For much of my grandsons, Chris and Josh Petersen’s elementary school years at Pineview Elementary School, my daughter, Corrie Petersen was a member of and finally President of the Pineview Order of Parents and Instructors (POPI), which was basically Pineview Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA). It was a big, and often thankless job, and I was always proud of the way she handled it. We have all heard of the PTA, but I never really knew how it got started. It actually has a very interesting history. Of course, when the schools in our country began, there was no real program that connected parents and teachers. I suppose that since many of these schools were small country schools, everyone knew the teachers anyway. As time went on, parents and especially moms, who were mostly stay-at-home moms in those days began to take an interest in what was being taught. The biggest problem they faced was that for many years, women couldn’t vote. Their voices were not heard in these matters.
In the late 1800s women still weren’t allowed to vote in elections, and so it would seem that they wouldn’t be able to wield the political power needed to bring about change in the education system. The conventional wisdom of the time was soon to be challenged, however, by two women who first founded National PTA’s predecessor, the National Congress of Mothers. On February 17, 1897, the two founders, Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, looked out at the 2,000 people from across the country who gathered for the Mothers Congress’ first meeting in Washington DC. It was the beginning of the largest…and now oldest volunteer organization that works exclusively on behalf of children and youth. Sadly, this is a group of people who had even fewer rights at the time than women. In 1919, Selena Sloan Butler dedicated her life to forming an organization which would have the same objectives as the National Congress of Parents and Teachers. She formed the Yonge Street Parent-Teacher Association, which was the first unit of the Georgia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (the precursor of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers). In 1970, when the two groups united to form the National PTA, and the three women were recognized as co-founders.
As the years went by, more women became working moms, and in many ways, the PTA, and the children, have suffered for it. That is why my daughter, who was a working mom too, ended up having to do so much of the work herself. That used to make me angry, but sometimes, you just have to get over things. Corrie’s time in the PTA, like her children’s years in elementary school would come to a close, and someone else would have to step up to the plate, but I know that Corrie will never regret the decision she made to head up the PTA (POPI) at Pineview Elementary School, and I know that I am very proud of her for taking the reigns and getting it done for the kids. Today is the 120th anniversary of this great organization.
I found a picture among my Uncle Bill’s family history books, of my dad, Allen Spencer in a water fight with a friend named Ordie at Pattison Park, in Wisconsin, which is just 15 miles east of Holyoke, Minnesota, where the family was living at the time. I could just hear my dad’s laugh as he pummeled his friend with water. Dad had such a great laugh, and he took great pleasure in getting the best of people…in a friendly way, of course. I remember, as a kid, my dad and I used to have sparring matches. Somehow I had it in my head that I could beat him, if I really tried. Our sparring matches weren’t real, of course, but rather a matter of blocking the other persons attempts to pat their opponents face. Dad always won, and he always laughed all the way through our match. I was like a kid with an adult holding onto my head, while I tried to swing and couldn’t hit anything. Dad never held my head, but he almost always blocked my attempts to pat his face. It wasn’t really the sparring matches that drew me back into them, but rather my dad’s laugh. It amused him so much, he laughed in pure delight.
Some memories are so vivid that it’s almost as if you can hear the person. Dad’s voice, the way he teased his girls, his laugh, dancing with him on New Year’s Eve, the swatting game he always played with the grandkids from his chair in the kitchen as they tried in vain to run past him before he could swat them, and the whisker rubs he used to give us…laughing all the while. So many great memories of the wonderful dad that God blessed me with. He could even turn a moment when we were really angry or had been fighting with one of our sisters, into a laughing matter, because it was really hard to keep from laughing when he was laughing. I remember really trying a few times though. We would come to him tattling on whichever sister had so wrongly offended us, and he would imitate our whining…while we tried to keep a straight face. Before you knew it, we were both laughing, and the sister incident was forgotten. That was my dad…always the peacemaker.
When a loved one has gone to Heaven, you just never know what things will bring a memory of them that engulfs you. Sometimes, the sadness is overwhelming, and sometimes the memory brings a smile to your face. Either way, it is always unexpected and you are completely unprepared for it. My dad passed away 6 years ago today, and the memories continue to bring both tears and smiles. My mind shows me video clips of those moments in time, and the happiness we all shared with our dad. I see his smile. I remember his teasing. I hear his words of wisdom. And yes, I hear Dad’s laugh. These memories keep him in my heart until we see each other again in Heaven. I love you Dad!!