Mary's family moved to this area near Cyphers
in 1912 when Mary was 3 years old. Because of the lack of roads, most children
attended small rural schools. Mary started school in Cyphers with other children
from Turtle Lake township and some from the Walker school district. There were
about 10 students, enough to hire a teacher. (Seven was the minimum.) At one
time Cass County had 200 schools in the unorganized school district. The school
board consisted of the elected school superintendent, the county treasurer and
the chairman of the county board. They were required by law to visit each school
twice a year.
When Mary finished eighth grade she went to
high school at St. Benedicts near St. Cloud as a boarder. She finished high
school in 1927 and then went to Walker for one year of normal training. She
boarded with a lady in Walker during the winter months and in the spring and
fall drove a Model T. At that time grade school teachers were required to have
four years of high school and one year of normal training, which was provided in
Walker and in Pine River. With that they received a teaching certificate good
for seven years. They could renew the certificate by going back to school for
Mary's first job was in a school near Boy
River. The custom for boarding of teachers was to look around the community for
the poorest family who most needed the extra money. The community also set up
rules for the teachers who had to be single and couldn't smoke, drink or dance.
Teachers also had extra duties including building a fire in a wood-burning stove
each morning before the students arrived. Cass County schools all had
"Smith System" stoves, with a cast iron center and a jacket for
At one time Mary taught at the Onigum School
which had two teachers, one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades.
Mary taught 47 children in the lower grades, plus doing the janitor work and
preparing lunch for the children.
Teachers in rural schools were expected to
teach as much to all the eight grades in eight months as teachers in town did to
one grade in nine months. At the end of eighth grade, students took a state test
which determined whether or not they were eligible to go on to high school. The
teachers visited families quite often to urge the parents to support their
children's learning. Many parents did not have an eighth grade education
themselves. In those days most teachers did not stay in one school more than two
years. This was so they got to meet different people and didn't get bored.