Special Collections Oral History Program
Campus School, 1942-1950
Interviewer: Tamara Belts
Date of Interview: October 17, 2005
Location of Interview: Special Collections, WWU Libraries
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This interview was conducted with Rob Brand at WWU Libraries Special Collections, in Bellingham, Washington, on October 7th and October 17th, 2005. The interviewer is Tamara Belts.
TB: Today is Friday, October 7th, 2005, and I (Tamara Belts) am here with Rob Brand. We’re about to do an oral history as part of the Campus School Memories Project. The first question is: How did you happen to attend the Campus School?
RB: I grew up on the backside of Sehome Hill on Liberty Street, so in effect the Campus School was the elementary school in Bellingham closest to where we lived. The next closest one would be Franklin School, but I think that the Campus School was recognized as being on the cutting edge in terms of what they were doing educationally at the time. I had an aunt who was a teacher in the Bellingham School District, so she had a pretty good handle on what was being done in the public schools and what was being done at the Campus School. I’m sure there was some influence there to encourage my parents to enroll me. My understanding is that at that time you had to get on a waiting list and everybody who applied did not get into the Campus School. What their criteria was, I’m not sure, but I started here in Kindergarten. It would have been September of 1942, and I stayed here until June of 1950, through the seventh-grade. At that time, when I was going to school, there was a junior high school as well, but it was discontinued in 1950 when a lot of men were coming back from the Korean War and going to school on the G.I. Bill. They needed the space. The junior high school classrooms were located in Old Main.
TB: Did anyone else in your family attend the Campus School?
RB: My older sister attended the Campus School; she was two years older than me, and attended through the ninth grade.
TB: And what was her name?
RB: Her name was Andra Lee Brand, and is now Andra Lee Phibbs.
TB: What were the years and grades of your attendance? I think you might have already answered this.
RB: I started Kindergarten in the fall of 1942 and went all the way through grade six. The Campus School was located in what is now Miller Hall. I then attended seventh-grade in the junior high school which was in Old Main, and that would have been until the end of the school year in 1950. When the junior high school closed, there were two classes then that were displaced. The ninth-graders of course, and that was my sister’s class, went to Bellingham High School, the seventh and eighth graders were to go to either Fairhaven or Whatcom. There were probably, I would guess, about 50 to 55 of us and all but one went to Fairhaven. The one that went to Whatcom was Robbie Calhoun, whose father was the minister at the Congregational Church. He lived probably about two or three blocks from Whatcom, so, it was, for him, a natural move. Then, of course, we reconnected when we got to Bellingham High School.
TB: Great. O.K, did you pay any fees?
RB: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if there was a fee charged. If there was, I knew nothing about it.
TB: Where did you live? Actually, you’ve already answered this.
RB: Well, yes I have, in a way. When I started in the Kindergarten we lived on Liberty Street, 824 Liberty Street, which at that time was the last block on Liberty Street going up Sehome Hill. Then, when I was in probably third or fourth grade, and I cannot remember exactly which year, we moved across the alley to Mason Street, to 823 Mason Street. I know that I lived on Mason Street when I was in fourth, fifth, sixth and all the way then through high school and beyond
TB: How did you get to and from school?
RB: In the early years, and by early years I mean probably Kindergarten through grade three we walked. We would walk along Myrtle Street to Jersey Street and then we came to what we called the Jersey Street Trail, which went across Sehome Hill, facing the water. You could look out and see Georgia Pacific, the bay and most of the city. The trail emptied out at Edens Hall. Then we would cut under the little archway at Edens Hall where the maintenance crew kept their lawnmowers and other tools, then walk to the elementary school.
TB: And do you have any favorite memories of this experience?
RB: Of getting to school? Well, I remember when we were little kids, the older kids would take us in tow. So, there was my sister and another girl we picked up on Key Street. There was a boy who lived next door to us that was one year ahead of me, so there were about six of us. Then, we’d pick up my best friend who at that time lived on Key Street, too. So, the early days, we walked. The older kids looked out for the younger ones. After me, there were probably a couple of younger ones that would tag along with us for a time.
When I got to fourth or fifth-grade, and I can’t remember exactly which one, we rode our bikes. My best friend, Pete Gaasland and me (and we’ll talk about that when we get to that section), rode our bikes. He grew up on Key Street and we were the best of friends. We were in the same cribs together when babies and went through school together at the Campus School, Fairhaven, Bellingham High School, and UW for a time. He grew up on Key Street and then he moved to Jersey Street. He and I both had old bicycles that we would ride across the Jersey Street Trail.
Now, the reason we did that is that sports were very important to both of us. So, after lunch, the race was to get out to the play areas on the campus. Right now, where the Humanities Building and Red Square are located was all open space, so we could play football in the fall or we could shoot baskets or play baseball. If you ate at the school, you couldn’t be dismissed until everybody had finished. We learned that if we rode our bikes home and ate our lunches really quickly and got on our bikes and got back, we would be the first ones out there. We’d be first up in baseball, or captains to choose the teams. That’s what we did, and we rode those bikes forever.
In Bellingham in those days, that’s what people did. I mean, we rode our bikes over to Downer Field and Battersby Field over by Whatcom for the summer baseball programs. You could ride your bikes everywhere. Of course it was nothing like Bellingham is today. All the people who grew up here, we liked those good old days.
TB: You said this, but maybe elaborate, what did you do for lunch?
RB: Well, in the early grades, Kindergarten, first, second, third, I’m sure that I ate lunch in the school cafeteria. But I think we packed a lunch from home. I don’t remember eating school lunches. I still have the lunch pail that I carried to school when I was in Kindergarten. When they had the reunion in 1993, I took the lunch pail with me to carry that around. It was my memorabilia piece. The lunchroom was located on the second floor of what is now Miller Hall, so it would be located probably, where the psychology, counseling offices are now. That would be the old third-grade classroom and like everything else it is all office space now.
Miller Hall, of course, has been chopped up forever. I mean, if people came back that hadn’t been there since grade school, about the only thing they’d recognize would be the ramps leading to the second floor and down into the lower level.
What I remember about the cafeteria was not the food, I remember they had nice tables; they were not like you see in school cafeterias today. Campus School was pretty unique in a lot of respects. There was a dumbwaiter that carried things from the main floor to the second floor, like the cartons of milk. That was a biggy. Most of the kids ate lunch there because a lot of them didn’t live as close to the school as I did (though a lot of them did). There were kids who lived just down 21st Street, in houses that are of course, no longer there. And a fair number lived down Garden, 15th Street, places like that, and most didn’t go home for lunch.
TB: So the cooking part of the cafeteria was actually on the floor below?
RB: I think it was. But that part I really do not remember and it’s probably because I never really ate the hot lunches. Now, when we got to the junior high school, again, I continued to go home for lunch when in the seventh-grade. But the people that ate here on the campus ate lunch in the dining hall at Edens Hall, which was on the main floor of Edens Hall, so there were junior high school students, but also college students in the lunchroom at the same time.
TB: I think you’re going to give me a list then, of your favorite classmates separately from this?
RB: Well, what I can tell you is kind of interesting. Bellingham in those days had one high school. Many kids lived here and stayed here. We had our fiftieth high school reunion in September and at the reunion they always say, “O.K, all those people who went to Birchwood School gather for a group picture, all that went to Washington School…, the Campus School…” We always have more people there than anybody else. We had seventeen people there and fourteen of them had been in the Kindergarten class that I attended.
TB: Oh, wow.
RB: Pretty amazing.
RB: So, the Kindergarten class, I’m guessing probably had about twenty-five, twenty-six students, because I think they limited the enrollment. They put a lid on the number of students they would have. Probably more than half of the kids that I went to Kindergarten with were at the 50th high school reunion.
TB: Wow. Who were your favorite or most influential teachers?
