NSB Shared Story: Jon's Story

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Indirect Help
Jonathan Flatt

I don’t have a story of being helped directly, but several people stepped in to help my father when he was young, and by doing so not only made a difference in his life, but mine as well.

lostboy

My dad grew up very poor, his father only had an 8th grade education and milked cows at a dairy in Montana. They lived in a two room shack on the dairy’s property for free. Good thing since Grandpa only made $60 a month and had 5 boys to take care of. Well the dairy shut down and my grandparents had to move. They accepted a job taking care of a summer camp outside of Great Falls. The problem was that there were no schools in the area and my father was about to start his junior year in high school. He didn’t want to quit school, even though it was something that all of his brothers had done, or would do shortly. The only option was to try to find a place to live in town and get a job. He got a job at a drug store and the druggist was nice enough to fit his schedule. The druggist and his wife fed him his meals but did not have room for him to stay with them, but they did have a friend that allowed him to sleep in a spare bedroom. So for the next three years he got up at 4:00 AM and got things ready at the store, then went to school only to return to his job at the drug store. Without these kind folks my dad would not have been able to finish High School.

starboyAfter graduation he decided to go to college. He had no idea what to major in, but really didn’t know what else to do with his life either and community college was very cheap in those days. He still had his job at the drugstore but didn’t know how long that arrangement would last. One day towards the end of the year he was sitting on the front steps of the library and lady sat down and started to chat with him. She asked him if he had ever thought of being a teacher. He said he hadn’t, so she explained that the State of Montana had a real need for teachers in rural areas and would hire you if you only had one year of college. The pay was about $300 a month which sounded like a fortune so he checked into it and was hired to teach in a very rural community. His class of 8 kids ranged from 2nd grade up to 8th grade. He lived at the school and slept in the storage room. Actually had to kill a rattlesnake in the outhouse on one occasion. They didn’t have electricity until after Christmas break that first year and he celebrated by purchasing a radio to listen to at night. There was a farm a mile away and the farmers family fed him his meals for a dollar a week. Not only did they feed him, they took care of him. Once he got a very high fever and they took him in for a week and nursed him back to health.

star2He taught there for two years and went back to school to finish his degree in education. He ended up with a masters from Colorado and moved to Arizona to teach in 1959 with my mother who was also a teacher. He taught here until he retired in 1989. Along the way he volunteered for a small credit union called Desert Schools and helped grow it to the largest Credit Union in the country, serving on the board of directors for 14 years.

Without the druggist, the lady who let him sleep at her house, and the farmers family I have no idea what would have become of my dad, but because they helped when they saw a need. I believe that is why he impressed upon us boys to value our education, and is probably why all three of us got degrees in engineering. I’ve never met the people that helped my father, I don’t even know their names. But I will always be grateful to them.


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