High School Life Before World War II

Introduction: One of the most common topics of conversation among adults is about high school. No matter what the year or decade we graduated in, we all seem to have memories of that time in our life. In 2002 Lyla Eide was interviewed by members of the Yelm High School Class of 2003. Here are her memories of high school life in Yelm.


For Lyla Eide, valedictorian of the class of 1940, school seems very different today than what she experienced. “Well, I don’t think I have anything to compare it to because that’s the only kind of school I ever went to,” she replied when asked what was different between schools today and the small schools she went to in the 1930’s.

Most of the forty students graduating with Lyla had gone to school together since elementary school. Lyla described one of the benefits of going to a small school as being able to “develop deeper friendships.” Lyla also marveled about the “community spirit” that Yelm possessed throughout her school years.

The school day started at 9:00 in the morning for all elementary, middle and high school students, and classes were let out at 3:00 in the afternoon. The school district had three or four buses that picked up most students for school. Hardly any high schoolers had their own cars. Lyla remembers that, “there were two students in my class who had cars.”

School consisted of six or seven periods each day. Classes were not as varied as they are today. Some of the basic classes that were offered include typing, foreign language, math, and English. Lyla still remembers her favorite teacher, “Miss Linstrom, she was the English Teacher [at the high school] and she was a charming lady and mentor. Very, very charming, and very intelligent, and was good to everybody, everybody liked her. She was the favorite.”

Activities in 1940 were more scarce, and less diverse than they are today, but fun was had none the less. Lyla recalls movies being shown at the high school. Dances, including Sophomore Hops, Junior Proms, and Senior Balls, were held at the school as well. Boys played football and baseball, school drama groups preformed plays, and Glee Club, which we learned is the equivalent of chorus today, was available to participate in. Church activities were popular, and some activities as simple as playing Monopoly at a friend’s house was a way to pass the time.

Schooling focused students not for preparation for college, but instead for a future job. Living in the time of the depression, Lyla stated that “In those days, especially before the war… a job was a job. It didn’t matter how hard it was, or what it was, if you had a job, you felt you were doing well.” She also mentioned that teaching nursing and secretarial work were the only jobs available to women. Lyla was an exception to a class where few to none went on to secondary schooling by attending a business college in Tacoma, which prepared her for secretarial work, eventually at our local phone company. Lyla told us that it was rare for young adults to have a car, so to get to her business school, she would carpool to Tacoma with a friend who worked in the city.

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