Lackamas – District #305
The Lackamas school opened in fall 1914. Lackamas District #305 was formed by combining the Longmire (Tebotten), Morehead, and Bald Hills Districts. Students from the Longmire (also known as the Tebotten and maybe even the Clear Lake school), Morehead, and Bald Hills Schools were now bused to their new school in a district which combined the three school districts found in the Bald Hills area. Louis Cochrane built a house behind the school and rented it to a teacher at the school. In 1920, the gym was built. The gym became the social center of the Lackamas community. The gym was used for playing basketball and other physical activities. School plays and assemblies in the gym drew appreciative crowds of parents and relatives. Community dances were a regular part of weekends in the Bald Hills. Profits from the dances were used by the families to fund the free lunch program at the school.
“Everything Was Entirely Different”
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 everyday. (Dillard Jensen, 2003)
The Lackamas school drew its students from the farms and woods of the Bald Hills. The enrollment fluctuated with the economy and other undetermined factors. Students might have numbered as low as 13 for one year to a high of 44 in 1920-21. Wallace Music attended Lackmas for seven years in the 1930’s and remembered the school employing two teachers, each with roughly 12 students. Dillard Jensen recalled 16 students attending Lackamas in 1940. Students would be grouped according to age with up to four or five for a particular grade level. At the enrollment height of its existence the school employed three teachers.
The School Year
In an interview in June 2003 Dillard Jensen recalled, “We started right after Labor Day and we always got out the last of May. Usually around May 29. . . I don’t think we had any spring vacation.” School records from the Lackamas school corroborate Jensen’s memory. School usually started the first week in September and ended during the third or fourth week of May.
According to school records the 1918 school year at Lackamas, on September 2, 1918. October 4th the school had that Friday off for students to attend the fair. World events caught up with the students of Lackamas within days of returning to school that Monday.
Influenza was rampaging through the nation and world at that time. The school was shut down on the 13th of October, not to reopen until the week of November 25. The students returned to school that Thanksgiving week. Undoubtedly they shared their knowledge of the workings of the disease in the area, along with their tales of free time in the fall. Students fell back into the rhythms of the school day and looked forward to Christmas. Christmas vacation, however, came early to the Lackamas school that year. On December, 6, 1918, the school was again shut down in order to limit the spread of the deadly contagion. The students didn’t reenter the doors of the school until February 3, 1919. Altogether the students had missed 49 days due to the series of precautionary school closures. The school year ended, as was usual, in mid May and seven out of the eight students in grades 9 and 10 were promoted to the next grade. That was not the end of the flu, however.
In February 1920, the school was again shut down for, in the words of the teacher, two separate “flu vacations.” The last vacation ran until the end of the school year. Students returned in September 1920.
Teaching in a Multi Age Room
Chester Biesen taught in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the Lackamas School in the 1926-27 school year. A yearly sum of $1,125 he instructed four 4th graders, one fifth grader, and ten 6th graders. According to his grade book his school day was broken up in the following way:
9:00 Opening Exercises
9:10 4th arithmetic
9:25 5th arithmetic
9:40 Physical training
9:45 6th arithmetic
10:00 4th spelling
10:10 5th spelling
10:20 6th spelling
10:45 4th history and reading
11:00 5th history and hygiene
11:15 6th history
11:30 4th hygiene
11:45 6th hygiene
12:00 Noon Intermission
1:15 4th language
1:30 5th language
1:45 6th language
2:00 5th reading
2:30 6th reading
2:45 4th geography
3:00 5th geography
3:15 6th geography
Dillard Jensen, who attended the school over a decade later, remembered that recitation and working at the blackboard was an important part of the school day. Jensen stated:
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.
The benefits of years of this pattern of education were described by Jensen:
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.
Recess was a time for students to relax. There was no playground equipment at Lackamas. Gertrude Reichel Schulte, who attended the school from 1918 to 1926, remembered taking in the nearby woods, but always being back in time to lessons to resume. At age 91, Schulte still remembered the beautiful flowers that appeared in the spring. Jensen played basketball in the gym, but the boys’ favorite pastime was playing baseball. According to Antone Johnson, boys ‘used to throw the ball around in there. As far as games go we didn’t do anything very organized. Mostly teased each other.’ Wallace Music explained that some of the men from McKenna Camp 12 built a small golf course behind the school. There was a daily dose of 15-20 minutes of organized physical activity.
Materials and Supplies
There is no detailed account of the texts available at the school, but records do show a small collection of books available to the students. According to district records the Lackamas school possessed copies of the following books in 1923-24.
