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The 100-year-old school

A community celebration is set for Sept. 24 to commemorate the 100 years since Garden Home School opened for business
by: Submitted photo This was the first group of kids to attend the Garden Home School, even before the official school opened in the fall of 1912. They attended class in a room above the Jager Grocery Store, which was located where the Dairy Queen sits today. Garden Home will celebrate the school’s century mark on Saturday, Sept. 24, with a full slate of activities.

It was 100 years ago this month - September 1911 - that kids started going to Garden Home School.

That first year they gathered upstairs over Chris Jager's store (where Dairy Queen now sits) because the real school wasn't finished yet.

'Meeting above the store that year was a milestone,' said Virginia Vanture, one of the founders of the Garden Home History Project, host of a special centennial celebration set for Sept. 24. 'And they went there while the school was being built.'

'Garden Home was a one-through-eight school,' explained Elaine Shreve, also a prime instigator of the History Project and an organizer of the 100th anniversary event. 'Then, after eighth grade, you had the choice of going either to Tigard or Beaverton high schools.'

Clark Stephens, 82, was one of those who got to pick his high school after eighth-grade graduation. He chose Tigard, he said with a sly smile, because that bus came a half-hour later than the bus to Beaverton High - 'and that meant you got a little more time to sleep.'

In those days, of course, Tigard High was at the east end of Main Street, where it joins Pacific Highway. RiteAid and Value Village sit where the old school was.

Later, the choice of high schools disappeared, and Garden Home School grads all went to Beaverton. Bob Day, 71, was one of those, and so was Louise Jones, 63. Day graduated from Garden Home School in 1954, Jones in '62.

Stephens, Day and Jones were all in the old school last week - now the Garden Home Recreation Center - at the invitation of the History Project women, to talk about their school days.

'These folks all went to the school,' said Shreve as she made introductions. 'And when they were in eighth grade, graduation from eighth grade was a big deal.'

For example, she said, music was a big part of the eighth-grade graduation ceremony, and like many such schools of that time, Garden Home School had a band and an orchestra.

Stephens played an instrument, he acknowledged with a shrug, as if to say, who didn't? Another was Jones, who performed at her own graduation ceremony.

'It was hot, and I was sweaty,' she said, recalling the event as if it weren't almost 50 years ago. 'I played a flute - three of us played flute.'

A slate of activities is planned Sept. 24 to commemorate the life of the school, even though it began before any official school building was there to welcome the first class.

'We are celebrating the first group of children attending the school in the old Jager grocery store,' said Shreve of the events planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that Saturday.

Among the day's activities will be tours of the school, a slide show of 'Old Garden Home,' displays of old photos and scrapbooks, some class reunions, a short program of speeches and introductions, box lunches (for those who reserve ahead) and sales of the 2012 Historic Garden Home Calendar, for $12, with proceeds going to the History Project.

Details about the event and other Garden Home history, as well as reservations for box lunches, can be found by visiting the organization's website, GardenHomeHistory.com.

Probably one key to the success of the school, the history ladies insist, was the caliber of the community itself. And Clark Stephens had a thought about that.

'I think one indication of the stability of the community was, there were nine of us in my eighth-grade graduating class, and out of those nine, seven of us started first grade together,' said Stephens.

Day, who came along two decades later, saw the same pattern, but with more students. When he graduated eighth grade in 1954, he said, the class numbered 31.

Eight years later, Jones' class came along - 'and there were 50,' she said.

The school went through a number of changes over the years. The first school opened in 1912. In 1937, it was drastically remodeled, and a gymnasium added. The building that now operates the rec center was constructed in 1953, by Fritz Reinhardt, a local resident.

Stephens remembered some of the irony of the school's humble beginnings.

'We had this wonderful new gymnasium, but we didn't have money for basketballs.' So, he added, 'We used a volleyball to play prison ball.'

Jones recalled the basic layout of the school as unique. Because it was sort of a split-level arrangement, she said, 'You went up to the classrooms or you went down to the cafeteria below.'

Another sign of the community's small-town, almost rural, feel, explained Jones, was a group led by her mother, Melva Cook. 'Every single girl in my class was in Camp Fire,' she said.

Vanture and Shreve hasten to add, though, that the centennial celebration is not only for people who went to the school. The entire community is urged to attend, they said.

'We want to emphasize that everyone is invited,' said Shreve. 'I did have one query: 'Is this just for students?' But we want everyone to come.'