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Ruth Younggren: She Holds The Key To Success


Loann Bergh


The Red River Valley has given homes to many authors, singers,priests, and teachers. One of the outstanding teachers raised in this valleyis Ruth I. Younggren. During her life she has brought happiness to manypeople. She was always there to help you out when you needed it.

Ruth Younggren was born on February 19, 1898 in the sheriff'squarters in Hallock. Ruth was the eldest of five children. The younger oneswere Roy, Ethel, and Luke. There was a baby, whom they called Margarette,but she died during infancy.

Her father, Oscar Younggren, was the sheriff in Kittsonand Roseau county. Her mother, Mulvina (Berg) Younggren, was the daughterof the hotel keeper.

Her father never campaigned for votes for the electionof the sheriff. He believed that if people wanted him, they would vote forhim. If they didn't want him, it was no use wasting his or their time totry to convince them that he was right for the job. In the following election,he was defeated by a "drunk."

When he was defeated, they knew that they had to move outof the sheriff's quarters. Her mother wanted to move out into the country.She had grown tired of the business of the town. Her father bought a farmwest of Northcote to keep her mother happy. They moved into a large houseconsisting of two portions. The front portion was where the family lived.The back portion was where the cook and foreman stayed because there wasn'tany place else for them to live.

Her father had raised a huge crop that year, and he realizedthat he needed help desperately. They hired the Galetian, who were immigrants.They also hired two maids from Sweden and Norway. Altogether they had sixtyto seventy people working for them.

The first year was hard on the Galetians. All they hadto drink was river water, because that was all that the Younggrens everdrank. They weren't used to that kind of water. Soon a lot of the Galetianswere getting sick from it. They started putting oatmeal in the water sothey wouldn't get sick anymore. They learned to do this in their nativeland. Soon the Galetians were well and were able to work again.

Her father decided that the family needed a little entertainmentso he bought them a piano. He figured that the family was bored on the farm.It was the first piano in Kittson County. He had it shipped in 1900 fromCrookston.

Her mother was with the children all the time. In the evening,they had programs on the open stairway. Her mother played the piano whilethey stood on the stairway and sang a solo. The whole family looked forwardfor the evenings to come.

One winter, a lot of their horses had distemper and died.In the moonlight, you could see the wolves eating the dead carcasses. Youcould hear them bay, to call for the other wolves. The sound of the wolvesfrightened the children so much, that they couldn't sleep. Her mother tookthem out of bed and played the piano to calm them. One song that they sangwas "Fair Charlotte", which had twenty-one verses. By the timethey were done singing, they forgot about the wolves.

When Ruth was six years old, she learned the best lessonof her life. Her father had just bought a one seat black buggy. It had redwheels with rubber tires and gringe on the buggy top. There was a grocerybox in the back of the buggy in which the children often rode. One Sundayin the fall, her mother and father were planning on taking a ride in thenew buggy. Roy and Ruth wanted to go along more than anything else in theworld. The first time she asked, her mother said definitely not. Ruth waiteda while and then decided to ask a second time. Her mother was quite perturbedwith Ruth, because she dared ask again. Finally Ruth decided she dared aska third time. Her mother became quite upset with her, and told her thatshe didn't want to hear another word about it. Ruth went outside to talkto Roy about it. Roy decided that he should try to ask their mother. Ruthfollowed him upstairs and listened to them talk. Their mother was angryby this time and told him absolutely not. Roy was so angry, that he laiddown on the floor and threw a temper tantrum. Ruth, hearing this, walkedinto the room, laid down, and joined him. Their parents were so angry thatthey gave them each a good whipping. After the whipping, Roy and Ruth beggedthem not to take them along.

