Glencoe: Then and Now 1896 - 1987
Old Glencoe School and Glencoe Garden - 1917
(The following was found in the school archives, published in a booklet that was generated by a "Glencoe: Then and Now" mini-class in 1987)
As we all know, we live in Portland, Oregon, "the only city in the continental U.S. with a volcano within its city limits." What is even more exciting, we in the Glencoe area live on the very slopes of that volcano, Mt. Tabor. The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 caused a resurgence of interest in volcanoes in general, but probably no more than was generated in 1913 when the crater of Mt. Tabor was discovered.
Prior to 1913 most area residents were content to be living near a hill called Mt. Tabor Park. As early as 1852, then teacher Urban East Hicks had actually told his students that the hill was of volcanic origin, but his was considered a theory only. The hill itself was christened around 1854 by Plympton Kelly, son of Clinton Kelly, a circuit-riding Methodist minister who held the land claim southwest of what was to become Mt. Tabor Park. Most of the area's early settlers were Methodists, and in the process of establishing the Methodist-Episcopal Church at the juncture of four land claims near what is today SE 60th and Stark, they felt the need to choose a name for the hill on which their church would stand. At a congregational meeting the name Mt. Zion had already been selected when Plympton Kelly arrived, late. He had been engrossed in Joel T. Headley's book Napoleon and his Marshall and was afire with enthusiasm about a battle between the French and the Moslems near Mt. Tabor, on the Plain of Estraelon in Palestine. His zeal convinced the congregation that Mt. Zion (a popular name in those years) was too common, and that Mt. Tabor was more suitable to a mountain housing a religious group such as theirs.
In 1909 some two hundred acres of Mt. Tabor were acquired by the city as park land, and it was during road grading from SE Salmon Street to the park summit that the actual crater was discovered. The crater's discovery precipitated the gold rush of 1913, when many area residents succumbed to rumors that gold deposits could be found in the volcanic soil. Vast quantities of totally gold-free earth were carted away before the gold rush ran itself out. (The gold rush was not only on Mt. Tabor. An even more bizarre uranium rush occurred in the 1950's when someone [wrongly] reported that uranium could be found in the crater. Geiger counter sales proliferated, but like the gold rush, this one also fizzled.) The true gold in the area was in Mt. Tabor's orchards, which actually helped supply fruit to the California gold rush of the 1850's. By 1856 apples were selling for almost $2.00 per pound - there was truly gold in them thar trees!
Much more could be reported about the area's early settlers and their exploits. For full details please refer to the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association files. Here, however, are a few high notes. First, we have Dr. Perry Prettyman, naturopath and naturalist, to thank for introducing the dandelion to Portland "for medicinal purposes." Thanks a lot, Dr. Prettyman. Then we have the rather embarrassing race riot of 1886, when 50 masked men rode up Mt. Tabor to round up some 100 Chinese coolies who were employed as woodcutters on the top. Sentiment in the neighborhood was high against "foreign" labor, and the coolies were subsequently driven all the way down to the Willamette, where they were herded on board the Albina Ferry and shipped to the west side, with orders never to return. And we always thought the west side was the high rent district! As a final note on the park, we must not neglect to mention the 1933 plans to build a 300 foot observation tower at the summit, to dig a tunnel into the center of the crater, and to link the two by an elevator. Shops and restaurants were to be built at various levels - a volcanic shopping mall! The City Council actually considered asking for federal funds to finance this project, but luckily nothing got beyond the planning stage. What a different neighborhood we would have today if those plans had been completed!
