Yelm Board to Ponder Fate of Mckenna School August 6, 1974

Yelm Board to Ponder Fate of Mckenna School

The Daily Olympian, Tuesday, August 6, 1974

The Yelm School District Board this Thursday night will discuss the threatened condemnation of the Mckenna Elementary School building by Pierce County Fire Marshal Fred Smith, according to Dr. Glen Nutter, superintendent. The board will hold its regular meeting in the administrative offices, starting at 8 p.m.

Dr. Nutter said that the fire marshal examined the 54- year-old, two-story frame building towards the end of May (it is located just within Pierce County). Smith suggested three alternatives: replace the building (at about $400,000 said Dr. Nutter); remodel to provide fire walls throughout ($40,000); install a sprinkler system ($30,00).

Dr. Nutter said the board and members of a citizens’ advisory committee have expressed reluctance to spend any considerable sum on the old building and would rather erect a new one if the voters approve.

However, Nutter continued, the task of the board at the moment is to try to reach an agreement with the fire marshal on some kind of satisfactory, low-priced safety measure to take so that the district may continue to use McKenna School while seeking voter approval on building construction funds and then, if successful, erecting the new building – all of which takes time.

The existing structure houses eight classrooms and an office. Dr. Nutter said the enrollment for this fall has been estimated at 180 students.

(Prepared by Brendan Young)

For Yelm: Growth Olympian December 26, 1979

For Yelm: Growth

By Dan Wheat

Olympian December 26, 1979

In 1970, Yelm’s population was 632. Last April, it officially was 970, and undoubtedly it is over the 1,000 mark by now.

Along with that growth, Yelm built a new City Hall, new elementary school, new high school and has remodeled two old elementary schools.

The fire district serving- Yelm and the surrounding countryside built two new substations, and the town’s water system was updated in 1977 with the installation of anew water tank and water lines.

Among the new businesses opened during the last 10 years were Jayhawks Department Store, Herter’s Clay Pigeon Plant, a veterinarian clinic, a Bank of Olympia branch and a couple of small shopping centers.  Yelm gained a doctor, two chiropractors and three dentists.

In politics, Lora B. Coates was elected the town’s first woman mayor in the fall of 1969. She took office in 1970 and has served a full decade, being re-elected in 1973 and again in 1977, at age 72. Her present term expires in January of 1982.

In 1971, the arrest on vagrancy charges of six of the town’s better young people led to many complaints against Yelm Marshal Bill McCluskey. As the result of a Daily Olympian investigation, a budding bail-bonds racket was exposed, and the town attorney and town judge both resigned.

In 1976, Mayor Coates and the town council were miffed when the town’s three deputy marshals joined the Teamsters Union without first notifying the mayor or council. As a result, the council considered disbanding the Yelm Marshal’s Office and contracting with the county sheriff for law enforcement services.

However, the council decided to keep its marshal’s office because contracting with the sheriff would have been just as expensive and the town would have lost control of its law officers.

Perhaps Yelm’s most colorful figure in the 1970s was Joseph Agosto. Agosto built the Caravan Inn and Algiers Restaurant on the edge of town in 1972.

A short while later, Agosto was called by a federal grand jury to tell what he knew about the disappearance of some funds from Northwest Guarantee Savings and Loan Association. Later the Internal Revenue Service tapped his banking records, a car carrying his wife and children exploded near Ashland, Ore., (nearly taking their lives), and a car he was driving was shot at as he returned to Yelm one day.

In 1974, the Caravan Algiers complex burned. The state fire marshal said it was arson. Agosto had sold the business a year and a half earlier and opened the “Folies Bergere” show at the Tropicana Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas,

Prior to coming to Yelm, Agosto served a brief term in a federal penitentiary following a 1966 conviction for falsifying housing loan documents in Alaska. The US Justice Department, which says Agosto is an illegal alien wanted in Italy to serve a 10-year prison sentence for bigamy, has been trying to deport Agosto since 1968.

The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Agosto’s deportation in 1977, but then the U.S. Supreme Court heard his case and in June,1978, by a 7-2 decision, ordered that he be given a new trial. Agosto had last been seen in Yelm about a month before talking about opening a new bowling alley on property he still owned there.

Last May, Agosto was named in a FBI affidavit as a front man in Las Vegas for Kansas City and Chicago Mafia figures.

Living in Yelm in 1951 by Edgar Prescott

Living in Yelm in 1951 by Edgar Prescott

Introduction: In this passage Prescott describes the house in bought in 1951

Looking back I have to admit that the house we bought back in 1951 doesn’t seem anymore take all that much of a house that it did then. It was square, and it sat high up on a foundation. You had to climb five broad cement steps, bordered by a fancy iron railing, to get to the living room; and around on the side, up three real steep, narrow ones to get into an entryway, where there was a double laundry tub. That tub would have been an improvement, when it came to scrubbing and rinsing clothes, over the galvanized tub and copper wash boiler we had used to use—It had hot and cold running water—but it would have required a washboard and a lot of hard work, and it certainly wouldn’t have matched up with the automatic washers and dryers that most other folks were using. As nearly as I can remember, we never used the thing.

