Forty years later, return to school is bittersweet
- David Kern
- Portland Tribune - Opinion
PERSPECTIVE • Beaumont School’s 75th anniversary sparks memories and then-and-now observations
I walked the halls of stately Beaumont School last week, 40 years after I graduated. Figured I should take a look before the school's 75-year anniversary next week.
Things are different.
I loved the school, which I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade. It's a middle school now Ñ has been for 22 quick years.
The 450-seat auditorium with its balcony is gone. It's office space and a media center now. Back in my era, the school was so crowded that the library with its glass doors was often used as a classroom.
Up to 900 of us crammed into Beaumont in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, there are 649 students.
The wood shop that was lovingly cared for by Mr. Lovegren is gone, as is the home ec room. Both were victims of budget cuts. They use those classrooms for math and science these days.
The downstairs cafeteria now is used for computer rooms, health classrooms and the special-education office. I remember pleasant lunches, sometimes sitting next to the lovely Caryl Kaleshnik. We got our polio shots in that cafeteria.
The outdoor basketball court, where we played hours of three-on-three games, is now the grass outfield for the Wilshire Little League's Stanich Field.
Teachers seemed to stay decades at Beaumont in those days. Not so much today. There are two part-time counselors at Beaumont now. No counselors in my day, but I certainly got some 'David, out in the hall!' admonishments from my teachers. Police officers visit the school once or twice a week now. That rarely happened in my day. And school financing and the tenure of superintendents were stable, or so it seemed.
Beaumont was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in. For drama, we had an uninhabited mansion on Northeast 35th Avenue (first known as Barnes Castle), which spawned stories Ñ all untrue, I'm sure Ñ about dastardly deeds committed within.
We had great sledding hills: 39th, 32nd, 32nd Place. And it snowed then.
We had pharmacies with soda fountains, a five-and-dime store, even a parade up Fremont Street on the opening day of Little League. Blaesing Field was a classic Little League park, with dugouts and a press box. And Play Day with maypole dancing on the Beaumont playgrounds was a festive end to each school year.
The Kerns lived on Northeast 37th Avenue, at the corner of Failing. The kids were regulars at Charlie's cafe, just a block from the school, where we ordered Cokes and french fries. Just west of Charlie's stood Art's Barber Shop. Art didn’t like it when vandals used white wax on the glass to mark an 'F' in front of his name on Halloween nights. Then there was Rose's 24 Flavors, a wonderful ice cream store just four blocks from school.
My favorite teacher was Tom Marineau, who taught me as a sixth-grader in 1960. I decided to call him.
'I was flattered I was able to teach there,' he said. 'I thought we had great kids and wonderful teachers.'
Marineau left the school for a period and returned to be principal of the middle school from 1985 to 1990. He's 72 today and lives in West Sylvan.
Early on at Beaumont, we learned we had a graduate who became a movie star. When she graduated from Beaumont in 1943, the parents of Suzanne Burce took her to Hollywood to become another Shirley Temple. She took the name Jane Powell and became famous for movies such as 'A Date with Judy' in 1948 and 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' in 1954.
Students a couple of decades later could brag that Beaumont was the alma mater of Gordon Fullerton, the astronaut who was commander of the STS-51F Spacelab 2 mission, launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 29, 1985.
But for me, our biggest celebrity was Linda Jackson, who became Queen of Rosaria in 1963. She lived with her three athletic brothers and parents in a white house on Alameda Street.
So that was then. How about now?
Beaumont added an annex in 1989, and that's where the cafeteria and multipurpose room are.
Roses 24 Flavors? They're putting up a blocky building where we used to buy Humdinger milkshakes.
Charlie's cafe is now Kim Hong restaurant.
Art's Barber Shop now is Americana Frame.
Fremont Street is trendy but certainly nice.
Jane Powell lives in New York City, has a country home in Connecticut and keeps up with her friend from Bryce Street, Shirley Bender Hanna (Beaumont Class of 1942).
Linda Jackson Moore lives in Bend with her husband, Craig Moore, and is a mother of two and a grandmother.
Perhaps Betty McCall Sweeney can best answer the then-now questions about Beaumont School and neighborhood. She graduated from the school in 1937, saw three sons and two grandsons graduate from Beaumont and was a substitute teacher there for 15 years. She and her husband, Pat, still live two blocks away.
'The school still has an excellent reputation,' she said. 'The neighborhood has remained absolutely tops. It's a great place to raise a family.'
It's a shame that Blaesing Field near Amalfi's is gone, but the Rose City Cemetery needed the land for customers and closed the ballpark in 1980. Jon Ollenshaw, the cemetery manager, said, 'There's grave sites almost to home plate.'
And the mansion? Somebody has done a great job of refurbishing it.
I'll introduce myself on the way to the reunion.