To help with cash needs at home Mother and I raised chickens. Starting in spring as soon as some hens started clucking we’d set a batch on eggs. After 3 weeks of daily care, baby chicks started to appear. What a thrill it was to pick up a hen from her nest and find a bunch of fluffy bright-eyed chicks. When full grown pullets became laying hen and the roosters were butchered. Each Friday night in fall we’d select the biggest roosters and dress them for market. Saturday morning I was dropped off with the dressed chickens, at my grandparents’ house in La Crosse. Carrying several in a basket, I walked the streets going from house to house trying to sell my product. By noon when Dad would pick me up, I’d sold that day’s supply. Though the profit was small, it was a better return than selling to a wholesaler.

The four years I spent in high school were filled with work, study and a limited social life. My friends were mostly those of a similar background. In the coulee the young people had an occasional house party. We played party games like Spin the Bottle or Fruit Basket Upset. A lunch was served and everyone went home, many walked. It was always fun and memories that remain are pleasant.

After high school I attended State Teachers College in La Crosse. I enrolled in the rural course that would prepare me for teaching in the rural schools in two years. I started in the fall of 1939 by working for room and board by doing household chores for a family in La Crosse. It was a good arrangement until spring when Mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I was needed at home. I found a ride back and forth to school and managed the household evenings and weekends. Mother made a full recovery after treatment with radium. The next fall my grandparents needed help in their home in La Crosse. I lived with them during my second year of college doing heavy chores they were unable to handle. Another NYA job provided some additional cash I needed. In the spring of 1941 I was awarded my teaching certificate and a teaching position in a rural school at a salary of $80 a month for 9 months. I had done it. My dream of becoming a teacher had become a reality.

Next time: Love and Marriage

Bernice Hellwig has been a lifetime resident of the Coon Valley area. Growing up at her parent’s farm in Chipmunk Coulee, Bernice developed a love of learning. Over the years Bernice has written the story of their lives. It is an account of cherished memories of farming, teaching and family. In her own words, this is her story.


Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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