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Historical Perspectives

One girl’s dream of a high school education

In 1940, Helen Seger, along with her parents and 11 brothers and sisters moved from Peyton to Bijou Basin, about 7 miles north of Peyton’s town center. Bijou Basin’s school district didn’t have a high school, so when Helen finished eighth grade four years later, she had two options: stop going to school or move to Peyton where she could attend high school.Thirteen-year-old Helen wanted her high school diploma so much that she convinced her parents to let her live ñ all by herself ñ in a one-room cabin on Highway 24 in Peyton. She lived there rent-free because her brother had planned to join her in Peyton in the spring to work at the garage on the same property.The inside walls of the cabin were unfinished, so there was just one layer of split log siding between Helen and the cold winter wind.For amenities, there was a narrow bed, a table, a chair and a small, wood burning stove with two burners ñ referred to as a monkey stove. ìI cooked my own meals on the stove,î Helen said, adding that all of her brothers and sisters knew how to dig potatoes and cook a meal.It was cold enough to keep meat without a refrigerator, and Helen brought potatoes from home along with her mother’s canned peaches, pears and pickles.ìI stayed in that little place ’til after Christmas, and then my brother came to work at the garage,î Helen said. When her brother arrived, the two moved into the two-bedroom cabin next door.ìI stayed there all through the 11th grade,î she said.She was still attending school when one of the worst snowstorms in the history of the Pikes Peak region struck on Saturday, Nov. 2, 1946. It began as a cold rain that turned to snow when a blast of cold air blew in from the north. The storm stalled over the eastern plains, dropping snow continuously for almost three days.When it finally cleared, the storm had left 3 feet of snow and drifts that buried houses, with only their rooftops in sight.The deep snow was too much for regular snow plows, so rotary plows were brought in to clear the roads, but it still took a rotary plow a full day to clear an eighth of a mile.The early date of the storm took people by surprise, so some were caught away from home and suffered heavy livestock losses.Many families were caught short on supplies. Those who needed help used soot to write ìSOSî in the snow to communicate their needs ñ food, fuel, medical aid or livestock supplies ñ to pilots flying above so that supplies could be air-dropped later.Helicopters airlifted the sick to doctors and hospitals.Some lucky residents were able to get around by tractor; otherwise, people stayed home. The livestock used snow drifts to walk over fences, so when they were able, farmers had to sort out their cows.School was closed for weeks, with kids still attending school the next June to make up for the days lost to the blizzard, Helen said.Despite the troublesome winter weather, Helen remembers growing up in Bijou Basin as a lot of fun.ìWe would take a jar of water and a peanut butter sandwich and climb Fremont’s Fort at least once a week. (Fremont’s Fort is the hill where explorer John Fremont is said to have fought off an Indian attack.)As a teenager, Helen and her friends enjoyed hitching a ride to Calhan and riding the train back to Peyton for just 10 cents, but hitchhiking is something she would never advise doing today. It’s too dangerous, she said.True love, in the form of Lloyd Baber, got in the way of Helen’s high school diploma. She met him in 1945, and they got married before she would have started her final year of high school.ìThat was the way life was then. In the days when I grew up, you were supposed to get married and have a family,î she said. ìWomen didn’t really seek careers in those days.îThe Babers are still married and live in Colorado Springs.

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