The third presentation in this series.
I pick up Belle’s story as she charges on through the early years of her adulthood: teaching during the school year, looking for work in the summer, living in her family home when work permitted.
Growing up in the parsonage shaped her childhood and her life. It was a happy home, though a poor one. Ella Belle and John were loved and respected by their children. Material things were in short supply, but there was no shortage of fun and laughter. The children were taught to seek a religious faith, to value education, to accept community responsibility, and to work hard. Somehow through all of this they also learned that life was fun, and to be enjoyed.
For most of her career, Belle taught as a kindergarten and elementary teacher. And move she did. Perhaps short contracts were the usual thing in those days – but look at this:
- 1911 Taught at Toad’s Leap School southeast of Atlantic, Iowa.
- 1912 Filled in for part of a year at a country school near Hudson, Iowa. (Remember this one!).
- 1913 Went to 1917 Colo, Iowa.
- 1917 From September to the end of December, taught in Park, an elementary school at Harlan, Iowa.
It was when Belle was at the school near Hudson that she met a young man, Will Thompson. He was home from Canada, to visit his family who farmed a rented farm near Hudson. The local people teased the new teacher, “Just wait till you meet the Thompson’s son. Bet he’ll sweep you off your feet.”
She tried to turn the conversation to something else, but it did make her curious. Living in a farming district where the young men all wore overalls (except for Sundays or weddings), she knew what he would look like. One day a young man in dress pants and a sweater arrived at the school at closing time. The two Thompson youngsters shouted with glee, and ran to greet him, “Will, when did you get here? How long can you stay? Did you bring us anything?”
When he could get a word in edgewise, he turned to Belle. “Sorry, Miss Bamford, they’re excited. It’s a long time between my visits home.” He gathered up the kids, and they took off. Belle was impressed.
Before the winter was over, Will and Belle had become close friends. The courtship continued by mail, and through Will’s winter visits back to Iowa. Somewhere in there, they exchanged pictures.
Eventually he persuaded her to make the biggest change of her life – to marry him and move to Canada. For one who had never made it out of Iowa except with the Chautauqua, it was a decision worthy of her best attention. Love, and her “Let’s give it a try” disposition, won the day. Will returned in the fall of 1917. In late December they made the trip to Harlan Iowa, where the Bamford’s now lived. On January 2nd, 1918, Reverend John Bamford married them in the living room of the manse. A new story began.
The next and final presentation of the series will follow. See how Belle enjoys married life and Canada, and how she handles moving into a totally Danish community. Finally, “Who is Belle?” when she is 85 and facing death.