CHAPTER 11: EAU CLAIRE
I. EAU CLAIRE DAYS
Recollections of Roland A. Gurgel via emails to family, 2000-2001
In writing about Eau Claire Days I will divide those 22 years into three parts. Rudolph Road Days of some 14 years; Home in the president’s house some 4 years; and on Professors Row another 4 years.
Rudolph Road: Some of us lived in the apartments for a time while the main house was being renovated. Dad and Paul and John got there first. The rest of you were brought to Eau Claire by Robert Ohlmann if my memory serves me right. Had all of you under that roof for a time. One by one of you took flight over the years so that by the end of our living on Rudolph Road only Rollie was left.
You have remembered those years as having cool upstairs rooms in the winter months. Only one register for the entire upstairs. The house was comfortable in many ways for a large family. The grounds were extensive. The hills provided escape for the adventurous. It was far more ideal for you in those growing up years than a home on the campus would have been.
Each of you in writing your history in years to come will recall many events encountered at that address, from graduations, to marriages, to reunions, etc. I will not try to recount those events for you. They are yours to cherish or to regret as the case may be.
Mother would remember them with pleasure for having her family about her and watching and helping them mature. She would also recall working at the chicken farm and moving on to a career at Pranges.
One of the events that stays in my mind is the first summer after we were there. That first year of teaching at ILC was demanding in many ways. When it was over I stretched out under the shade tree on the front lawn and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Worn out from a year's work, I finally relaxed. It was always a pleasure to come to that home and yard when the school day was finished. It was always a pleasure to gather around the table in the dining room with mother and you children. It was a joy to welcome the first grandchildren into that home and to welcome back you and your spouses for a visit. Your grandmother also added to the joys of that dwelling
Those fourteen years saw Lois Jean, John, Daniel, Kathy, Ruth, Deborah, and Bethany finish college and head out to teaching careers and marriage. It saw Paul and Daniel join the Armed Services. They saw Rollie enter grade school, high school, and prepare for college. They saw Paul return from the service and enter college in preparation for the seminary. They saw Daniel return and prepare for a teaching career.
Many events for each of you. Many years to cherish for your parents. Only you can tell what was meaningful and important to you. Again whatever you wish to share will be more than welcome. If you do not wish your thoughts to be sent out to all just say so and they will die on my computer.
I will call a halt here and allow your minds to wander over those Rudolph Road years as mine is doing also. Dad
II. RUDOLPH ROAD
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
Mrs. Hatch, Powdered milk, Snow plow, garden, gardens, lawn mowing, Paper routes, first cars, summer jobs, banquets, friends, relatives, Schwans, Benjamin Franklins, Finley, cow auctions, learning to drive, demanding driver lessons, High school parking lot. Each of those words should start your memories going in one direction or another.
For me those first fourteen years was moving from one subject to another in the classroom. Started out as head of the education department. That meant teaching methods courses, history and philosophy of education, Childrens Literature, Child Psychology, In addition had religion courses, history, American Literature, Problems of American Democracy, General Psychology, Sociology, speech. Over the course of a few years divested myself of some of these and added others. Also taught Church History in the Seminary when Prof. Reim retired.
Toward the end of the 1960s was appointed Dean of the College Department. Gave me some advantage in scheduling class hours and choosing subjects. During the years usually had anywhere from 23 to 26 hours of teaching hours a week.
Also worked with the practice teachers. During the first years that meant going down to Messiah and observing them in the classroom. In later years meant scheduling them to various schools in the synod and gathering reports on their abilities. It also meant sitting in on the Call Committee and presenting the various education students to that committee. In this capacity I watched my five daughters progress in their teacher training. Gave them all the advice to teach at least three years to get the most out of their training. Lois Jean did. The others did not right away but some have put in a good many more years in later years.
Watched as buildings on the campus grow. We started out with all classes in Northwest Hall. It also served as a boys' dormitory and a chapel. Next came the cottage which I helped build. Then Reim Hall and the gym. Over the course of years South Hall was completed and finally North Hall. Since I left a new Commons and Dining Hall plus some office space has been added. Under consideration is a new classroom building to replace the Cottage and Reim Hall.