All of the rooms were small. The kitchen, with its little dinette on the end, just big enough for the three of us, didn’t have a lot of cupboard room. There was hardly space in the living room for what furniture we already owned,- and the bedroom closets were little more than cubbyholes.

But there was a good looking fireplace in the living room, faced with native rocks that were varnished, and the floors were hardwood, made out of oak, even in the kitchen and bathroom, where they were covered with linoleum. And there was a basement under the house with a coal burning furnace, and heating registers in all the rooms.

On the outside the house was painted white with a red shingled hip roof, no eaves at all, and it was built on the edge of a big lot—Actually it came close to being two lots wide—with just enough room on the north side between the house and the fence to drive a car into the garage out behind.

And it was all practically new, at least as tar as we were concerned—only five years old. The date it was built, 1946, was stamped into the cement of one of the risers of the steps out front.

To us it was a “precious stone” like Shakespeare said about England, only it was set in a green lawn instead of a “silver sea”. And the lawn wasn’t even green. Not then. We were thinking ahead to the way it was going to be. Actually it was that big hunk of land south of the house and in the back yard that I was drooling over as much as it was the house. There was room for a garden, or a lawn, or flowerbeds, or even another house—anything my mind could conceive.

And believe me, my mind conceived plenty—enough projects over the next twenty hears, along with teaching history classes, to keep me busy as a colony of ants. I was about to say “to keep me out of mischief”, but I guess a lot of things 1 got into on account of that land might rightly be considered as mischief. Take that nutria deal I got into. But I’ll tell you about that later on.

Right at first we were busy sanding and refinishing the floors. We rented a sander from the hardware store, and Archie Ferguson, our neighbor—He was the fellow who had built the house in the first place—was right there to give advice. Then we had the laundry tub in the entryway torn out and replaced with a new washer and dryer. And we replaced the furnace in the basement with a new Winkler-, high pressure oil burning furnace.

[Connecting With the Outside World] by Edgar Prescott

[Connecting With the Outside World] by Edgar Prescott

Introduction:  Edgar Prescott moved to Yelm in the 1940’s.  In his unpublished autobiography Prescott left this description of “connecting with the outside world”

In Yelm it was a man named Wright, a black haired fellow with snapping black eyes. He had a boy and a girl in high school who looked just like him.

Mornings, except for Sundays, passengers loaded onto his little bus—On good days there might be a dozen of them—and he hauled them off to Tacoma. About the middle of the afternoon, after they’d had plenty of time to get their business tended to, he brought them back, along with anybody else who might be wanting to come to Yelm.  He only made one trip a day.

Alice found out about the times of his going and coming back, and she found that in Tacoma she could catch a bus to Seattle, and that in Seattle she could hook up with another local bus that crossed over to the island on a ferry at Mukilteo and went on to Coupeville.

Lackamas – PROPOSAL TO FORM A NEW SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THURSTON COUNTY COMPRISING A PART OF THE TERRITORY OF THE YELM SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 400

To the State Board of Education

September 1, 1948

PROPOSAL TO FORM A NEW SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THURSTON COUNTY COMPRISING A PART OF THE TERRITORY OF THE YELM SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 400

By action of the Board at its meeting on July 27, 1948, this proposal is scheduled for a hearing before the Board in conformity with the request of both the proponents and the opponents of the proposal.  The following statement of facts has been prepared for the purpose of furnishing board members with essential information about the proposal.

Facts and Developments Connected With the Proposal

  1. Yelm School District No. 400 is a joint district, including territory in Thurston and Pierce Counties.  At the present time it operates a high school and a graded elementary school in Yelm and a three-teacher elementary school for grades 1-6 at McKenna in Pierce County.
  1. Prior to the last school year (1947-48) the Yelm District also operated a one-room school at Lacamas in Thurston County, approximately ten miles southeast of the city of Yelm.  This school was operated under an arrangement whereby parents residing in the vicinity were permitted to choose between the one-room school at Lacamas and the graded school in Yelm.  Under this arrangement the average daily attendance at Lacamas dropped from 16.7 in June, 1943, to 7.7 in June, 1947.
  1. In view of the declining attendance at Lacamas and a division of opinion among residents of the area respecting attendance at the school, the Yelm school board requested a nonresident of the school district to interview parents regarding their attitude toward the continued operation of the Lacamas school.  The interviews were conducted in may, 1947.  Selected for interviews were the nine families in the area whose children (16 in number) would be in grades 1-6 during the school year 1947-48.  Statements from the report of these interviews throw light on the situation prevailing in this area and are, therefore, quoted below:

Quoted from the report

  1. “No difficulty was experienced in getting people to talk.  They expressed themselves freely, and often with real conviction.”
  1. “Four families preferred to send their children to school in Yelm.  In nearly all cases this was a positive, unqualified preference amounting to a deep conviction.  Two families preferred Lacamas; one family was undecided; two were not interviewed” (presumably could not be located at the time

For the Formation of the New District Territory

Yes                                                          No

# of Families# of Children   # of Families   # of Children

Residents of Old                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Lacamas District                            3                      4                      6                      9

Residents of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Territory in Old Yelm                  2                      7                      1                      2 District

Total                                                   5                      11                    7                      11

One family with two children is not reported in the foregoing tabulation because of conflicting reports about the family preference.  Excluding this family, five families with eleven children appear to favor the formation of the new district; and seven families with eleven children seem to be opposed, preferring to have their children attend the graded school in Yelm.

