ELDER RECOGNITION: Florence Thayer
LCO News: Share with us who you are growing up here at LCO, who family is.
Flo: I’ve lived here all my life raised in the Riverside Community. My parents were Frank and Shirley Thayer. My dad was on Tribal Council for several years. I had two children, one of them passed away. Right now I live in Poppletown and take care of six kids. Three are my grandkids and three are my newphews. My one and only grandson is 17 and he’s special needs. He’s autistic. Both of his parents have passed away. I take care of my two granddaughters at 17 and 13 and three nephews who are 17, 15 and 12.
When I was living in Riverside, I worked at the LCO Elementary School in New Post for like 15 years, then we moved to school up at Trepania Road and shut down the New Post school. After that I was on disability and then I went back to work at the LCO Tribal Office as a file clerk in the Accounting Department. I then became a receptionist and I also worked in the mail room. And recently I worked for the CARES Act in the ARPA Program.
LCO News: Going back to that school in New Post, when was that closed down?
Flo: I started there in 1981 and I think it was closed down in 1993. They had over 100 kids. It was great working there. All the staff were great. Dennis White was principal for a while. It was a small working staff and a small school. Great kids and we put on great shows, the Christmas show. It was actually down there we started the Veteran’s Powwow. The school was there a long time before 1981.
LCO News: What was it like growing up in Riverside?
Flo: We had 17 kids in our family and there was never a boring moment. There was 15 of us kids and then my mom and dad adopted our youngest brother and youngest sister, Sarah. There was always something to do. We swam, played baseball, rode bikes. We never really got to go anywhere. We just lived in Riverside and accepted that. We’d go out and pick berries or get wood for the fireplace. There was 11 girls and 6 boys.
When any of us would fight, my mom would pull dishes out of the cupboard that then we’d have to dishes even if they were clean. She’d say okay, you wanna fight, here you go, do some dishes. During our summers, my cousin from Chicago had 7 kids and she’d bring them up and drop them off for the summer. There was always kids around. My cousin from Superior, he’d come with his kids for Christmas vacation or summer vacation.
LCO News: Where did you go to school living in Riverside?
Flo: We went to Lake School through sixth grade and then we went to Hayward. It was closed down by the time our youngest two went through. Our biggest thing for after school was that one time when we’d be able to stay after school for homecoming, otherwise we’d go home. Or maybe the variety show. We never really got to hangout or anything. When I graduated from Hayward, I went to St. Scholastica for a year and half, and then funding got screwed up and I had to drop out. I went to tutoring for the upward bound program at Ashland for a couple years until 1981 when I went to work for the LCO School.
LCO News: What kind of memories do you have growing up at LCO?
Flo: I just always remembered coming home from school and my mom always had dinner ready for us. No matter how much or how many people were at the house, there was always enough for everybody. Even if my dad saw a stranger walking, he’d be like come and have dinner. They were just those types of people. My dad passed away in 1995 and my mom passed away in 2001. Where we lived in Riverside was right up on the Chippewa Flowage. We did a lot of fishing and swimming. My dad was a guide for a while on the Flowage. My mom and a lot of the girls did resort cleaning.
My dad was on the Tribal Council but I don’t remember the years, but he was on for like 8 years and I believe he was vice chairman for four of those years when Bruce Taylor was the chairman. Early to mid-eighties.
I started working in tribal administration with the HIP program in 2000 and worked there for three to four years and then that program ended. Eddie Boy Martin was my boss. He had a crew that went around and did work on homes. The HIP program actually bought homes and remodeled and then people who qualified under a rating scale would get to live in the homes. Rating would be maybe if they had a disability or children. We had a committee that would look them over. From there I went into Accounting and was a file clerk for about 4 years, then I went into reception.
LCO News: Tell me about your old friends who you’d go out and get into trouble with.
Flo: Oh my gosh, my first one would have to be Renee Isham. She was my friend from get go, her and Renee Taylor. We just had a lot of friends. And Myrna Taylor, oh I miss her, she was such a sweet heart. Margie Miller, everyone knew Margie. We’d just party and get into trouble, but not serious trouble, just fun. We’d also golf and go to golf tournaments with Bruce Taylor and he’d get disgusted with us. Renee or I didn’t know how to golf and he made us join this tournament one year and we didn’t know the first thing about golf and somehow we won the first flight. That was a lot of fun. I’d like to go just to meet people and just enjoy it.
In 1982 I had my son, his name was Brian and he died in 2006 from a blood disease that we just couldn’t fix. I had my daughter Debra in 1987 and she had two children and Brian had one. They are the three I have custody of. Being a single mom, we moved to Bacon Square when Brian was a baby. It was really fun being a mom and I did the best I could as a single mom, got them to school every day. People used to laugh even when Brian was in junior high all he did was wore shorts to school, even in the middle of winter. I saw a teacher at Walmart and she said I’d let him sit by the window with me because neither one of us like it hot.
I had five older brothers. My brother Pete was like a dad to us. He really was. He made sure we did what we had to do and everything. He ended up being a born again Christian.
I was born in Hayward and I’m 65 now and officially an Elder. I have to laugh because my sister who is 71 just a week ago got her first real live birth certificate because she was born at home in Riverside. Our grandma Libby delivered her and she never had a birth certificate. She sent me a picture of it.
LCO News: Any of your other siblings born at home there?
Flo: No, she was the only one. My brother Bill was born in Chicago, but all the rest were born in Hayward. My two youngest siblings are adopted, that’s my brother Russell who is married to Michelle Taylor and my sister Sarah, we’ve had her since she was two months old. She is a school teacher out in Hayward. She took on a second job at Pine Ridge to help pay for her son to go to college, he’s in engineering at University of Iowa.
My oldest sister lives out in Oklahoma. All my older brothers have passed away. I also have two sisters, Kimberly and Donna, who have passed away too.
I love taking care of kids. I really do. It can be a struggle sometimes but if I didn’t have them, they’d be in foster homes and I don’t want to see that. So, I never really got to be a grandma, well, maybe for about four years, and then I had to turn around and be a mom again.