RB: Well, the teacher that was everybody’s favorite (there’s a difference between favorite and most influential probably), would be Miss Kinsman. Everybody looked forward to Miss Kinsman. She was a third-grade teacher for me. The class ahead of us, everybody thought got really lucky, because when they got to the fifth-grade, Miss Kinsman moved to fifth-grade, so they got her twice. When I got to the fifth-grade, though, she wasn’t doing fifth-grade anymore. Her classroom was upstairs. It was the first year that we got to walk up the ramp to the second floor, other than lunchroom if you did the lunchroom thing. But she was wonderful, everybody loved her. It’s interesting. I can remember all of my teachers except for fifth-grade. I draw a blank on that one. We had Miss Nicol in Kindergarten, Miss Casanova in first-grade, I can tell you an interesting story about that, if you would like to hear it.
RB: Miss Elliot in second-grade, and she was old school. She was strict. Miss Kinsman in third-grade, Miss Merriman in fourth-grade, fifth-grade… In sixth-grade we had Miss McLeod and in seventh-grade we had Miss Hunt. The eighth-grade teacher was Frank Punches, whose son was a year ahead of me in school. I still communicate with him. The ninth-grade teacher was Jean Shephard. So, Miss Kinsman, definitely, left her mark on all of us. I mean, she was everybody’s favorite.
In terms of being influential, I think Miss McLeod, probably, my sixth-grade teacher. I was very interested in sports and journalism. She let a couple of us develop our own school newspaper. We wrote articles about Seattle Rainiers baseball and in school things. We’d listen to the games and score the games. That was probably when my journalism interests were tapped. When I got to Fairhaven, I worked on the school newspaper, when I was in high school I was the sports editor of the paper. When I started out at the UW, my major was journalism. That disappeared for a variety of reasons that we probably won’t go into at this point in time.
TB: Do you remember any of your student teachers?
RB: Well, I looked at that one and that’s a tough one. We had a lot of student teachers because the Campus School was the place where student teachers did their training. It was a lab school and I think probably in those days, at least at the elementary level, I’m guessing that not very many people did their student teaching in the public schools. I think they were pretty much held on campus. The one that I do remember would have been fourth or fifth-grade, and I’m thinking fifth-grade, would be Stew Van Wingerden. Then Stewart later became a professor at Western.
It was kind of interesting, when I was principal at Roosevelt School, this would have been back in 1978, Stew was supervising the student teachers we had and asked if we would do a mock interview for the interns. We had about seven or eight student teachers at that time and we did. I did that, along with a couple of other principals from 1978 until 2004, doing one every quarter, for prospective teachers.
When I retired from the public schools in 1993 I then worked part-time at WWU, supervising students who were training to be teachers in a variety of capacities. When the elementary department reconfigured this program in 2005, several positions were eliminated or incorporated within other classes, thus marking the conclusion of my involvement with the mock interview process. This activity is still available in twice a year sessions developed and hosted by the Career Planning and Placement Center as part of their job search assistance for graduating interns.
I remember teaching a number of summers in the admin department up here, working with people that thought they wanted to be school administrators, curriculum directors, whatever. So, it might have been my first summer up here, and I was teaching a class that had 33 or 34 students, most of them from British Columbia, because most of the admin students in those days came from Canada. Stew had a seminar group and he asked me, “Would I be willing to come and talk with them?” I said, “Sure,” and so I did. He had three students. Now, here’s an experienced instructor, right, with three students, and here I am with 33 trying to figure out what I’m doing. We joked about that experience. Great individual, great man and he was a great part of the faculty up here for a long time.
My sister, remember, was two years ahead of me. In her ninth-grade year, two of her student teachers were Jim Roberts and Dick Green. Jim Roberts later became the superintendent of schools in Bellingham, so he was my boss, and Dick Green was the assistant superintendent, and he was my immediate supervisor when I was a principal for a number of years. I didn’t know them at that time when they were student teaching, but that’s a connection that we all have.
Interestingly enough, the Bellingham School District, back in those days, when people graduated from Western, here’s Jim Roberts, who later became superintendent, right? He couldn’t get a job in Bellingham when he got out of Western because Bellingham would not hire inexperienced teachers. They made people go somewhere else and let somebody else train them and then they would hire them. I know Jim went to Ferndale, I started my career in Oak Harbor, and my wife started in Sedro Woolley; that’s kind of the way it was in Bellingham in those days.
TB: Wow, O.K. Now, what were your favorite subjects or classroom activities?
RB: Well, in elementary school I loved all the classes. I liked arithmetic. When I got to high school and had to do mathematics that changed. I was more a literacy/social studies kind of a person than math/science. But I liked them all. Obviously, we had a lot of special kind of activities, a lot of special things that we got to do that kids in the public schools did not.
We got to go to the college pool and swim every Friday, so that’s where I learned to swim. Am I a great swimmer? No. I think we looked more forward to the end of when they did the teaching, so we could have free time and dive off the board and have free play time. The Campus School itself did not have a library. So, when it was library time we came over here into this room (Special Collections, Wilson 279) and the librarian at that time, whoever that was, did typically what librarians do, there would be a story time and then you would have time to check out books. I don’t remember much about the early years, I remember when I got up into fifth and sixth-grade that John R. Tunis became a favorite author of mine. I read Iron Duke I don’t know how many times. I remember it was on a shelf back here on this corner in this library when I came, that was pretty special.
All of the classrooms, at least in the lower grades, had a room that was a classroom and they also had another room that was connected to it. It was kind of a workroom area. They had benches and vices and woodworking materials. You got to do a lot of things. We made boats and we did this and that. We had some very special kinds of things going for us. The building itself, if you went down in the lower level, not the main floor, but even down lower than that, those ramps on the east end of Miller Hall. There were three gymnasiums and one of them was exclusively for Kindergarten. It had huge blocks, climbing apparatus, etc. Then the other two were regular gymnasiums. Most of the P.E. that we had was taught by student teachers, not by the regular classroom teachers.
TB: Going back to that extra room; when you used that extra room to do whatever kind of creative activities, was that a special class or for when you finished your class assignment? For example, if you finished your math assignment could you go work in that room?
RB: Yes, I’m sure there was a combination of the two. I think there were times when it was a classroom activity: we’re all going whether you want to or not. But, I think there were times when you could go in there if you had some free time and do some of those kinds of activities.
TB: Did you use regular textbooks or other kinds of learning materials?
RB: I thought about that one. I can’t remember things like science and social studies. I know that we did a lot of hands-on kinds of science things. You have to understand now, the teachers, didn’t have to plan for everything because the student teachers were the ones that primarily taught the science. They did science or social studies and other core subjects, so it was a great learning opportunity for them.
I work with teachers in the schools today, and recognize the pressure of WASL and other high stakes testing. For teachers today, literacy is number one, math is number two, and if they have time for other curricular areas, maybe it’s there. For years, I always felt that the most ignored program in elementary schools was science. Well, that will change, because now, they have a science WASL, too, which will be done not by fourth-graders but by fifth-graders.
Reading, yes; “See Spot run, see Dick, see Jane.” We learned to read in the Dick and Jane books. People complained later and many of the complaints had to do with gender issues. I mean, the dad of the home came home after work, suit and tie; mom stayed home with the apron and had the cookies and milk on the table. (I’ll tell you a story about my mother about that in a second, if you’d like to hear it.) Then they had the two children, a boy and a girl, and they had Spot, pretty unrealistic setting in 2005. So the main complaint related not about whether you could teach kids to read with texts like that, because you can. (A good teacher can teach kids to read with anything. You take a good teacher and give them a room that has nothing and they’ll teach and make magic happen. You take a teacher that’s less than effective and give them all the bells and whistles and it’s still not going to work).
