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Harper School Recollections

Building the School in 1925
by Anzonetta Caldwell Rupe*

There must not have been any carpenters available or maybe no funds available and everyone concerned seemed to be otherwise fully occupied.  Mr. Daly ran a dairy and delivered bottled milk to the Shevlen-Hixon logging camp.  Mr. Maker took care of the pump house and pumps that supplied water to the camp, and my father worked as a timber faller 6 days a week for the camp.

John Atkinson and his wife lived between us and Harper (southeast of the current corner of South Century and Spring River Road - ed.).  They were a little older and had no children, but Mr. Atkinson must have been on the District School Board, or in some influential position, as he seemed to be the one who arranged for the lumber, windows, and the one door, etc., for the new school.

I was anxious to get back to school, as I would be in the 4th grade and figured that a great advancement over the 3rd.  I didn't pay much attention to the talk of the arrangements to get the building up until my mother announced that she and Gladys Daly would help Mr. Atkinson get it built.  As was the way of many pioneer women, my mother was handy with tools such as shovels, axes, hammers, and saws.  Mr. Atkinson and his two helpers were soon hard at work.  Mrs. Daly brought her three children with her each morning while my sister and I accompanied Mother.  We five children played nearby and the building took shape.  We brought lunches so everyone spent the entire day and, in only a few days, a small, bright new school house stood on the knoll (north of the current intersection - ed.)  I remember looking up at the roof one day and watching Mother and Mrs. Daly busily nailing on shingles or they may have been shakes.  Two little buildings with half-moons in the door stood out back.

Most people drove Model T's and Mr. Atkinson had a beautiful 1916 model with no top and a brass radiator, carriage lamps, and a horn that squawked loudly when someone squeezed the rubber bulb.  We all loved his car, especially the horn.  Mr. Atkinson took us for a ride in it one day - a treat I have never forgotten.

There were only 6 or 8 elementary children so the teacher said she would teach 2 or 3 others who were 9th graders, as they had no transportation to high school which was either in La Pine or Bend, about 15 miles either way.

I think we all enjoyed that year in the little new schoolhouse.  I understand it was moved some years later to the Vandevert Ranch, but that is a story for someone else to tell.  In the spring of 1926, the day after school let out, my family left for California and I have never seen the Harper School again.

*Anzonetta Caldwell Rupe was the niece of Evelyn Caldwell who taught Claude Vandevert at the school in his early years.  She was ten years old when the school was built.  The Caldwells were great friends of the Vandeverts.

 

Harper School 1935 – 1937
By Grace Vandevert McNellis

I attended the Harper School for first and second grade, from September 1935, when I was six years old, to May 1937.  These were Claude's 8th grade and freshman years. 

The school room had windows facing east so that we got the morning sun.  The windows were moved to the west side when the school was restored.  There were three rows of desks with about 5 desks in each row. Claude sat next to the windows and I sat next to the blackboard on the west side of the room.  We faced south towards the teacher's desk. There were blackboards on the south and west sides of the room. The stove was on the west side in the rear of the room. On the north side of the room were some shelves and that is where we kept all the library books that were delivered every month or so from Bend.

There were several children in school at different times during those two years. Some families came and went when the snow got bad. There were times when it was just Claude and me in school. Claude the only one in his grades at that time. I had no one in the first grade with me.  I was by myself, but didn't care.

Before School

Claude would be up early on days we went to school on the ranch.  He had chores to do outside depending on the time of year.  I was allowed to sleep until about 7AM. By then, the kitchen and dining room were warmed up by the two wood stoves and I would dress in a small closet off the room. By the time I was dressed for school, my Dad was back from across the bridge or the barn after milking the two cows. He and my Mother would take care of straining the milk into pans and setting them in the milk-house to cool. Claude would fix our lunch to take to school and then we all sat down to breakfast. 

Claude would leave about 8 AM to go across the field and open the school up for the day.  He did all the janitor work such as starting the stove, splitting wood, pumping water from the well and, most days, sweeping out the room.  He brought in wood and a bucket of fresh water for drinking.  He had it all ready by the time the rest of the students got to school. The cloak room was where we hung our coats and put our lunches on a shelf. Also, there was a wash-pan and soap and towels for us to use during the day.

To and From the Schoolhouse

I would be sent walking across the field about a half hour after Claude left.  I followed a small trail and sometimes the dogs would follow me, but I sent them home where they should be.  The teacher was usually there by the time I arrived and I believe we started school at 9 AM.  We sometimes adjusted the time due to the bad weather.

Because little girls didn't wear slacks or jeans in those days, we dressed warmly when the cold weather came.  We had sweaters and skirts and long socks that we held up with garters from around our waists. Then when it was time to go to school, we had to put galoshes (I called the over-shoes) on over our shoes. They were rubber on the outside and had about four hooks to button up.  That kept our shoes dry walking when it was wet with snow. 

