1965 STAMP designed by Leonard Fellman of Big Lake commemmorating the 100th Anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War.

Learning 'stuff' can be fun

Staff Writer
Ken Francis


When I was in grammar school many years ago, it seemed I never had a problem remembering important dates in history. I was also pretty good at locating countries on the globe.
Most kids in class wondered how I could remember things that seemed so unimportant outside of school.
For me, it was easy. 
I didn’t study any harder than anyone else or try to memorize trivia just to show off.
Those dates and tidbits of history and geography  were actually things I learned as part of a hobby, actually two hobbies - stamp and coin collecting.
My father introduced me to both hobbies when I was about five years old. I remember he had an old wooden box of coins he had accumulated over the years. He also had a very thick album filled with stamps of the world.
Every so often he’d sit at the kitchen table and go though packets of stamps and put some in the album using hinges. He always let me look at the stamps and pointed out what country they were from and what he knew about those countries.
Many of the stamps were from foreign countries, and the languages on them were new to me. But I soon learned to identify which country a stamp came from.
I learned that “Sverige” meant Sweden. Stamps printed with “Deutsches Reich” came from Germany. “Eire” meant Ireland in Irish. Most South American stamps were easily recognizable. Countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua had the same spelling in English, although Brazil was spelled “Brasil” on their stamps.
Over time, I even learned to differentiate between stamps from China, Japan and Korea - not because of the language, but because of the image on the stamp.
My father also had an extensive collection of U.S. stamps. It seemed many stamps had a story to tell. Most commemoratives were issued on the anniversary of a historic event - the landing of the Mayflower in 1620; Boston Tea Party in 1773; Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775; Louisiana Purchase in 1804.
If a stamp was issued in 1965, like one of the Civil War commemoratives, I was pretty sure the event probably took place 100 years earlier.
It was the same thing with coins. The Lincoln cent was first minted in 1909 on the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
The Washington quarter was introduced in 1932, commemorating the birth of George Washington in 1732.
At the time I was engulfed in the hobbies, I didn’t even realize I was learning about history, geography or foreign languages. I was just having fun. Only when those same events and places came up during history or geography class in school did I realize how much I had learned without even studying.
Even today, I take the time to look at a stamp I receive on mail just to see if it commemorates an important event in history.
I don’t think there are as many coin and stamp collectors now as there were when I was younger. 
But I’ll bet those collectors are pretty good at history and geography.


Scholarship Committee Chairman Jeremy Maguire, Recipient Annalise Reitsma, Recipient Connor Johnson (Big Lake), Recipient Francis Freeman, Recipient Abbie Siirila (Her Mother Cheryl Standing In), Senior Warden Terrance M Schaffer. (Submitted photo.)

WINNING A GOLDFISH at the carnival with all his friends looking on was Wyatt Yager. Ashley Shaver is in charge of the booth. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards.)

Air Force Airman Cody J. Vavrina

HOMETOWN HEROES and parade Grand Marshals, Jesse and Justin Hattesohl have both been decorated for their service to our country. (Photos by Jennifer Edwards.)

CLEARVIEW EXPANSION. Principal Sheri Rutar listened as architect David Leapaldt, center, and St. Cloud Schools Building and Grounds Director Bryan Brown discussed the proposed K-8 expansion at Clearview Elementary School earlier this year. (Photo by David Hannula)