By Barney Klahn
Shuwah School, District 24, located on the Gaydeski road, was a one-room school and heated by a large wood stove. I started there in 1927 and all eight grades were in the same room. Restrooms were two outhouses, one for the boys and the other for the girls. The teacher lived in a cottage about 150 feet from the school. Charlie Marshall and his wife later made it into a nice home.
My Grandfather, Theadore Klahn, was transporting kids to school then using a 1926 Dodge touring car that had side curtains to close it in during cold weather. The school was about a mile and a half from the ranch, where we lived, and he would take us kids to school first then pick up the rest of the kids and I believe that he went almost to Lake creek to the Spaulding home.
The wood for the school was stored in a combination woodshed and garage, where the teachers kept their cars and was just a few feet from the schoolhouse. Above the garage part was a sort of platform that we called Lamoureux’s den. Ed Lamoureux was a teacher there about 1920. I don’t know why the platform was there but us boys used it to play on.
In my first year at school, the teacher’s name was Miss Lewis and she had her sister living with her. The sister’s name was Jose and she was going to high school in Forks. Us kids in the first three grades got out of school at 3:30 p.m. and we would play in the schoolyard until 4 p.m., as the rest of the kids had to stay in until then. We got one baseball a year and that is what we would play.
The sister got to the cottage from high school about 3:45 p.m. and I was generally elected to get her to play with us until school let out.
As we only got one baseball a year we had to make sure that we didn’t lose it. The back of the schoolyard was on the bank of the Solduck river which was about 60ft. below. The bank was covered with brush and small trees. There was a bell tower in the front of the school building and the teacher would ring the large bell that hung there when classes were to start. Once in a while, just before the bell was to ring afternoon hour, one of the bigger boys, Jim Klahn or Dudly (Dud) Maxfield, would knock the ball over the river bank and we would all be down there looking for it when the bell rang. It would maybe give us another five minutes of recess which we thought was a big deal.
Another thing some of us boys would do to get a little extra recess time was to hide in Lamoureux’s den when the bell rang.
When the teacher came out to get us we would give the excuse that we hadn’t heard the bell. I don’t think that we fooled her very much. When I went into the second grade a Miss Francis O’Connor came to teach. She was still there when I was in the sixth grade and then had to leave and go to school in Forks the last half of that term as our house burned down and my parents moved into town.
Miss O’Connor was fairly strict and made you learn. She was probably the best teacher that I ever had. All of the students and most of the parents liked her. The year that I was in the second grade she let us all go on a nature study walk, as if a bunch of farm kids needed that, and we really pulled a boo-boo.
Don Maxfield was the oldest boy and he led the bunch of us. The kids as I remember were, Don and Darrell (Ruff) Maxfield, three sisters Gloria, Eleanor and Anita Maxfield, Anna, Dan, Russell and myself, Barney Klahn, Ruth, Ben and Nathan (Tay) Iverson, and a couple more that I can’t remember. We quickly ate our lunch and took off. There was a swinging bridge near the school that crossed the river and a tower on the opposite side that the bridge led to, with steps to the ground. We crossed that and took off for the hills. Our destination was an old spar-tree on a hill behind the school and a couple of miles away. Buster Klahn, who was a brother of Dan Klahn, who was a steam yarder engineer when the area was logged a few years before, had been killed there.
We were going to leave some mementos on that spar-tree for him. One o’clock came and we were supposed to be in class but were still on the way up the hill, so Don set his watch back an hour for an excuse. We got to the tree and left what we could find such as railroad spikes, maybe an old shackle or two and I left a Molly-Hogan that I found, then we headed back to school.
Don set his watch back another hour. As we climbed the steps to the tower platform and crossed the bridge, Miss O’Connor stood there and stared at each one of us as we walked by. We were all scared and knew that we were in trouble. It was 3:30 p.m. The teacher followed us into school, stood behind her desk, and said, “Well, get out your books and finish the day studying.” She never punished us for our act but years later I visited her in Pt. Angeles and asked her about it. She laughed and said that if it had been two or three kids she would have punished us but the whole school really had her stumped.
