had to play Buffalo Bill in three performances without my glasses. I was told my plastic rimmed glasses didn’t fit the part but without them I feared I would flub up and address the wrong person on the stage.

As graduation day approached, the school administration changed tradition. Instead of hiring a commencement speaker, four members of the senior class would deliver commencement addresses under the direction of Mrs. Smith. You guessed it. I was one of the four. So afraid I would forget my lines while looking at an audience which packed every available space in the Superior City Auditorium, I practiced my speech and my projection skills in back of the Blauvelt family home. My dog heard the speech so many times I’m sure she would have barked if I missed a line.

When it came time to leave home and go off to Kansas State University, Mrs. Smith enrolled me in a summer photography course. I protested that engineers didn’t need a journalism course but she said by taking the course and staying in a dorm I would have an advantage over the “green” freshmen arriving on campus that fall.

During my first semester in engineering school, I went to the journalism school to look at that semester’s photography projects. While looking at the pictures, I was snared by the photography professor who asked, “Mr. Blauvelt aren’t you ready to come home?”

He explained I belonged in journalism and not engineering.

When I protested that I couldn’t write or spell, he countered by saying not all journalists needed to know how to spell or write.

To this day I suspect Mrs. Smith somehow directed that conversation. She had graduated from the same school about 40 years earlier and had stayed in touch with the school.

When I was looking for a college to attend she arranged for an on campus visit which included appointments with people like the director of housing and the arts and sciences college dean and a professor to personally guide me about campus.

As a college student I didn’t escape her clutches.

After taking an introductory college photography course, she persuaded me to buy the needed equipment and set up a darkroom. I was expected to return to Superior on weekends and process and print the high school journalism department’s film.

And there were times when she asked me to take pictures for the school. When fall rains flooded a Lovewell Lake corn field, I was asked help take a picture of high school students, wading in the flood waters with bushel baskets and pretending to pick the corn before the water reached the ears.

There wasn’t anything particularly hard about that photo but since I had previously taken pictures for her of students in the river and lake, she trusted me to not drown the school’s new camera.

 

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