Central High School, ca. 1913Photo courtesy of La Crosse Public Library Archives
Seven Miles to Viroqua is a very short, easy-to-read, book written by Roy Bangsberg about his experiences growing up in rural Wisconsin during the 1910s. It was written for his parents. The memoir includes Bangsberg’s experiences on his family’s farm as well as his experiences going to high school in the nearby town of Viroqua. The title of the memoir refers to the fact that Bangsberg’s family’s farm was seven miles outside of town. This book covers Bangsberg’s life from his childhood until he graduated from high school with a focus on his high school years in town. Bangsberg had to live in the town of Viroqua during the school year, with a family that wasn’t his, because there were no rural high schools. This was not unusual for farm kids at the time! The memoir covers lots of interesting information about what it was like living on his own as a teenager attending high school in a small town.
Something great about this book is that it is easy to find the information that you need! Although this memoir covers a lot about Bangsberg’s youth living in a farming community, this Friendly Finding Aid will focus on the later part of the book that discusses Bangsberg’s high school experience.
This FFA is broken down into three topics; 1) basketball, 2) social life, and 3) high school. Each of these sections has information about different aspects of Bangsberg’s life that are talked about in the book. Each section has page numbers that include information about the topic mentioned. You can read all of the sections included in the Friendly Finding Aid or just go to the one that you find most interesting!
Chapter 7 of this book focuses entirely on basketball and the basketball team in Viroqua. It includes information about why basketball was played instead of other sports and who their biggest rivals were. If you are interested in sports, this chapter provides an interesting look into what high school sports were like during this time period. They’re probably different then you’d expect! The following pages are just a few of the interesting parts in this chapter. However, this is a short chapter so it should be no problem reading the entire thing or, you can find the parts you think are the most interesting!
Page 87: Read the paragraph at the beginning of this page to understand why basketball was the most popular sport for small town high schools.
Page 88: Read the two paragraphs on this page to learn what happened when Bansberg’s team would play teams that came from a bigger school. Little Viroqua played teams from schools such as La Crosse and other schools with a lot more students. Read to find out what happened when they would play teams like La Crosse that had more students.
Pages 88-89: Did you know that basketball was not always played in a school gym? (In fact, Viroqua high school did not even have one!) These two pages will describe where the Viroqua basketball team played their games. You’ll be surprised!
Pages 93-95: Viroqua had no school busses when Bangsberg went to school! These pages describe the ways that the basketball team would travel to get to their games. Make a guess about how they traveled before you read, then see if you’re right!
In his book, Bangsberg spends a lot of time describing the different social events that happened around town during his time in high school. He also talks a lot about his friends. This section of the finding aid helps organize and describe some of these events.
Pages 68-70: These three pages describe the pranks that Bangsberg and his friends loved to play during Halloween and other times of the year. Reading this section will give you a sense of how high school kids in the 1910s were pranksters!
Pages 70-73: These pages talk about the county fairs that happened when Bangsberg was living in town. The fair was one of the biggest events of the year and was enjoyed by people who lived in town and those who lived on the surrounding farms. Read these pages to figure out why, as a high school student, Bangsberg liked the fair so much and what the purpose of the fair was.
Pages 81-83: These pages discuss adventures that Bangsberg had with his friends when he was living in town. They describe different times that he and his friends would drive their family’s cars (which he calls automobiles), including one time when they were driving and got stuck! Read these pages to get a better understanding of what youth in the 1910s did with their free time.
Pages 84-86: These pages talk about the everyday after-school experiences of Bangsberg and his friends, including where they would spend their time after school. Bangsberg was not a model high school student, indeed he could be naughty! Read to find out what he and his friends did to avoid being caught doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.
Bangsberg is living in the town of Viroqua to attend high school. Although this collection doesn’t talk that much about what happened while he was attending class, below are interesting parts that talk about the classroom experience.
Pages 39-40: Did you know that students had to take a test to get into high school? In these pages Bangsberg gives a brief description of the test he had to take after he graduated 8th grade. Read this section to understand Bangsbeg’s experience taking it.
Pages 66-68: In these pages Bangsberg talks about the high school assemblies that he would have to attend when he was in school. As you read, think about them and if they are the same as assemblies today.
Pages 100-103: This section gives a general overview of the graduation ceremony from high school. The details of the ceremony are not very specific because Bangsberg did not graduate with the rest of his class! Read, these pages, (along with page 97), to find out why he could not graduate.
Reviewed by: Rachel Syring