The story about my mother was when I was in fourth or fifth-grade, and I do not remember the year she had to go to work. That would have been probably about 1947. Very unusual; I think in my class she might have been the only mother that was working. She worried about that forever. Is this going to be the end of Rob? You know, that he’ll never survive without mom being at home. I was able to convince her I would. So what she did before going to work (either her or my dad, probably my dad), made the lunch. When I came home on the bike I would dump it. (We had two empty lots below us where we played football and baseball; we played basketball at my friend’s house one street over because he had a better set up for that). Ride home, dump the bike, run up, eat the lunch in about one minute, run down, get on the bike and disappear. I always told her, “You know, mom, if you’d been home, I’d see you for about two minutes, just long enough to grab the sandwich and be out of here.” Then after school, like I said we had these empty lots, so in the fall of the year we’d play football there, a few of us in the neighborhood. Another thing that’s changed, in those days we got together and organized ourselves. We didn’t have to have somebody gather us together, blow the whistle, and coach us. Winter time, we went to my friend’s house over on Key Street and shot baskets every night after school until dark. In baseball season we came back to my empty lot because that was better suited for baseball. Then we’d play out until dark, until somebody called and said it was dinner time. That was just kind of the way it went.
TB: What kind of grading system was in use during your attendance?
RB: You know, I don’t know. I think probably, somewhere in the family archives, there’s a copy; I think it was a narrative that was written by the teacher. That’s my sense. I can double check or I can ask my sister. She would probably know the answer better than I would. But I think that that was the standard procedure.
TB: Do you especially remember any creative activities such as weaving, making things, etc.?
RB: I don’t remember specific ones. We did a lot of different kinds of things. We did the pot holders, the typical kinds of things. One that I remember, this would have been upper grades, fifth or sixth grade, led again by a student teacher. We had pieces of copper that were probably about the size of this pad, maybe a little bit larger. Then with a stick tool you could make impressions on them. I remember making a deer head as I recall, then we’d put frames around them. So, yes, we had access to those kinds of things that you would probably not find in the public schools for different kinds of art activities.
Arts and craftsy kinds of things were never my favorite. I remember when I transferred from the UW up here and had to take an art class, it was the one that was required for prospective teachers, that was a challenge for me.
TB: What were your classes like? Were there a lot of student teachers observing and/or teaching lessons or parts of lessons?
RB: Yes, I remember student teachers doing a lot. You could break the class down and do different kinds of group activities. In the elementary schools the interns probably did most of the social studies. They had to develop units of study, science units, etc. I remember in seventh-grade that whoever the student teachers were took on the task of developing a play. The Campus School at that time had an auditorium and a stage. The room is still there, it’s a large lecture hall now, and I think it’s 164 on the main floor. When I was in seventh-grade they split seventh and eighth-graders into two different groups and each group did one play. The group that I was in did The Taming of the Shrew. I played the part of Petruchio in that play. There were two different casts, so I played Petrucio in one of them and John Green played Petruchio in the other cast. It was great. It was a great experience. I’m sure the reason I was selected is that I had the ability to memorize things. I was, believe you me, not a great actor and Hollywood didn’t come around knocking on my door, but I was able to remember the lines, which I guess was worth something.
TB: A question I don’t think is on here, but it came out in other ones, did you learn to handle the student teachers?
RB: I think we were pretty good. You mean handle in terms of test them out and things like that? I don’t remember doing stuff like that. I remember doing stuff like that with substitute teachers by the time we were in junior high school and high school, but while I was at the Campus School, I don’t ever remember doing anything purposely.
I do remember though, when I was going to Western (in those days Western primarily was a place to train teachers. We’re talking about 1957, 1958. They had business courses, but my good friend who took them couldn’t finish up here, he had to go back to the UW. They offered general business and things like that, but not marketing, accounting and some of those kinds of things. So he had to go back to the U to finish up down there). I know of students who did observations in the Campus School and they would go around when kids were working on the easel and look and make comments and students would say, “No, here’s the questions you’re supposed to be asking,” because they had had so many. They were very savvy about that. And I think that became more of a factor later on.
Somebody asked me recently about how the Campus School changed, because it did. I know the focus of what they were doing changed after we were gone, but I don’t know to what degree. I know there were a lot more observations and things like that.
See these kids I work with, they get a practicum, they’re in a practicum right now, in their second quarter. They’ll have one in science, they’ll have one on math depending on the instructor, they have one in literacy, so by the time they go to student teach, they’ve had a fair amount of experience out in the public schools.
When I went through the program, we visited the second-grade classroom as a class, like a Psych 455 class or something, just to go and observe a lesson for about 30 minutes. That’s the [first]-grade story that I was going to relate to you. That’s the only thing. We didn’t go there and stay or help a teacher or anything like that, so when I did my first student teaching, in those days we did two, you did a half a day, like in my case I did a half day at the elementary because I thought I wanted to teach secondary and then we did all day in the secondary schools, so when I went to Franklin school and did student teaching in third-grade, that was really, for all intents and purposes my first time in a public school since I’d been in the Campus School.
But the [first]-grade visit was quite interesting. Miss Casanova was still the [first]-grade teacher. They were doing some kind of study or unit about the farm. I don’t know if they took a field trip to the farm or not (which is pretty standard, all the Bellingham schools do that). She was doing this lesson and she had a chicken on her lap. She was talking and I don’t know what about, but what struck me was that she did the same thing when I was in [first]-grade. So in [first]-grade I probably would have been about [six] years old, and now I’m probably about 20, 21. The lesson to my recollection was identical and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same chicken for that matter, either. That one certainly stuck with me.
TB: Wow. Did you attend summer school at the Campus School and if so, why?
RB: Did not. I don’t ever remember going to a summer school session. I might have, but I don’t remember doing it.
TB: What extra-curricular activities did you engage in? What did you do at recess, lunchtime? What did you enjoy the most? And what games did you play?
RB: Well, several of us were really into sports things, so recess time that’s what we did; we played sports. You have to understand that out where Red Square is there was a board walk that went from the main entrance of the Campus School over toward the library, dividing that whole area into two expansive playgrounds, play fields if you will. We’d go out and organize our own games depending on the season. Basketball was a little tougher because at recess time, they wouldn’t let us go into the gym unsupervised. There were no basketball hoops outside, so at that particular time, I don’t know what we did. I do remember that bombardment was a favorite PE time game.
In the seventh-grade we organized tackle football games on the playground and a lot of the college students would stay around and watch us play. We thought we were pretty good. We had sophisticated plays, double reverses, etc. One of my classmates was Chuck Lappenbusch; his dad was the football coach at Western for years. We’d go to all of the Western games; we’d go to their turnouts and watch them practice, and we knew all the players.
An interesting side story to that is that one of my fellow students, and he shall remain nameless at this time, was in line to get a drink at one of the drinking fountains. You know how the kids line up and as he bent over to get the drink, somebody bumped him and he chipped his tooth. When he went home his mother said, “Well, how’d that happen?” He said, “Playing football,” which was not true. But the upshot of it was they made us quit playing tackle football. We had been doing this without pads. It was like rugby is now and it was rough and tumble. We were not pleased! We were not pleased with that decision but I guess that you adjust and move on
You talk about other activities or other things that we did. As I think back, I know the buildings that were here were the Campus School, Edens Hall, Old Main, the library, old Carver gym and I think that was about it. College Hall was built and back then it was a Men’s Residence Hall. At the time where the bookstore is now, were houses and a lot of the students lived in those houses at that particular time. The track was located not far from where the original Carver gym was, down in the hole down there, probably where SMATE is today.
We had student teachers that were interested in sports as well, so we would go over there and set up track meets. We’d set up our own track meets. We’d come back on the weekend and if they’d leave the high jump, standards out, we’d do our own thing on the weekends. So there was a lot that we were able to do even when school was not in session. But a lot of what we did revolved around sports games.
TB: Did you visit the college itself? The college library you mentioned, [but you did you] attend assemblies or sporting events or anything else at the college when you were in the Campus School?
