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Home of Berthold's first graduating class . . . Berthold Public School, as it
appeared in 1929. The front four rooms were constructed as a two-story building
in 1905-1906, with more rooms added in 1909-1910. The first four-year
high school diplomas were issued to two students in 1913. The building
was used until 1963, when the present Berthold School was built.
Class of 1913 consisted of two
By Caroline Downs
Editor’s note: The material for the following story was compiled from information available in the July 18, 1963 issue of The Berthold Tribune and the July 2000 “Berthold Centennial and All-School Reunion” booklet, with assistance from Judith Schwede Deaver, Class of 1962.
The 2013 Berthold All-School Reunion, scheduled for July 4-6, will celebrate 100 years of graduates from the school, starting with Edna (Dahl) Whitman and Mary (Hall) Gleason, Class of 1913.
The ceremony for the two young women was held June 28th, with members of the 8th grade class also honored for commencement that evening.
According to The Berthold Tribune, “The exercises were attended by a large number of friends of the young students, and many who appreciate and take a commendable pride in the excellency of our school which is now being considered among the best in the state.
“Although the first graduation class was comprised of only two young ladies, Miss Edna Dahl and Miss Nellie Hall, it is a beginning and the class will increase in numbers year by year. This is evidenced by the fact that there were eighteen pupils in the eighth grade graduating class.”
Those first graduates were addressed by County Superintendent of Schools E. G. Warren, with diplomas presented by J.W. Calnan, secretary to the Board of Education. The school choir, directed by Miss Beatrice Hatten, performed five selections during the program. The Berthold Tribune described those performances as “A feature of the evening that was unusually pleasing to the audience.”
Both Miss Dahl and Miss Hall had to demonstrate their educational mastery that evening, which they did by presenting their final papers. The Berthold Tribune reported, “The papers, ‘The Development of the Drama’ by Miss Nellie Hall, and ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ by Miss Edna Dahl, were especially well prepared and showed a careful research into the subject matter of their respective papers.”
The eighth graders also had to show their abilities during the ceremony and “...acquitted themselves creditably,” according to the local paper.
Shortly after the graduation, and in time to be reported in the same issue of the newspaper, the Berthold School Board received a letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction E.J. Taylor announcing the school had achieved a “second class” status in the state and would receive the appropriate share of state aid.
“The school Berthold has certainly made a very creditable showing and the board and the people of the district are to be congratulated upon its success,” Taylor wrote in his letter.
The school graduated only one student in the years 1914, 1916, 1917 and 1921, and two students each in the years 1918 and 1919. However, within 10 years after Miss Dahl and Miss Hall received their diplomas, seven boys and girls graduated. The numbers continued to swell, with the Class of 2013 ranking among the larger classes, as 24 seniors graduated.
By the time the school’s Golden Anniversary celebration was held June 28 and 29, 1963, a total of 710 individuals called themselves alumni of Berthold High School. Edna (Dahl) Whitman attended the event.
The Berthold Tribune reported that during her senior year at Berthold High, she took a teaching course supervised by the primary teacher Mrs. Joe Tops, then went on to teach in rural schools for three years before teaching in Werner, North Dakota. She next enrolled in Business College at Bismarck for one year, then went to work for the State Highway Department in Bismarck as a stenographer.
The July 18, 1963 issue of The Berthold Tribune also paid tribute to the school’s sports teams, saying, “Over the past 50 years, the school’s curriculum has been changed many times, but almost without exception there has always been an athletic program.
“At times this has been taken in many activities and at other times been narrowed down to basketball almost exclusively. Football, baseball and track have been offered at various times through the past and are again part of the program being offered our students today.”
Two schools in 100 years
Berthold’s first graduates attended the community’s first brick school building, which had two stories and four rooms and was built in 1905-1906 at a cost of $6,000.00. During the 1909-1910 school year, four more rooms were added at a cost of $6,300.00.
Forty years later, another building project was completed for $20,000.00 to construct a new boiler room and coal bin and to move the bathrooms to the second floor. In 1954-1955, two new classrooms were built above the boiler room for a cost of $26,218.00.
More improvements followed at the old building, with glass block windows installed in four rooms in 1956 for $3,500.00. Additional glass block windows were installed on the west side of the assembly, the library and the office in 1960, at a cost of $4,260.00.
The building was used until 1963, when the new single-story building was finished at the northeast corner of the city on land purchased from W.J. Roberts. The new school had one wing for high school students and a second wing for the elementary grades, with an auditorium, lunch room, kitchen and shop. Construction of the new facility cost $537,000.00.
Alumni, family and friends who attended the 50-year reunion in 1963 enjoyed a dance in the old school gym before the building was demolished.
Berthold Public School has continued holding classes in the same location for the past 50 years. Efforts to make the building more energy efficient took place in the 1970s when new windows were installed and the roof was insulated.
In 1980, the school purchased its first computer and has continued to upgrade technology equipment as necessary. The entire building is wired for Internet use at this time.
Students from the Carpio School District started enrolling at Berthold in 1991, when Carpio ended classes for grades 7 through 12. By 1994, the Carpio school district closed its building, and elementary students from that district also began attending Berthold Public School.
A 3,313 square-foot addition to the building was completed in 1997, adding a music classroom with an office and a practice room, a modern media center, and a teacher work room. Other parts of the building were remodeled at that time to create three classrooms, a high school computer lab and three classrooms for special needs students. The construction and remodeling project cost about $315,000.00.
The building is being transformed again, with ground broken last winter on a project to add classrooms to the elementary wing. Superintendent Brian Nelson is overseeing the project. Melissa Lahti serves as the elementary principal for Berthold, while Peggy Person is the high school principal and activities director.
Enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year stood at 137 students in grades kindergarten through six, and 145 students in grades 7-12, with those numbers expected to increase in the coming years as Berthold absorbs the impact of increased oil and gas development in the western portion of the state.
The Centennial All-School Reunion includes a variety of events for all ages during the July 4-6 celebration.
The long weekend begins during the city’s annual Fourth of July festivities, with a parade scheduled for 10:30 am that day. Bomber alumni are encouraged to enter floats and line up at the school ground that morning.
The fun continues with races, egg tossing and pie eating contests, an ice cream social and more. The annual golf tournament will take place during the afternoon and fireworks will cap the evening.
Official reunion registration begins at 9 am Friday, July 5th, in the school gymnasium and continues until 5 pm.
Other events for the day include bus tours to see the new businesses and industry in and surrounding the city, especially as related to the oil and gas development taking place in western North Dakota. A vendor fair, volleyball games, baseball games, horseshoes, and other activities will also be held around town as part of the reunion schedule.
Berthold alumni will enjoy a catered meal in the city park Friday evening, served from 5:30 to 7 pm. An open microphone will be available to allow for spontaneous musical entertainment, skit performances, old school cheers, or simply sharing school day memories.
A street dance begins downtown at 9 pm with music by Smokin’ Joe’s.
Individual classes will arrange events or gatherings for Saturday, July 6th.
Further details about all reunion activities will be available at the school’s registration center. T-shirts and caps commemorating the 2013 reunion will also be available for sale during the event.
Bombers registering for and attending the All-School Reunion will receive a booklet featuring the graduating class members from each year, school history and some school photos. The booklets can be purchased and mailed to alumni unable to attend the reunion by sending $5 to Gen Hall, P.O. Box 127, Berthold, ND 58718.
Registration for the reunion costs $20, which includes the catered meal in the park. Further questions about the reunion can be directed to Gen Hall at 701-453-3158 or 701-240-0674.