Women to represent Colfax's first-ever graduating class
Esther Skoog received the invitation to what is now Richland School District No. 44's all-school reunion, and she had no doubt she would attend. Today, she and a classmate will be honored as members of the first class to graduate from the high sc...
Esther Skoog received the invitation to what is now Richland School District No. 44's all-school reunion, and she had no doubt she would attend.
Today, she and a classmate will be honored as members of the first class to graduate from the high school in Colfax, N.D. The two women will also celebrate their 75th class reunion.
Skoog, who lives at Bethany Homes in Fargo, can hardly wait.
"A lot of things are coming back to us," the 93-year-old said. "We're the oldest around."
Her only surviving classmate, Marie Kummer, plans to fly in from California to attend the all-school reunion that coincides with Colfax's 125th anniversary.
Skoog sneaked in as a member of the first graduating class from Colfax High School. The district's school board established a high school in 1927. She moved into the community from Illinois in 1930 - just in time to join the senior class.
One thought crossed her mind as she entered her new school: "Now what did I get into?"
The high school was crude by today's standards. A wooden screen that rattled like a roll-top desk divided two old country school buildings.
Because there wasn't enough space, the district also leased a large room above the general store owned by John Bolstad. Here the boys played basketball, students performed class plays and graduation ceremonies were held.
Skoog remembers the low ceiling in the leased space, meaning her classmates didn't have to work too hard to make baskets, she said.
Despite being a newcomer, Skoog was elected class treasurer. She performed in the class's three-act play "At the End of the Rainbow," which cost audience members 10 cents or a quarter to attend.
She and three girls from her class also formed a band comprised of two violins, a saxophone and some type of horn.
Skoog still has a scrapbook of high school memories, including a graduation photo that shows all 19 classmates - the boys in suits and the girls in white dresses made from the same fabric. The girls picked out the fabric and asked their mothers to make the dresses in different styles, Skoog said.
To graduate, the students had to pass several examinations, including one in geography that asked questions such as "How is fog formed?" and "What effect did the continental ice sheet have on the topography of North Dakota?"
Colfax's first class was one of the largest because some families enrolled several children into the inaugural freshman class. The class' colors were orchid and silver. Their class motto: "Now we launch. Where shall we anchor?"
To document their status, each graduate embroidered his or her name on a quilt block. A partially completed quilt was raffled off at graduation. The quilt has since been returned to the Colfax area and completed.
"I guess we did it so we'd remember the names," Skoog said.
After high school, Skoog, whose maiden name is Engnes, married Carl Skoog and raised nine children. Colfax High School also changed. Four neighboring towns eventually joined forces to establish Richland No. 44 in 1968. The high school building still stands on the original site in Colfax.
About 500 people will attend the all-school celebration tonight, said Nathan Berseth, chairman of the committee. Someone will represent each class from 1939 to today, he said.
That makes Skoog and Kummer's appearances as members of the class of 1931 even more special.
"We'll talk about a little of everything, I imagine," Skoog said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534