Proposed Adjustment of Assets and Liabilities of the Districts Involved

Estimated Revenue of Proposed District                                                                                                                        1948-49

  1. That State and County funds based on attendance during 1947-1948, of all elementary school pupils residing in the proposed new district become an asset of said district during 1948-49, the state and county funds available for expenditure by the Yelm District to be reduced correspondingly (4300 days at 37 cents per day)                                                                                                                                                               $1590
  1. That one educational unit be credited to the proposed District for 1948-49, and that state funds therefore be made available for said district and deducted from receipts of the Yelm District                                                                                                         $1650
  1. That proceeds of the general fund tax levy made in October, 1948, by the Yelm District No. 400 in the amount of five mills on the taxable valuation of the new district become an asset of said new district (5 mills x $585,000)                                   $2925
  1. That sixty percent of approved transportation costs for the new district for the school year 1948-49 be allowed to said District out of state transportation reimbursement funds apportioned to the Yelm District during 1948-49                    $1300 (est)

——–

Total                $7465

Michaela and Jessica Murdock Dillard Jenson Interview About Lackamas School – June 2003

Michaela and Jessica Murdock  Dillard Jenson Interview About Lackamas School – June 2003

Jessica: How long was your school year? I know that it’s 180 now, but there must have been more time off?

Dillard: We started right after Labor Day and we always got out the last of May. Usually around May 29. Yeah, because I don’t think we had any spring vacation. But, yeah, we always got out the last of May.

J: Was there a lot of farming kids out here?

D: Oh yeah! All farming kids. We all farmed. That’s all there was, was farm kids.

J: What kind of farms did you guys have? Was is mostly cows?

D: Cows! Everybody had a little farm, everybody had a couple cows. Everything was on a small scale.

*Rustling…conversation lost…

J: How did you guys get to school? How far usually was the range?

D: By a homemade school bus. It had benches along the side. Was an old… just an old regular pickup. Old wooden back. And uh then… up the Peisner road here. Whoever lived up there Mr. Peizner had an old car and then he’d deliver them. And then up above Clear Wood, which is Clear Wood now, up on Johnson road, there was another old gentleman up there and he had a big old car and he used it for a bus. And that’s how everybody was transported.

J: So…do you know how large the range was from where kids were coming from?

*Rustling…conversation muddled…

D: The range… oh well the range didn’t reach out all that far. Probably… twenty miles. But  what happened is the Yelm School District- now we’re going way back- the Yelm School District the valuation at that time was $500,000. That’s all there was. This one here was $550,000 cause we had Weyerhaeuser, which added more valuation. Well Yelm couldn’t get by without reorganizing and adding this school. So that’s what they done and we were always promised a school, but when the ink dried they took the school away from us. So now we’re getting it back. (Laughs)

J: So what years did you go to school here?

D: I went here first through sixth. Then everybody after the sixth grade went on to Yelm.

J: So that was in 19…?

D: It closed down in 1947.

J: So 1941?

D: I started in ‘40.

M: So you went right until the end?

D: Yeah, I went just about to the end. I think it ran maybe one year after I left.

J: What was the attitude toward school back then? Did the parents think it was very important?

D: Very important. You want to remember everything was entirely different. We had one teacher. No superintendent, no principal, no janitor, no nothing. One teacher ran this school. And every Friday we would put a list up on the board and two boys would feed the wood furnace for the following week. Two boys would take care of their restroom. Two girls would take care of theirs. The teacher always cooked the noon lunch. And she’d have two girls, their names would be on the list, they’d help cook the lunch for that week, but they only cooked lunch for four days a week and every Friday one of the mothers would bring us something special for lunch. And that’s the way it worked. And then about fifteen minutes before school was out every day we’d have to clean up our room, so it was ready for the next morning. And then once a week we’d go out and clean up all the school grounds and clean everything up. And then of course one person had to put the flag up and take it down every day.

J: I think that is so cool. I think that teaches you so much more responsibility.

D: But like I said I wasn’t the best student. When I went to Yelm I sat there for two years, because it was a complete review I’d already had. So I wasted two years. Well… I mean I didn’t waste it, but I’d already had it. Because when you’ve got six grades in one room and you’re in first grade, it’s just like computers today, you store everything, well you store the same in your mind and so when you get to the second grade you’ve already heard those kids recite their lesson- they recited everything back in those days. So it’s already stored in there, right on up through the six grades. When you get there it’s just a review for you. It’s a wonderful to learn. I’d like to see them teaching kids that way again.