But - on to Glencoe Primary School, located today at 825 SE 51st at Belmont in southeast Portland. The City Directory of Portland indicates the existence of a Glencoe School at Hunter's Station, Mt. Tabor Motor Line, as early as 1896. (The school's name derives from another station on the motor line - Glencoe Station at 45th and Belmont, where the two tracks, one inbound and one outbound from the river, joined and continued as one single track to the end of the line at 69th and Belmont.) Mrs. P.R. Young is listed as the sole teacher at the school. By 1897 the school has a principal, Mr. W.W. Sebray. The address remains the same, although the principals change, until 1904, when the address becomes E 48th near Belmont, or E 48th and Morrison. In 1906 the City of Portland annexed county school district #5, which included: Mt. Tabor School at West Avenue and Baseline Road, which later became the Mills Open Air School for TB patients and then the Mt. Tabor Annex; S. Mt. Tabor School on Sectionline Road, which is now Kellogg Middle School; Glencoe School on 48th and Morrison; and Center Addition School at Mt. Tabor Avenue and Villa. Please refer to the appendix for interpretation of the old street names.
After the annexation, Emma Sturchler, who had been principal at Glencoe in 1905, went over to Mt. Tabor as a teacher and was replaced by either Mr. Steel or Mr. Goode (the City Directory and the School District's archives differ here.)
In 1909 the school's address was changed to "west side of 49th near Belmont" when a new 48th Street was cut through one block west of the original. It is not until 1913 that the City Directory records the address of Glencoe as the "northeast corner of E 49th at Belmont." This address is the site of what we refer to as the "old" Glencoe, meaning the building that existed just prior to the building that is in use today. Only one picture remains of the "old" Glencoe, and it was a palace in comparison to the four-room country school it replaced. It stood for only 10 years, burning down on August 25, 1923, with losses reported at $96,428.20 in the 51st Annual Report of Portland Public Schools, 1923-24. Alas, for old Glencoe - although in 1910 the City Council had passed an ordinance stating that "after January 1, 1911, all school buildings erected are to be of fireproof construction," it wasn't. The cause of the 1923 fire was officially unknown, but unofficially it was attributed to everything from someone's brother to an errant fireman who liked to start fires as well as stop them.
The original building at E 48th and Morrison has been described by former student, Normal Goudy, as a small, two-story frame structure with four rooms, each heated by a pot-bellied stove that Mr. Kaddle, the janitor, would stoke up each morning. Two portables were added as the student population increased. The basement plumbing included one sink, a cold water tap, and a tin cup for drinking. Other necessary facilities were outside behind the building in an outhouse. The small basement was the only indoor play area for the students. There was no auditorium or assembly hall, so any performances, programs, or parties were done on an individual classroom basis. Attending this school were first through ninth graders, with class size being rather large in the lower grades but decreasing each year, since students were not required to complete the ninth grade. Mrs. Sturchler, the principal, also taught fifth through ninth grades. Other teachers from this period included Misses Simpson, Mansfield, Hart, Fields, and Chamberlain.
When the students moved from this tiny building into their new grade school they simply picked up all their books and walked across the street to their new classrooms, wondering why their new school was so large. One of the reasons was that new families kept moving into the neighborhood ("country living close to the city"); another was that as more high schools were being built the grade schools were gaining students from a wider area. Mr. Kaddle moved with the students to the new building (no more pot-bellied stoves for him!) and proceeded to make the principal a wonderfully threatening wooden paddle with a hinged handle - when flapped about, the paddle sounded even worse than it felt! The big boys who used to soap the Belmont Trolley car tracks every Halloween (to prevent the trolley from climbing the hill between 45th and 55th) may have experienced the paddle, but the younger students who merely placed pennies on the track for the trolley to crush probably escaped unscathed. The boys who played baseball may also have had reason to fear the paddle, since their fly balls had a tendency to go directly through the windows of Mr. Tonseth's greenhouses, across 49th. (There is an interesting story about a 50's Glencoe graduate, Larry Parman, who once almost landed a fly ball on Mr. Tonseth's head as he sat peacefully in his living room. Larry later married Mr. Tonseth's granddaughter Sue, and is presently president of Belmont Little League. It's hard to escape the past!)