RB: Yes, of course we came to the library, but primarily to come to the children’s library which was located right here. There was another building that I didn’t mention. It was a woodworking building, and located in what is now the parking lot to the east of Miller Hall. It was primarily the shop where they did maintenance tasks, but I can remember in seventh-grade we went to the shop and there was a shop teacher. He later taught in the Bellingham schools, so I’m guessing he might have been a student teacher at that time. His name was Ian Monson. I remember doing woodworking and mechanical drawing in that building.
It’s kind of ironic. My father’s original occupation was carpentry and then he lost the sight of one eye and could no longer do that. The carpentry gene pool did not trickle down. I can remember at Fairhaven we had to do woodshop one year and metal shop another year. The worst grades I got in junior high school were in shop classes.
We went to all the sporting events. We’d go to the college games, basketball games over in old Carver gym. We’d go to the football games, which of course, were held at Battersby Field on the other side of town. Western had a great football team in 1950, that would have been my seventh-grade year, so we knew a lot of the people and some of the guys on the team became student teachers and later went into the teaching profession. Basketball games I can remember some of them. The gym would be absolutely packed; those were the days when it was Eastern Washington, Central Washington, and Western Washington. They played Seattle U, and back in the late Forties-early Fifties, [they] had the O’Brien twins, Johnny and Eddie O’Brien. They’re a legend at Seattle University. They later both played professional baseball, so when they came up here and played the gym was just absolutely jam-packed. I remember we sat on the floor, right by the line that marked the outside part of the gym floor. It was fun, and we felt like we were really a part of it.
When we were in the junior high school, when we would go home after school, the basement floor, as you would walk down toward what is now the Career Planning and Placement Center; about halfway down was the bookstore. (And it was even the bookstore when I transferred from the UW in 1957). You’d go there and buy your books, snacks, etc. We’d always stop there to buy an ice cream bar on our way home after our basketball turn out. The campus school in the junior high school was really very interesting. The classrooms I think must have been on the second floor, so we had the seventh-grade, eighth-grade; ninth-grade was in a different corner. Then there was an empty room that became kind of a canteen, where the student council met and kids could go there at noon time as a social time. It would be like the commons you would find in schools now, but not a real common occurrence in any public school, certainly in those days. It was an informal gathering place for kids to get together.
TB: Did you go to any of the assemblies at the college? Special speakers or any of that?
RB: Do not remember doing that.
TB: What grade level did you enter public school? Why did you transfer and what was the transition like for you?
RB: It would have been the fall of 1950, and it would have been that group that I went with to Fairhaven. Transition was fine, piece of cake, not a problem. The big difference for us would have been of course that in the Campus School we had just one grade of everything, so, one first grade, one second grade, etc. so the kids that I went to school with were in my class each year. When we got to Fairhaven in the eighth-grade, there were four sections: 8-1, 8-2, 8-3, and 8-4. In my homeroom section at Fairhaven there were probably 2 or 3 kids that went to the Campus School with me. But we learned to get to know other people; it was not a problem at all. The reason we went of course is that the Campus School junior high school was phased out after that year.
TB: Please share any specific differences between public school and Campus School that especially affected you.
RB: I don’t think I was especially affected. I’m sure if I knew what I know now, I’d probably recognize more students, probably class sizes were bigger, probably a less forgiving attitude. You know, if you made a mistake in the Campus School they’d kind of work with you. At Fairhaven, if you did something you weren’t supposed to, there were consequences. We’re talking back in the Fifties now, so it was a different world in the public schools. I don’t remember everything of course.
I do remember when I was in the eighth-grade and it was basketball season, a bunch of the ninth-grade kids, some of whom I still know really well, decided that it would be fun if they and some of their female friends spent a night on Chuckanut Mountain. We all went up there at various times to hike and fish. There were a lot of things to do up there. Well, they went up and camped out. The short story is: they got kicked off the basketball team, except for one, Jerry Punches, whose dad Frank was the eighth-grade teacher. We happened to play Whatcom in the week when these kids had been kicked off, so we had one regular starter and the rest of us were eighth-graders. We lost that game 52 to 19. There were consequences for your actions, there’s no question about that that were different than what we encountered at the Campus School.
You talk about teachers that were influential, at the middle school level, I had an eighth-grade social studies teacher and language teacher, his name was Tommy Hewitson, and he was in charge of the school paper. That’s when I really got hooked on journalistic “stuff.” We wrote articles and typed them, as part of a newspaper class/unit of study
That goes back to the Campus School influence. In fact, I had a couple of pictures; I could have brought one to you. We’d learned keyboarding in elementary school. It must have been at an early age, because the picture that I’ll bring to our next session shows some of my classmates at typewriters. They’ve got to be about third-grade age I would guess. We learned on old royal typewriters the same make of typewriter that was used at Bellingham High School.
When I took typing in high school, it was kind of like riding a bike, thing’s came back to me quickly. I remember in my class, I was a junior when I took typing, I was the fastest typer in the class, even more so than a couple of the girls and I’m sure that it was just the influence of having had previous experience.
Then, when I started principaling, my office had the same kind of a machine, a Royal, so my fingers did pretty well. For years I typed my own messages to the teachers, the secretary didn’t do it until one time when I was at Roosevelt and the Kindergarten teacher spied this ancient relic of a typewriter and said, “What do you think? My Kindergarten kids would love to be able to pound on that.” She took it, and then of course, I relied on secretaries for the last part of my career, which probably would have been about ten more years. Then when I came up here following retirement from the public schools, computers were the thing.
I resisted computers just as long as I could, because I was more a face to face communicator. In the schools I would go talk to the teachers and principals in person. I finally had to succumb and get involved because principals just don’t use their telephones. Their means of communication, for most of them, is electronic. I did it out of survival if nothing else.
The point I’m trying to make is that I think the benefits we got by having that early training at the Campus School; training that you did not get in the public schools certainly paid dividends for me and I’m sure others later on.
TB: Did you feel anything in the grading system going from what was a narrative kind of grades to letter grades? Did that affect you?
RB: I don’t think so. I mean, I was not a four point student. I think my high school grade point was a 2.83 but I got into the UW. How things have changed. Now, people like me would say it’s primarily due to grade inflation, you know, as I figure my 2.83 was probably about a 3.83 or a 3.9 in this day and age. So no, it probably wasn’t a factor.
I know that one thing that I can tell you doesn’t have anything to do with the Campus School. At Fairhaven they offered Latin in the ninth-grade and so my mother decided that that would be the thing to do, like when she thought taking violin lessons would be something I would appreciate. So we took Latin as ninth-graders and then we took our second year at the high school. Well, most of the kids at the high school had taken their first year at the high school, too, and they had a teacher who knew something about Latin. At Fairhaven we really didn’t get much background, so most of the Fairhaven kids struggled mightily. I remember the last grading period I got a D minus and the teacher said, “You know, I really wanted to fail you,” but she didn’t. When my mother looked at report cards, she didn’t really care about the grade. In those days they graded as well on effort and attitude. I didn’t do well on those on that particular report card. So I remember stopping at Pioneer Printing or Union Printing on the way home, and got a little ink eradicator and I think I changed the grade to a D plus and changed the effort and attitude, so when I got home I survived what I knew was going to be a battle.
TB: And the school didn’t notice that, didn’t they have to sign the report card?
RB: They already had. In those days they gave you the report card and you took them home.
TB: And nobody had to take it back.
RB: No, no. They don’t do that anymore. Now of course everything at the high school level is mailed.
TB: What further education did you pursue?
RB: When I finished at Bellingham High School I went to the UW for two years, and my major at the time was journalism. I took several journalism courses. I can remember one of the instructors, he called all of the students in to talk to him near the end of the course and he said, “Well, you definitely could do this. Are you prepared to have a career where you’re writing obituaries?” Well, as I look back now, there were a couple of us riding the fence about, “Do we want to stay at the U? Do we want to go back home and go to Western?” It was spring quarter and the good weather was beckoning, a good friend had a place at Lake Whatcom, ski boat, etc. That probably just tipped me over the edge. In retrospect as I look back, I know what the professor was doing, it was a test. What he was looking for was somebody to say, “Not me. I’m not going to be doing that because I’m going to get through this program and I’m going to be out there and I’m going to be the sports editor for the Sacramento whatever.” But I didn’t do that. Still, journalism today is still something that I really would enjoy.