J: You probably get a lot more one-on-one time too?

D: Oh sure! Well and another thing, you couldn’t get away with anything. You got bent over…(laughs)…that’s the way it was…there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and then when you got home you got some more.

M: So there was definitely some corporal punishment.

D: Well it was…but they’re going to have to go back to a little bit of discipline today, because it’s not working. It’s not working. We all…I don’t care who you are, we all try to get away with as much as we can…everybody does that. So, I say we need a little bit more discipline. But that’s maybe coming from an old-timer‘s mouth.

J: I think that’s interesting to see like, what was breaking the rules, though, and what was looked over, and what was totally not acceptable to do. I think you could push yourself a lot further now, and I was just wondering what was grounds for punishment?

D: Well you tried to push yourself, but you couldn’t, you didn’t get it done, because you got a good whipping or the paddle. And when I went to Yelm it was the same thing there… was a teacher, a principal by the name of Harry Southworth. And he had this nice little wooden board with holes in it and you got the same treatment there. They had control of you. You might try something, but it wasn’t going to work.

J: What kind of curriculum did you guys learn and what was your day?

D: You had your Math and your English, and just the basics… you know, lots of penmanship. Even though I don’t write every day, I still have lot’s of it… and health classes.

J: You said you had to recite a lot, what did you have to recite?

D: What did we have to recite? Well, in Reading and different things like that we probably read more than we had to recite, but we did have to get up and read to the class, stand up in front of the class…or even in Math, she’d make you get up and work your math out on the blackboard and everybody would watch you and see if you were doing it right. So, that’s where you learned from the class ahead of you, so when you got there it was pretty much review. Everything was done pretty much without teacher. She sat at the front of the room and she’d call you up and you’d work on the blackboard, because you wouldn’t want to mess up.

J: So you didn’t want to make any mistakes?

D: No you didn’t or you were in trouble.

J: So, it wasn’t a big deal having different grades in the same class?

D: No, it wasn’t.

J: And having to share the teacher?… When I was reading the Hart’s Lake School thing they said that they put the schedule for each grade up every day and that you just looked at it and knew what you were doing and you didn’t have any problems with that?

D: That’s exactly what it was…That’s exactly the way it was…yep…it was amazing. It probably wouldn’t work today…

[At this point in time Roger Schnepf and Brandon Brownell arrived at the school to take pictures. The Interview stopped for a short while, but the tape kept playing. Dillard insulted the boys and we all laughed. We talked a little bit…]


Michaela: What was the basement used for?

D: Oh we had a shop down there where we built, didn’t amount to much, but we built little things. As good as we could.

J: Did you guys use the gymnasium for physical education classes or just for fun?

D: We just had a basketball hoop, we played a lot of baseball.

M: Did you have any sports or clubs after school?

D: Everything we did…garbled

M: You did golf.

D: I never got in on the golf. That was before I started here… They had a little nine-hole course out there.

[Brandon interrupts to take a picture of Dillard]

J: Did you guys ever feel lonely or cut off from other people? [The Yelm of his youth]

D: Didn’t know the difference. Probably went to town once a week… something like that. Wolf’s department store, right there in the Drew Harvey Theater, that was the big place in Yelm back in those days. Everybody bought their groceries there, bought their clothes there, bought everything there. They sold everything. Cattle feed…*mumbling/garbled… And right there at Gorder’s Body Shop, that was Brown Brothers. And there was the John Deere dealership. And the Plymouth and Dodge car dealership. The original theater was over…the bowling alley, that was a theater… yeah, see that was the second one, the old one burned down. But, let’s see…the bank there on the corner, I can‘t remember the name, Timberland or something…then right next to it used to be D&H Mobile service station, so that’s an Apex grocery or something now. Say, right there was the original theater. Regular movie theater. It burnt down and then the built the one where the bowling alley is now. That was a movie theater and then the built one in Parkland and it burnt down…garbled…but they were identical theaters. They just built the theater floor up and put in the bowling alley. Try to think what else was in town. There were all kinds of things. Yelm was a pretty nice little town… But it was all basically right in that area. Across from the Drew Harvey Theater was a big meat market and right next to him was a restaurant and bar. And then, if I can remember, I was just a little kid, it was in ‘39 they had built a new highway from, they had finished it from Tenino, that was the main highway. And then they had a big get-together. I think that was around the first carnival they had. And right where the old fire station is, that was an old lot there at that time, just a narrow lot, but that’s where the first carnival was.

Edgar Prescott’s Memories of Being a Teacher at Yelm High School

Edgar Prescott’s Memories of Being a Teacher at Yelm High School

Introduction: Edgar Prescott arrived in Yelm in the Forties and taught social studies for several decades at Yelm High School.  The following stories about his time at Yelm are from his unpublished autobiography which can be found at the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma.

Getting the Job

It took hours to write those thirty applications, evenings and a couple of Saturdays and Sundays, and after they were mailed, I settled back and waited for contracts to come flooding in.

