The GI Bill, the Lowry Vets, and the State School of Science
Forward by Ellwood A. Johnson
In my opinion, the greatest social legislation in the history of the United States was the G.I. Bill. This bill provided all WWII veterans --later to include Korea, Vietnam, etc) the means to get a four year education if they so desired. It also provided monies that veterans could use to purchase new homes with guaranteed loans. The effect of the G.I. bill provided many veterans the education to acquire jobs that normally would not be available to them. This massive influx of educated manpower and the expansion of the housing market set America on a new economic system.
Many of the Lowry Vets enrolled in courses at the North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota. The SSS was a two-year college with a Junior College, Trade School, and Business School. For the Lowry World War II vets, the SSS probably started more on a technical or professional track than any other college at that time. This narrative probably will not mean much to those who were born after 1940, but it may give this group of people an understanding of the upper education of a small group of veterans from a small village in Minnesota.
For those born before 1940, they will recall the local kids and their quest for a better way of life following the hard times of the great depression..
My first recollection of the State School of Science was in learning that my Uncle Cliff Johnson of Lowry and Alexandria attended SSS in the late '20s. He was a four-sport letterman (later inducted to the SSS sports Hall of Fame) and later graduated from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks..
When we started working on the CD and publication of "Our Home Town", I asked Roy Robieson, of Fredericksburg, VA, how the vets selected the SSS. Below is his recollection with additional input by John Erickson of Edina, MN and John Weaver of Plano, Texas. The following is Roy's recollection:
Hartford Holden went into the Navy a couple years before Paul Hoplin, DeWayne (Dee) Johnson, and I did, so he got out a few months earlier than we. He probably got out in April of 1946, (Soon enough to snag Dagmar before anybody else got home.) He had some connection, relative or friend, in Breckenridge, so he knew about SSS. He registered early for the Drafting/Estimating course.
Paul, Dee and I got out of the Navy about July of 1946. None of us had a clue as to what we were going to do. Hartford said, "Why not go to Wahpeton? They have courses in Pre Med, Pre Eng, etc". That sounded good to we three green horns, so we jumped in a car and went to the SSS office of the Registrar, Wally Nordgaard.
None of us knew Nordgaard from Adam, but he was very attentive to us. He said there would be no problem getting Dee into Pre Med., but Pre Eng was full. No room in the manger, let alone the Inn!
Then Wally looked at me and said, "Do you know Jim Robieson?" I said, "Yes, he is my brother". Then he said, "Do you know Bob Bennett?" I said, "Yes, Bob is my brother-in-law". "Well", he said, "the three of us used to horse around Minneapolis a few years back". Knowing Bob and my brother, I'm sure the fooling around was all on Washington and Hennepin Avenues.
Wally said, "Just a minute". He went across the hall into the business office and we heard him talking to a man who we later determined was Henry Knight, their chief engineering instructor. The conversation went like this, "No, those classes are full up". "Yeah, I know, but these guys look pretty good and I have a little connection to them". "Are you trying to kill me with an overload of work"? "Oh!, after a couple weeks of school, there will be dropouts". "Well, okay, but that's IT". Aha! we were in.
A little later, the four of us went back to Wahpeton, looking for housing. We found a place that had a full upstairs, with two beds that we could rent. The name of the people was Bale. I think the house was about half way toward town and was on Eighth Street. He was a metal culvert dealer. They had a son our age that went to SSS also, but he was about the laziest guy around. I slept with Paul and Dee slept with Hartford. Hartford and Paul went out for football, Dee chased the girls and I studied. We all worked pretty hard in school and succeeded as students. We got along pretty good living together.
The first day of school, of course we didn't get any assignments, it was just orientation. That night, about seven o'clock, Jack and Earle Johnson, Martin Holden, Ole Hoplin and J. A. Robieson showed up, unannounced. Paul and Hartford were at the house, but Dee and I were in the Legion Club. Luckily, I started for home and about the same time, the whole Lowry gang with Paul and Hartford started downtown to find Dee and me. I met them half way. Then Earl, Hartford and I got to the side to figure out a way of getting Dee out of the Legion. It was decided that the gang would go to the cafe across the street from the Legion and get a cup of coffee and one of the three of us would hike up to the Legion and get Dee. Low and behold, Dee was in the cafe, having a hamburger. We were saved by the bell.
During the year, and after a couple hours of studying at night, we would all be hungry, so we would trot off to a little cafe, about four blocks away, and have a hamburger.
I was proud of Dee. He did well enough on his own to earn entry into the Chicago School of Optometry, and continued on through that technology, on his own, to graduate. (Anything mildly associated with lenses in Physics baffled me.)
