WashingtonTrips Bring Back Memories
Mrs. Hanks Reminisces
Mrs. Bev Hanks, Former Social Science Teacher at HHS
FOGGY BOTTOM MEMORIES
Foggy Bottom is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the D.C. area; it dates back to the 18th/19 centuries. It was an industrial area located by the riverside. There was always a great deal of smoke/fog which was why it got its name. This was the original location of the US Naval Observatory and today it houses much of the main campus of George Washington University. The Department of State, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the infamous Watergate complex are also located in this area. Our students used to laugh at that name when they heard it or saw it written. Today many people facetiously refer to D.C. in general as “Foggy Bottom.”
I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts about the D.C. trip. I have to tell you that I’m not clear on years or classes, just moments and memories. I am not a record keeper and I don’t know how many students we have sent through the years, but we have had more students than most of the schools. Our kids traveled the longest time, outside of the students from Alaska, because of our long bus trip to Denver and the long day of air travel. Most years we left anywhere from midnight to 3:00 a.m. Several parents wanted us to fly out of Colorado Springs or Omaha because of the cheaper air fares, but we were on the road too long as it was. Early on, we tried to fly out of Rapid City, but they didn’t have the room to accommodate us. Thank Heavens That Has Changed!
In 1984, six students and I went to D.C. to check out the “Close Up” program. This was an academic program where we got to see the workings of Capitol Hill up close and personal. The students spent quite a bit of time in the classroom; they met their State Representatives, visited with lobbyists, chatted with the media, and had debates between students with opposing viewpoints on the current issues of the day. There were sight-seeing opportunities and cultural activities. This was a time when our students had open access on Capitol Hill and limited access to the White House. That period is now long forgotten because of all of the security.
The seven of us each paid $765.00 out of our own pockets to go to D.C. There were four senior boys, a junior girl and a sophomore girl. The students that went that year were Brad Hansen, Lance Kotschwar, Kent Prochazka, Randy Wood, Cynthia Jensen Horn, and Coleen Heinz. Since that time most all of these students have been active in supporting their communities, their organizations and their country in a variety of ways. What a fun group.
When we got to D.C., I called the superintendent of schools-my husband, Don- and said: “I have good news and I have bad news.” Don asked, “What is the bad news?” I replied: “Well, the good news is that I made it to D.C. with all of my students. The poor sponsor from Grand Rapids, MI lost two of his kids at the O’ Hare Airport in Chicago. The bad news is that I lost the keys to the school van at Stapleton Airport.” Don sent another set of keys that arrived just a few hours before we departed D.C. The students said to me, “Why didn’t you give us the keys? We would not have lost them!” They had a point.
The first day the seven of us were in D.C. we had some free time and I was thrilled to learn that I could go and watch a Congressional Hearing on the Hill. It was in a huge room and was filled up with cameras, media, Congressmen, the “Hot Seat” people, lawyers, and interested spectators. I came in and stood near the back of the room and was soaking it all in when all of a sudden I was aware of four faces that had turned around and was looking at me. It was my four senior boys. I was so proud of them that they choose to do something educational and informative.
When I first thought about this type of trip for our students, I thought I would recommend it to be open for sophomores, juniors and seniors. After we took this trip, it was decided that the junior year was the best year to go for a variety of reasons. It has worked well through the years.
We also knew that the cost would be prohibitive for many students so our Close-up Coordinator, currently Mrs. Wade, and the two yearly sponsors work with the group for a year to help raise money. If the students work, they received a share of the money. We had some jobs that we chose not to do again i.e. cleaning bathrooms at the fair, pulling weeds, slave auctions, sold fireworks, pizzas etc. Projects that have made good money for us through the years have been the soup suppers, the wheat shack, collecting cans, painting the Diorama/local buildings, the Italian Buffet and selling Christmas wreaths. The year the Wheat Shack closed a few farmers donated wheat to this program. Major contributors to this program have been Mobius, Farmer’s Co-Op, and the Lutheran Thyrivent. Thank you to all of the groups, businesses, parents, teachers and everyone in the community who have made this trip possible for a number of students.
After we had been in D.C. a couple of days, one of the girls from Alliance saw me in the hall and her cheeks were flushed, her hair was flying out and she was so excited. She breathlessly said, “You’ll never guess what just happened to me, Mrs. Hanks” “What?” I asked. She said, “I just argued with a liberal.” The debate was over Pro Choice and Pro Life. Welcome to the world of politics. This helped our students to look at the whole picture and also it helped them to hone up their own philosophies.
