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image.gif (2459 bytes)       Chase County, Nebraska
                    Historical Society

Helen Zikmund
The Story of a Chase County, Nebraska Teacher  

The following article was researched and written by Donna Harmon-Krebill, daughter of Pete and Helen Zikmund Harmon, in honor of her mother.   Donna is the granddaughter of William  J. Harmon.  She wishes to thank her cousins,  Gerietta Morse, Ward Anderson and her sister, Peggy Harmon-Fuge for their assistance with this article.  She can be reached at ABC177@AOL.com.

        It was early September, 1928, when the three women boarded a train in Hastings, Nebraska, and headed for western Chase County. Ruth Cline, Vera Cook and Helen Zikmund, of Deweese, Edgar, and Nelson (south central Nebraska), had just completed their normal training and received teaching certificates from Kearney State Teachers College. After the school moderators advised them of their teaching appointments, they moved in with their respective host families.

        For the next three years, Helen Zikmund was assigned to a school located southwest of Champion and boarded with Earl "Buck" and Ethel Anderson living at the Bischoff place in District 51. The first school was built in 1892. However, Helen taught in the newer frame school that was later moved to the G. F. Blocker pasture near the center of the District.

        With chalk and erasers ready, Miss Zikmund stood 5’ 2" at the front of her class. While she towered over the timid first graders, she was severely dwarfed by the eighth grade boys. With sheer determination, the petite schoolmarm maintained order and delivered instructions in reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling and penmanship. She divided the children into groups of similar abilities within each grade, sometimes changing an individual’s level from subject to subject.

        As the lessons grew harder and fall turned to winter, Nebraska snowstorms also intensified. It was not uncommon for the elder William G. Anderson to ride his saddle horse to the school at the end of the day. He would ready the shay, cover Miss Zikmund and his grandson, Ward, with blankets and then lead the cart and horse safely home through the blinding blizzard.

        After school adjourned in the spring, Miss Zikmund was required to update her teaching certificate before resuming classes the next fall. She either returned to the teachers college in Kearney or completed the curriculum through the County Extension Office. Helen continued to teach In District 51 for another two years. She then took a teaching position in Stratton where she was credited with organizing joint parent-student functions with other districts. During the day program, the combined schools participated in spelldowns, math ciphering exercises, reading narrations and piano recitals. The adults held their annual PTA meeting in the evening after a potluck supper as the children played games.

 

Zikmund4.gif (5256 bytes)                                                         Zikmund5.gif (27440 bytes)

Helen Zikmund, 1928                                  Pearl "Pete" and Helen Harmon, 1933

Postscript: At some point while Helen was boarding with the Andersons, Lou Harmon visited her sister, Ethel. Upon meeting Helen, Lou insisted she meet her little brother, Pete, but warned her that "He would court her only three times and then dump her." The three of them went to a ballgame for that first introduction. Later, Pete and Helen joined other young couples on rabbit and coyote hunts. Hearsay has it that the "green schoolmarm" even got caught holding the bag for "snipe hunters!" So much for Pete’s courting days. Five years later Pete Harmon married Helen Zikmund.

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