BERTRAND, Neb. — It took a village with a gap in its written history to provide an educational project for a school.
A class of high school seniors filled the gap, making a large contribution to the students’ village of 750.
As communities often do, Bertrand had a published account of its history. But the book, “The First 100 Years,” was nearly 30 years old, released for the town centennial in 1985.
Jane Tonjes of the Bertrand Area Chamber of Commerce said members started talking about the town history a year or so ago. Although a rodeo history and a keepsake recipe book had been published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the town history had not been updated since the centennial.
“These are valuable books of history for the town, but we were not writing down the history of the town,” Tonjes said. “As 2013 approached, we could see another year of not having any history written in a keepsake format.”
Thinking about how to fill that 28-year gap, Tonjes said she and Cindy Wilken talked about Bertrand High School seniors writing the update.
Tonjes took the idea to social studies teacher Mark Dethlefs.
Dethlefs guided the seniors through researching 10 years of Bertrand history from 2012 to 2003. From January to May, many class periods were spent researching and writing sections for the history book.
The class of 21 students was divided into five groups with each group responsible for writing two years of the history.
Their main resources were back issues of the Bertrand Herald newspaper and school yearbooks. They also read the book about Bertrand’s first 100 years.
In addition to sharpening their reading and writing skills, the students learned critical thinking. “It was hard sometimes deciding what is important to include and what is not,” Destiney Vinzant said.
She also said each student had his or her way of doing things, so learning to work with everyone was important.
“It made me appreciate Bertrand more. I want to brag about my town,” said Ryan Dahlgren.
His classmate Austin Ackerman agreed.
“It was amazing to learn what the town went through to survive,” he said. “It makes me want to make it a better place to live. I feel closer to my town.”
The students bubble over with facts about Bertrand. They say the Blue Moose restaurant used to be a bowling alley. A dormitory for World War II prisoners of war was above the current Junkin Insurance office. The prisoners came from a POW camp in Atlanta to work for farmers. Leland Anderson organized the first Bertrand Fair and Rodeo, and he had to drive to Kansas to get stock companies to participate.
Jordan Siekman said she recalled some events, even though they happened in her lifetime, only because she was doing the research.
“You forget about things,” she said.