Retired Dickinson dentist and children's author Dr. Edward Keller interacts with children at South Prairie Elementary School in rural Mnot on Friday.

Retired Dentist Writes Books About Childhood in North Dakota

Johnson, Andrea. "Retired Dentist Writes Books About Childhood in North Dakota." Minot Daily News, 6 November 2004, sec. B3.

Kindergarteners at South Prairie School made faces when they heard about the syrup sandwiches Dr. Edward Keller used to take to school in his lunch box.

But they got up and danced when Keller put on a tape recording of an accordion waltz.

"One-two-three, one-two- three," Keller told the youngsters as the whirled about fue gymna- sium floor. "I love this music because it is the first music l ever heard."

Keller, a retired dentist from Dickinson, has written a series of books about his childhood in Strasburg in the 1920s and 1930s. He started writing the books when he retired after 42 years of practicing dentistry Now being an author is his second career.

On Friday he read to the kindergartners through fourth graders from "My Mother's Apron," "My First Grade, 1932," and "Trixie, My Shetland Pony," which is about to be published.

Stories from the old days were the most intriguing for the children.

Keller explained that he grew up speaking, German in his German-from-Russia family and didn't learn English until he went to school. "

Like other German-from- Russia families, his family and their neighbors celebrated name day parties with homemade root beer and goodies until early in the morning. When the children of the house got tired, they crawled under a bed and went to sleep while the party went on around them. Keller's father's name was Francis, so the family and neighbors celebrated the feast day of St. Francis in early December.

Keller's father traded a calf and a sack of wheat with a neighbor to get Trixie, the Shetland pony. Keller said the pony seemed to like his baby sister better than it did him. When 3-year-old Eleanor fell off the pony, the gentle Trixie nuzzled her until she stopped crying and stood still so she could get back on. When Keller fell off the pony, the pony kicked him until he got up and ran home.

Keller shook his head and neighed, imitating Trixie. The children giggled.

Keller said the illustrations in his books show city children what life is like on a farm. Some of them think radishes and fresh veggies grow in the supermarket, he told the children from South Prairie. Some of them shook their heads in disbelief.

Some of the kids said they were familiar with the German-Russian delicacies Keller talked about because they eat them at home. Some of their grandmas and grandpas came from big families like Keller's.

"Years ago, people had many children," said Keller. "One of our neighbors had 18 children. Fifteen of them were girls."

A few of the boys in the audience looked a little green at the thought of that many sisters. One counted to 18 on his fingers, trying to figure out just how many kids that would be.

Keller's talk of his years as a dentist encouraged a bit of boasting.

"I eat the most junk food in my family, except for my dad - he's the biggest junk food eater," said second-grader Matthew Sys. "But my sister, she eats all the good food and she had three cavities and I have none."

"So the answer to that is keep eating junk food?" joked the retired dentist.

Matthew and his classmates agreed, although their parents and dentists probably wouldn't.

Keller said his books are equally popular with school children and with nursing home residents who enjoy remembering the days when they were children.

Keller encouraged, the chil- dren to become authors too.

"Every one of you can write your own stories," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News.

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