by Pam Vukelic
“I’ll be jiggered!” was the expression Lois Watts used when I explained to her the sophisticated computerized “babies” we use to simulate the experience of parenting a newborn in high school Parenting classes these days. The babies cry and coo, and demand various care-giving responses, all of which are recorded, and can be printed out to evaluate the effectiveness of the parent. Yes, things are remarkably different than they were when Lois started teaching Home Economics in the early 1940’s.
Lois and her now deceased husband, Bob Watts, have made a large monetary gift to the Bismarck Public Schools. Bob’s avocation and vocation was aviation. Lois taught Home Economics for many years at Bismarck High School after her first year of teaching in Beach, and closed out her teaching career at Century when it was a brand new school. Their gifts are intended to augment the learning experiences of the students who take the classes Lois used to teach and those who are pursuing the career that Bob loved.
Although many of Lois’s recollections have faded with time, there seem to be two experiences from her teaching days that stand out. She remembers having four and five year old children come to the high school to have a playschool experience. Students in Child Development classes planned lessons and activities for the children. She recalls playing Ring Around the Rosie and reading children’s books like “The Little Engine that Could.” She also remembers how one youngster got fed up with the activities and decided he was going to just go home. Lois followed him to keep an eye on him and was relieved to find he lived just across the street from the school grounds.
During the holiday season Lois guided the Home Economics students in putting on an Annual Christmas Tea for faculty and spouses. This was a huge production and preparations were monumental. Thanks to Lynne Bigwood, a friend and companion to Lois, we were able to unearth a typed copy of all the recipes prepared for the tea held in 1966. There are four pages of legal-size paper chock-full of 32 different candy and cookie recipes. Notwithstanding the work of preparing all these goodies, imagine the effort involved in preparing the recipe handouts. Those of us old enough to recognize the format can appreciate what it took. My mom was the advisor for our high school newspaper and I recall how she typed a stencil and used blue correction fluid to correct her mistakes. Once that was completed, with lots of counting of spaces to center the titles, the stencil was attached to a machine with a drum and she cranked the handle to run each individual page through. Do we appreciate all the cut and paste capabilities of our word processing programs as much as we should? And this machine had no collating and stapling capabilities either!
Many of the recipes are familiar, and perhaps are still holiday favorites in your household. They include Green Wreaths made with corn flakes and melted marshmallows, Pfefferneuse, Spritz, and Melting Moments. And some seem to be more like a blast from the past – Jam Cake, Norwegian Butter Cookies, and Quick Walnut Panocha.
This must have been a much-anticipated event at the high school. It’s one that has gone by the wayside. However, students still invite small children to attend playschool. And they still read “The Little Engine that Could” and play Ring Around the Rosie.
Lois and Bob never had children of their own, but Lois holds a special place in the heart of many former students, friends, and neighbors. Her kindness and generosity were apparent through the years in simple acts, and now through their significant gift to this generation’s children.