Hartford was elected President of the Student Council in 1948. He graduated from North Dakota State with a degree in architectural engineering in 1948 and subsequently studied civil engineering at South Dakota State School of Mines. Paul continued his education at the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis. He took the trade of Air Conditioning and Heating. I continued on at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, S.D., graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering. I worked for the North Dakota State Highway Department for a number of years.
Hartford, during the first year, drove a Model A Ford coupe. We would make a trip to Lowry about every other week end. It was a laundry trip for us and to get some good home meals.
We tried every different route from Breckenridge to Lowry that we could find. Most of those routes were gravel, but they were shorter than going through Fergus Falls. Well, the tires on the 'A' were next to bare rags, and it was seldom that we made the eighty mile trip without having a flat. We got so adept at changing tires that we could do it in four minutes - hardly enough time for the engine to quit firing. Can you see the four of us riding in that coupe that had a cushion not more than 3 1/2 feet wide?
Well, that's the story of how the four of us got to SSS. The next year, -- 1947 --we were joined by David Quitney and John Erickson. There were six then, so we had to get a different lodging. We got another upstairs with three beds. John and Dave were very sharp students. John was elected to the Student Cabinet. I think Wally was pretty satisfied with bringing in the Lowry horsemen.
John Erickson added: "
When Dave Quitney and I graduated from High School in 1947, we were casting about as to where to go on to school. While considering other colleges, the Lowry foursome who were already at SSS encouraged us to consider SSS. So one day Dave and I drove up to Wahpeton to check it out. We quite impressed, I with the pre-engineering curriculum and Dave with the pre-med curriculum, as well as with the opportunity to play football. We applied and were accepted. However, being economically challenged, not having the benefit of the GI Bill, we applied with Wally Nordgaard for part time jobs. Wally was very helpful and placed both of us in the SSS Library as Library assistants at 15 or 20 hours per month.
When it was time to go up to school in the fall, Dave and I, together with our suitcases rode in the back of Hoplin's pickup truck. Riding up front in the cab were Paul, Roy, and probably Dee. When going back and forth between Wahpeton and Lowry for occasional weekends and vacations, there were a few occasions of riding with Hartford, who by that time had a newer model Ford coupe. However, for the most part hitchhiking was the mode of transportation. There was never really any problem in getting rides to Fergus Falls and then on to Lowry and back the same to Wahpeton via the same roads. The second year at SSS it was Dave and I together with John Weaver sharing a room at Burch Hall. During this year I was fortunate to get a part time job with more hours, working as cashier in the cafeteria."
John Weaver started in the fall of 1948 and lived in Burch Hall dorm sharing a room with Dave and I. Hartford was still in SSS but didn't live on campus. Dave went on to the University of Minnesota and then into dental school. I went on to the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo and got my BS in Electrical Engineering.
Several sources stated that Lois Holden also attended Science at about this time. We have been told that she tried out for the Science football team, was accepted by coach Butte, but was turned down by the school or an athletic commission. We then think Lois went on to St. Catherine College in Collegeville, MN, then transferred to the Colorado School of Mines and took a degree, and then a masters, in Geological Petroleum. She died at a too early age.
In 1949, Vertis Johnson (Auto Mechanics), Dale Henderson (Refrigeration), Charles Christenson (Drafting and Estimating) and Ted Erickson (Pre-Engineering) signed up at Science. Vertis and Dale shared a room in Burch Hall and Ted shared a room with Charles. Ted went on to get his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC) later named North Dakota State. In 1950, Charles left Science when his National Guard unit became activated. After discharge, he re-attended Science only to leave in the Fall of '52 to farm near Lowry. In the Fall of 1954, he returned to Science and graduated with a Drafting and Estimating diploma.
John Hagstrom attended Science in 1951 and was enrolled in the pre-electrical engineering courses in the Junior College.
In the Fall of 1950, Ellwood Johnson enrolled at Science in Pre-Pharmacy and in January 1951, joined the Navy with John Weaver, and Dale Henderson. Ellwood returned to Science in the Fall of 1954 and received a pre-commerce degree in 1954. He went on to graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College with a BS degree in Business Administration. While at Science, Ellwood was the business manager of the Agawasie (yearbook) and Editor of The Dakota Scientist (school paper)..
In 1952, Daniel Erickson attended Science earning a Pre-Commerce degree and then received a BS in Business at the University of Minnesota.
Solie Erlandson attended Science from 1955-57 and received a Drafting and Estimating diploma.
All in all, the State School of Science and the Lowry vets and non-vets left their impact on the American scene.
Recently, Ted Erickson mentioned that John Weaver made the NDSSS all 50-year All Star Football team as the All Star Center.
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