TB: So you went to…
RB: I went to the U, and then I transferred up here. It would have been spring quarter of 1957. The interesting thing about that is Donald Ferris was the admissions director and his son had been a year behind me in school as I recall, Billy Ferris. The winter quarter at the UW, just before finals week, I got sick and couldn’t take my finals. So I came up here to register and somebody was asking me questions and they asked me about my winter quarter and I said, “Well, I couldn’t do the finals, I have to go back and take them during spring quarter.” And she said, “Well, you can’t come up here because you’re going to have sixteen credits here and fifteen at the U, that’s 31 credits, you can’t do it.” So, I called Mr. Ferris over and he said, “Hey, he’s got the money. That’s his problem. We don’t care. We’ll take the money.” So what I had to do that spring quarter was to on three different weekends go back, or three different Fridays, go back to the UW and take my tests from the winter quarter to finish up.
I work now with these students who think they want to be elementary school teachers and obviously most of them are female. I have 25 students this quarter and only one male (which is a sad commentary from my perspective because I think we need more men at the elementary level). And most of the girls knew twenty years ago or fifteen years ago they wanted to teach Kindergarten or first-grade. (I have a group that’s a little different this quarter). I was not one of those who knew forever and ever that I wanted to teach. I came in the backdoor. I was up here and I thought, “Well, you know, if I don’t go into education, I’m going to have to do something else, go back to the U.” So, I did it and it all worked out really well, but I was not one who knew forever that that’s the career I was going to pursue.
TB: So you got your bachelor’s degree from Western?
RB: Bachelor’s degree in 1959, December of 1959, master’s degree in 1966, in educational administration.
TB: Since you did attend Western and majored in education, did you observe or student teach in the Campus School?
RB: No. In those days you did two student teachings. My first student teaching was in the third-grade at Franklin Elementary School, which for me was great because I could walk from home. I didn’t have a car in those days, so it was a great fit. Then the next quarter, which would have been the fall quarter, I did my second student teaching at Nooksack Valley Junior High School. So my certificate when I finished qualified me to teach K through 12. Being a mid-year graduate of course there were not a lot of jobs. I looked at the postings, there were a couple of jobs open in Oak Harbor, so I applied and got one of those and started then in January of 1960. The interview process in Oak Harbor was interesting, but it had nothing to do with the Campus School, so we’ll skip by that one.
TB: How did your attendance at the Campus School influence your life and/or career?
RB: Well, I think as I look at students that I went to school with and as I talk to these students that came back to the reunion (of course a lot of them were not able to), I think the underlying theme or message that would come through was that all of these kids were successful in whatever they chose to do. You know, be it business, or whatever. We all look back and really realize what a great start we had. I mean, everybody talks about the importance of those early years in education and we definitely had a leg up on a lot of other people.
TB: Can you trace really what exactly it was?
RB: I don’t know. I think we all enjoyed school. I think that we were a good group. I can’t remember anybody in the group that was any kind of a problem at all. We had to be a real easy group for teachers to work with. Our parents were supportive, education was a valued thing. You had all the things in place that provide school success. Interested, supportive parents, great teachers, great environment in the school setting, smaller class sizes, extra opportunities. We were fortunate. We all know that. We recognize that.
TB: Going back a little bit, this isn’t one of the questions exactly on here, but since you had so many student teachers and yet you had the master teachers, how did the master teacher really insert themselves into the process so that you definitely had attachments to certain teachers, with so many student teachers doing so much?
RB: Well, there was down time between quarters, of course, when the student teachers wouldn’t be there. I’m thinking about student teachers that I’ve worked with. When they first come to the classroom, the first week or so they’re not doing much. They’re extra help or working with kids one on one and doing these kinds of things, so the teacher’s still going to retain a lot of control. I think initially what they’re doing is they’re modeling instruction for the student teachers that are there. I think student teachers, as I think back, probably did not get to do as much teaching as the student teachers do today. By that I mean, they did units of study, as opposed to teaching all day long, maybe they taught a part of the day. Whereas the students today, to be certified, have to be responsible for everything, all the planning, all the teaching, for a minimum of three weeks. And a lot of them, depending on the teacher they’re working with, will do four or five weeks. I don’t recall where the student teachers really had control of the classroom for a long period of time like that.
TB: Are you still in touch with any Campus School classmates and if so, can you help us contact them?
RB: Well, going back to the reunion that I was talking about, one of them, Pete Gaasland grew up one block away from me. We were inseparable all the way through grade school, and even into junior high school up until about maybe eighth or ninth-grade. In high school, we drifted apart a little bit, same thing in college and then when we went our separate ways when out there in the real world. I didn’t see him for a long, long time. But we’ve kind of grown back together. We do a lot of things together; we traveled to Scandinavia together for three weeks here a couple of years ago. So, the friendship has been rekindled. He would be the closest one. There are a few that still live around town that I see, but I don’t really mix with them socially. But, at the reunion seeing these fourteen kids (and there are a few that I will see on occasions that are not reunions), they’re all doing well.
TB: Do you have campus memorabilia, photographs, class publications, crafts, art work, etc.? And may we contact you about these items
RB: Well, I don’t have any art work or things like that. You know, maybe, my daughter might have some stuff. I can ask her about that. What I do have is an annual from junior high school. It was the only one the junior high school ever did, and the title of it was, Alpha-Omega, meaning first and last. And this, in fact, was a picture from it, of our seventh-grade classroom. You can have that as I’ve got extra copies. Carole Morris has that book right now. I’m sure there are other people in Bellingham that still have it. The only thing I’ve got left is that and my lunch pail.
TB: All right, but you do have your lunch pail?
RB: I do have my lunch pail.
TB: So possibly we could borrow that for the exhibit?
RB: Sure. I don’t have the thermos. I remember the thermos. It was blue with red circular stripes at the top of it, maybe three or four of them. But it’s long gone.
TB: Please share with us any favorite memories of your Campus School days and any comments about areas not covered by the questionnaire above.
RB: Well, yes, any special memories. I remember coming to school during the war years. You’d come in the main entrance and they would be selling war bonds. We bought stamps to support the World War II effort. Green stamps, as I recall, were the most expensive and the prized ones. They’d sell purple stamps that were less expensive. But that was one of the things that I remember vividly.
I remember the Jersey Street Trail experience all the time, coming across that trail, particularly on our bikes. I can remember a time and I think I was in sixth or seventh-grade when a student who was a year or two older shared that as she crossed the Jersey Street Trail (because she lived down, close to where KVOS is now on Ellis Street), she had been attacked or followed or stalked by some male. So the word was out. For a long time they wouldn’t let us use that trail, we had to walk down Indian Street, and then climb up a steep path to Myrtle Street, and we didn’t like that. But that blew over; there was no big deal about anything like that again.
I remember in first grade that Mary Jane we were having a birthday party I think it was Gary Wagner’s birthday. There were cupcakes with one candle and they lit the candles. Mary Jane Sefrit (who came to the reunion, she lives in Florida now) had long hair. She turned around to talk to somebody and her hair caught on fire. We all remember that and we all kid her about it. Somebody got there, put it out immediately, but of course we remember that experience like it happened yesterday.
Dr. Haggard, who was the president of the college at that time, and the grass was his domain. You don’t walk on the grass. So I’m in sixth or seventh-grade, I’m not sure which. So this buddy and I, ride our bikes across the Jersey Street Trail and down the walkway in front of Old Main. We must have been at the Campus School, not the junior high school. Down the sidewalk that has all the college memorabilia from the various years, then we’d cut across to our school from there. One time we had our bikes up at the top of the hill right by Old Main. We rode our bikes down the hill out onto the grass, the big expansive grass that is still there. Somebody saw us and turned us in and so Pete and I had an audience with Dr. Haggard about why we don’t ride our bikes on the grass.