Ruth's mother had a canary that she was very proud of.It did not only look beautiful, but it sang beautifully, too. She kept itin a cage in the living room. After they left for their buggy ride, Roydecided to take revenge on his mother. He grabbed a butcher knife and tookthe canary out of the cage. He held the bird on the table and chopped it'stail off. One of the maids heard the canary squawking, and rushed in tosee what was wrong. She gasped in horror to see that the canary's tail waschopped off. She grabbed the canary and put him back into the cage. Shedidn't want their parents to know what Roy did, so she quickly threw thecover over. the bird cage. She didn't think it was fair of their parentsto whip Ruth and Roy just because they threw a' temper tantrum. Roy andRuth were so scared of what might happen to them, that they said their prayersand went to bed. Their mother and father came home before the sun went down.They wondered where Ruth and Roy were. When the maid told them that theyhad gone to bed, Ruth's mother became quite alarmed. She was worried thatthey were seriously ill, and went upstairs to check them. She found themboth to be fast asleep(supposedly), and she couldn't figure out what waswrong. The next morning she found out. She missed the singing of her canary,so she pulled the cover off the bird cage. To her horror and shock, shefound a tailless bird: She called Ruth and Roy downstairs instantly anddemanded to know who did it. Roy confessed to the crime, and asked for forgiveness.As soon as their father came home, he received another whipping.

Soon Ruth became old enough to start school. All her lifeshe had waited for the day when she would be able to step into a classroom,sit down, and open her books.

They had planned that in the fall, the choreman would driveRuth to school in the buggy. When the big day finally came, it was so rainyand cold outside, the buggy couldn't get through the roads. They decidedto wait another year and hold Ruth back.

The next year Roy started school. He wasn't thrilled withthe idea at all. Roy and Ruth went to school for a couple of days, and thenthey decided to wait until Ethel started school. Roy couldn't stand histeacher. Finally, one fall, all three of the children started school together.They went to a country school for three years.

They transferred from the country school to a school inthe Northcote area. During their first year, they got their grades straightenedout so that they were each in their own individual grade. She graduatedfrom grade school in 1917.

During the time she attended school in Northcote, JamesJ, Hill had hired a group of Hollander to work his fields for him. He builttwelve houses(known as cottages) for them. The Hollanders had a terribletime learning in school. The first "strike" against them was thatthey knew very little English. They couldn't adjust to the Red River Valley'sway of living, either. They didn't have the proper clothes for the cold,hard, and harsh winters. Many of them didn't know how to cook with the cookingutensils that were supplied. Finally, after many hardships, they moved toSouthern Minnesota where they found life to be much easier.

After she graduated from grade school, Ruth attended thehigh school in Hallock. Only four subjects were required for each year.

Ruth chose five subjects each year so she could graduateearly. After three years in high school, she graduated by passing a stateexamination.

She was a very shy person while in school. The Junior classplay helped her to come out of her "shell." Russell Horton, whomall the girls were crazy over, acquired the leading male part in the play.The director told Russell to choose the leading lady. She figured he couldwork better if he chose his own leading lady, than if she chose someonethat he didn't like. Of all the girls that he had to choose from, he choseRuth. Ruth was excited and thrilled over the idea that she got a leadingpart across from Russell Horton. All of the girls were envious and jealous.At the night of the class play she wore a floor length black satin dressthat was covered with beads. It was one of the most memorable nights inher life.

Her father was very domineering with the children. He decidedwhich occupation each child should pursue. He demanded that Ruth go to theUniversity of North Dakota for two months, when all of a sudden Ethel becameseriously ill.

They rushed Ethel to the Fargo hospital where they foundout that Ethel needed surgery immediately. Their mother was not well, soshe couldn't be with Ethel. Ruth took her mother's place and sat by Ethel'sside until Ethel was well. Ethel and Ruth came home by Christmas.

It was too late for Ruth to go back to the University ofNorth Dakota, so she stayed out of school for one year.

Ruth realized that she needed money. She decided to raisesome herself. She raised one whole acre of cabbage without any other help.She spent a lot of time and hard work with the cabbage. She worked on herhands and knees growing the cabbage. She also had a dream to go along withthe cabbage. She fantasied her glove box full of money that she receivedfrom the cabbage. When the cabbage was ready, she picked it and sold it.Altogether she sold $61 worth of cabbage. It didn't meet up with her dreamimage, but she was satisfied.

