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Career choices – a long and winding road

By Staff | Jun 14, 2009

The road taken toward a satisfying career was a long and winding one for Vivian Laue.

Born in Hartington, Neb. on Sept. 9, 1920 to Oscar and Bessie Coulter, Vivian and her sister grew up as farm girls.

She attended a country school for eight years before attending high school in Randolph.

“My parents moved west of Blue Earth on the old Catholic church road three months before I was to graduate,” says Laue. Fortunately, she had enough credits, so Randolph High School awarded her a diploma in 1937 even though she no longer was attending the school or even living in the state.

“In those days, women didn’t have much choice when it came to careers,” says a matter-of-fact Laue.

She always had a love for working with numbers, so she says she wanted to take-up some mathematical thing. However, her folks didn’t have the money to send her to school. She therefore took Normal Training for one year under the direction of Marian Drake graduating in 1938.

The first country school in which Laue taught was District #18 located six miles south and one-and-one-half miles east of Blue Earth. She taught here from 1938-1940. The next two years she was in charge of the pupils in District #120. This school was six miles east of Elmore.

In addition to teaching, Laue’s job description as a country schoolteacher also included doing all the housekeeping in the building.

“I remember carrying water in and out,” says Laue, but she was fortunate in her second school to have a floor furnace, so she didn’t have to ‘stoke-up’ a wood-burning stove as earlier teachers did.

“I earned $55 a month when I taught,” says Laue, but of this she had to pay $16 for her room and board. The school day normally ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Among the fond teaching memories she has is the planning and preparing of her students for the annual Christmas program. She would select pieces for her students to memorize then they would present the program on a Friday evening prior to Christmas.

After teaching for four years, Laue was ready to try another career path.

“I had some naughty, naughty boys in the second school, so I decided to quit,” says Laue.

Even though she did not particularly enjoy teaching, Laue says she discovered, while preparing for this career, her love for numbers. She wanted to become a bookkeeper some day.

For a brief stint after her teaching career ended, she returned to live with her parents. It was at this time she went to work at Blue Earth’s National Tea Store at the corner of 7th and Main. At the time, Dick and Clara Cooper managed the store.

“I was a check-out girl at National Tea. It was a chain grocery store that carried everything,” she says.

The young Laue then began working at J. C. Penney in Mankato where she trimmed windows, did sign writing and checked-in merchandise on the invoices.

From working at J.C. Penney, she traveled the short distance in Mankato to the Sears store located on Front Street. She worked here for seven years marking merchandise and checking invoices.

“I worked at Sears before they opened their big store at Madison East on the hilltop,” explains Laue.

While she was working at Sears, Vivian felt she had met with her greatest accomplishment.

“I thought I had a very responsible job because I would take the store’s receipts, after seeing that they balanced.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.