From Earth to the Moon Jules Verne
The Last of the Plainsman Zane Grey
American Claimant Mark Twain
Matthew Arnold Thurman
Vandemarks Folly Quick
Daddy Long Legs Webster
Dombey and Son Charles Dickens
The Making of Herbert Hoover Lane
A Man for the Ages Bachellor
At the end of each year teachers were to inventory their room. An examination of these documents provides a glimpse of the school room at Lackamas. The sun filled rooms were sparsely decorated. There were the desks and chairs for teacher and students. There was also a table for the younger children to work at. Utilitarian items including a wastebasket, pencil sharpener, a large clock, and two flags dotted the room. Bookshelves with 20 reference books filled out the inventory. In 1927, there were 250 reference and other books in district library. By then there were 275 volumes of free textbooks available for student use.
Material conditions within Grace Inman’s room (1926-27) had improved over the following year. Money had been spent to acquire a pointer, 7 rulers, 100 blocks, 10 boxes of letter cards, a dozen boxes of “crayolas,” and a box of beads. In 1927 the school also possessed a globe, two sets of wall maps, and a sewing machine.
The September 6, 1938 inventory of Ida R. Mertz contained:
Number Articles Number Articles
1 paper punch 1 small desk
1 large art scissors 1 primary printing set
1 fire extinguisher 1 set of phonetic element cards
1 typewriter 1 set of arithmetic cards
1 phonograph 1 first aid kit
1 paper cutter 1 set of alphabet blocks
1 book case 1 set of toy money
1 sand table 1 duplicator
1 clock 1 bench
1 globe 1 waste paper basket
1 wall map 1 swing chair
8 primary chairs 15 rulers
2 primary tables 11 scissors
1 teacher’s desk 8 pen holder
1 rhythm band set 1 whistle
1 set of chart material for use with Webster’s readers
In 2003, Wallace Music recounted that he “Never bought one piece of paper or a pencil, never took a sack lunch to school.” His needs were provided for by the school and the community.
Those Saturday night dances provided the money for lunches for the students. Wallace Music proudly stated that he never took a sack lunch to school once during his time at Lackamas. The school served up hot lunches daily. There was soup sandwiches, and cake. Students had a choice of white or chocolate milk. The students took one hour for their lunch break.
The dances were great Saturday evening events. Dances were a “family affair.” There were grandparents, students, parents, even babies taking in the live entertainment. Wallace Music could remember two fights during all of his evening at Lackamas. One of those was between two brothers and was fueled by moonshine.
Students break rules, no matter the teacher or the era. After all, “we all try to get away with as much as we can.” Corporal punishment was part of the Lackamas program. “You got bent over,” was how Dillard Jensen described it. “There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and then when you got home you got some more.”
On occasion discipline issues were considered serious enough to require the attention of the school board. Discipline was the reason for a special board meeting on May 14, 1930. Board members assembled for the purpose of deciding whether to expel Roy Hull, all in attempt to get him “to stop making trouble on the school ground.” Lackamas board members in that instance decided to let the county board solve the problem between Roy Hull and Principal Grass. The decision of the county board, however, has been lost in time.
State law required that schools keep a log of all visitors that stopped by the school during the day. In the 1931 records the visitors often made comments about what they witnessed. Here are some of those comments:
Excellent school & spirit
Pull together spirit
Quite different from Seattle schools
A very enjoyable school and good spirit
Farther advanced than some schools
One visiting prankster, in 1923, signed the name “Barney Google” (undoubtedly with the “goo, goo googling eyes”). His home was Steillacoom, Washington, home of the state mental institution.
The following is a list of teachers who worked at the Lackamas school. When records have been found we have included students number, grade levels taught, and salaries.
9/3/17 – 5/24/18 Sylvia Sharpe 17 students 7,8,9,10
9/2/18 – 5/16/19 Sylvia C. Sharpe
1919-20 W.B. Beckman
1920–21 W.B. Beckman
1921-22 Minnie Lautzheniser $1,260
1919-20 Pearl Ferris 12 students 4,5,6,7
1921-22 J.R. Lautzhenhiser 14 students
1922-September Florence Chabert 14 students 4,5,6
1922-23 J.R. Lautzenhiser 11 students 12-17
9/4/23 – ??? unknown
1923-1924 Thea Cooke 21 students 1,2,3
8/31/25 – 5/24/27 Grace R. Inman 17 students 1,2,3 $1,125
8/30/26 – 5/24/27 Chester Biesen 15 students 4,5,6 $1,125
8/31/31 – 32 Fred Grass 5-8
5/31/35 Fred Grass
1934-35 George M. Parkko 12 students 5, 6, 7, 8 $900
1934-35 Pauline Schierman 1,2,3,4,5 $630
1934-35 Daniel E. Damitio 11 students 7,8 $810 (Made an additional $10/month working as the janitor)
1935-36 Dan Damitio (salary reduced to $67.54 per month)
1935-36 Pauline Schierman $60/month
1935-36 George Parkko (Principal) $100/month
1935-36 Margaret Williams teacher $60/month
1936-37 George Parkko 21 students 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 $1,125
1937-38 Lewis G. Hunter 17 students 5,6,7,8 $1,200
1938-39 Lewis G. Hunter 14 students 5,6,7,8 $1,350
9/2/35 – 1940 Lewis G. Hunter
9/6/38 – 6/2/39 Ida R. Merz grades 1,2,3,4
September 1935- Lewis Hunter/Principal/$100 a month
Ida Mertz/Teacher/$100.80 a month
October- “ “
November- “ “
December- “ “
January 1938-April- “ “
June- Lewis J. Hunter/Principal/$300.00
September- Lewis J. Hunter/Teacher/$112.00
October-April- “ “
One of the most common sights on American roads today is the big yellow taxi, the school bus. Dillard Jensen described the era’s transportation:
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 Peissner road here. Whoever lived up there Mr. Peissner 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.