An interesting aspect of the large new school was its design, in the shape of an H, with the principal's office in the center on the main floor and the auditorium upstairs. There were numerous classrooms, a home economy room for the girls, a shop for the boys, and separate basement playrooms for the boys and girls. There were even indoor bathrooms. Most students still went home for lunch, so there was no cafeteria, but if a student lived further than ten blocks he was allowed to bring his lunch and eat in the basement.
Classrooms ran along both sides of the building with designations of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, through 8B. Periodically a class would skip an entire section, such as 3A, if the teacher felt it was ready to move on. On the west side of the building was the girls' play yard, and on the east, the boys'. The twain did not meet for PE or recess, although they attended academic class together. To enter the building, students would line up outside and then, to the music of a victrola, march down the halls in an orderly fashion to their classrooms.
The old school after the fire in 1923 (Photo courtesy of the Oregonian)
After the fire in 1923, Glencoe students were briefly dispersed to such schools as Richmond and Sunnyside (one former student remembers performing in a Tom Thumb wedding as a first grader at Richmond) until portables could be erected. The eighth grade went to Mt. Tabor each afternoon for home economics or shop, as those courses could not be conducted in the portables. We know from a reliable source (Mrs. Jean Hargrove) that at least one teacher took her class through the burned building in September of 1923. During this trip the students salvaged a World War I flag with gold stars symbolizing each Portland boy who had died in the war. The students were also allowed by their teacher to take away as much colored paper as they wanted from the ruins of the office.
Many Glencoe students began first grade in 1A with Miss Bates, who divided her class into Larks and Bluebirds. We know of one Bluebird who swore to become a Lark in record time because the Larks were the higher group and she wasn't going to be merely a Bluebird all her life! (Miss Ivy Kirk). There were many fond memories of Miss Edith B. Darling, who broke her arm while cranking up her car one afternoon in the parking lot. She never missed a day because of the arm, and once out of the cast she would do arm exercises during class to strengthen her muscles. She also had a gift box in her classroom from which children who had performed well were allowed to choose a prize. She was greatly beloved by her students, but probably not by the Oregon Legislature which she used to visit with regularity in her pursuit of excellence in education. Miss Verdi Monroe was another beloved teacher. Miss Verdi "taught us the thrill of reading books," (Miss Beatrice B. Buckley), but she also loved baseball and would go to the playground and rally the boys with the cry, "Let's play ball, boys!" Miss Buckley adds, "We girls always wished we could play, too, as Miss Monroe was so enthusiastic and I know the boys loved this special time with Verdi Monroe. We all loved her."
Physical education was an important part of the day, with Miss Kock and her chosen student leaders (of whom Miss Buckley was one from 6B to 8B). Miss Kock would take the student leaders to workshops at Washington High School to learn new exercises from the manual, and the student leaders would then direct the rest of their classmates in those exercises. Sixth graders got to use dumbbells, seventh graders wands, and eighth graders the Indian clubs. Girls wore gym bloomers, middy blouses, and long stockings to PE - no short socks, please! There were basketball games for both boys and girls against other schools, and in the spring there were track meets and hurdle jumping.
Special mention should go to Miss Parr, the home economics teacher, who dyed her hair black. When she stood in front of the window the sunlight made her hair look green, much to the amusement of her students, who were supposedly working industriously on aprons and pincushions. Dorothy Laws and Ivy Kirk still have their aprons and pincushions. Mr. Wesco, pioneer of the Wesco method of handwriting, was another unforgettable person in Glencoe history:
"He would put the alphabet on the rim of the blackboard in capital and small letters - numbers, too - and he would give a lesson while he was visiting. Then he or the teacher would draw the proper slanted lines on our paper, and if the slant of our letters wasn't perfect we had to do the whole page over. Then Miss Darling had writing lessons for ten or fifteen minutes every day, and our essay papers were graded on content, spelling, sentence construction, as well as writing." Miss B. Buckley
Other teachers included Miss Gailbraith, the fifth grade teacher, who was beautiful but strict, and Miss Shields, the fourth grade teacher, who was strict! Mr. Baker was the principal during the period of the fire, and is fondly remembered by his students.
