Bill Young

Words and music by Marianne Fridell
with Mrs. Black’s 4th Grade Class
©2010 Marianne Fridell




      Bill Young

I was born in Madison and grew up on the prairie.
A one-room schoolhouse and our farm were where I spent my days.
I drove a team of horses with a hayrack in the back
While the thrashing crew threw bundles in from the golden stacks.

We pulled up stakes to relocate to where the air was pure
Custer’s mile-high air and rest were our mother’s cure.
Grandmother moved in with us while Dad worked at the saw mill.
She was strict and raised us up with a grandma’s will.

Don’t blame somebody else
Be responsible for yourself
Don’t do anything halfway
Whatever you do,
Do it all the way–100%

We cut ice at Sylvan Lake and hauled blocks into town.
I was known as the ‘ice boy’ and kept the town cooled down.
I’d hand-grind ice blocks into chunks and work up quite a sweat.
I started the summer of fifth grade and haven’t slowed down yet.

An avid and addicted runner, I ran until my feet hurt.
They’ve healed now, so I am back kicking up the dirt.
But running upstairs when I was twelve got me too much attention.
My second day at Custer School, I got detention.

I’m a life-long educator I taught science and math.
I’ve guided inquiring minds like yours on their learning path.
When I meet former students they ask, “Do you remember when?”
Maybe I will, maybe not, but I always have a story ‘bout them.

I wanted to be a forest ranger, but decided to take a dare.
Fighting fires for fifty years, we went everywhere.
The South Canyon fire was the saddest day in my career.
Life is precious, and safety, safety, safety first, you hear.

Bill Young was born in Madison, South Dakota. He lived on a farm with his brother and parents. He remembers going to a one room school until he was 12 years old. Favorite childhood memories are of families working together on the farms, driving a team of horses, and big “threshing” parties with relatives.

Mr. Young moved to Custer when he was 12. His family moved here to be close to his mother who was at the sanitarium south of Custer because she had tuberculosis. His grandmother helped raise him. He said he liked to do things like hike in the woods and collect stamps and coins. He remembers getting a roll of pennies just to see if he would get any good ones. His family did not have a T.V. He said to us, “think of how much you could get done without a T.V.! Imagine how much homework you could do!” His family lived on Custer Avenue and he remembers walking downtown to the movies. Sometimes they’d stop and drink out of someone’s garden hose. An exciting evening would be to drag main and then go home.

Mr. Young has had many jobs. He started out as an ice boy when he was in 5th grade and made 10 cents an hour. He cut ice at Sylvan Lake and sold it to tourists in town. Before school his senior year, he was the “milk guy”. He would deliver milk to local stores – the Hilltop, West Main, and Rickers before he went to school. He dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player.

Bill Young graduated from Custer High School. Bill Young said it was important to him to be good and not be in trouble. He knew that if he got in trouble at school he’d be in bigger trouble at home. (He ran up the stairs his second day of 5th grade in Custer and earned detention.) His favorite classes were science and math. In college he was a wrestler (there wasn’t any high school wrestling in Custer back then). In college track he tried long jump (into a sawdust pit), and played baseball for a year at Black Hills State.

In the summers, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service and fought fires all over the U.S. The 1994 South Canyon fire was the saddest day of his firefighting years. It was an experience that taught him how precious life is. He was pictured on the cover of Newsweek Magazine, carrying out bodies of co-workers who had died. He volunteers for the Pringle Fire Department today.

Bill Young is well known for his years in education, something he feels he was called to do. He taught math and science to junior high and high school students in Broadus, MT, Glendive, MT, Spearfish, Rapid City, and Custer. His favorite class he taught was Ecology. He had a school bus driver’s license, so that class did a lot of work outside like going to Harney Peak and back. He also coached a lot of kids. He remembers starting the wrestling program in Broadus, MT with two 5’ by 10’ mats and uniforms that were long underwear died green. In Custer he coached about everything: wrestling, basketball, cross country, track, and football. He feels lucky to have had the privilege of coaching his own children, too.

Mr. Young and his wife, Linda, have been married 44 years. They have three daughters: Tracey, Cristie, and Kathy; and one son, Steve. They love to travel, especially to visit their 12 grandchildren in Minnesota, Nevada and Eastern South Dakota. He said that maybe someday he’d like to visit Alaska, Rome, Germany, Ireland, and even an old fashioned pub in England. His hobbies have included hunting, fishing, and he still likes to golf a lot. The Youngs have almost always had pets.

Mr. Young is involved in his church activities. He enjoys going to local high school events and listening to local musicians on summer evenings. (We found out he played the accordion in music shows when he was young!) Mr. Young has run three marathons in his life. He took up distance running to run with his daughter, and he became addicted. He had to stop for awhile when his feet hurt, but now he’s back running again.

Mr. Young told us it’s important to be responsible for our own actions. Don’t blame anyone else. His words for us were, “Don’t do anything half way. Whatever it is, do it 100 percent.” Mr. Young left an impression on us, another group of lucky Custer students. We can follow his example and words, “Whatever we do in life, do our best”.

Thanks Mr. Young, for giving Custer 100%!

Comments are closed.