Note: One year Mother compiled a book of memories and family history for each of her three children by hand. In my book I found her account of her educational years which began in 1913 in central Kansas. After 1979, Anna Daisy Siemens continued learning, taking correspondence courses in her passion – writing – at OSU in Stillwater, OK. As you read her account of her education, you will see her ‘need’ to learn.
At the age of six, a very blond, freckled-face little girl started to school at Ebenfeld in September. The teacher was Joel C. Hiebert, a very kind-hearted young man who placed me upon his knee when problems came my way. The next year it was Abraham Eitzen, tall and lanky. We could always tell when he was upset because he always got one drop of sweat right on the tip of his long, pointed nose.
One day he told me, “You stay in at recess time.” I didn’t start the whispering – I only got caught when I answered my friend. All my friends cried, “That’s unfair.” So I ran home at recess time. Mother wondered why I had come home and I tried to explain that I didn’t feel too well. Really, I didn’t by that time!
About 10 minutes after four pm, Mr. Eitzen knocked on our door. I dashed into the dining room closet to hide. He visited with Mother a few minutes and then he asked about me. My life was not geared to be a good fugitive – I dashed right by him to our upstairs room. He was right behind me. I tried to crawl under that unmade bed, but he caught me and set me on his bony knees as he sat on the rumpled bed.
“Why did you run home before school was out?” he asked. “If you have a problem you must come to tell me about it.”
We talked and talked and talked and shame overwhelmed me — the messy bed, my running home, and worst of all, the ‘night pot’ sat there right in front of him!
That was the winter I developed leg pains. At nights I would cry with pain. I can still feel the soothing remedy my Mother had. What comfort! A half of an old woolen blanket dipped intothe kitchen stove resevoir (the water always quite hot from the fire banked for the night). Mother wrung it out as dry as possible and wrapped my aching legs in its warmth with a dry blanket over the wet one to keep my bed dry. The pain then vanished as if by a miracle and sleep overcame me. By morning the blanket felt cold wrapped around my legs – but no pain.
However, some morning pains would not allow me to get ut of bed and when I tried, my legs crumpled under me as I fellto the floor. I had to stay at home half of the winter. In fact, all through my grade school years, I brought home every case of measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever.
My Father suggested, “Let’s buy a nice display case, dress Anna up and have her sit in it, so we can look at her, because she can’t make it in this world.”
I was better the next year when Abraham Hiebert taught our country school. He was Jack C’s younger brother. It was interesting to note that my first three teachers became medical doctors – Joel C at Boston, Dr. Eitzen at Hillsbor (he took out my tonsils) and Dr. A. E. Hiebert was a specialist in Wichita.
Then came those awful 4th and 5th grade years with Eva Foote. Oh, dear! She spanked Alma’s hand with a ruler very unjustly. Teache’s pet, Albert, kept dipping Alma’s pigtails into the ink. She tried to get the teacher’s attention, but was ignored. Finally, Alma took the law into her own hands, turned around and whacked Albert. He hand shot up like a jet. Miss Foote was right there to intercede. Albert’s brothers and sisters were also petted. They got to do all the poster work and the colored chalk pictures on the blackboard. Why? Their father was the chairman of the school board and young Miss Foote wanted to keep the job.
The one redeeming quality she had was to allow me to play the organ for singing. Perhaps, that was because I was the only one who played. We were relieved when the board members did not rehire Miss Foote, although she came to the house to apologize for spanking Alma two weeks later.
For my seventh and eighth grades, we had Miss Sarah Hiebert (an Aunt of Joel and Abe). She was a paragon of virtue and knew every trick in the trade of teaching. She was an old maid — her picture is etched in my memory — warm brown eyes, dark hair piled high, her gold frame pincher glasses with a chain to a hair pin stuck into her 8 figured bun. She wore a pin-up watch on her gingham dress or her beautiful ‘shirt waists’. Miss Heibert was wise and patient – she had no pets, or should I say – we were all her pets! I developed a deep desire to be a teacher just like Miss Sarah.
I became ill with nerves in my eighth grade year. I started shaking when I was with people. The doctors finally decided that I must be taken out of school. I could do physical things – embroider, quilt, etc. – but not be with people. I was crushed to thik I would ot graduate with my school mates.
Dear Miss Sarah solved the problem. She came to ask my parents if I could attend 7th & 8th grade reviews at night for two weeks just before the examinations. My parents though I could do that. So I took the exams and passed every test and graduated with my class. I still marvel that Miss Sarah gave up those 10 evenings for a tousled blond.
Would I go on to school? I wanted to be a teacher. Dad and Mom said, “No!” Since my health was not good, I would stay at home with my parents. I could have piano lessons since I could not have lessons during school.