An interesting fund-raiser was reportedly shortly after the move to the new building. The boys wanted to play intramural baseball, but needed uniforms. It was suggested that the girls put on a musical performance and charge admission, the proceeds going toward the purchase of uniforms. The girls, of course, rose to the occasion and presented an evening of Grecian, Spanish, and Russian dance. The evening was a great success, marred only by the presentation of a box of candy to the teacher who had supposedly helped plan the event - when the girls had done all the work. The boys did get their uniforms, however, and the girls were consoled by Miss Verdi Monroe, who knew how to give credit where credit was due.
Glencoe students also marched and performed in Rose Festival Parades. Mr. Goudy remembers drilling in the street for a performance, and Miss Ivy Kirk has pictures of her group of Poppies preparing to perform in another parade.
Once a Glencoe student in the 1920's won $100.00 in a city-wide contest which involved identifying composers and their works. Other students went far in spelling bees, just as this year's Glencoe students did in spelling and math. We have always been a school that enters into things!
Upon graduation from eighth grade, Glencoe students went on to either Franklin or Washington High. We know of one eighth grade girl whose mother insisted on her going to Franklin because of rumors that when dances were held at Washington some girls would go into the girls' bathroom and remove their corsets! Naughty, Naughty!
School colors have always been blue and gold, but no one seems to know when the gull became our mascot. Diane Sholian Schlicker (1965) swears that the mascot was an eagle when she attended Glencoe, but we think that perhaps she had not gotten her glasses yet.
Glencoe has had an active PTA since 1912, when the group was organized with approximately 20 members. By the mid-nineteen thirties the membership had grown to over 300. To quote from their historian in 1935, "When first organized, all members were women, with the possible exception of a man teacher, but during the 24 years of its growth, there has developed the idea that fathers also should be included in this organization whose most useful task is creating public opinion in favor of good home, good schools, and good communities. This year 76 men are included in the membership as well as all the teachers."
This same era had a Mothers' Chorus that performed for the entertainment of the PTA members; it boasted a free supervised summer playground program from 9 am until 2 pm Monday through Friday; and one of the PTA programs was on "The Effects of Alcohol and Narcotics." The PTA also sponsored periodic canned food drives to supplement the school lunch program. Today our goals and programs remain virtually the same - but where can we find some time to superintendent that play program?!
Plainly visible in the 1917 photo of Glencoe are the gardens across Belmont. In the World War I years they were dubbed a Victory Garden in support of the war effort. No one knows exactly when houses grew up there instead of veggies, but we do know that the house on the corner of 50th and Belmont today was in the 1917 picture. The three newer homes east of 50th and Belmont were transplanted from the area on 39th and Hawthorne where the Fred Meyer parking lot now stands.
In 1925 Glencoe joined other Portland schools on the "platoon" system of education, wherein students changed teachers for different subjects, thus utilizing the various teachers' expertise in different areas. The program "included work and play as well as study, (making use of all equipment all of the time)...and giving the pupils the benefit of expert supervision in subjects and investing the city child's leisure time."(Charles A. Rice, "The Platoon School")
During the 1940's Glencoe students once again planted Victory Gardens, this time 225 square feet of radishes, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, all of which were sold to "fight for freedom and peace." The gardens were patriotically bordered by red, white and blue flowers. The Girl Scouts of the time also recycled fats for the war effort. In 1942, when an air raid drill occurred, students were to head for home as fast as possible. If they were unable to make it home in 15 minutes they were expected to go to an assigned house, the equivalent of today's Block Home. Safety patrols (boys only) patrolled the crossings at 49th and Stark and 50th and Belmont.
