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Nancy Graese’s “Did you know?” All-School Reunion speech

Below is the speech given by Nancy Grease during the All-School Reunion program at Glenwood City High School on Saturday, September 9:

“Just living isn’t enough,” said the butterfly. “One must also have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” — Hans Christian Andersen 

We could have read that thought of Hans Christian Andersen when we were in a high school English class here at GCHS. Maybe in 1936, when Miss Iantha Powrie taught English, or possibly one of these teachers:

• Mrs. Mary Schubert, 1961

• Mrs. Beverly Rasmus, Also in the 1960’s

• Mr. Al Christopherson, 1960,70’s.etc.

• Mrs. Sue Gilbertson, Class of 1967

Just coming to school isn’t enough. Each student needs sunshine, freedom and a little flower to enhance their lives…to learn more…to be more… Each student is responsible for their learning, and so are their teachers. Hans Christian Andersen helps us see that, and GCHS has helped students reach their potential for more than 120 years.

Here is my disclaimer. I know that everything I am telling you today is true. Yes absolutely everything is completely TRUE. WHY you may ask? Because none of it came from the internet. There you go. A lot of it came from the Messengers…the GCHS Annuals. Anyone here on the annual staff when they were in high school? Folks, look around. They look trustworthy. How could anything they wrote while they were 16 years old be anything but true. Great! So then we’re in good hands with the facts, and let’s move on.

By the way you may buy a set of CDs this weekend from The Historical Society to read the Messengers from 1908 thru 2014. Caution: be sure you are prepared to get lost in our history!

GC has an honored history of educating its youth.

Family of Russell Grapes shared some of his educational artifacts with me. Russell lived closer to Knapp, and went to school there. However, the Knapp high school was only two years long. In his GCHS yearbook, a friend wrote, “I’ll remember you as the boy who rode his horse to school.” From fall 1925 to spring, 1927, Russell switched to GCHS to complete the last two years of high school. He rode his horse to GC from the family farm located about five miles south of Downing on County Road Q. During the winter, he boarded in GC during the week and returned home to the farm on weekends. He was determined to get his education — to graduate. He even bought a class ring, even though he only went to school in GC for two years. Think of the effort he put in to be educated. I received this information from his daughter Ellen Grapes Dettman, who married her high school sweetheart Chuck Dettman, both class of 1958.

A conversation I had from Clarence Dow, Class of 1945 enlightened me on more GCHS history. His classmates included the dear Shirley Stone, my father-in-law Orville Graese, Delores Delage Standaert, Violet Schnitzler Schug…names familiar to many of you.

All of the Senior boys had to take the Air Force Tests. Only Clarence and Orv passed. When they went on for the physical, Orv passed as Clarence was too short.

Yearbooks and school newspapers were on hold for two years, as the nation saved resources for the war. The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred during his freshman year. Although sports continued, there was no gas for fan buses and certainly no school trips.

No Paper….No Ink…Always saving for war efforts. Thanks Clarence….Class of 1945.

The 1921 Messenger was pretty interesting!

February 7th was a notable date. Even marked by the word EXTRA! Principal Denman put a ban on paper wads! Yes that’s what I said a ban on paper wads…those horrible students. Spitting on paper, rolling it up and throwing the formed wads at others! What a dire time in our school’s history! Thank goodness Principal Denman stepped up and put an end to that terror! I can’t even imagine going to school under those conditions. I hope this ban worked well for Principal Denman!

1921 was a confusing year for school colors. The junior pennant arrived…it was maroon and gold…The boys basketball team were presented with sweaters by Principal Denman, I guess he was able to get over the spitball, I mean paper wad debacle, but the sweaters were purple and gold! Because the Messenger’s pictures were black and white I was unable to determine the color of the athletic uniforms, however a couple of times in basketball write ups the “blue and white” were mentioned. I have a maroon and gold story for later on. But let’s get back to 1921.

Picture it, March 4th 1921, 9:00 AM (if you watch the Golden Girls pretend it is in Sicily!) But instead we are at the hill school Four basketball boys are missing. They played in Elmwood the night prior. Frank Konder, Joe Ryan, Walter Taylor and Donald Boardman….Missing. What do you think? Could this become bigger than the paper wad ban for Principal Denman? There has been no word from them since they left Elmwood at 11:00 PM the night before. I don’t know. If my kids told me they were playing basketball until 11:00? I don’t know. Anyway, I digress.

10:00 AM Boys still Missing 10:10 AM High school girls in tears. I am NOT making this up folks!

10:20 AM, and I quote: “ Great noise on campus. Sounds like a car climbing the hill. Much yelling and singing. Then amid great rejoicing four dilapidated, sleepy, disheveled, hungry basketball fellows make a spectacular entrance, and report their inability to find telephone, lodging or breakfast in that desolate country 9 miles southwest of Spring Valley. They had gotten lost and had slept in a hay mow – and they looked it.” Really! People bought that story! If those were my kids! Really! What were they looking for a Holiday Inn between Elmwood and Spring Valley? Slept in a hay mow…Sure!