We did take vacations, at least some of us did. Went back to Spirit Lake on occasion. Took a trip back to Cheyenne with some of you. Slept under the stars or in the station wagon. Back up into the Snowy Range. Did a bit of fishing but during the summer mostly gardening to keep growing youngsters well fed with peas, carrots, beans, cabbage, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, kohlabi, radishes, lettuce, onions, lots of corn etc. As I recall gardening days while at Rudolph Road had a lot of help, not always too willing, but Daniel seemed to enjoy it more than the rest of you. Shucking peas, schnitzling beans, cutting corn off the cob, such things kept the girls busy with some complaining. The jars and the freezer were well filled for the long winter months. Family activities served to get you acquainted with one another. Much work but many hands helped make short work of it and somewhat enjoyable as well. Mother was always proud of the many jars of canned goods available for the winter meals as well as many bags of frozen crops in the freezer.
As I am typing this I have within eye range the picture of our family taken in the living room. I believe Daniel was home from the service when that picture was taken. Family pictures are well worth the effort.
They recapture the young ones and hold them in a moment of time that passes only too swiftly.
Rudolph Road what a joy it was. Dad
III. ODDS AND ENDS ON RUDOLPH ROAD
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
Most of you should remember the trips to Millston. During the Eau Claire days I served the congregation there on several occasions. The first time was shortly after we arrived in Eau Claire. Pastor Macklenson left there and moved to Eau Claire. We made the trip many Sundays travelling over the older highways until the interstate was completed years later. Millston meant many a Sunday dinner at the Poraths. Besides the Poraths you might recall the Harkners, the Rudolphs, and many more. Ruth would know them well since she and Mark lived there for some years while he served that congregation.
Another vacancy that I served at that time was in St. Louis, MO. I would at times fly down there on weekends or sometimes drive down on Friday nights with some of you along. You saw the arch in the building, the baseball stadium being erected, the river steamers on the Mississippi.. Maybe you can remember the big house that served as a parsonage and also a church.
Served Messiah congregation on several occasions. Once for quite a period of time before Schierenbeck came as pastor. Another time before David Lau came from Red Wing to be the pastor. Got to know many of the original members quite well. Went fishing with some of them at various times. Boldun, Hoepner among others took me along to the lakes. In fact, had the call to be the pastor before Schierenbeck accepted. I was just getting my feet wet as a professor and thought it wise to continue with my teaching.
Also had a call to be a missionary in Colorado and New Mexico. Again I felt my teaching was the place for me. By the way I also had the call to serve the St. Louis congregation. How many different places you might have called home. Most of you were always ready to move on. But Eau Claire held me for 24 years and every one of them were appreciated. I have mentioned way back when that several times I might well have been taken out of this world but for the Lord still having use for me. You will recall coming back from Millston one Sunday some car playing chicken passed an oncoming car and headed toward us in our lane. What to do? I decided to stay where we were. If I had moved to the shoulder and the chicken car had done the same thing there would have been one terrible crash. At the last moment the car headed toward us swerved to the shoulder and went by without giving us a scratch
I also recall that while serving Millston I had come down with a severe cold. Tried to get someone to take the services at Millston for a time. No one would go. I went and between teaching and serving Millston I became quite ill. Laid up for several weeks with what might well have been pneumonia. Got back to teaching after a few weeks but was dragging my feet for weeks.
We watched as Mrs. Hatch developed the many acres she owned behind our house and on the hillside. She offered Paul a lot but his dad advised against his taking it. He was interested in owning property even back then. You may recall that when we moved to Eau Claire Prof Dommer could not work out a schedule for Paul for his senior high school year. So he attended Memorial to continue his architectural courses and to play tennis on that school's team. When we look back we can usually see how the Lord has guided us in our lives.
Speaking of Paul and Rudolph Road, I can still see little Jeremy coming on a Saturday morning to test mother's baking. I see the little fellow coming through the slight incline in the hall way and testing what was underfoot. I also enjoyed his riding with me and trying to imitate the humming and singing that came from my lips as we drove.
Grandchildren as well as each child of our own always meant much to me. Tried my best to get Mara as a little babe to come to me but she wanted no part of that. Watched the sibling rivalry between Mara and Amy as well as between Jeremy and Nathan. I cannot take each of the 45 grandchildren and recount my experiences with them. That would take a book. But be assured they all have meant much to me and I have watched them from near and far over the years.