I also had to put on a snowsuit of some kind along with hat and mittens.  By then, I was bundled almost too much to walk.  Now I must tell you that the folks didn't let me walk to school if it were snowing out or we were having a blizzard.  Either we had school at the house or waited until the weather got better.  Sometimes, Dad would simply put us in the car and take us to school.  He would help Claude get the building ready and then go back home.

Claude would ski to the schoolhouse when there was snow.  He kept his skis waxed and he also waxed mine.  My pair was much shorter than his - maybe four feet long - and if there was no storm, they let me ski across the field.  Again, you should know that I'm quite sure that both of my parents, or at least one, would be watching me all the way!  I know Dad would say "He made it okay" when Claude would get down there and I'm sure they watched me trucking across the field.

School was out by 3:30, I believe, and I would head for home across the field. Sometimes we might just walk on the road back to the house. There were very few cars in those days, but always there were tire tracks to walk in. That made it easy to walk and we usually came home together. Dad could see us whichever way we came.

There was no playing around either on the way to school or coming home - - you knew you had to just keep going! We learned well!

I loved going home and my Dad was usually there with my Mother.  We would listen to a couple of favorite radio shows - fifteen minutes in length - every weekday and love that!  Claude would get home soon after me if he didn't come along at the same time and we both loved those old radio plays.

The School Day

We would start the day with the pledge of allegiance and then the teacher would give Claude an assignment and then go to each child and give them something to do.  We studied reading, writing and arithmetic.  By the 2nd grade I studied a bit of history and geography.  Claude was into algebra by that time.  We wrote our numbers, had penmanship, read Dick and Jane books, and each class would last about 45 minutes.  As a first grader, they had "flash-cards" for both arithmetic and words.  It worked well and I learned to read with a passion that I never lost over the years.

Claude was an avid reader as a youngster. He would take a book outside at lunch time at the school, climb up one of the ponderosa pines and sit on a limb and read a book!  I'm not kidding!  We once had a picture of him up in the tree, but I don't think I have it any more.  He was an "A" student - -always was - - and never missed a day of school in the 9 years he went to school on the ranch.  He got a certificate every year regarding his 100% attendance record.

We would have a recess both morning and afternoon along with an hour for lunch.  At recess, we played outside in the nice weather either with a ball and bat or hide and seek or whatever we could find to do.  At lunch, we ate inside and, in the cold of the winter, we would bring a can of Campbell’s soup and share it with the teacher.  Usually we were the only two in attendance.  If the weather got really bad with lots of snow, she came and stayed with us at our home and we held school in front of the fireplace in the living room.  This could last for a week or more.  The teacher sometimes joined us outside and we would include her or him (we had a Mr. Hunnell in my second year) in our antics.

Education After Harper School

This part of our education ended the following year when we went to La Pine for school.  Claude needed a larger curriculum for his education in the last three years and he graduated from La Pine when he was only sixteen years old.  He had taken the 4th & 5th grade together at the ranch and started when he was only five years old.  So he was still very young!

I went from the 3rd grade thru the 6th grade at La Pine. I loved every minute of it with all those children to play with.  I had wonderful teachers and still have friends to this day that we keep in touch with that have the same feelings.  From there, I went to Allen School for one year in Bend (where the Safeway Store is on 3rd Street) and then over to the Bend High School where I went from 8th grade through graduation.  That, too, was a wonderful time!

Claude took some post-graduate classes at Bend High School and eventually started at Oregon State College.  He had to give that up when we lost our Mother in 1942 and he came home to stay. 

Our Mother died in November 1942 and Claude had only started at Oregon State that fall. When all this happened, he felt he needed to be back with the family and, especially, with Dad.  Dad took our Mother's death very, very hard and Claude thought he could be of help.  He was so right - - we all needed him around!

That first winter after she died, (1943-44) we moved into Bend to DeKalb Street (on the right just before Franklin Ave) and stayed there until Dad went back to take care of the ranch.  While in Bend, Dad took a job with a local trucking firm that delivered around Bend and we were all home at night together.  The war was on and we had sold our cattle.  When Dad went back to the ranch, I stayed on with the folks that rented the home- -they were friends of the family - - and continued to go to my freshman grade at the Bend High School.  In the summer, we all went to the ranch and brought Dave home.

I'm not positive that I have it correct as to when we moved into Bend for the winter so that we could go to school.  It may have been the winter of 1942-43, soon after my Mother died in 1942.  But it could have been the following winter - 1943-44.   We brought David home from the hospital when he was three months old which would have been February 1943.  Aunt Mittye came to the ranch to care for him.  So that means we were living there then and Dad must have been driving us back and forth to Bend for school every day.