It’s kind of interesting, you drive around now and you see all the maintenance people. In those days, Mr. George A. Dack was the lead grounds man and his helper was a guy by the name of Pete Lundstrom who had a wooden leg. Two of them maintained all of the grounds.
TB: Yes. Anything else I haven’t asked you right now that you’d like to comment on?
RB: What I did Tamara, in preparing for this was look at the first six things. If I look at the others I’m sure there’re going to be some things that will jog my memory, so if you’re O.K. with it we could do another session some time.
TB: Sure, yes, excellent.
RB: So maybe we cut this one off at this point and time and I’ll look at that material and then I’ll call you Monday and we’ll set up a time.
TB: Perfect, O.K., thank you very much.
Session Two – October 17, 2005 -- Tape 2
TB: Today is Monday, October 17th, 2005, and I’m here again with Rob Brand and we’re going to continue our oral history. Some of the questions will be repeated, but he hadn’t really thought about them all before, so we’ll see if that changes some of this. Who were your favorite or most influential teachers?
RB: Well, I remember, like everybody does, Miss Kinsman who we had in third-grade. I think the thing that I remember about that is spelling. We did a trial test and a final test. Then we graphed it throughout the year, so I know the Wednesday, or trial test, was graphed in blue and the final test was graphed in red. I remember that during the year I missed one word. I remember the word, it was uncle. I’m not sure how I spelled it, but what she was doing was integrating curriculum. It was not just spelling; it was learning how to do bar graphs and other things not directly related to spelling. We work with our student teachers now, to integrate curriculum and interrelate things, much as Miss Kinsman did back in 1946.
It’s interesting, the fifth-grade teacher [Mrs. Gregory], I still can’t come up with her name. I was going to call somebody and ask them, so that one really escapes me, but I know that I mentioned Miss McLeod because she was my sixth-grade teacher and that’s where my interest in journalistic endeavors really had a chance to be sparked and flourish. That’s where it all started. Pete and I did a class newspaper and so that was a special person at that time.
Miss Hunt was the seventh-grade teacher. We all remember Miss Hunt. She was old school, like Miss Elliot, the second-grade teacher. She was strict. But, that was O.K. The seventh grade class was a large one in terms of student enrollment, and probably required more structure.
In thinking back, I mentioned that we played all the sports. The head coach at one time was Pinky Erickson. (Jerry Punches, I’ll give you his name too, was a year ahead of me, and didn’t go to the Campus School all the time, but his dad was the eighth grade teacher, Frank Punches). Well, Jerry and I were talking, maybe at the reunion, and he said, “Remember when Pinky Erickson was called away from one of our turnouts?” And I said, “Well, probably not.” And he said, “Well, it’s because his wife was having a baby and the baby was Dennis Erickson.” He later became the coach of the Seahawks. He also coached at Washington State, Miami, Oregon State, and he coached the San Francisco 49ers up until a year ago. I would have been in grade seven at the time. So, that’s one that I did not remember, but Jerry Punches did.
TB: Oh, wow! O.K., do you remember any of your student teachers?
RB: Well, the one I remember specifically was Stew Van Wingerden. I think that was in fifth-grade, so maybe I remember him more than I remember the teacher. And then of course, I’ve known Stewart ever since then because he supervised student teachers when I was principal at Roosevelt grade school, and then we were colleagues at Woodring when I came up here to work part time. I see Stewart periodically. His daughter, ironically enough, is a teacher in the Nooksack district at Everson Elementary School. I had students there in the mid-Nineties but I never had a student working with her because at the time she was a reading specialist. She is now a classroom teacher at that school.
I mentioned the two student teachers that my sister had, so we’ll kind of skip over that one. But I do remember, this would have been a student teacher, his name was Jim Beasley and he helped us with the various sports programs that we had. We played all the sports, so anybody who did anything to help us in sports, that was a plus.
I remember basketball. I think I told you about the gym that was down in the basement of Old Main that had a very low ceiling. You couldn’t shoot a regular shot; you had to have a different arch on it, one that had to be flattened out.
When I was in seventh-grade we won one basketball game. We beat Custer Elementary School. I don’t know what the score was. My cousin was teaching and coaching at Custer at the time and that would have been 1950. The last two winters, I’ve had practicum students at Custer and the gym is still the same one that they used back then. The school out there has been added onto any number of times but the gym is the gym that we played in in 1950. The Custer school is scheduled for a major remodel in 2008.
I don’t know why I didn’t come up with this before; you have to understand that the Campus School had a small population to draw from, so athletically we could not compete with Fairhaven and Whatcom. We played schools out in the county. We won one baseball game and of course the thing I remember from the baseball game is that Jim Mace was pitching for Mount Baker and we had a man on third base, Jerry Larson, and I got a base hit to center field that won the game. Only game we won, I got carried off the field. The next week we played Lynden and I made three errors in one inning. I remember Robbie Calhoun had to come in and take my place. That was going from the ultimate high to the ultimate low in a matter of seven days. That was interesting, but sports were just, our life, that’s the main thing we did; and the academics kind of were secondary to those kinds of things.
I do remember another teacher, I jotted it down and I’ll mention this, and not one that was necessarily influential. Her name was Miss Gragg and Miss Gragg was a handwriting specialist. So at the Campus School we had a handwriting specialist and I can remember she came to the classroom and I can remember doing circle-“o”, circle-“o”, circle-“o”, half circle-“c”, half circle-“c”, etc. The irony of it all is that if I looked back at my handwriting in junior or senior high school, it was like chicken scratch. I mean, whatever she was teaching just didn’t take for me. And my handwriting didn’t really improve until I was out principaling and had to write a lot of notes and memos when I was supervising student teachers. It was certainly not the style that she taught us, but I developed, I guess, like most of us, my own particular style.
Miss Gragg, I’m not sure, I had in the back of my mind, that she was related to the Haggard family.
TB: Miller, she’s Miller’s aunt [or great-aunt, depending on the generation]. Gragg’s named after her.
RB: Gragg Miller, that’s what I wondered. I thought the connection has to be that Gragg Miller was named after our old handwriting teacher.
TB: Well, the other question is, did she not teach you printing? I’ve heard people say you learned to print, not handwrite.
RB: Oh, she must have, because when I started teaching in 1960 in Oak Harbor, I taught fourth-grade where the children were expected to use cursive. My cursive was so bad that I had to write in manuscript on the board. I couldn’t write in cursive because it was so bad. So I’m sure we spent a lot of time on printing.
TB: What were your favorite subjects or classroom activities?
RB: I liked them all in elementary school. I liked arithmetic. It was not until I got to high school and we had to do mathematics that my interest waned I was probably more a literacy, social studies person than a math/science kind of a person.
I think I mentioned last week, that my father, by trade, was a carpenter. He lost the sight of one eye, so he had to give it up, because the eye-hand coordination made it difficult to hit the nails instead of your thumb. So he had to change professions, or change jobs. The carpentry gene pool did not trickle down. The worst grades that I got at Fairhaven were in woodshop and metal shop. And to this day, at our house, if it has moving parts my wife does the repair work. My job would be to call the plumber and say, “Come over here, we have a problem.” But she can get in and fix it -- didn’t work for me.
TB: Any other thoughts about the textbooks or the learning materials that you might have used?
RB: You know, I don’t remember much about the textbooks. I do remember the reading, because we did the Dick and Jane series which came under a lot of fire later on. What I remember about reading is doing a lot of round robin reading. Are you familiar with what round robin reading is? We discourage the students we work with now from doing it. It would be like a group reading and you had x number of kids in the group and one would read, then another would read, another, etc. In the group all you had to do was remember who you followed and then you had to pay attention when they were reading so you would know where to pick up when it was your turn. It’s a system that is no longer taught, but we did that a lot. For those of us that learned to read, that was fun. It was not a problem.