Moving rapidly through history, we find that by 1955-56 the safety patrol still consisted only of boys, and only boys in eighth grade. According to Alice Campbell (1956), both boys and girls could work as cafeteria assistants in eighth grade, but still only girls took home economics and only boys took shop. There were separate boys' and girls' gyms where the playcourt and Mrs. Seet's classrooms are today, and when boys chased girls and vice versa, the gym was the safest place to run. Does this sound familiar?
The class of 1956 presented two flowering trees to Glencoe. One remains today outside of Mr. Johnson's classroom, and that one has seen and heard much. Most recently a group of Campfire Girls (now Mt. Tabor students) used to meet under its branches on warm spring afternoons. It is a very restful spot. Another famous Glencoe landmark, the great fir on the playground, was cut down sometime in the 1960's to accommodate Little League play on the field. The fir was too large to be transplanted, but the house now on the corner of Morrison and 49th was luckier. It used to reside on the Glencoe playground, but in the early 1900's the school district effected a trade of property to acquire the land on which the house sat. The entire house was just picked up and moved across the street.
Before the present gym was built, the south side entrance to Glencoe was half a floor above where it is now. The door opened onto a landing between the first and second floors, so students came in and went either up or down, as in a split level house.
In the 1950's and 1960's only 7th and 8th graders could sit in the balcony for auditorium performances. That same privilege applies to today's 4th and 5th graders. Students from the 1960's remember bomb and air raid drills - much more exciting than fire drills - and ballroom dancing in the cafeteria at night. Informed sources note that the reason the cafeteria floor is flat instead of slanted like an auditorium is that when the room was being built a group wanted to use it for square dancing at night. Eating lunch with a sloped floor might have been quite interesting, not to say challenging, however. Mr. Hering is another fond memory of students from the 1960's. He started teaching at Glencoe in 1963, and has been at Glencoe longer than any other present teacher. When interviewed, Mr. Johnson said that he had been teaching at Glencoe for 17 years, and that he was now 32 years old. He was certainly one of the youngest staff members when he started at age 15!
Glencoe's last year as a kindergarten through eighth grade school was 1978-79. In 1979 it became a kindergarten through fifth grade school in accordance with the new middle school plan adopted by the Portland School Board. In the 1920's the enrollment of first through eighth graders approached 400 students. In the 1970's, enrollment exceeded 700 students, and today it stands at 550, including kindergarten and special education students. In the early 1900's the Portland School District required even "subnormal children " to receive what it termed "proper education" in the public school setting. Today every child in Portland, regardless of intelligence, race, language or country of birth, is entitled to a free and appropriate public education, and Glencoe continues to fulfill and exceed these requirements.
Today our principal is Jim Williams, who has been at Glencoe since the start of the 1985 school year. Jim's career started off rather flamboyantly with three firedrills, including one real fire, the first week of school. Not many principals get this warm a welcome - or was history just trying to repeat itself? The school secretary is Mrs. Sue Parman, herself a Glencoe graduate. Many Glencoe graduates still live in the neighborhood and send their own children to Glencoe. Some have grandchildren at the school this year. This says much for the continued quality of life in the neighborhood, even though we don't have an observation tower in Mt. Tabor Park!
This booklet concludes with comments by four reporters from the "Glencoe: Then and Now" mini-class that took place this winter. These "now" students helped create this booklet, and it is our hope that in the coming years they may be helpful to the next generation of students as previous generations have been to them. What is history, if not stories of the past told to creators of the future?
Hi! My name is Andrea Encubahre. In kindergarten I had Mrs. McDaniel. She was very nice. But Mrs. McDaniel's class always seemed like a zoo because she had so many animals. In first grade I had Miss Mendenhal. She was my favorite teacher so far. In second grade I had Mrs. Fisher. Mrs. Fisher was not my favorite teacher. In third grade I had Mrs. Daines. She was my favorite teacher. In fourth grade I have Mr. Hering, and he is the best.