On one of the early trips, Glen and Vicki Kotschwar drove the bus that took us to the airport. We were receiving high- wind warnings that day. On the return trip they were just north of Scottsbluff when the windshield blew out, but not completely.Vicki stood in the stairwell with the bus door open and had one hand on the outside of the windshield and the other hand on the inside trying to keep the window in place. Finally Glen was able to pull over and he removed and then placed the windshield in the luggage well. The rest of the way to Hemingford was quite COLD! Glen drove the groups over a few more times, but Vicki chose to stay home.
One year I had asked two of our teachers, John and Mary Stanton to be our sponsors. The night before the group was scheduled to leave their baby had serious problems and they were unable to go on the trip. I went over to the Kotschwars and begged them to sponsor the trip. They finally gave in and Glen rushed to the grocery store to get some money for them. I was blessed to keep Angie, their daughter for that week. Interestingly enough, the year Angie Kotschwar Carter went on the trip, there were13 girls and one boy-Sam Brauniger. He handled it quite well.
In 1986, I had two seniors that went with the juniors that year. I am with -holding their names to protect me. The airports were beginning to crack down on their security. Every year I lectured and warned the kids about making jokes etc. while in the airports. i.e. “Don’t ask someone if they packed the bomb!!!” While they were waiting in line, the senior girl asked the senior boy,”Where did you put the gun?” The boy was yanked out of line, pinned to the wall and frisked. Both kids were scared to death and were fearful that their trip was cancelled. However, they were cleared and went on their way. When the group came back to school they ran into my room and said, “You were right, Mrs. Hanks. You should NOT make jokes about firearms in the airports.” It was rather humorous in a serious sort-of-way. It truly was a great life-lesson.
In 1993 Riley Baker and Erica Fitsler were two of the large group that took the trip that year. Riley called his mom, Ruth, sometime before they would have landed in D.C. Ruth answered the phone and said, “Where are you?” Riley said, “I’m 7000 ft. in the air” “You are not! Did you get left in Denver?” “Honestly mom, we found the phone on the plane and Erica said we could use her credit card to call home. We are 7000 ft. in the air!!!” Riley said a handful of them took advantage of that. I’ve been trying to track down the cost of those phone calls, but so far no luck. That was the same year that on their free day several of them, Riley included, choose to go to the Hard Rock Café instead of taking advantage of some the other sight-seeing opportunities: it was a fun time, but some later admitted to having regrets.
One year we took a few vans to Alliance and rode on their bus to Denver. On the way to meet the bus one of the boys in the back seat said, “I’m afraid to fly and I just know that I am going to die.” He added, “I have a pet chicken and I wish I had killed it because when I die no one at my home will take proper care of it.” Ironically after graduation that young man went into the air force. Also, on that trip several kids said they had to use the bathroom before we got on the bus. I think all of that talk of dying had an effect. Everything was locked up and closed when we got to Alliance. I said, “OK, all of you that need to use the restrooms come with me in my van.” I was frantically trying to think, ‘where could I take them at this hour of the morning?’ Desperation brings forth creative solutions. I took them to the emergency room
at the hospital. I told them to go in and find the restrooms and if anyone asked what they were doing, just say, “This is an emergency!!!”
In 1994 Linda a Novotony, owner of the Hair Works, was asked to create and make a wreath made of wheat so that our group could present it at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Jeff Shaver was asked to present the wreath. NE was well represented that day and the wreath laying ceremony touched our students in a very special way. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier became more personal.
Our students were able to experience different things because they were in different study groups or because they went different years. In I992, Krista Campbell Gomez and 20 classmates went to D.C. We had to stop at the O’Hare Airport that year. Archie Campbell, Krista’s uncle, met us and took many of the group to see the O’Hare Tunnel. It is a tunnel that leads down under the earth between concourses B and C. It is a pedestrian walkway. It has neon lights that are pink, orange, green and blue in strange shapes. I don’t know if any of the kids experienced vertigo or not, but it felt like a walk back in the 60’s or the 70’s.