The question that I ask students a lot is “Do you remember how you learned to read?” This one came from my wife who was a reading specialist before becoming a principal. Most of us who learned to read without much difficulty don’t remember how we learned to read. If you talked to kids who struggled and maybe were special education students, they will remember all they had to do in terms of “B-ball” and similar tasks. So, you know I don’t really remember and I don’t remember if we had a book for spelling or if we had books for math, social studies and other subjects.
TB: Any other thoughts about the grading system?
RB: Well, probably as students we didn’t pay too much attention to it. I know it was never anything that as a student I worried about. You know, it was not like the WASL pressures that kids are under now. I knew I was always going to go to the next grade and if there were issues or problems I was never aware of them going through the Campus School.
TB: Anything more about the creative activities you might have done, the weaving, making things?
RB: I guess I don’t remember as much about that. Usually kids can look back and remember. Even when my son was in middle school at Shuksan, they made things in shop that came home, and we still have them around. Whatever they were, I don’t remember making anything that remained a family heirloom, if you will. What I remember, from a creative standpoint, is more the creative writing in terms of newspaper kinds of things as mentioned earlier. It was not something that was specifically taught. It was more something that was encouraged and we did more of it pretty much on our own as opposed to something that was a specific class time that was set aside.
TB: Right. So did you start a newspaper then…
RB: We did one in sixth-grade. But it mostly had to do with sports things that happened outside of school, as opposed to writing about what was going on in the Campus School.
TB: What were your thoughts about what the class was like with student teachers observing and/or teaching lessons or parts of lessons? Any thoughts on that?
RB: No, as I look back, I know the expectation on student teachers in those days was not like it is for student teachers now. When they go out today, they have to do at least three weeks of full time teaching, where they do all the planning and all the teaching for three weeks. It could be longer, some will do four weeks, or five weeks. It will depend on the teacher, the supervisor, the student, etc.
I don’t remember them taking over like that. What I remember about them is their being responsible for a unit of study in science, in social studies, doing plays, things like that, things that our regular classroom teacher probably would not have the time to do. From the classroom teacher’s standpoint, it was a real plus.
I know the Campus School and its focus changed after we were gone. I think when we were there probably what was happening instructionally was not a great deal different than what you’d find in the public schools. I think the basic difference would have been the number of adults you had, a smaller class size, a lot of extra things that you could not provide in the public schools at that time. Later on they got into things like foreign language and other things that were just not a part of what we experienced when we went through the program.
TB: Anything more about the extra-curricular activities, recess, lunch time, games that you played?
RB: Well, I mentioned the sports stuff, which I say was absolutely critical. I think that a typical day, when we got finished we’d play either on the grounds or we’d go over and watch the football team turn out or watch the students playing track and things like that. We’d come up on weekends and do our own track meets on the track. Those were the days when we didn’t have programs in the community like they do today. So when kids did something it was, “Let’s meet somewhere and divide up” and we’d play work up or have teams if we had enough people to do that. But we were not dependent on a coach being there and somebody blowing a whistle and saying “Now, this is what we’re going to do.” It just didn’t occur.
I can’t remember the grade, Pete Gaasland probably would remember. We would have been in fourth or fifth-grade. It was the first year that Bellingham had a summer baseball program. Frank Geri, who was an institution at Whatcom Middle School for years; he was the boys’ P.E. teacher (and my aunt was the girls’ P.E. teacher. She later taught math). Well, Frank started a summer baseball program and the first year, kids were not age divided. So as fourth or fifth-graders, and I’m not sure exactly which, we played on a team that had high school and junior high school kids too. You can imagine the success we enjoyed when we were at bat against somebody throwing real hard. None. I don’t think I got a base hit the whole year.
Which reminds me of a story, when we were on the baseball team we played out at Nooksack Valley. Now, remember, I’m a seventh-grader, so my bat was almost as big as I was and we played against a pitcher, Bob Reimer, who has since passed away. He later, went to the UW and pitched for them. He got a scholarship to the University of Washington. He threw hard. I was the first batter up and I walked on four pitches and I don’t think I saw one of them as they just went by me. The next two guys went out and so I got the sign to try to steal second base. The second baseman was Pete Gaasland’s cousin who lived in Sumas. I took off and he had the ball waiting for me and said, “Don’t bother to slide, Butch,” (Butch was my nickname at the time). I mean, I was out by twenty feet. But the interesting thing about that game is we didn’t get a hit. Not just me, nobody got a hit. And by the fourth inning I would say, the only Nooksack players that were on their feet were the pitcher and the catcher and the first baseman. Everybody else, the outfielders were lying down, the third baseman was sitting on the bag. They knew this guy was so good that we weren’t even going to touch him. And we didn’t. So it’s funny how those things kind of stick in your memory bank.
TB: That’s right. Any other thoughts about your interactions with the college itself?
RB: You asked that question before and I tried to think about that one and I don’t remember. I don’t remember doing things with performing arts, those kinds of programs. Like we mentioned, we supported them in the sports programs, particularly basketball and football. The only tricky thing about coming to the basketball games at night was on the way home we had to go across the Jersey Street Trail when it was pitch black.
I can remember one time when I was by myself. I started from this end by Edens Hall and I got up on the flat part of the trail, I could see a cigarette coming toward me. I knew somebody was going to be on the trail with me, probably about the middle of the trail, which was a part where there used to be an old motorcycle climb that they used (they came off Indian Street and would try to see how far the motorcycles could get up the trail). So I worried all the time; who was this, was it going to be a problem. When we got side by side, I just took off and ran as fast as I could. It was not a problem, but it made you think a little bit when it was ten o’clock at night in that kind of a setting. The safest way would have been go down High Street or Indian Street, where there were street lights.
TB: Were the kids really supposed to be on those trails in the woods?
RB: Well, we grew up on the other side of Sehome Hill, so we were up there all the time. I mean, we camped out on Sehome Hill. We went up there and did all kinds of things. So for us, it was just kind of an extension of our back yard. But I mentioned to you about the girl, who some male advanced on to some degree. It was nothing that was overly serious, but it got everybody’s attention and for a time they said we couldn’t use the Jersey Street Trail going to and from school. That lasted for maybe a couple of weeks and then everything was fine and they changed back. That was the only time. Other than that, I mean, that was just common stuff for the neighbors that lived on Liberty, Key, Jersey, Mason, and Myrtle Street. That was our transportation mode.
TB: Any other thoughts about when you transferred to public school, after eighth or ninth-grade?
RB: Seventh-grade for me. I left after seventh-grade because they closed the junior high school in June of 1950.
RB: The Korean War veterans [were] coming back and they needed the space. The junior high school was not a part of what is now Miller Hall. It was in Old Main. And there were three classrooms. One room set aside, as I mentioned was kind of a social gathering spot. They called it the canteen. You could buy pencils, paper, and those kinds of things. That’s where student government met and did their thing there.
Student government was kind of interesting. I know that in the seventh grade I ran for treasurer. Interesting they would have a seventh-grader be the treasurer and I think for some years after that we still had five dollars in the bank. I don’t think I closed out the account. I ran for treasurer against my best friend, Pete Gaasland, and I was elected. I’m sure the reason was that I had an older sister in ninth-grade so I probably got some of the ninth-grade votes that he wouldn’t get, simply because of that.
What I remember is the campaign speech that I gave. Not every part of it. It was not an original. My aunt, who taught at Whatcom, had seen somebody do that speech at Whatcom. What is was was you go through the word “treasurer.” So, you know, O.K, “T,” I will be trustworthy, “R,” I will be responsible, “E,” I will be earnest, “A,” I will be accurate. I might be able to resurrect the whole thing, but that was the campaign speech and I was elected. We did student government and did some of those kinds of things. There was a student council and I don’t know how much say we had about what happened or what didn’t happen, but it was an attempt, I think, to get us somewhat involved.