My name is Thomas Fry. I was seven in the first grade. I had Mrs. Jeppesen. She was the best teacher in the world. In second grade I had Mrs. Fisher. She was a good teacher. Third grade I had Mrs. Berry. She was as good as Mrs. Jeppesen. In fourth grade I have Mr. Hering. I like him a lot. I think he is the best teacher in the world, too. I interviewed my dad. He said that he had to walk to school and yes, you ate at school. No he did not become a safety patrol. Bill Fry, my dad, was at Glencoe from 1957 to 1965, and he says one of the greatest changes he has seen is Mr. Hering's beard.
My name is John MacKay. I started kindergarten at Glencoe in 1982-83. My teacher was Mrs. Crosby, and she was very nice. In first grade my teacher was Miss Mendenhal. We had some lizards and some polywogs. In second grade I had Mrs. Brocksen. She had lots of Legos in her room. In third grade I had Mrs. Daines. If we didn't talk on a firedrill, we'd have a free recess. In fourth grade I have Mr. Johnson. If he lost a pen he'd blame it on me.
There wasn't a cafeteria in the old school. They didn't have safety patrols. They had a band. The colors were blue and gold. I interviewed Mr. Johnson and I asked him this question: What was the biggest change since you've been here? He said "The school changing from 8th to 5th."
Hi! My name is Alexis Weisenberg. I interviewed Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson has been teaching for seventeen years. He is one of the three longest teachers that have been teaching here. I had Mrs. Jeppesen in first grade. She is super nice. I had Mrs. Seet in second grade. She was very strict. I had Mrs. Segovia in third grade. She was so so nice. I had Mr. Johnson in fourth grade. He told me he was 32 but I doubt it.
In the history of Glencoe School it should be mentioned that the name Glencoe is of Scottish origin, deriving from the infamous Massacre of the MacDonalds of Glencoe (Argyle) by the Campbells of Glenlyon. The highland Scots were none to eager to swear allegiance to King James I of England (who was also James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots), but by the end of the year 1691 all clans but the MacDonalds had so sworn. In February of 1692, the clan Campbell, under Campbell of Glenlyon, planned revenge - for the Campbells were loyal to the British king. The Campbells visited the MacDonalds and presented friendship. Believing them, the MacDonalds treated them as honored guests, fed them, and offered them beds for the night. In the middle of the night the Campbells arose and murdered their hosts in their beds, burning their houses down around them and turning any survivors out into the snow.
This, then, was the Massacre at Glencoe.
Hawk, Alvin S. Map of Portland, Oregon, 1907
Villa St. = Glisan
West Ave. = 60th south of Stark
Mt. Tabor Ave. = 60th north of Stark
Baseline Road = Stark
Sectionline Road = Division
Oregon Educational Journal, April, 1927, "he Platoon System," by Charles A. Rice
Oregon Journal: March 20, 1957, March 21, 1957, August 16, 1976
Portland City Directory, 1896-1913
School District Annual Reports, 1906-1921
School Distrcit Staff Reports, 1922-1986
Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association files, "From Forest to Families," by Grant Nelson
This booklet would have been impossible to write without the contributions of the following people:
Norman Goudy, Ethel Goudy Andrews, Will (Willie) Wood, Myrtle Alexander Wilson, Jean Hargrave, Beatrice B. Buckley, Ive Kirk, Blanche Roise, Sue Sholain, Sue Parman, Diane Schlicker, Alice Campbell
Andrea Encubahre, Thomas Fry, John MacKay, Alexis Weisenberg
And most especially Dorothy Laws, without whose help in pulling all these people together we would never even have started!
As editor I have tried to maintain a balance of fact and fun. The facts are as correct as the Oregon Historical Society's records and the school district's archives. The fun is in the memories of our interviewees, who were as delightful and fascinating a group as I may ever hope to meet. If our children recall their school years as fondly, there will be plenty of reason to produce Glencoe: Then and Now, Part II.