In an interview in the Nisqually Valley News, Antonte Johnson recalled that 16 year old Edith Roundtree was the driver of the district’s model T Ford. ‘She was tough. She changed tires on that old truck.’
Transportation needs were a common topic of discussion at Lackamas school board meetings. For instance, at a December 1933 meeting the board decided to have a brake job on one of the buses and replace the tires. They made a special point of keeping an old tire for a spare. In 1935, also during the depression the board denied a request by the Warner family to have a bus pick up one of their family members. “The budget couldn’t take any more expense.”
The district owned several vehicles. The bus routes were put out for competitive bids. In 1934, the Johnson Road route, the school provided a “sedan type car” able to carry 7 or more students. It was to driven by an “adult” who was to provide his own gas and oil. Forty-five dollars was the monthly salary. One who drove the Morehead Route was paid also paid forty five dollars, but the school provided gas and oil for the “bus.”
The board was also made sure that certain safety rules were followed by the drivers. There was to be no drinking and no exceeding 30 miles per hour. The latter certainly made sense in an era where the closest paved road was in the town of Yelm. At one board meeting in 1934 a driver was told to only go 15 mph when a logging truck was approaching. Violators of board policy were punished. At a January meeting in 1935 the board voted to notify Mrs. E. A. Cooke that neither Harold nor Jim Cooke “could drive a bus for the district again” if rules were not followed.
Economic hard times forced the board to make hard decisions. Reversing an earlier decision, the board voted to take the cost of gasoline out of the monthly pay of the driver. They also voted to exclude anyone who was on relief from prohibited from driving. There would be no double dippers in Lackamas.
For others a mile walk to school along the railroad tracks, past acres of stumps and slash piles, was the way to get to school. “How did you get to school? Two legs,” was how Wallace Music described this in an interview. In an era when a family might walk four miles to call on a friend a mile was, literally, child’s play.
The End of the Lackamas School
In the 1940’s, Lackamas “was operated under an arrangement whereby parents residing in the vicinity were permitted to choose between the one-room school at Lackamas and the graded school in Yelm. Under this arrangement the average daily attendance at Lackamas dropped from 16.7 in June, 1943, to 7.7 in June, 1947.” The voters of the Lackamas District voted to be part of the Yelm District. For many their affirmative vote on the matter was a result of the Yelm board of directors emphasizing the fact that Lackamas would remain open for children in the area. This, however, was not to be the case. In 1946 the Lackamas school was closed. Many in the Bald Hills were shocked and feelings of betrayal regarding the matter stayed fresh for decades after. There was an attempt by residents in the area to resurrect the Lackamas district and reopen in the in 1948-49, but this attempt failed. In the spring of 1949 a Yelm school board meeting discussed the disposal of the Lackamas gym. Cap Longmire and Glen Rutledge argued that the gym should be allowed for the newly formed Lackamas Community Club.
The Rebirth of the Lackamas School
In the spring of 2004, the Yelm school board held its weekly meeting at the Lackamas School. It had been a long time coming. The school had been closed since the 1940s, but the Yelm school district had recently decided to build a new elementary school on the site of this nearly ninety year old small school.
The Lackamas facility had been closed amidst controversy and had fallen into quite a state of disrepair during decades of abandonment.
The school remained empty from 1946 through 1986. It was at that time that two couples, Nita and Dillard Jensen and Mary and Rick Scott, took it upon themselves to restore the Lackamas schoolhouse. According to Jensen, the
foundation was okay. The doors, however, were gone. Mere shards of glass remained of the beautiful windows and the “roof was on the basement floor.”
After years of sweet equity and a small fortune they had restored the building to its former beauty. The school has been placed on the Thurston county, Washington state, and national registers of historic places.