It wasn’t exactly like that. I was working every day, and every day the job seemed to be getting a little more undesirable. Evenings when I came home I’d ask Alice, “Did we get a job yet?” and she’d shake her head.

Then one evening she nodded, yes.

The letter she handed me was from a superintendent named Montgomery, from a town called Yelm, in the state of Washington, and it contained not only a letter but a contract. The contract offered only fifteen hundred dollars, but Mr. Montgomery explained in his letter that if I was willing to drive a school bus, I could get an extra five hundred dollars, or close to it, during the school year; and that there was a mostly furnished house, right in town, available for only ten dollars a month.

The money the contract offered wasn’t anywhere near as much as we’d hoped we might get. Still we were excited about the chance to live in Washington state with Puget Sound and the ocean and Mt. Rainier, and the big trees I remembered reading about in my seventh grade geography book, and the cool summers . . . the soft warm rain that kept everything fresh and green.

Yelm, we thought, was an intriguing name for a town, an Indian sounding sort of name, and though it was one of the places we couldn’t find on the map, there was a family we knew living in Ault that claimed they’d heard about it—a logging town they thought it was, close to Olympia.

The School

The schools, Yelm High School and Yelm Grade School, sat side by side—We found them across the railroad track and a piece up the street to our left. They were more modern looking than we were used to, spread out along the ground instead of being piled up, one bunch of classrooms on top of another. In fact the high school looked new.

Actually, we found later, it had been in use only a year. The old frame high school, the one it replaced, had burned to the ground a couple of summers before. Both buildings were surrounded by lawns and bordered by trees and a low hedge.

I hunted up Frank Bower, the high school principal. There weren’t a lot of days left until school would start.  Frank was a big fellow for that time, about six feet two—Anymore it seems that half the kids in high school are six feet two, even the girls—and he weighed close to two hundred pounds, all of it brawn, but he had a gentle voice and eyes that I described to Alice as being understanding. They were the kind of eyes you wouldn’t be bashful looking into if you were hurting or needing help or advice; but it sure wouldn’t be easy to look into them if you were figuring on telling a lie.

Frank was about my age, maybe even a year or two younger, but already he’d been principal at Yelm going onto ten years. Standing beside him, talking to him, I got the sudden feeling—Maybe I should call it a premonition—that I had got into the right school system, that with Frank running it, everything was going to go smooth as silk.

He took me over to the high school—Like I said, it was practically a new building—and showed me the room where I would be teaching for the next twenty-two years.

It was a big room with windows running along one side and end and the other two walls with blackboards and cases of maps which pulled down on rollers like window blinds. There were maps of every continent and country. They were practically new, but a lot of them were already obsolete. No map maker could hope to keep up with what was going on in Europe and Asia and Africa. There were maps marking the routes of armies and the sites of battles for almost every war except the one that was going on right then. On the front wall, above the blackboard, were two framed portraits, one of George Washington and the other of Abraham Lincoln.

Frank took an armful of textbooks I would be using during the first semester out of a bookcase and gave me a schedule of classes. I spent most of the days that were left becoming familiar with them and in outlining courses and making lesson plans.

Being a Teacher [Old School]

But driving the bus made for a long day. Each trip, going and coming, took more than an hour. And I had seven different classes, one of them in general science— I had no background at all in science—and one in Washington history, which I knew less about when I started than the kids I was trying to teach—and not one minute of school time for preparation or grading papers.

No teacher anymore would stand for such a schedule. He’d be out on strike in a minute, and who would blame him?

But things were different back then. There was a war going on. There were only six teachers and a couple of hundred kids to teach. All of us had a lot of classes, and if any of us needed help or inspiration or an example, we had Frank Bower to look to.

It was Frank who got me started off right in that general science class. He taught me how to set up those experiments, and how to prepare slides for the microscope. He lent me his rock collection and his biological displays.

Frank was not only the principal—He had no secretary—he was also coach, football, basketball and baseball, and he taught all the math classes, and the Science classes—chemistry and physics—with the exception of the general science class I was teaching.

And that wasn’t all! I was never more surprised in my life than on that Saturday morning when he rousted me out of bed and asked if I would like to help get the field ready for next Friday’s game .

Good Lord! I thought. Saturday too! But I went. I wasn’t the only one either. Bill Thun was there—He was principal of the grade school—and Clancy Jean, the ag man.

We picked the rocks off the field—It produced a new crop every season, Frank said—and we lined it with lime. Then we put up forms for a set of steps and a sidewalk leading from the gymnasium to the field.

The next Saturday we mixed cement, in a box, with shovels, and filled the forms. Working Saturdays got to be a regular thing. Before basketball season started we painted the inside of the gym as well as doing a lot of other little jobs that needed doing. There wasn’t any fooling around like you might think, working without remuneration the way we were. Frank kept us at it. He had everybody’s job laid out and everything ready to go; and he did a lion’s share of the work himself.