The different classes were somewhat separated, as much as could be in that one room, and the teacher would teach each class keeping her eye on the rest of the kids. It could really get cold in the winter months. We would get quite a bit of snow and we would make snow forts and have snowball fights. My mother would slip heavy home knit wool socks over us kid’s feet, shoes, and all. It really helped to keep our feet warm.
On those cold days, we would move our desks up around the stove in a semi-circle to keep warm. The little kids were set up near the stove and the bigger ones in rows behind them. The big up-right barrel type stove was set back in an alcove with just the front of it open to the classroom.
Almost all the families then sent a can of soup to school with their kids and just before noon the soup would be set on top of the stove to get hot. It really worked good.
About 1930 they put inside toilets in the storeroom of the school. We were really coming up in the world, just like up-town.
There was a large play area next to the school that had three swings in one end. One day kids were swinging and others were chasing one another around the shed. Tay Iverson ran by one of the swings just as the swing was coming up and the metal end of the seat hit him on the side of his forehead. It knocked him cold. We carried him into the school and put him on a bench.
His sister, Ruth, put cold cloths on his head but it was quite a while before he came too. He didn’t do any studying the rest of the day as the teacher made him stay down.
There was an alder tree next to the play-shed that had lots of limbs. Us boys would play tag in that tree. Charlie Marshall was like a cat. He could get around in those limbs faster than anyone else without ever falling. One time he was up about thirty feet and dropped to the ground catching limbs on the way down to slow his fall.
One year we got new swings for outside. The frame was made of pipe and there were three swings in line on the top bar. It was set up with the legs just setting on the ground. One day three boys and I believe they were Dan and Russell Klahn and Darrell (Ruff) Maxfield, were swinging and each trying to go higher than the other and the frame tipped over. One of the boys got hurt and Louise Gaydeski, who lived across the road from the school and saw it happen, took the boy into her house and patched him up.
After that, the legs of the frame were buried in the ground a foot or so. In the spring Miss O’Connor would have the smaller kids dig up a narrow stretch of ground alongside the school building on the sunny side and they would plant daffodils.
When the flowers came up they would keep them weeded. Many times on Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, Miss O’Connor would let us out of school early in the afternoon and she would bring out a couple of grocery sacks of oranges and bananas which was a treat to us as about the only other time we saw that kind of fruit was at Christmas.
One Christmas we kids put on a play. I and Joyce Klahn had the main parts at the beginning of the play. I had to make a long talk first off. The night of the play and everybody in the district was at the school, I came up hoarse. I don’t know what the reason was but I could say a few words and then nothing but squawks and then a few more words.
The teacher took me to her cottage and made me suck the juice of two lemons and that helped a little. When the play got started I went into my speech. Jim Klahn and “Dud” Maxfield, who were in high school then, were sitting on a table in the back of the room. I started my speech and a few words would come out then a few squawks and a few more words.
It didn’t help any when those two would laugh at my squawks as they got a kick out of that. The rest of the people just snickered. It was embarrassing for me but I got through it.
A few years after our “Nature Study Hike” the swinging bridge fell down one night just after Don Maxfield had crossed it. Luck must have been with him that night. The Maxfield kids who came to the bridge by horse and sled then had to cross the river by canoe. Later the County built a swinging bridge, big enough for cars and light trucks, at the end of the Iverson Road, and the school bus probably picked the kids up then.
There was a bell tower above the front of the school with a ladder leading from the wood box up into the tower where the bell hung. There was also a skull hanging near the top of the ladder. One day some of us kids decided to climb the ladder and look at the bell which was fairly large. I don’t know who went first but a girl went second and I was third. Everything went fine until the girl got to where the skull was and saw it looking at her through the rungs of the ladder.
