The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Doris Franzen
My Opinion 

You Need To Know About R.L. Irle


Superintendent Irle

Before you make any decisions about renaming the Irle School, you need to learn more about Mr. R. L. Irle.

Mr R.L. Irle came to Glasgow in 1929, I believe. Just in time for the beginning of three crisis to strike Valley County, Montana, and the entire world. In 1929 the "Roaring 20's" were coming to an end. We were headed into the greatest Depression to ever hit this country. Money was literally not worth the paper it was printed on. Farmers, ranchers, businesses were all going down. This Great Depression paired with "dirty 30's" and the "dust bowl" days were causing people to leave the area in droves. They literally left with what they could carry as they looked for work. A way to keep body and soul together. This was when the farmers were actually getting paid less for what they could raise than they spent planting it. Just as the ranchers were.

With the deepest drought ever seen, even to this date, nothing would grow. Housewives had resorted to canning thistles for something green in their meager diet. Both farmers and ranchers were picking up dried "cow pies" to burn for fuel. Taxes could not be paid, so banks and the government ended up with a lot of property they did not want and could not afford. Banks were closing their doors, and what little savings anyone had, went down the tube also.

The people that left here to find work in more populated places were finding that people in the cities were starving and "soup kitchens" had lines blocks long. No jobs were to be had.

In this atmosphere, as you can imagine, schools were pretty much left out on a limb. Very few students, empty classrooms. No tax dollars to support them. What teachers they had probably worked for room and board and little else. This is what Mr. Irle was faced with. This lasted a few years when the largest government project in the country started in Valley and McCone counties – the building of the Fort Peck Dam.

All at once Mr. Irle was faced with the opposite problem. Thousands of people were pouring into the area looking for jobs. With them came their families. Suddenly the schools had a huge influx they could not handle. There were not enough schools, classrooms, textbooks and teachers. You name it! They were overwhelmed to say the least.

I'm not sure if this was about the time when an appeal was being made to Congress to come up with some funding to assist schools in similar positions. I do know that at some point Ruth Putz became the first woman ever to speak on the floor of the Congress.

I wonder what those guys must have thought when this little red-headed gal that stood about 4' 6" come on the floor to speak. She was a fighter and she told them exactly what kind of a situation many were facing in the schools of this country.

But Congress did pass a bill and that bill is still in effect today and we ought to be eternally grateful. Over the years it has led to help for lots of schools when they needed it the most. Plus, I believe that bill contained other assistance that schools still use today.

Now Mr. Irle has been involved in two crisis. Soon he was going to face another - the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed and threw this country into World War II.

Now young men who were 17 to 18 years in age and still in high school were dropping out of school to go fight for their country. And they were not drafted, they volunteered because they loved their country and it was in trouble. After the war a few of these veterans came home and finished their high school to get that diploma. Some applied for and received a GED. Many just did not return.

During the war there was food rationing that had to be worked with by our schools as well as the general population. Also, during the war an Army Air Base was established at Glasgow on the site of what is now the Glasgow International Airport. When the war was winding down, then the military began leaving. So the mission of the Base changed from Army Air Force to a German prisoner of war camp.

After that period, then Mr. Irle's tenure as Superintendent leveled off to a more quiet speed. No one in that position before or since has had to face what Mr. Irle did, and it is through his directions and management that we have our school system as it is today. So every time we enter any of our schools there are really two people we owe a deep debt of gratitude to even today – Mr. R. L. Irle and Ruth Putz.

Maybe this could become a good teaching point for the schools to use while teaching history, especially local history to the students.

If the plan is to change the name you need to give it intelligent consideration. You will find that there are strong feelings on the subject. The response that the teachers got in their survey seems to show most everyone is in favor of keeping the name. If we had all known there was such urgency to get our feed back in to you, then you may have had a better response. But it has only been in the last three or four days that anyone knew there was a timeline to meet. I would go at this very carefully. If you go the wrong way and antagonize a large segment of the community, you may find yourself never getting another mill levy passed. You have a lot at stake.

If I was able to be at a meeting, I would be. But since losing my hearing, I cannot follow what is going on in a meeting session. So this way is the next best way for me.

Thank you for hearing (reading) me out.


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