This 1992 group took part in an historical event. That was the year the US Supreme Court was deciding “Row v Wade.” There were huge lines and lots of protesters. Our kids went out among the protesters, but they had to take their name tags off first. Krista said that being apart of “Row V Wade” was the highlight of her trip. She also had a lot more respect for government. You can’t beat “Hands on Experiences,”
In 1999 my husband Don went as one of the sponsors. On our last day, the students had a free day and could go to see anything they had missed or to spend more time at an area they especially loved. Don and I decided to wait until the students cleared out of the hotel and then walk leisurely to the Metro. As we were walking, Don said, “Is that our students heading back toward the hotel?” I laughed when we met up and I said, “Are you confused about the Metro?” They said, “Yes.” There were small signs along the way for the Metro, but they were for bus stops and not for the commuter train. That was a good experience for our kids to navigate the city with the trains and to be able to figure out how everything worked. I could even do it because it was color coded. J
Don really enjoyed the new Korean Memorial and the FDR Memorial. The Holocaust had opened since I had last been to D.C. and I really wanted to go there, but Don told me that he just couldn’t do that one. The kids told us how it worked and when I asked them what stood out the most, they all replied, “The Room of Shoes.” It was a sobering experience.
One year over Easter vacation our group was given the opportunity to visit Williamsburg. We all had a taste of Colonial America and learned many fascinating facts, but I knew our group would never take advantage of that again. That just added to the travel time and living out of suitcases for a few days. We were too tired to enjoy it completely
Both the Close-Up and the World Strides programs have been terrific. The first one was much more contained and restrictive than the second one. In Close-Up, each floor in the hotel had a guard on it so the students could not leave that floor at night. They also had a nurse in each hotel. Each room had two of our students and two students from another State. I was told that this was a good time because our kids became friends with kids from other schools and other parts of the nation; it was a learning experience in itself. Kids also became friends with those that were in their particular study groups that stayed together throughout the week. In 2000 Andrea Engelhaupt met a young man from Las Vegas, NV. A couple of months later her folks went to Las Vegas for a family reunion so she called her friend and they had a chance to share Close- Up Stories and get caught up on things in general. Another year our students learned how to sign because many of them roomed with hearing impaired kids. Everyone had a super week. Lots of life-lessons” and “people skills” were put into place that week.
Late one night my phone rang and I thought “Oh, No! One of my kids is in trouble.” That was a legitimate worry because some students were sent home at their own expense and the Superintendent of their school and their parents were notified. When I answered I was so relieved to hear one of my young men say, “Mrs. Hanks we are hungry and we can’t leave our room and no one can bring anything to our room. We ordered pizza and it should be coming soon and we gave the pizza place your room number. Would you accept it, pay for it and then deliver it our room and we will pay you back.” The starving boys paid me, thanked me profusely and devoured the pizza. However, I didn’t get a tip. J
Students had made many friends during that week and at the end of the week, a banquet and dance was held to celebrate. One of my students, Kara Haas, had met Logan Fisher from MT and they literally danced the night away. Shortly after we got home Logan came to Hemingford and went to all of Kara’s classes. After graduation from High School they both attended and graduated from CSC. They were married the following year and now have two beautiful daughters and are living somewhere in MT. I love stories that have a happy ending.
Through the years our students have told me that the trip to D.C. was the “Best thing they got out of High School.” For many it was their first plane trip, the first time they were in a city and had to pay attention to landmarks so they could meet the bus, and they had to pay attention to time and to be on time. Many of them gained life-skills and insights that our local educational system could not adequately provide. The D.C. trip was probably one of the best choices I ever made as an educator.
Thanks for the memories! Bev Hanks
HIGHLIGHT: Just look around the community and see all of the former Close-Up/World Stride kids who are successful business people, outstanding farmers, volunteer firefighters, serving of various boards, Editor of the Hemingford Ledger,and are coaching today’s young people. There is no way to mention each one, but I would like to highlight five who have had great visibility. Lance Kotschwar served in the House of Representatives as Chief Counsel for the Department of Agriculture; Jeff Gaertig is currently Assistant Attorney General- NE Department of Justice, Cara Lohymeyer worked on Bob Kerrey’s presidential primary, Coleen Heinz is actively seeking the position of President of the CO Teacher’s Association and Megan Werkne was chosen as Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Many of our students are nurses, doctors, attorneys, teachers and have received doctoral degrees in other areas. These young people from Hemingford-not just Close-Up kids- have had an impact throughout the nation.