But it wasn’t all work with him either. There were Friday evenings when he invited the faculty men over to his house—There were only four of us, including Bill Olson who was the principal of the grade school at McKenna a couple of miles down the road toward Tacoma.

After I’d been teaching at Yelm for a spell—the same room, the same classes, the same maps and pictures on the wall—1 realize looking back that the days and the years somehow got mixed together like they were poured into a blender.

Everything is still up there in my head, bright as a dollar, all the kids-No teacher is ever going to forget kids he’s had in three or four different classes—but it’s almost impossible to fit them into a time frame or even to guess at the order they came in. When I meet one of them on the street these days, sometimes with their kids or grandkids, and he asks, or she asks, “Remember me?”—and he or she tells me what the name is, or used to be, I remember all right, just what each of them looked like back then and where he or she sat in the room, but always I have to ask, “What year did you graduate?”

Driving A Bus

Bald Hills Lake was more than fifteen miles from Yelm in rugged country, big hills sticking up all around and never the sight of a road. The trail we followed into the lake—I guess you could call it a trail—had never been graded, just flattened out by a lot of cars going over it. But there weren’t any cars today except for Mr. Schneider’s old truck.

But it wasn’t until the first run on my bus route—Mr. Montgomery went along the first morning to show me the way—that I discovered, though Yelm might be a prairie, it was surrounded by some pretty good sized trees.

Roads ran among them, round and round, thither and yon, like through a tunnel, with scarcely a glimpse of sky.   Back in Colorado county roads had run either north and south or east and west. Whenever we came to a clearing, no matter how the road had turned and twisted and changed direction, we seemed invariably to be heading into that ice cream cone of a mountain. I had no sense of direction. I still haven’t. Since we came to Washington, directions have remained reversed.

And though there were no houses visible, still at the places Mr. Montgomery directed me to stop, kids came trooping out from among the trees.           .

I would have gotten lost a dozen times that first week if it hadn’t been for kids in the bus to point me the way.

Class of 1943 – 50 Years Later

Class of 1943 – 50 Years Later

Forty-four first graders entered the Yelm Grade School in 1931, and at least ten of those original 44 pioneers persevered through all of the 12 grades in Yelm. The persistant ones were Arvilla Brown, Lois Brown, Louis Brunetti, Marian Echtle, Dick Kittleman, Charlotte McMonigle, Dean Sias, Lillian Solomon, Ruth Stanton, and Joe Wilkinson. Others came and went until, in the end, there were 33 students remaining in the Yelm High School class of 1943.

The class of ’43 enjoyed the distinction of being the first to graduate from the “new” high school building. The school we entered as freshmen in 1939 had burned down in 1941. Fifty years later even our “new” school is gone. But we still remember. . . . .

1939-40 – Freshmen

Fifty-four Yelm Grade School students completed the eighth grade in the spring 1939. With new classmates from surrounding towns, there were 64 Yelm High School freshmen that fall. Class officers; were Charles Sokoik, president; Robert “Art” Smith, vice president; Dick Kittleman, secetary; Jim Rice, treasurer; and George McCloud, sergent-at-arms. Lawrence Lemmel was class adviser.

Members of the faculty during our first year were Superintendent O. L. Montgomery, Frank Bower, Eve Philip Curry, Carl Faulk, Lawrence Lemmel, Arlene Lindstrom, Ruth Otterstedt, Alan Rice, and William Sherman.

As freshmen we plunged bravely into school activities. Kay Lou McNett was a member of the Student Council. Freshmen representatives to the Girls’ League Council were Lois Brown and Beatrice Waller. The Lettermen’s Club membership incuded George McCloud and Jim Rice. George McCloud was also a member of the 1940 league championship baseball team.

In the Glee Club there was Eileen Benson, Juanita Fox, Emma Prince, Frances Weber, Elva Sjostrom, Mildred Stewart, Eunice Nobel, Florence Marvin, Marian Echtle, June Peugh, Sylvia Jones, Roberta Nugent, Ethel Johnson, Joe Wilkenson, Dick Kittleman, and Bob Iverson; Orchestra – Arvilla Brown, Marian Echtle, Ruth Stanton, Dean Sias, Lilian Solomon, and Genevieve Michel; Band – Genevieve Michel. All these same classmates, and others later on, helped to provide the music for concerts and other special events to take place throughout our high school years.

1940-41 – Sophomores

Class of officers were Bob Iverson, president; Kay Lou McNett, vice president; and Genevieve Michel, secretary. When Bob moved away Kay Lou became president and then Guy Baty, vice president. Frank Bower was the class adviser.

When Ruth Otterstedt and Alan Rice had gone, and the new faculty members moved in this year, they were S. H. Van Woundenberg and Jeanne Zeimantz.

The Student Body elected Guy Baty to be Sergeant-at-arms, and chose Ruth Stanton, Lois Brown, and June Peugh to be the cheerleaders. Sophomore representatives appointed to the Girls’ League Council were Ruth Stanton and Nadine Arfman; Arvilla Brown was secretary- treasurer.

