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Saum native visits old school

In the school library preserved in the original consolidated school at Saum, former student Harlan Carlson found a reading book from his primary school days there. Carlson was back for a visit from his current home at Eagle River, AK -- one of many places he's called home during the years since he finished school in Kelliher in 1964.1 / 2
Photographs of old classmates and friends got a lot of interest from Harlan Carlson who pointed them out to his wife, Tina, as they toured the old school at Saum. Harlan attended school there through the fourth grade, when the consolidated school at Saum was itself consolidated with the school at Kelliher.2 / 2

Like many rural youngsters, Harlan Carlson had a desire to see the outside world. He set out to do so.

Between his last two years of high school, he stretched the facts a little about his age and got a job at Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park.

At summer's end, he returned to his home at Saum, but not to school there. In October of 1912, the Consolidated School at Saum (the first such in Minnesota) was itself merged into the larger district at Kelliher, and Carlson graduated there in 1964.

Within months, he joined the Army, for what turned into a career spanning more than two decades. During that time, his assignments included service in Viet Nam ("Sometimes we even got to the front line ahead of the reporters!") and five years at Frankfurt and Wiesbaden in Germany.

After retiring from the Army in 1986, Carlson looked at various employment opportunities settling finally on the chance to work at something where his experience would be helpful.

Today he's considered "emergency essential." That means he has to be ready to go on short notice as a civilian employee of the Department of the Army. He's listed as a QASAS, a Quality Assurance Specialist (Ammunition Surveillance) and is part of a mandatory mobility program.

One such assignment took him to Letterkenny Army Depot in 1993. While there he met his wife, Tina. They were married a few years later. Between them, Tina says, they have four daughters in widely separated states -- Maryland, New York and Iowa. (The Iowa daughter's husband is currently serving in Afghanistan).

Carlson has four sisters, all in Minnesota, and the current trip included visits with them as well as a return to the school at Saum.

As he moved through the rooms at the school, memories were stirred by the collections of old photographs on display throughout the building. An uncle had gone to the old, original log school nearby. His mother had graduated from the school in 1927, just 15 years after the new consolidated school was dedicated. His grandfather bought the original stove for the new school.

Carlson remembered lunch hours when the boys would take off for the river a short distance away and swim until the ringing of the bell brought them scurrying back to school.

As he talked, his wife said, "Harlan joined the Army in 1964 and he's missed Minnesota ever since."