These stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Look Back in Time” program. Each week’s radio story will be posted here on our website.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
September 17, 2023
With the start of school, I thought it would be fun to share stories of some of the retired teachers from our area. Today I’ll tell you about Clarice Lancaster.
Clarice grew up as the only girl with 4 brothers, the children of Ralph and Clara Medicraft. She lived in Palmville Township, and went to school at District 44W, also known as the Billberg School. The building still exists out there. In 7th grade at Christmas time, her family moved closer to Roseau to her grandparents’ farm, the Erick and Betty Erickson place. The Ericksons were going on a vacation, so the Medicrafts stayed in their house and took care of their cows and other animals while they were gone. Clarice finished the last half of 7th and 8th grade at a different school, then went on to high school in Roseau. She graduated in 1951.
She doesn’t ever remember a time when she didn’t know she was going to be a teacher. The fall after high school graduation she went to Thief River Falls and completed 9 months of teacher’s training. Her practice teaching was at Haug Leo School, then she remembers that Superintendent Charles Christianson found jobs for Clarice and two of her teacher’s training classmates, Shelia Brandt and Marian Grefthen. Clarice’s job was at Beaver School, where she worked for one year with 13 students from all eight grades together in a one-room schoolhouse.
As we were visiting, Clarice let me page through a thick album of photos and items from her many years of teaching. She had kept pictures of her students at each school labeled meticulously like you would expect from a teacher. Clarice is now 90 and commented sadly that many of her students have already passed away. She pointed out several of them as we looked at all the photos.
Before she went to teacher’s college, she had met Gerald Lancaster at a skating party at Wannaska. She said she was a little wobbly and he had helped her skate. He asked her for a date for New Year’s Eve. They went to a movie. At the end of summer after teaching at Beaver School, they were married August 8, 1953 at the Baptist Church in Roseau that used to sit alongside the river. Also at the end of that school year, Beaver School had consolidated with Malung, and Miss Medicraft went to Malung School as Mrs. Lancaster that fall and taught all of the first graders and half of the second graders. Irene Wicklander taught the other half of the second graders and all the third graders. Those were the years of the Baby Boomers starting school so classes were growing. Clarice taught five years at Malung School.
By 1955, Clarice and Gerald had their first son, Gregory, and altogether their six children were born over a period of 18 years. Their first daughter Cindy was born in 1958. That caused a gap between teaching jobs. She taught two years at Strathcona, teaching first, second and third grades from 1959 to 1961. Another daughter Vanji was born in 1963 in March. Clarice taught first and second grades in Wannaska from the fall of 1963 to 1969. Their daughter Cindy was starting first grade when Clarice was teaching in Wannaska, and she got permission from Superintendent Christianson to bring Cindy out there with her to attend school in Wannaska that year. Clarice remembers one of the other first grade girls asking her why Cindy called her Mommy, not teacher.
When Wannaska consolidated with Roseau, Clarice began her 25 years of teaching in Roseau, always teaching first grade. She loved that age group and had many sweet memories of those kids. One item in her album was a poem she had written about each of the students in her last year of teaching first grade in Wannaska. I’ll read one verse that she pointed out, which summarized her philosophy of studying:
“I see one child not progressing
on his seatwork quite as well,
I hear Kammie give a warning
that rings true as a bell –
“You had better get your work done
or you’ll never grow up smart,
And you’ll never get your work done
if you never even start.”
Clarice took continuing education in Bemidji, sometimes staying in a cabin by the lake with her kids. The oldest son Gregory had left home when school was out after his Senior year, and the last baby, Jeremy, was born the following July. The second daughter, Vanji, was old enough to babysit Jonathan and Jeremy during the day while Clarice attended classes. Vanji also brought a friend along for a week. The oldest girl, Cindy, had also gone with Clarice during her summer school sessions. Redgie stayed home with his dad the year he was 10. After many years of extra work, Clarice obtained her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1978.
Hard work is just accepted when you teach school. The end of the school day doesn’t mean the end of the teacher’s work day. She made a point of heading home at 5 o’clock after completing other jobs in her room like correcting papers, putting bulletin boards together, and prepping for the next day’s classes. Each Friday afternoon she allowed an hour for art. That involved extra time to prepare for, but she said the kids were all so good and she doesn’t ever remember anyone even spilling paint on painting days. There were also programs to prepare and practice for. She had photos showing Christmas and Mother’s Day programs, and kids in Halloween costumes. All the younger elementary students enjoyed parading around the gym in their costumes that day. She also taught summer school a couple of times which also involved a program. She taught students to do embroidery on dishtowels and to sew aprons and clothes.
Clarice couldn’t remember any bad experiences from her teaching years. I think her great love of little children accounts for that. She was selected as Roseau’s Teacher of the Year in March of 1991, a well-deserved honor. I’m sure all of her students would agree.
Thanks, Clarice, for letting me see your album and hear your memories for this story.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.