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Spurgeon named Old Settlers Vice President
July 12, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Courtesy Photo - Phyllis Spurgeon

Phyllis (Garber) Spurgeon of Gering will serve as Old Settlers Honorary Vice President during the 91st annual celebration of Oregon Trail Days.

Although she was born in Holdrege, Phyllis’ family moved to Scottsbluff when she was three years old. They moved into a house about a block away from the Presbyterian Church.
“There were a lot of beautiful yards where we used to play,” she said. “But what I remember most is they had a May Day celebration in the park where the college was later built. They had a Maypole dance and a big celebration.”

Phyllis grew up during World War II and was involved in Camp Fire Girls. “We took classes in babysitting because a lot of new people were coming into the area because of the air base that was at the airport,” she said. “We also learned to knit. We’d knit squares for the Red Cross so they could make coverlets for the servicemen. It was a busy time.”

As she was growing up, Phyllis’ mother worked an office manager for various doctors. And her father was with Western Public Service, predecessor to Nebraska Public Power District.
“His office was in that old building at 18th and Broadway,” she said. “There was a pool table on one of the upper floors and I remember watching my dad and some of his friends play.”
A 1949 graduate of Scottsbluff High School, Phyllis was active with the school band. That’s also when she got started with Oregon Trail Days, as the band would always perform in the parade. And her father, who was a Shriner, was usually driving one of their cycles in the parade.

After graduation, Phyllis went for a year at Scottsbluff Junior College, then located at 5th Ave. and 20th St. She said it was the same building where she went to grade school.
“About this time, a group of young people from the rural areas got involved in parties for different rural schools,” she said. “They were doing some square dancing. That’s where I met this shy young man who really liked to call the dances.”

The young man was Ed Spurgeon, who became her husband in 1950. Ed stayed active as a square dance caller until his death in 2004, the year he was posthumously honored as Old Settlers Honorary President during Oregon Trail Days.
“I was a city girl who learned quite a bit about farming after I moved out to his family’s farm,” she said. “I drove truck and whatever else was needed.”

Phyllis was also active on the local rural school board. The Hillcrest school, just across the road from the Spurgeon farm, would later consolidate with two other rural schools to become Lake Minatare School.
“Our principal taught and coached and drove the school bus,” Phyllis said. “Ed and I took turns driving when the principal was off coaching. It wasn’t as big as city schools, but we had good students and good teaching.”

Also during her years on the Spurgeon farm, Phyllis also worked during harvest season weighing beets at a number of the area sugar beet dumps. She also worked for years in the office at Platte Valley Livestock.
Ed and Phyllis had three daughters and one son. That group expanded into 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Through her days at the sale barn and her many years of square dancing, Phyllis said she’s met so many wonderful people. They traveled around the region, even to Hawaii to bring the joy of square dancing to others.

“It seems I’ve always been involved in Oregon Trail Days,” she said, “first with the high school band, then with the kids and 4-H. It’s a time when you can see all your friends. It’s become our signature event. When people think of Gering, they think of Oregon Trail Days.”
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