Velma Kjelstad autobiography (2005)

Matt and Velma Kjelstad wedding
Matt and Velma Kjelstad wedding

I was born on July 30, 1907, at home in Tacoma, Wash. My family moved to the Eatonville countryside when I was about a year old. My father, Kellar LeMaster, was a farmer and highway road supervisor and my mother, Susie, a housewife (she lived to be 92 years old). I also had three brothers.

Class of 1924
I graduated from Eatonville High School in 1924 and attended Bellingham Normal School (later called Western Washington University) for two years and studied education. I got my first teaching job in Marysville, Wash., in 1926 as the seventh grade roll room teacher.

I would have liked to have taught primary classes but I could not sing so I always taught the older kids. Harry Munson was one of my first students at Marysville. He later moved to Eatonville area. I started teaching in the Eatonville Grade School in 1942.

Velma and Matt in the 1970s
Velma and Matt in the 1970s

Meeting Husband in an Ohop Play
I initially met Matteus (my husband) while playing in the Ohop Grange Orchestra. He was ten years older than I was and initially there wasn’t any attention on my part. At the time I was teaching in a little schoolhouse in the Ohop Valley; the school was located where one of the Pruitts eventually lived.

I had decided to put on a two-person play to raise money to buy books for the school. The story was about a husband and his “silly” wife. Matteus agreed to play the husband and of course I played the “silly” wife. After playing local Granges and Elks clubs for many weeks, we performed for the Young Men’s Business Association of Tacoma at the Winthrop Ballroom. The play was a great success and we raised the money we needed for the books.

Raising a Family
Matteus Kjelstad and I were married for 54 years form 1930 to January 10, 1984, when he passed away.  He was a master carpenter and homebuilder. He built a lot of homes in the Eatonville area. We had tow daughters. Charlotte Sorre is a commercial artist and portrait painter who lives in New York City and Carolyn Burwash, lives here in Eatonville with her husband on our old farm. I have five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, and I great-great grandson, Matteus (named after his great-great grandfather). I was also married Fred Boyles for nine years until his death on October 9, 1993.

Velma Kjelstad
Velma Kjelstad

Teaching School
I taught school for 32 years, retiring in 1970 (when Matteus retired). I taught sixth, seventh, and eighth grades for 16 years and was in charge of three libraries (Columbia Crest, Weyerhaeuser and Eatonville) for 12 years. During the years, I accumulated a university degree and attended classes in PLU, Ellensburg, Bellingham and the University of Washington.

Many of you would be surprised to find out I am still living; I will be 99 in the 30th of July. One thing I’ve learned, living this long, is patience . . . there is no reason to get uptight anymore.

Learning to Love Literature
When my children were growing up there wasn’t much time for hobbies; I was a farmer’s wife, a teacher and a mother. I did teach my children beginning piano and now my hobby is reading.

Olive Odens was one of my first mentors. She taught English and Literature at the University of Bellingham. She helped me grow to love and respect literature. She also had a lovely speaking voice and was quite tall, over six feet.  I boarded with her for two years while living in Bellingham. Olive died of appendicitis somewhere in the Midwest. I will always remember her as a great teacher and friend.

Made me Laugh
The funniest teaching story I remember was when Steve Dawkins and Eddie Vormestrand came to me and wanted to put on a Christmas play. I approved the play they found from a children’s magazine and they performed it for the school. When the play began they came in pretending to be reindeer, prancing on all fours with tree limbs glued to their heads. I laughed so hard . . . I can’t remember what the rest of the play was about now.

(Written ca. 2005)

 

 

9 thoughts on “Velma Kjelstad autobiography (2005)”

  1. Velma mentioned Harry Munson, as being one of her first students. I haven’t heard that name since we left Eatonville in 1969. Harry was a mechanic that worked for my dad at Mashell Motors.

  2. i currently live on kjelstad rd and am looking for any info for the first house on the rd. i love steve burwash down the rd. thanks for sharing this. i enjoyed reading about velma and her life. i have heard stories now i have a face to put to them. please contact me with any information on property or kjelstad rd. ilovemycombatengineer@yahoo.com
    thanks again for sharing.
    Dawn Kosman

    1. I’m going to going over to the Burwash home this weekend (original Kjelstad home) to get some information. I’ll definitely post it as I get it. 🙂

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