Reunion finds old NLA 'looking good'
By Jo Hall (from the Mobridge Tribune 6/16/2004)
Members of the Northwestern Lutheran Academy graduating class of 1954 were a bit fearful of what they would find when they returned to Mobridge for a reunion on Saturday and Sunday, June 12 and 13. The school had closed on May 24, 1979, with 20 seniors in the fiftieth and final graduating class. The school had opened in the fall of 1928 with 10 boys and six girls.
"We were rather pleasantly surprised to see that the buildings and grounds have been kept up and that they are being put to good use," said Jerauld "Jerry" Kluckman of the Class of 1954. The school dining room is now Pizza Ranch and the administrative building is the Sacagawea Learning Center and the site of many activities in the former gym.
When the Class of 1954 was in school there, the old white building now owned by Wayne Schmidt was used as a chapel, dining room, music rooms, study rooms and dormitory.
School was very different then, all agreed. "It was the best four years of my life," said Arline Presser of the class. "We were like a big family and the older students helped the younger ones." Arline later became Mrs. John Rabenberg and now lives in Wolf Point, Mont.
Students came from states around as well as local and stayed in the school dormitories. Students were required to go to church at the old Zion Lutheran Church then located just southeast of the city park and they had to walk regardless of the weather. That church was destroyed by fire some years back.
Girls were not allowed to wear jeans and all students were not allowed to go downtown until after 4 p.m. On either a Friday or Saturday they were permitted to go downtown to a movie or basketball game and they had to choose one or the other.
They were the first class to graduate from the newly built school gym in the administration building.
"We won our first basketball game when we were seniors - the only one we ever won," recalled John Pfhal, who now lives in Buckley, Wash. "We beat Isabel."
Teachers would drive the students in cars across the river ice to games in the winter because the only roads took them far out of the way to reach their destinations. They had no bus. They did not play football.
Before the NLA gym was built, Mobridge High School let them use its gym for practice. At other times they practiced in a tiny downstairs room. "No wonder we couldn't win games!"
Professor K.G. Sievert was a favorite with the students. "We knew when he meant business and when we could loosen up." Professor Schuetze was another favorite.
"He was a good scholar and went on to become president of a seminary outside of Milwaukee," they said.
Tutors were young seminarians who served two years at the school. They stayed in the boys' dorm to try to keep order, coach basketball and help teach. They usually left to go into regular ministry.
The girls' dormitory had a matron who "ruled with an iron hand" in their words.
Charlotte (Kahler) Johannsen, who had come to the school from rural Colome, was terrified when she came. "From my little rural school to a campus with five or six professors, so authoritative, and all men!"
There was chapel, then classes, dinner, chapel and then back to the dorm to study. Students helped in the kitchen, set tables and washed dishes. The boys did such chores as "sprout" potatoes, knocking the sprouts off potatoes that had been donated to the school along with other supplies. "There were always boys who would sidle into the kitchen, inch their way to the cookie jar and try to sneak some."
"Our strict hours of study was valuable training for those who went on to college," someone remarked. "Some who go on to college have never learned to study."
They remembered how the home of John and Rose Rabenberg of north Glenham would be overflowing with students who lived too far away to go home on weekends or for holidays. The Rabenberg home was a welcome relief from the dorm.
The changes in tuition and costs in schools also amazed the group. Room and board for boys and girls was $200 a year and tuition was $60 when they were in school.
Of the class of 15 students, seven and spouses came to the reunion. Two had married classmates. John Pfhal, who nuw lives in Buckley, came to the school from Jamestown, N.D. Kluckman, originally from Mound City, now lives in Lusby, Md. Charlotte Johannsen makes her home in Stevensville, Mich. Arline Rabenberg was originally from Presserville, Mont., and now lives in Wolf Point. Wilmer Treichel was from Bentley, N.D., and still makes his home there with his wife Aileen. James Meyer came from Flasher, N.D., and now lives in Solen, N.D. with his wife Karen. Derry Hochhalter came from Columbia, S.D., and he and his wife Audrey live in Vermillion. Norma Sievert, now Mrs. Elmer Neumann, lived in Mobridge and now makes her home in Albuquerque, N.M.
Unable to attend were classmates Philip Roth of Fort Morgan, Colo., Joan (Eaton) Forbes of Apache Junction, Ariz., Lila (Mohr) Hadler of Thatcher, Ariz., and Dean Schatz of Burlington, Wash.
The reunon was held at the Wrangler and the group had all its meals together with a "banquet" on Saturday night at the Windjammer.