Scheer's fascinating history in Wadena and beyond
How pleased I am that I can share with you Helen Scheer's story this week. She is a real pioneer, born here before there was a Wesley Hospital, before main street was paved. After a colorful career, along with her husband, Ralph Scheer, they came back to retire on the farm where Helen grew up.
Helen was born in 1915, in Macy Davis Hospital in Wadena, to Harold and Margaret Boen. Harold was a writer and editor while Margaret taught school. Helen had two brothers, Herbert (Herb) and Robert (Bob).
When the Boens bought a dairy farm on the northern edge of Wadena in 1926, 11-year-old Helen was delighted. She liked animals, growing things and plenty of space. Harold knew nothing about farming. His father owned the Fergus Falls Daily, which is where Harold cut his teeth in the printing business and liked what he learned. Harold was hired by Alvah Swindelhurst, owner of the Pioneer Journal in 1910.
Margaret drove the car only when the men in the family were otherwise occupied. It was on a day like that when she drove Helen to school. They were hit by a train while crossing the tracks on Jefferson Street.
Finding his injured mother on one side of the tracks and his sister on the other was a traumatic experience for young Herbert. Injuries kept Margaret in the hospital longer than Helen.
When she was ready to go to college, it was a visiting cousin who introduced Helen to a bit of the world beyond the environs of Wadena. Helen was entranced by descriptions of college life in a faraway Massachusetts town named Groton, like the college. She was 17.
On her way to Groton, Helen stopped off for a short visit at a relative's home in Detroit. That is where every stitch of her baggage, the things she needed in college, her clothes and even her jewelry was stolen.
Helen got back on the bus wearing her entire wardrobe. In Boston a friend took her to a store where she bought a linen dress for 98 cents.
After a year, Helen returned to Minnesota where she graduated from Moorhead State College in education and art. At her graduation, her father met a former classmate in a position to hire teachers.
When Helen applied, all the men asked her was if she could get along with farm boys. She said: "I should be able to. I am a farm girl and I have two brothers." She got the job at Northfield where she taught several years before going on to Austin.
Helen married Ralph Scheer, who was in a classified part of the Air Force. When he was transferred to another base, she applied for a position at a defense plant in the mechanical drawing department, a class she had taken and enjoyed in college.
Helen was sent to meet her boss, a black man. When he saw her, he said, "I'm sorry, but I can't work with a white woman." In another department she was the only woman among 50 men.
Mechanical drawing was an interesting job. When tests were to be made, Helen was chosen to accompany B52 bomber flights to take notes while they were in action.
Ralph was sent overseas and Helen elected to stay where she was. She liked her job. When the wife of another officer was also left behind, it was suggested that she and Helen might live together for company. Helen said she would try it.
Soon after getting into the arrangement, Helen discovered the woman was a prostitute and promptly moved back out. She would live by herself, and like the Little Red Hen, she did. She went back home.
After the war, Ralph returned to the position he had held at the Carnation milk plant in Sparta, Wis. Their son Kent was also born there. A job at Fairmont Foods in Fargo followed.
Kent attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for anthropology. He has taken part in a number of digs.
The Scheers retired to their farm in Wadena in 1982. Helen treasures the hours she spent outside during a Minnesota summer, on an acreage boasting fields, a timber, pasture and the mysteries of a swamp. During the long winter she catches up on reading.
At last Ralph could indulge his interest in planting trees, lots of all kinds of trees, to his heart's content. The property was deeded to Kent years ago, and he has turned an already pretty place into a beauty spot where the public can enjoy nature.
The Scheers subscribe to the thought John Muir expressed when he said, "Relax, and nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees."
Helen will soon be leaving us to return to her very favorite spot on earth, the Green Island oasis.