Still waiting to hear from you and your memories of Rudolph Road.
First a correction; Caught a mistake in the last edition. I spoke of 24 years in Eau Claire that should have been 22 years: from 1964 to 1986.]
III. EAU CLAIRE - PRESIDENT
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
I divided our life in Eau Claire into three parts. The first was Rudolph Road. That period in our life came to an end in 1978. In reality it was toward the end of that year that we moved from the green house to the president’s house on campus. But I will make the break with the year 1978.
For many years I had been dean of the college department and enjoyed that position very much as I also enjoyed living off from the campus for our first 14 years in Eau Claire.
With my call to be president of ILC came new responsibilities. I continued to teach many of the classes that I had been teaching for 14 years. Eventually made a switch from teaching in the seminary to taking over 9th and 10th grade history when MRS. SCHALLER accepted the call to be librarian.
My idea of a school preparing pastors and teachers as well as giving a Christian education in general was largely guided by my own years as a student at Northwestern College and Thiensville Seminary. I discovered in my four years as president that times bring about changes. I was not always ready to adjust to those changes. My first year was quite a struggle and when it came to an end I was so stressed out that I even had to cancel a planned fishing trip.
Let me point out that the changes were not in doctrine or a difference in Scriptural understanding but rather in approach to dorm life and use of time on the part of students preparing to become pastors and teachers, also in the relationship between sports and classroom responsibilities. When I came to ILC student athletes were excused quite regularly for going to basketball and baseball games, excused from afternoon classes. That ceased when I became president but it left some hard feelings. There were also some changes made in student life and activities that were not well received. Maybe I tried too hard and too fast to give some new direction but changes quickly made or slowly developed are not well received by many
I perhaps should have declined the call to be president, an action that I had taken indirectly some years before 1978. Be that as it may I took the call and for four years did my best to meet the position given to me. It was by no means always a struggle. There were months and years of satisfaction in that position as well as trying times.
Most of you were long gone from home at this period in my life. Rollie was the only one that moved with us into the president's home and later to Professors Row. He was too busy enjoying campus life to know much about what was going on outside of his own activities.
During those years a new boy’s dorm was built and paid for. Finally the boys could move out of Northwest Hall. Some felt betrayed. They had loved the life in that building. I had wanted to do away with the building for it was a heating monstrosity, but nostalgia on the part of many would not let it go. In later years it was opened up again and still supplies heat to the world about it. Finally now the thought is to do away with it and build a new building to replace it and the Cottage and Reim Hall. Sometimes it takes decades for a thought to become a reality. We get so attached to old ways and old things we cannot see our way to what should be done.
During my tenor as president the campus experienced a devastating windstorm in 1980. It changed the appearance of the campus in many ways. It hit during a synod meeting in the summer of 1980. I never saw so many men get busy so fast and accomplish so much in so little time as I saw during that week. There was still much to be done when the delegates left but to their credit a great deal toward the restoration was done.
More on these years from my own as well as from your mother's perspective. Dad
Saturday, July 14th. I am leaving for a trip to Saginaw. Will take it in stages, short hops. On Saturday I will go to Sparta and spend the weekend with my brother Ernest. Monday morning early will head out to Kenosha to spend Monday and Tuesday with Donald and Doris. Play some Shafskopf. On Wednesday morning very early to beat the rush through the city of Chicago I will leave for Saginaw. God-willing I should arrive there sometime on Wednesday afternoon. Will be there for Mark's 25th anniversary in the ministry. Will preach for that occasion on Sunday morning and again on Monday evening.]
When the weather looks promisingly cool will head back to Eau Claire and Mankato. Plan on driving the northern route home. So will probably show up in Eau Claire sometime during the week of the 22nd to the 29th.
Picking cool days, if possible, since my air conditioning is on vacation. Use a wide open fan, wide open vent and wide open windows if needed.
I hope you are enjoying the notes I have been taking from mother's Round Robins. There are still many pages to go - just giving you things of interest to you. They bring back many memories. When I am finished with them there are many note books of daily entries on our travels about the congregations of the CLC. Let me know if you have had enough or want me to continue hitting the highlights.