Introduction: In 1995, Patty Kinney interviewed a former student, Antone Johnson, at the Bald Hills school. Portions of her story are contained below. Through his memory and pictures we catch a glimpse of that school and life in the Bald Hills in the early part of the 20th century.
Senior Citizen Remembers Bald Hills School
By Patty Kinney
Nisqually Valley News
August 3, 1995
The Bald Hills School house is no longer standing. In fact, it has been nearly 80 years since children bustled in the doors short of breath, but octogenarian Antone Johnson remembers his schooling there as if it were yesterday.
According to Johnson, who now resides in Shelton, some old mobile homes now stand where he, his brother, and other children learned the three R’s. The school was located near the end of Johnson Road on the left as one heads toward Deschutes Falls.
Johnson has no idea when the building was destroyed. Johnson recalled, “In 1915, they decided to build one big schoolhouse in the area, but they didn’t get it finished in time so they took us kids and we went to the Longmire School house across from Clearwood. I think part of the original schoolhouse if still there, I don’t know.”
Johnson flips through impeccably organized hand-penned notes, pausing to finger an aged black-and-white photo. Seventeen classmates from the three schools are pictured. One of the girls in the photo was classmate Ernestine Jungworst. Johnson remembers he and Jungworst were babies at the same time and he was always told that they were put in a crib together as infants.
Other pictured in the photo included Mason Longmire, Ted Shearer, Johnny Reichel, Lavina McVity, Jimmy Cook, and Walter Roundtree. Johnson believes he must have been ten years old at the time the photo was taken.
Johnson continued, “The Bald Hills Schoolhouse was not used anymore after we moved into the new Lacamas School. Lacamas was big. There were three rooms in it and three teachers. One of the teachers was a little old man of German descent. I can’t remember what his name was. He wore a little round bowler-style hat. He had false teeth and had a hell of a time keeping them in. I was in the second or third grade; he’d been there two or three weeks. One day two big, well dressed, serious looking men moved in and said something to him. He went and got his hat and we never saw him again. People don’t realize these days that the Germans were treated as poorly as the Japanese were during WWII.”
Johnson recalled that a “Franklin” with a round hood hauled the kids to school from up on the Bald Hills. Miss Ever[h]am was the teacher. Johnson also remembered that it was at school where he first saw a girl. “Those Beamis girls, Esther, Edith and Madeline. I’d never seen a girl except my sister. I was fascinated,” exclaimed Johnson.
Johnson has many memories of growing up in the Bald Hills. He laughed as he recalled the time Martin Sorenson and another man went down to Mitchell Creek and picked up a man who had died. “There was a dance going on near Clear Lake, about a mile past the present Clearwood entrance. They wanted to stop there real bad at the dance so Sorenson piled the body in the wagon and, do you know, they went to the dance and got drunk, corpse and all. I guess that’s one way to do a wake,” chuckled Johnson.
Johnson’s mother Mary was born in Pennsylvania, his father Rudolph, in Denmark. “My grandfather came out here to hunt. He was acquainted with someone out here around 1903 or 1904. I don’t know when Dad bought the place out here, probably shortly before I was born. My mother came out on the train. She was a housekeeper and nanny for the Lord family in Olympia. She was 15 years old.
Johnson continued to reminisce. “The teacher they hired had ice skates and there was a frozen pond at the school during the winter. There were twigs sticking up through the pond. We skated around the ice in our shoes, but she had skates on.”
“They eventually started building a schoolhouse in Lacamas, about 1915 I think. A group of kids came from the Jensen School house and the Longmire School.” The reason the Bald Hills School was closed, according to Johnson, is because just he and his brother Andy were left. “Everyone else had moved away. All they could live on was the animals or a garden. Lots of them were trying to settle in and they just couldn’t make it. When they couldn’t make it up in the hills, they’d move back toward Yelm.”
Johnson remembers his father setting traps for moles. They used mole skin in shoes which, according to Johnson, paid pretty well. “Dad put the skins in a frame and dried them and sold them. Sears and Roebuck Company bought them and purchased shoes with the money.”
In those days it took from dawn to dusk, all day, to travel into Yelm and back from the Bald Hills with a horse and buggy.
Johnson recollected there was a man named Bald who lived close to the school. Mrs. Bald divorced her first and second husband and married a third. “They all three stayed on and worked together,” Johnson said with a grin.
After all three schools consolidated, there were three teachers. A 16 year old named Edith Roundtree transported the children to the new school in a model T Ford. “She was tough. She changed tires on that old truck. When they built the gym in Lacamas we used to throw the ball around in there. As far as games go we didn’t do anything very organized. Mostly teased each other.”
John son left the hills for a period during high school, living in Olympia with his grandmother. He transferred back, graduating from Yelm High School in 1927. (The End)
The End of the Bald Hills School
When Lucile Taylor looked out at her class in the fall of 1916 it was easy to take roll. The children in the room that morning numbered six. From the Johnson family there was eight year old Antone and six year old Andrew. Next to them were the Roundtrees, Donald (7), Walter (9), Eva (12) and Cora (16.) Interestingly, the records for that year note that there were only 8 seats available. Antone’s father, Rudolph served with Frnak Noreen on the board of directors. The directors must have participated in the discussions concerning the formation of a new Lackamas District. The Bald Hills, Longmire, and Morehead districts would be combined into district #305. The Roundtrees and Johnsons would now be “trucked” to their new school.
There are some public records which provide some insights into the operation of the district. They are provided below:
School Boys (Picture) Courtesy of Freda Johnson – From left to right: Gary Nystrom, Vern Nystrom, Antone Johnson, Andy Johnson
Edith Everham – Classroom inventory
Fred Steele – Classroom inventory
School Attendance (partial)
Teacher’s Report 1915-16
Teacher Contract – Mrs. Zaida Grass
Teacher Contract – Mrs. E. Ross Longmire