Then as I was reading through, I think I left you the picture, the picture, of the seventh-grade class. Did I leave you a picture of the seventh grade class?
RB: O.K., we’ll talk about that. But I noticed in that picture, that’s a part of the Alpha- Omega annual that I have, we also had officers, each of three quarters, in the class. So our individual classroom had officers for all winter and spring and I’m sure the eighth and ninth-grade kids did, too. So I think it was obviously an attempt to get us introduced at some level to government and how it worked.
TB: So any other thoughts about what the transition was like from Campus School to the junior high?
RB: It was not a problem for me and not a problem for those people that were close friends of mine either. I did have a cousin, distant, very distant cousin, who would have been a ninth-grader at Fairhaven when I was an eighth-grader. I think he kind of got the word out. You know, we had heard all the horror stories; they’re going to stuff you in the garbage can. The same thing goes on now when the kids leave Happy Valley or Larrabee or Lowell, they hear the stories about getting your head stuck in the toilets or stuck in a garbage can. It truly doesn’t happen. There was no hazing that took place for us that I can recall.
TB: And then getting grades, suddenly getting grades after…?
RB: I suppose that was different, but again, school for me at least, at that stage of my career, was not an issue. I never had to worry about what kind of grade I was going to get.
TB: Well, any other comments then about the education that you further pursued, because you went to Western and got your bachelor’s degree in education, right?
TB: Any other thoughts about that and the influence the Campus School had on you. For example, did Campus School influence your going into education as a teacher?
RB: No. In fact, when I got out of Bellingham High School in 1955, the goal for most of the kids was not to go to Western. Bellingham High School, from a population standpoint was probably almost as big as Western was at that particular time. It’s a beautiful campus. People that grow up somewhere else and come up here and some of these kids live in these dorms that overlook Bellingham Bay; that’s going to be the best housing they have as long as they live. But for us that grew up here, it was not the thing to do.
I was going to go to Washington State for ever and ever. Peer pressure, a lot of my buddies were going to the U, we were being rushed, and several of us joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity. So, we were there, kind of as a group, kind of did our thing. I stayed there for a couple of years and then came to Western, but even when I came to Western, it was not with the idea of becoming a teacher. I was not one of those who knew in Kindergarten that I was going to be a Kindergarten teacher. I get students like that: “I’ve known since I was in Kindergarten with Mrs. Jones that I was going to be a Kindergarten teacher.” I’m one of those who can prove that you can come in the back door as an educator and find your niche and be successful. I came in the back door and found that yes, this indeed was a calling for me and today I’ve been doing it for 46 years. So, it must have been a fit somehow.
TB: Yes. So how did attendance at the Campus School influence your life?
RB: I don’t know about that. I think that as Campus School students we were privy to a lot of things that kids in the public schools didn’t get. I think the expectation pretty much for most of us was: Campus School, high school, college. I think that was just kind of an unwritten credo that we all subscribed to. It would be interesting. I talked about the reunion and the number of kids from the Campus School that were there, seventeen, which is pretty good, and fourteen of them at the school since Kindergarten. But what I don’t know is how many of those kids went to college, how many finished college, what they were doing later on. It would have been an interesting thing to try to find out.
TB: Have we totally gone over what kind of Campus School memorabilia you might have, including photographs, class publications, crafts, artwork that we…?
RB: I have a few photographs. If I could come up with some I will share them with you. Carole has the annual, but I’m sure a lot of folks still have the annual. That’s probably about all that I have left. I looked for ever for my basketball jersey, because we all got to take them with us at the time. It used to be on a panda bear that I’d had when I was young, but it’s gone, gone forever. I do remember we talked about the crafts, the woodshop, the typing, and those extra things.
I do remember in seventh-grade we had cooking class in Old Main, down in the basement of Old Main at the far end, and the instructor was Miss Countryman.
Her [nephew] Keith Countryman was in my class and her [niece], Sidney Countryman was in my sister’s class. Now, the interesting thing about the Countryman family is that when we were in sixth-grade, we had School [Crossing-Guard Patrol], just like the public schools did. The crosswalks that we covered were High Street, where the bookstore is now and then straight down below on Garden Street where all those streets now come together. School patrol was a big thing, you wanted to be captain or lieutenant and I’m sure I was at some point in time along the way. But the public school kids, the trade off, or the carrot that they looked forward to at the end of the year was going to Birch Bay to the amusement park to ride the rides. Our parents at the Campus School were not just going to do what everybody else did. So we went to Orcas Island to Cascade Lake in Moran State Park.
The interesting thing is how we got there. We got there on the Osage, which was a mail boat that plied the waters from Bellingham and delivered mail out to the islands. The owner and captain of the Osage was Keith Countryman’s father. I don’t know if you get the Bellingham Herald. Do you get the Bellingham Herald? There was a picture in there probably about two weeks ago, (I should have cut it out and didn’t). It showed the Osage, and what it said is that they lost the mail contract in 1950. That would have been the year that the Campus School junior high school closed down. So, when Keith and the rest of us went to Fairhaven, that’s when his dad lost the mail contract. I think it said he continued to carry cargo for a time, but not for a long time. That’s about the time when that type of mail delivery or cargo delivery was being taken over by other, more efficient means. So that was a very special ending to our sixth grade year.
I remember the end of our seventh-grade year, too, because of course, that was the end. That was the end of the Campus School. Our entire seventh-grade classroom went to Pete Gaasland’s summer place at Lake Whatcom. Do you know where The Firs is located now? Well, The Firs bought that property from Glen Corning, who had all the property around Lake Louise. I think he had about 35 acres, maybe more than that. If you went south down the island toward blue canyon, the next piece of property was owned by Pete Gaasland’s dad -- beautiful property, white sandy beach, just a great spot. So we all went out there the last day of school. The whole class; the mothers did a huge buffet luncheon or dinner. That was kind of a special ending for our class, even though we didn’t really split up. Our class, the whole bunch of us, went to Fairhaven the next year. So we still saw everybody and were in some of the same rooms. But obviously, compared to the Campus School, Fairhaven was about four times bigger.
TB: Any other favorite memories or comments that you haven’t talked about?
RB: It’s interesting. I called my sister to see. I said, “I know you’re not going to fill out the survey.” (I think she’s on the reunion committee, that’s what Carole told me, I don’t know). I said, “Just send me a couple of memories, if you can think of any.” What she remembered was buying the savings bonds, the war bonds, like we all did.
TB: During World War II.
RB: Yes, and she remembers the smell of the rubber ramps. Like I told you, if students come back now, the only thing they’re going to see that they’ll remember are going to be the ramps, because they’ve chopped up all the classrooms into small spaces. I didn’t notice the smell of them, so I thought that was kind of interesting.
TB: The woman I did yesterday talked about the smell of campus
RB: Did she?
TB: Yes. Well, anything else? That’s all of our questions.
RB: One other thing that I’ve got down, two other things. And one of them fits with “how you got to school and back.” As I told you, Pete and I rode our bikes across the Jersey Street Trail, now this is an interesting one. So, at both ends of the trail, it drops down, so at the other end of the Jersey Street Trail, when you come down the trail, like this, it makes a bend and Jersey Street is below.
Well, our bikes were really very interesting. Pete had a Pioneer bike, a blue Pioneer bike. I had a silver and black Hawthorn that my folks bought out in Blaine for five dollars. Now, you have to understand, this is wartime. We were lucky to even have bikes. To this day I remember, I saved and saved and saved so I could buy a new bike, I paid a hundred dollars for it and it was not nearly as good as that old Hawthorn bike that I had. Pete could only work the brakes if his right foot were in the back position – on this one occasion his feet were reversed, he could not slow down, missed the curve and went airborne, landing in a heap below on Myrtle St. The good news? Both Pete and the bike were O.K.!