Many more sports letters have been earned, and new members to the Letterman’s Club were Guy Baty, Howard Cooley, Richard Daskam, and Bob Grinde. George McCloud, as a sophomore, was chosen captain of the basketball team and elected vice president of the Letterman’s Club, he was given the unusual award. George McCloud, Jim Rice, and Howared Cooley were all members of the repeated Champion Basketball Team. Joining the Block Y Club were Kay Lou McNett, Genevieve Michel, Edythe Hawkey, Marian Echtle, Arvilla Brown, June Peugh, Charlotte McMonigle, Nadine Arfman, Ruth Stanton, was vice president, Roberta Nugent, and LoisBrown.

Those earning a membership in the Torch Honor Society were Arvilla Brown, Lois Brown, Edythe Hawkey, Ruth Stanton, Florence Marvin, Kay Lou McNett, Charlotte McMonigle, Genevieve Michel, Roberta Nugent, Marian Echtle, Eunice Noble, Dick Kittleman, Bob Iverson, Nadine Arfman, Eileen Benson, Joe Wilkenson, Ethel Johnson, and Guy Baty.

“The Dizzy Baton,” a one-act operetta presented at the spring concert, it featured sophomores Roberta Nugent, and Genevieve Michel. In the month of May it became the Sophomore Hop, admission was 30c per person. The theme was “Spanish Fiesta,” and the BIG event of the evening was the crowning of Queen Gladys Anderson, a senior, and a King Richard Daskam, of our own class.

1941-42 – Juniors

The 1917 high school building was destroyed by a fire on June 24, 1941, once it had been closed for the summer. We returned in Septemberto classes in the gymnasium and wherever else available space could be found. Nevertheless, school activites resumed and the Class of ’43 continued to make it’s history.

This years Class officers were Guy Baty, president; Don Miller, vice president; Nadine Arfman, secretary; and Verna Osterberg, treasurer. There was no faculty adviserer mentioned in the 1942 annual.

The faculty now included new members Grace Howard and L. T. Alsburry, who was replacing Arlene Lindstrom and Lawrence Lemmel.

Nadine Arfman was the Student Body sectetary and Dick Kittleman was the treasurer, Guy Baty became a member of the Student Council. Ruth Stanton and Dick Kittleman were both junior representatives on the Annual Staff. The staff for the School Paper were Verna Osterberg, Kay Lou McNett, Beatrice Waller, Ruth Stanton, Arvilla Brown, and George Rice.

“Dan Still Remembered” November 27, 1977

Dan Still Remembered

The Daily Olympian November 27, 1977

Yelm- Most towns erect monument to city founders, mayors or other notable community leaders. Not Yelm. It has a monument to a man who came to town as a hobo and left 33 years later as a beloved legend.

Dan Maslowski wasn’t a typical tramp. Nor was he a city founder, but many say he was the top citizen of Yelm. He was a respected and trusted community member. His memory is lodged in the warmest spot of many a heart. Maslowski earned himself a niche as Yelm’s Mr. Clean.

Townsfolk who remember the old hobo have their favorite storied to tell. And all have nothing but good things to say about their old Dan. Some resent him being called a tramp.

The drinking fountain monument is in front of Yelm’s fire hall on Main Street. It reads, “Keep Yelm Clean. In memory of Dan Maslowski-1971.” It was placed there a year or so after old Dan’s death in July of 1971.

Yelm grocer and former state legislator Hal Wolf, and the late Bob Ellis, who once owned Bob’s Tavern, gathered donations for the monument. They sold bumper stickers that read, “Keep Yelm Clean for Dan.” Ellis’ son-in-law Jim Forrester, present owner of Bob’s Tavern, said some people thought the stickers were in referent to Gov. Dan Evans. It became something of a joke to keep people straightened out on the matter.

Ellis and Mel Johnson spent hours installing the fountain monument. “There’s not many tributes in this town and this is the only one on Main Street. Nobody else got into the hearts of people here,” Wolf declared.

Wolf was a young man when Maslowski hit town. He remembers his dad and others liked to buy Maslowski’s breakfast because they were so pleased with the way he kept the town clean. “He read a lot and sometimes gave the impression that he’d once had a formal education,” Wolf recalled.

“Since old Dan died, we’ve had a real problem in trying to keep the town clean. We’ve never solved it. Whenever something needed to be done for the city, Dan would do it. This town hasn’t been the same without him. There aren’t any hobos left today.”

As the story goes, Maslowski left his Wisconsin home at the age of 13 because of family problems. He rode the rails across America until finding Yelm in 1938. He once told Ellis, “The first night I got to Yelm they didn’t throw me in the can. So I just stayed. It was the first place where they didn’t throw me in the can.”

His first night in town, he bummed a handout at the door of Martin Gruber, then co-owner of the Gruber-Docherty Lumber company and later treasurer of Thurston county. But that was the last time he begged for food. After that he swept floors, chopped wood, cut grass, and did scores of other odd jobs about town. In return people gave him meals of maybe some change.

