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Ralph O. Mortensen
Died December 21, 2003. Obituary.
Rolfe High School superintendent 1948-1959

My wife Alice and I came to Rolfe on July 3, 1948. First of all, we were thoroughly impressed with the town because Main Street was paved from the time you came into town until you went out. And that was important because not many towns of Rolfe’s size had paved their streets, and a paved street meant you didn’t have to walk through mud in wet weather.

Another outstanding thing we liked was the busy population around Rolfe. I also recall three grocery stores on the east side of Main Street. They were IGA which was managed by Joe Girard’s father and later became Super Valu, Olney’s Grocery, and Warren Freeman’s Grocery. Other stores on the east side included Peterson’s Clothing Store (for men), a liquor store, and Webb’s Drug Store with Morris Webb as owner, manager, and operator. He had a very fine boy, Stuart, who was a high school senior. There was also a café located on the alley, and behind the café was the Rolfe Arrow newspaper and print shop. On the west side of the street was Rickard’s Hardware Store, Wold’s Hardware Store, and Bobby Hunter’s Creamery and Maytag Store. I remember buying a radio from Bobby shortly before Christmas in 1948. There was also a beautiful bank.

I had an excellent board of education that consisted of N.C. Wilson, Dr. Russell Ranney, Dr. T.S. Clark, and a young bachelor by the name of Guy Bendixen. Mr. Bendixen was probably the strongest supporter of the Rolfe Consolidated Schools of anyone in the community. Every year, the board would settle the budget on a set Tuesday in July. Guy would have gone through the budget and each year would ask, "Mortensen, have you got everything in this budget that is necessary to give the youngsters of the Rolfe community the education they should have." He was also a leader in the movement toward consolidation and to keep Garfield Township a part of the Rolfe school district. This happened shortly before I came to Rolfe.

In my early years at Rolfe, I taught physics and had five senior girls in my class. Every time we discussed plans for a senior class activity, these girls would absolutely forget that the previous superintendent, a very popular man by the name of M.D. Anderson, was gone and wouldn’t be back. We were organizing a senior trip, and the girls put up their usual barrage of resistance, saying that they didn’t want to go to Sioux City. It was one of the few times I lost my cool. I remember blowing my stack and saying, "I don’t care what you girls think, and I know you love Mr. Anderson and that he was here17 years, but if you want to be a Rolfe High School graduate this spring, you better stop focusing on him right now." After the class dismissed and I was walking down the hall, Stuart Webb tapped me on the right shoulder and said he had wondered how long it would take before I took charge of the situation. By the way, one of the places the seniors would go on their trip was the Armour meat packing plant in Sioux City. One time we were in the wiener section, and three girls asked permission to go back to the bus. Their stomachs couldn’t take the site of the workers in white rubber boots shoveling up the sloppy mess on the floor.

People often were in awe that I could type so fast using only two fingers. I told them I had two systems of typing. One was the scriptural method or "seek and you shall find." The other was the Columbus method or "discover and land on it."

We always had a senior breakfast prepared by the senior mothers. The first one was at the Shirley Thornton residence - a large home on the northwest edge of town. There was punch, fried eggs, bacon and toast. All the breakfasts after that year were at the superintendent’s home except the one held at the T.S. Clark home. Tom was a senior that year, and his mom really wanted to host the breakfast.

Both Alice and I remember so many beautiful things from the 11 years we spent in Rolfe. Alice wrote a Christmas program which was the first one given in the new gym and the place was packed with well over 1200 people. Helen Nolan was the vocal music teacher, and Bill Kloster was the band man. Alice also wrote a pageant that was presented on the football field to help the Lutheran raise money to build their church.

So you see, we maintain a deep interest in the town of Rolfe and have lots of friends there. When I returned to Rolfe for the funeral of Jim Wilson, Sr. a few summers ago, many people greeted me. Unfortunately, it hurt my feelings that I couldn’t remember all their names, but many changes have occurred since the 1950's and my tenure at Rolfe. People used to call me "Go Go Mortensen," but now my get up and go has gotten up and went. However, Alice and I want you to know that we still think of you and wish you all the best and hope you have the happiest reunion ever.

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