Helen Anderson retires after 50+ years

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By Sandy Bond

A confirmed “night owl,” Helen Anderson didn’t have any problem adjusting to the evening shift as a nurse’s aide when she began her career at Mobridge Community Hospital in 1959. Indeed, it allowed Helen and her husband Harvey, with his career, to raise their four young children, Tamara (Prasek), Sandra, Melissa, and Tom, without the extra expense of daycare. When their children were all in school, Helen began working the day shift and became a “lark.”

“Now that I’ve just retired after 50 years, you’d think I’d ‘sleep in,’ she said. “But I can’t sleep past 7 a.m., even if I try!”

Helen has seen a lot of changes since she began her career in technology and protocol.

“Nurses aides once had more responsibility than they do today,” she said. “We could change dressings, stop I.V.’s and help in the emergency rooms. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, just different. And of course the amount of paperwork has increased tremendously.”

Helen’s favorites were serving in obstetrics because she loved working with the new moms and their babies and in the emergency room.

“Moms stayed an average of five days back then. Gave them a chance to get a little needed rest,” she said. “Babies stayed in the nursery when they weren’t being fed. We didn’t wake the moms for two o’clock feedings, either, unless they were nursing.”

She enjoyed working in the emergency room because it was busy and no two days were ever the same.

Helen was one of the original employees of the Mobridge Community Hospital when it opened in July 1959.  Semi-private rooms were $14.50 per day, while a private room was $17.50 a day. In the early years, Helen recalls working with surgeon Dr. Ron Lawrence and doctors Harold Lowe, John Lowe, A.W. Spiry, and B.P. Nolan. Later she worked with doctors L.M. Linde, and J.E. Ryan.

“I learned so much from R.N. Mildred Brown,” she said.

The eldest of four born to Adam and Eleanor Mitzel, the family farmed in Hague, N.D. When her grandparents, Katherine and Lorenz Klein, moved to Aberdeen, Helen went to live with them. Her parents believed that she would receive a better fundamental education in a larger school. Helen attended St. Mary’s Elementary School for two years before returning to Hague. When she was 9, her parents purchased Mitzel’s Bar in Glenham.

“Glenham was a big town back then,” she said. “I remember that Glenham’s Main Street included two grocery stores, a mattress factory, hardware stores, grain elevator, schools and school dormitories, and a railroad depot where my uncle Felix Moser was the depot agent.”

People came from miles around on Saturday night to shop and then stopped off at the bar to socialize.

Graduating in May of 1957 from Glenham High School, Helen moved to Aberdeen to live with her grandparents once again while she began training to become a nurse’s aide at St. Luke’s Hospital.

“It was more hands-on training,” she said.

She had met Harvey Anderson, the elder brother of one of her best friends, Vivian Keller from Mound City, right after he returned from serving in the U.S. Air Force. They fell in love and when Helen returned from Aberdeen, they were married.

“My mom was a good cook and I learned from her,” she said. “I was cooking meals by the time I was 12.”

The only culinary catastrophe she can readily recall was shared with her daughters, she said. She usually draped her bread dough with dishtowels to rise on the counter. For some reason, she said, she put several loaves in the oven to rise. One of the girls preheated the oven, not realizing the bread was inside some Tupperware.

“I just remember it was a mess,” she said. “But they cleaned it up, because I had to go to work!”

Helen’s favorite holiday is Christmas when she can festively decorate the living room in her  (Charles)  “Dickens Village” Dept. 56 porcelain collectables.

“I won the cathedral from Dady Drug a long time ago,” she said.

Hundreds of “town folk” inhabit the little village and attend to their specific duties-from the clergy to the clerk at the Blenham Bank, which Helen likes to imagine is the Glenham Bank.

Even in retirement, she’s not going to let grass grow under her feet.

She loves visiting her children, 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She adores traveling and is looking forward to visiting son Tom and his family in San Francisco and visiting Yosemite State Park.

And when she does kick back it will be from the comfort of her expansive deck reading a James Patterson mystery.

Helen Anderson’ recipes

Lemon Sauce for Angel Food Cake

1 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

5 egg yolks

Cook in double boiler until thick. Add lemon (or pineapple) juice to taste. Serve on angel food cake slices. “I butter slices and place under broiler until golden.”

Pink Icebox Dessert

1 small box strawberry or cherry Jell-O

1 1/2 cups liquid (pineapple juice and water)

1 can chunk pineapple (drained)

2 cups cream (whipped)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup nuts

Mix together.

Line a 9-inch by 13-inch pan with:

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

Mix together and press into pan. “I reserve 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top.” Spread filling on top of crumbs.

Corned Beef Casserole

Rue:

3 Tbsp. butter (melted)

1/4 cup flour

Add:

1 14 oz. can beef broth

Cook until bubbly and then remove from heat.

Add:

1 4 oz. pkg. cream cheese

2 to 3 Tbsp. prepared horseradish (drained)

Apply cooking spray to 2 quart casserole dish.

Layer:

2 1/2 cups sliced potatoes (thinly sliced)

Sprinkle with salt

Add:

4 cups shredded cabbage

1 can corned beef (cubed)

Pour thickened sauce over potatoes, cabbage and beef. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

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