Ted “Parker” Nelson is turning 90 on May 13th. His generation is described by some as the Silent or Post-War Generation, the “Lucky Few” and “The Traditionalists.” They are characterized as hardworking, logical, loyal, possessing a traditional outlook and clear sense of right and wrong. These are pretty accurate descriptions of my father.
He lives in his own home in Northern Idaho sharing his days with his dog, in-home caregivers and visits from family and friends. His hearing is not good and he no longer drives his Ford F-150, but it sits proudly by the curb outside his home. He has survived colon cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer and a heart attack. Most days he sits in his recliner with his dachshund Charlie Brown by his side, watching sports on TV and the squirrels eating peanuts from the feeder on his deck. His long-time love of square dancing is a thing of the past and he sold all his antique tractors when he moved to his current home. Fortunately, baseball season has begun & he has the MLB channel to keep track of the Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies.
On a recent trip to visit my father in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho I brought his senior class photo from the New England High Class of 1947. Bring up the subject of North Dakota and he settles back in his chair, lights up another cigarette, which he has enjoyed since he was 16, and with a faraway look, he’ll tell you those were some of the best days of his life. Soon the memories flood back like the Cannonball River on the old Nelson Farm in E-6 Township.
The New England High Class of 1947 was 26 students strong and the best of friends. Most were born in 1929, the first year of the Great Depression. They lived through the Dust Bowl, World War II and by the time they graduated, many went into the service. It’s no wonder that this tight group of friends returned year after year to New England for their class reunions and stayed in touch for decades by phone and letters. But now as death has claimed many and others have moved to assisted living or they are unable to call or write, my father is wondering who is left?
Unlike his four older sisters, all valedictorians of New England High, Parker was slightly less studious (6th in his class of 26), more inclined to provide the entertainment and comic relief. He was elected Vice President of his class. Other student council members were George Dubisar President, Ardyth Bakke Secretary and Luella Redlin Treasurer. Parker was on the Glee Club, the Boys Sextet and the Drama Club. He recalls that the football team didn’t amount to much because they had a 6-man team and after a couple games the ground was frozen so hard they could no longer play. Basketball was enjoyable because it could be played indoors. Baseball was a summer sport outside of school.
The New England High Class of 1947 stuck together and occasionally questioned authority. When Burton “Buck” Gallup was not going to be allowed to graduate because he didn’t write a history paper, the entire class proclaimed that they would not graduate without him. After a school board meeting, the teacher relented. Other students helped Buck write and submit his history paper and they all graduated together.
Then of course there was the story of the water tower. While Parker claims no responsibility, two of his friends climbed up at night and painted the school initials on the tower. This seems to have been an acceptable prank as nobody got in trouble. He wonders if the tower is still there.
Skip Day was a senior tradition until 1944 when the school decided to put an end to it. However, the Class of 1947 would resurrect Skip Day in a big way. Rather than one day, they left for Spearfish, SD on a Thursday and returned on Sunday, renting motel rooms for the week end. Parker recalls that only one or two students out of the total 26 did not participate.
Immediately upon his graduation from high school, the Nelson family sold the farm and relocated to southern California. Parker went into the Navy where he remained for 4 years until the death of his father in 1951, and he was discharged to take care of his mother and their rabbit farm.
Ethel Gatzke Russell was the longtime “glue” that held the class together, but it’s been at least 3 years since my father has heard from her. As we looked at the class photo, my father was able to point to those he believes are no longer living: George Dubisar, Ardyth Bakke Netzer, Floyd Schorsch, Floyd Pierce, Alice Mae Bakke, Glenn Dale Elliott, Carl Wellsandt, Larry Colgrove, Roger Hewson, Burton Gallup, Henry Schnitzer and Lyle Marr. That’s 12 out of 26, but likely there are others.
As a 90th birthday gift to all those from the New England High Class of 1947, please call, e-mail or write with any news to
Theodore Parker Nelson
1803 Melrose Street
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814