The next spring she decided to make money a different way.She didn't want to work as hard as she had with the cabbage. She figuredthat raising turkeys would be easier. She received the turkey eggs duringthe night of the basketball game. She held the eggs with all her might becauseshe was afraid that she might drop them and break them. Five of the eggshatched.

One day Luke was feeling mischievous. He took out his slingshotand shot one of the turkeys. Another one fell in a pail of water. Needlessto say, Ruth was very angry.

The next year Ruth and Ethel attended college. Ethel wentto Stout Institute to become a Home Economics teacher and Ruth went to Bemidjito become a teacher. That was what her father had wanted. Looking back throughher life, she was glad he had. "My whole life has been my teaching.I could hardly wait for the next day to come." (1)

One of her roommates at Bemidji was Grace Finney. Graceand Ruth were very lonesome for their families. They spent a lot of timetogether, and they helped each other get over their loneliness.

Ruth attended school at Bemidji for one year, and thenwent out into the world on her own to teach. The first place she ever taughtwas at Northcote. There she taught the grades four through eight.

Another school she taught at was the Grasshopper school.It was harder teaching because she had to teach all of the grades. She alsotaught at the North Star for two years.

After she was through teaching there, she knew that shewould have to try for the office of the County Superintendent. She had had18 1/2 years of teaching experience behind her. She took office in January,l943. It was the same office that she had been born in.

She served as the County Superintendent for sixteen years.At one time, she had sixty-eight teachers under her office. During the lastfour years of her term, she taught at Karlstad. When she completed her lastterm in office she had twelve teachers under her. The office was abolisheddue to reorganization of the schools. All but one rural school was closedat that time. Caribou finally consolidated with Lancaster and that endedthe rural school era in Kittson County.

Ruth had done a lot of public health work while she wasCounty Superintendent. Lena Brendal, head of the health department, persuadedRuth to attend a meeting concerning cancer. Ruth was very interested incancer because Ethel had had cancer of the lung. In 1940, Ethel was thethird person they operated on to remove a lung. It was three months beforeshe could leave Rochester. Ruth worked for fifteen years with cancer. Shewas the chairman of the Cancer Crusade. Her co-workers received 329% ofthe quota asked for. Ruth won a trip to New York City to the National CancerConvention. They asked her to tell them how she did it, and she explainedthat it was the homemakers that helped her.

At one time Ruth was chairman of the Blood Bank. One yeara train side-tracked two cars for people to come in and donate blood. Everyfifteen minutes there was someone that came in. The doctors had never seenanything like it before in their lives. The homemakers also helped her outin this project.

She also served on the Christmas Seal committee for twentyyears, the Nursing Advisory Board for twenty years, and a member of theTB Association.

Altogether she has 52 1/2 years of teaching credit. Thelast ten years before she retired were in Humboldt. She retired in 1969.

In addition to her classroom activities and work on thevarious health committee, she has done some traveling. She has visited Seattle,San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Winnipeg, Washington, andAkron, Ohio.

Since her retirement, she has tutored many children. Sheespecially delights in helping children learning "how to read."

The Red River Valley gave a home to an outstanding person.Ruth Younggren was not only an excellent teacher, but she is warm, kind-hearted,and a lot of fun to be with. All her life she held the key to success inher hand, and with her great knowledge she opened the right doors.

(1) Ruth Younggren, Interviewed August 17, 1971



Who's Who In Minnesota's Centennial Edition, Ruth Younggren,p. 253

Younggren, Ruth, Hallock, Minnesota Interviewed August17, 1971



Who's Who In Minnesota's Centennial Edition, Ruth Younggren,p. 253

Younggren, Ruth, Hallock, Minnesota Interviewed August17, 1971