This time I went to Tabor College (Hillsboro KS) and Miss Rupp who was very strict. I learned so many things from her. In winter, when the temperature was down and the snow was flying, Nellie and I made the trip to town in the buggy. Nellie trotted down the road at her steady gait, keeping warm, but my fingers were red stiff digits when I walked into Miss Rupp’s room. She was very understanding. The winter weather came to an end and by the next fall my health improved.
Alma and I enrolled as Academy Freshmen at Tabor College. We moved into Grandpa Loewen’s upstairs (southwest) room with a bed, a table and two chairs, a coal-oil stove and a small cabinet of open curtained shelves. That was our home.
We brought our food from home, but without an ice box, it had to be of staple variety. We could store our milk in the north room window. Often at the end of the week, we would come for lunch – two hungry teenagers – with nothing prepared and less than an hour to make it back to the classroom.
Our dear Grandma must have been snooping, for we often heard her call, “Girls!” from the down stairs newell post. There she stood with a large bowl of hot soup with a “rasche zwiebach” (toasted two-story rolls) we had a feast. Bless her!
In early December I was called out of the library for a telephone call. It was my Father. Irene was born and could I pack my clothes and Dad would get me for I was needed at home. They decided since Alma only wanted one year of school she ought to continue.
So I went home to cook, clean house and wash diapers. There were Jonas and Eli’s school lunches to fix every day and a baby to bathe and hold. Bernice was three years – a busy little person. Mom and Dad bragged on my work, but I knew I couldn’t cook like Mother. There was bread baking, churncing and the washing.
When Mom and Dad told me I could go back to school, I was filled with happiness but that happiness was short-lived! Grandma Suderman died in February. The funeral and an overload of work with four little children at home completely broke Mother’s health. After a family conference, it was agreed that I would quit school. Inwardly I grieved, but Mom and Dad were so appreciative of my efforts, I tried to please them.
The work was never done with a tiny baby, mother in bed, and two boys who were always hungry and dirty. I missed my school friends, but I was too busy to give it much thought. When summer came, Alma was home and Mother improved, and I went back to school. So far I had one full semester of work.
Once more I enrolled as a freshman with a new group of class mates. It was hard to start geometry without finishing algebra. Besides that, I missed the first two weeks of school because I had a hard case of Quincy. Dad was concerned because his second cousin died from Quincy.
My roommate, Mary Wiens, was slow and easy going. I had to be the pusher to fix meals, make the bed and keep clothes picked up. I enjoyed the freshman group very much, but only for a year. The next year I enrolled as a Junior with y original class – taking as many classes as possible. Then came my Senior year. I met new people and I had a new roommate – Louise Suderman – a cousin.
One new friend I met came from Oklahoma. I thought he was stuck up, but he later explained that he knew he was from Corn – a small town — and he now dived into the learning center of Mennonite Brethren people. He was scared!
I was very busy with classes, basket ball, commercials (?) Science Club and Glee Club. I was involved to the hilt and i had a problem. That boy from Oklahoma was so persistent and it worried me. I didn’t want to date him, but he never knew when to stop.
By April 20, 1926, I capitulated to Herman’s charms and we promised our love to each other. We would be married after I taught my two years of school.
One day, Professor Hiebert called m into his president’s office — he had sad news. In spite of overloading my schedule my 3 1/2 years of school left me with 15 1/2 credits and I needed 16. He made me a proposition. If I could write him a letter in German without errors (I had missed the 2nd semester of German I) he would give me that half a credit.
I never worked so hard on anything in all my life, but I finally got it! And so I graduated from the Academy at Tabor College. My name even appeared on the graudation program, playing “Light of Heart” by Sidney Smith. I also accompanied Otto Richert – who sang as he felt and keeping up with his own arrange of “Goodbye, Forever” (Tabor) by Tosti.
Herman had met my parents who had asked Aunt Marie (from Corn) about that Siemens boy. She told Mother, “If he came to date my daughter, I wouldn’t run him off.” After my parents visited with him, they liked him.
I took my Teacher’s Examination II that summer which would give me a two year Teaching Certificate. Louise took No I because she had chemistry and physics (I didn’t). Anna’s certificate allowed to teach for 3 years. “God knew what I needed – I only taught in Kansas two years – Pleasant Hill out of Meade, Kansas, and at Ebenfeld where I learned my A.B.C’s.”
After our wedding we both attended Southwestern at Weatherford before we moved to Hooker OK, where we both taught in a two-room country school. Herman had been teaching two years before we came together. This was dust bowl territory and people left their farms. There were just a few pupils left. Herman taught all grades in the fall of 1929.
Did Mama’s education stop there? No! The University of Life kept me learning many subjects and in many different classrooms. I learned of love and babies, I learned of measles, mumps and infections. I learned aging, death and parting.
I am still in a classroom, day by day, and only when my breath is stilled, will I reach for my cap and gown — graduated!
My motto, “Smile, and ye shall win, love, and it will be returned unto you, wait, and all will come out well.”
Anna Daisy Siemens graduated from this life on October 20, 1998. Then she heard, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”