I guess it startled her so much that she let go of the ladder and down she went with me on the bottom. We landed in the woodpile and I got by with just a few scrapes. Seems like that skull went to the High School in Forks.
One morning us kids from the ranch were walking up the hill to catch the bus to school. At that time my Grandfather, Theodore Klahn, used his car as a school bus and it was parked in a garage on the highway where the Klahn road is now. Howard Klahn was driving the bus and as we headed up the hill I was just poking along. I was mad about something or another and taking my time out of orneriness. The other kids and Howard went on ahead of me. They got into the bus and Howard backed it out of the garage just as I got there and he drove on to school leaving me standing there. It was about a mile and a half to school and nothing to do but walk, so I did. At that time Crescent Log had a high-lead side working about a half-mile west of the Gaydeski road so I stopped and watched them for a few minutes yarding and loading a railroad car with logs. One of the men hollered and asked me if I had missed the bus. That didn’t help my disposition any and I probably just grunted at him and headed for school. The railroad ran close to the highway there and the guy-lines from the spar tree stretched across the road. Try that in this day and age.
A few days later I asked Howard why he left me and he said that he wasn’t about to put up with any foolishness from an ornery kid. I learn another lesson.
One year Dan Klahn and I cut wood for the school. We had a little Vaughn drag saw and an old pickup of some kind. We sold most of the clear wood to other people and kept the knots for the school as they could be put into the big heater and gave out more heat. It took us all summer to fill that woodshed but we got it done. I think that we got $5.50 a cord.
When Richard Iverson, Cyrus (Perk). Maxfield and I were the oldest boys in school Miss O’Connor would let us go out to the highway after lunch to get the mail. The mail then came by bus at about 11:30 a.m.
In the spring when the salmonberry shoots were coming up we would cut them off, peel the skin off and eat the pulp. One day, when we were after the mail, we saw several of Louie Klahn’s cows that had gotten out of their pasture and were in the brush near the school. We asked the teacher if we could chase them back to where they belonged and she let us but told us not to take too much time.
It took us about an hour as it was only about half a mile to their pasture. I wonder how many other teachers would do that.
Us boys got to wondering, one time if Miss O’Connor was scared of living alone at the cottage. Either Dan Klahn or Charlie Marshall finally asked her about it and she said “No, that she kept a pistol under her pillow.”
Well, we stewed on that for a while and one spring evening Russell and I went to the school and met Dan and Charlie. We started playing around in the schoolyard and as it got darker we moved closer to her cottage. We probably got to within about twenty feet of it when a window was slammed open and we heard Bam Bam. As tense as we were and our imaginations in high gear we just knew that she had shot at us. I don’t remember which way Dan and Charley went but Russell and I dove over the fence and headed for home as fast as we could run.
A few days later one of us got up enough nerve to ask her about it and she laughed and said that she had stuck her head out of the window and hollered and let our imagination do the rest. She really had us pegged.
One Halloween my mother gave a party for all of the school kids and the parents who wanted to come, at our place on the ranch. Miss O’Connor ordered two five-gallon containers of ice cream for the party.
That day only one container, which was packed in a sort of cloth container so that it would stay cold, came by mail bus. We had the party and ate up all of the ice cream, which was a real treat to us kids.
The next day the other container showed up on the bus and my mother got word to the teacher and she told Mom to use it up. Between the two families on the ranch and three men who were cutting pulpwood there, we finished up the ice cream in a couple of days.
I enjoyed the years that I went to school at Shuwah and I suppose that all of the other students did too. I still think that Miss O’Connor was the best teacher that I ever had. I don’t think that there was a student or parent that didn’t like her. She must have retired in the 1930s but I believe that during World War II she went back to teaching at the old Beaver school. The last time I saw her was in 1951 when I stopped to visit her in Pt. Angeles as I was passing through on my way to Forks. Those little country schools are more or less a thing of the past nowadays.