At first he slept in a little house behind Bruber’s, then city hall was his home until Ellis gave him a room in his hotel. In the early 1960’s, Ellis tore down the top story of the hotel and turned the first floor into a tavern and a Laundromat. Maslowski squeezed into a small room between the two.

That’s where he lived until his death except for three months he lived at the McKenna rest home.

As the years went by street cleaning became his forte. “He’d be up at four nearly every morning sweeping the streets whether it was rain, snow, or shine,” recalled Forrester.

“The town has never been as clean since old Dan died. He swept parking lots, porches, sidewalks and not only Main Street but every street in town.”

Others said he could often be seen outside shaking a fist at a horse rider going through town, if the horse dirtied the pavement.

After many years, the city finally put him on the payroll for his cleaning efforts. He got $25 per month.

Forrester said Maslowskit was good at sweeping out Bob’s Tavern until carpet was put in. “He didn’t like carpet because he couldn’t sweep it.”

“There’s not been many in the world that could smoke a cigar like Dan. He was the most contented, leisurely and relaxed smoker. But he had to quit drinking during his last three years because the doctor told him his heart was going band. He obeyed doctor’s orders.”

Mrs. Evelyn Fall, who remarried after the death of her husband Bob Ellis, remembers she and Ellis were newlyweds’ when Maslowski found Yelm. “He stacked wood and picked strawberries for my mom and dad and all the little kids loved him. If everyone was as good as old Dan was, this would be a great world,” she said.

Maslowski was completely trustworthy. The Ellis’s often would send him to the bank with their earnings for the day. It was common to see him talking to himself while working and he loved cats and plants.

He served many a night as town watchman and was especially helpful in that capacity during Yelm Prairie Days in the summers.

City Clerk Roger Eide remembers giving Maslowski free haircuts at his barbershop. “I’d say one on the house and sometimes he’s pay and sometimes he wouldn’t,” Eide said with a grin. “He very seldom would work for anyone who wouldn’t give him a meal. And he’d eat enough for a week.”

Eide wasn’t the only one to mention Maslowski’s appetite. The fact that the old boy could eat is something all comment on.

Mayor Lora B. Coates remembers Maslowski helper her and her husband harvest Christmas trees. “He was certainly a legend. He was as typical a small town character as you could find. But he was part of a vanishing breed.”

Maslowski died of a heart attack July 26, 1971. The town was hut down for the hour of his funeral.

A Daily Olympian story about the funeral hit national and international news wires. Mrs. Frieda Young, of Selkirkshire, Scotland, though she might be related to Maslowski and sent a letter of inquiry to Yelm. Mayor Coates sent all the information she had about Maslowskit to Mrs. Young.

The two corresponded for about a year, and Mrs. Young last wrote that she positively felt she was related to him.

Mrs. Connie Turner is one Yelm resident who still thinks often of old Dan. She visits his resting place in the Yelm cemetery at least once a year. She planted shrubbery on the grave since Maslowski liked “anything growing.” And she still takes care of the grave.

Mrs. Turner says Maslowski reminded her of her own father. So she sort of adopted him as a second father. One New Year’s Eve she got him on the dance floor, despite heavy bets that he wouldn’t. Most of the time he shied away from females.

It’s been said that no one ever captured the heard of Yelm as did Dan Maslowskit. And no one has since.

Robert Olson – Yelm H.S. Principal – Obituary


Robert Edward Olson  (Obituary)

Appeared: 2007-04-06  The Olympian

Robert Edward Olson, age 81, greeted the world from the top of a kitchen table on July 15, 1925 in Montborn, Washington. He said goodbye from the living room of his Tumwater home on April 3, 2007. He and his two older brothers were raised on the shores of Borrows Bay, where they learned to work hard, play hard, and value family. Bob graduated in 1944 from Anacortes High School, where he played year-round sports and starred on the State Tournament basketball teams. After a stint in the United States Navy, he enrolled in the University of Washington and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education. During his time at the University of Washington, he found time to play basketball with the Buchan Bakers. His teaching career began at Neah Bay High School, where he soon became principal and coached championship football teams. In 1958, he was hired as the principal of Yelm High School, where he served for 20 years. He retired from the school district in 1980. Dad was a beloved father and keystone for three families. He owned a boat years before he purchased a car and spent thousands of happy hours fishing. He loved the anticipation between the first bump of a curious fish lured to his bait and the solid pull from a hook well-set. The extended Olson families and the Yelm community have lost a “good man”. Bob was preceded in death by his son, Mark Edward Olson, first wife, Frances Ruth Crumb Olson, and second wife, Barbara Whitcomb Olson. He is survived by his wife, Cathy Olson; his children, Janet Olson MacGregor, of Seattle, Robert J. Olson, of Olympia, and Robert M. Olson, of Lacey; and numerous stepchildren, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Remembrances may be made to Dollars for Scholars in the name of Robert E. Olson, to Yelm Community Schools, or to Trout Unlimited. No formal services will be held.