March 9th…Is this Principal a busy guy or what! Again I quote cuz I can’t make this stuff up… “The basketball boys get their annual hair-cut. Reason: the Tournament in Menomonie.”

Are there any Principals in the room? You better quit complaining about your jobs, because you could have had to deal with the terror and angst poor Principal Denman had to deal with in 1921.

Did you know that in 1907-08 there was a girl’s basketball team? Yes…truly! Long, long before Title IX and Women’s Equality issues were debated, the region competitively played basketball. There were six players on the team. There is no mention of games played, scores etc for either the boys’ or girls’ teams in the Messenger.

There is a gap in history as the historical society has no annuals from 1909 through 1920. When we do pick up on Messengers again, there was a girls’ bball team in the 1920-21 school year…Josie Pohl, Tillie Konder, Hilda Nelson, Dorothy Cline, Martha Schramski, Matilda Schramski, Ida Boget and Ezena DeSmith. The season consisted of four games; two each with New Richmond and Baldwin. They won three of their four games. All players who played in the three victories were awarded Letters. I’d like to quote a paragraph from The 1922-23 Messenger “During the 1922-‘23 season our girls’ team under the direction of Miss Hagestad made a very good record. With new material and the return of several of the old players we had prospects of a winning team for the 1923-‘24 season. However, when the basketball season opened the girls relinquished all claims to the hall to the boys’ team so that they could have the needed amount of practice. In the near future we hope that GCHS can again be represented in girls basketball.” Oscar Brown WOW Isn’t that just amazing? No…Principal Denman was not in charge in case that crossed your mind! Clearly the only one in charge was the Boys’ Basketball Coach!

Did you know that the first football team was organized at GCHS in the fall of 1923, according to The Messenger of 1924. Twenty five boys expressed an interest and began practice. The team lost all four games, and didn’t score until the final game of the season.

The 1926 Season was so much better with three victories and a tie. The program built quickly!

Of course we know Hilltopper football has remained alive and well over the decades with several Wisconsin State Championships won by the Blue and White. Although, Did you Know GCHS wasn’t always Blue and White when it came to football? My source for this story is Skip Rasmussen Class of 1966, as told to him by his father Chuck Rasmussen…, Class of 1943, The story was verified by Mac Johnson, Class of 1945 Here it is:

Charles McCusker and Bernie Bierman became friends while they were undergrads at the University of Minnesota. Charles McCusker earned a degree in Medicine and established a medical practice in Glenwood City. Bernie Bierman went on to be the head football coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1932 to 1950. A number of times, Bernie Bierman would come to GC and speak at the athletic banquet and spend time with his friend, Dr McCusker.

Sometime in the mid 30’s, Dr McCusker persuaded his friend Bernie Bierman to give the GC football team the used uniforms of the U of MN football team. These uniforms were gold with maroon numbers…the colors of the Golden Gophers. Wearing these uniforms, it was said that the GCHS football team looked like a GOLDEN WAVE as they ran onto the football field.

Not many knew of this donation by Coach Bierman…including the U of MN administration!

Isn’t this a great story? So this validates a few references in The Messengers over time as to the maroon and gold. What a gift to the program, for sure! Did you know? I didn’t

Did you know how we became Hilltoppers? Well we all know there are many hills in and around Glenwood City…but who brought forth this idea? You might ask, which coach? Which star athlete? Well here is THAT story. 

Sometime between 1922 and 1927, a contest was opened up to the public by the school to identify and name a mascot for the High School. If there is documentation of this contest it must be in the issues of the Messengers that I did not have access to. My source is the daughter of the winner. That winner was Bertha Schneider Hentsch. Bertha Schneider was born in 1909. She went to school through 8th grade, and then had to go to work. That was the case for many young people during those years. Families needed many hands on deck to make things happen. When the contest opened up, Bertha was a teenager, and she was working. But she had the idea of Hilltoppers and entered the contest…and as we all know so well, the rest is our wonderful history. A teenager who had to quit school to go to work to help her family, came up with the iconic mascot that we have all come to love and honor. Somewhere between 1982-1988 The Tribune Press Reporter interviewed Bertha and she told this story. Did you know? I didn’t…Thanks Joanne Hentsch Baier, GC Class of 1965. 

I have so many more stories to share, but my time is up. I’d like to close with a verse from the 1931 Messenger, written by Thelma Johnson. It was under a picture of the High School on the Hill.

“It stands like a mighty temple,

High on top of the Hill,

It is called, “Our house of Learning”,

Where work is governed by will.

Did you know?

Thank you.