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Bob Lind, Published January 19 2014

Lind: Remember the simpler times before smartphones

Donald Tobkin hasn’t moved far from where he grew up, 10 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes, Minn. He lives on lakeshore property just across the township road from his family’s home farm, where he grew up.

That home farm was sold out of his family in 1999. But the memories of his days there linger – the days when his father would finish milking the cows, then harness up the team and take the kids to District 57 Rochert School.

Neighbors’ many stories of readers’ thoughts of past days led Donald to send in his.

“It is perhaps quite amazing to remember the incredibly simple manner of our early education in a one-room country school” that, he says, had about 30 students in grades 1-8, was heated by a wood-burning stove, had outdoor biffies and drinking water was only available at a nearby neighbor’s well pump.

Donald, the oldest of six children, began first grade in 1945.

“On really cold winter mornings,” he says, “my father harnessed the team and hooked onto a conventional four-runner sled with a hayrack on it, we students would huddle under a large ‘horse-kind-of’ blanket’ and off we went to school.

“My father would hang another ‘horse-kind-of’ blanket over the front of the hayrack to break the wind and we huddled down behind it.

“But if it was at all reasonably possible, we would walk the two miles to and from school through the whole school year.”

Times have changed

“All the seeming obsession with high-technology stuff of modern times was totally nonexistent in my formative years,” Donald says. “I was two years graduated out of high school before my family had even any kind of telephone at all in our home. Now ‘smartboards’ and Internet access in every classroom and having a cellphone immediately at hand 24/7 seems to be a life-and-death matter for too many students and ALL the schools.”

Donald’s mother was a high school graduate and his father only went through eighth grade. Yet they, as did many parents, worked hard in order to send their kids to school. “I look back and marvel at my parents,” he says; “I wonder why they did it.”

But they did. Donald says he had “many adventures all over the world, and later in life became a university graduate (of Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1998).”

So what is he doing these days?

Well, he says, “I continue a quite intense lifestyle of studying and new learning. I tell people that I’m holding Alzheimer’s at bay.”

And apparently he’s doing a good job of it.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com