Lacamas School Interview – June 2003 Michaela and Jessica Murdock Interviewing Dillard Jenson

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 Peizner 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 everyday.

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: One of the things that Mr. Bergh was reading to us was in Walla, Walla one of their flag salutes was really interesting. They had to say this weird thing and look at the flag and I was wondering if you guys did anything special for the flag salute? Pledge of Allegiance?

D: Oh yeah. Everybody had to every morning.

J: Is it the same Pledge of Allegiance?

D: Oh yeah. Might be changed a little bit, didn’t they change it…ahh… I can’t remember. I don’t think so, it seemed to me like it was exactly the same. We had to take the flag up and take it down. There was no leaving it up. That was a no! leaving the flag up.

*More interruption. Roger and Brandon leave to explore the rest of the school.

J: Did you guys ever feel lonely or cut off from other people?

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.

M: So, where the senior citizen’s center is….the big building across from the bowling alley?

D: Oh, that big old building, that’s probably…the senior center now…that’s probably one of the oldest buildings in Yelm.

M: What did they used to use it for?

D: I think it was, I can’t remember, it was an Oddfellows Hall or whatever it was, there was a hardware store…

*After this we kind of trail off the subject of the Lacamas School and just talk about the Stewart family and different things around Yelm. It might be worth listening to, but not really.

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