After that first winter, when Aunt Mittye took care of Dave, we had someone care for him during the school year. The first year, we took him to Portland to a cousin who had just adopted a little boy.  The 2nd year, a good friend in Bend had him and I got to stay with him, too, just across the Newport Bridge in Bend. Then, the last year, I stayed with another family.  I know some of these dates, but am a bit fuzzy on some of the others.  For sure, I know we brought Dave home to be with us all summer!  He was a great little boy and we all loved him so much. (For Grace's description of Bend High School in the 1940's see True Stories of Vandevert Ranch.)

 

Memories of Harper School 1948-1956
By David Vandevert

The Schoolhouse:

The white schoolhouse was located at the north end of our property, where it stands today, having been refurbished in the 1980’s by Jim Gardner.  From the old homestead’s dining room north window we could just barely see it through the trees.  A “one-room” schoolhouse, it actually had a very small room on its northern side (the entranceway) used to hang coats, with a table to put our lunches upon.  A propane heater warmed the school on cold days.  On the south side of the building was a small storage shed, and to the south of the shed were the two outhouses—one for males, and one for females! A well with a hand pump was located a few yards to the west of the school for drinking water and hand washing. On the east side there was a hand-made teeter-totter and a swing. There was not a fence around the property until recently.

Education:

My teacher in the first and third through eighth grades was Mrs. Gladys Halligan.  She commuted daily from her home on the south side of Bend. She seldom missed a day, even during severe snowstorms.  Mrs. Halligan was a wonderful teacher—she not only taught our academic classes well, but also encouraged arts, crafts and music.  In fact, I still have a lamp made with a floral design by pressing copper sheets that I made there.  I also participated in a music festival in Sisters where I played a solo on the tonnette.

In the second and third grades, Miss Blanchard was our teacher.  She was younger and liked to take us on “field trips” through the forest or down by the river.  As I remember, she quite often missed coming to school, and Dad did not like that; he also said that field trips were a waste of time!

When I began the first grade, there were about 15-16 students, several of them from a large family that lived just north of Camp Abbott. A few were from other locations up the river south of the ranch.  Also attending were Linda, Claudia and Lauren James, who lived about a mile to the west on the Big Deschutes.  I believe Linda graduated the 8th grade from Harper the in the spring of 1949.

I practically always rode my bicycle to school, along a cow path through the trees on the eastern edge of our property, or on the main road.  Even in winter, I would make “lariats” from plastic and tie them on my rear wheel for chains.  Occasionally, when there were southerly winds, I “sailed” to school on the crust of the snow.  I had anchored a sheet sail on my sled, and I zipped to school in minutes!  Returning home was a different story!

From my 2nd through the 5th grades, the number of students attending Harper decreased by a few students each year until 1953-1956 when the only students remaining were myself, Claudia James, and her brother Lauren who was two years behind us in grade levels. There was a small 8th grade graduation ceremony for Claudia and myself, probably conducted by Mrs. Clara Buckingham, the Deschutes County Office of Education superintendent.  (Although she was very nice, all us students were scared to death of her—probably because of that long, “important” title!)  Later, I often saw Claudia at Bend High where we both attended.

Recesses:  Like any students, we loved recesses!  What an environment in which to play all kinds of games!  One of our favorite play spots was in a huge dead and rotting pine just to the west of the schoolhouse. It was our “ship at sea”! Part of the trunk remained standing, and it was hollowed out with room enough for one of us to stand.  This was the “Captain’s” quarters, and through a hole we could see the entire log laid out like a ship in front of us.  The log also had hollows in it where we could lay and hide out from the captain!  Great fun!  We also played a variety of ball games, either in the road to the north of the school or on the school ground.

One winter—maybe I was in the 4th or 5th grade—snow and ice had covered the teeter-totter and no one would sit or step on it.  But Dave the Exception wanted to show everyone how he could walk right up to the center of it!  So I did, but when I turned around to go down, I slipped and fell on one of the upright posts where there was a short stub of a branch that had not been trimmed off!  I cut my lower lip, and it bled profusely!  The teacher immediately called Dad. He packed me in the car and took me to Uncle Doc (J.C. Vandevert) in Bend where he stitched it up!  I still have a scar just below my lip!

Special Events:  We always had some type of celebration for the major holidays.  We would make small holiday items from paper or paper mache, and the teacher always brought us special snacks like cookies, candies or cakes for the events.  On my birthday (November 3) about 1952 in the early afternoon, an ice cream truck pulled into the school and proceeded to give everyone free ice cream!  I was thrilled!  How could that happen, especially on my birthday??!!  Thinking about it, I concluded that Dad had arranged the whole thing!  At home that afternoon, I told him thank you, but he totally denied having anything to do with it!

 

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