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Whatever happened to the Class of '17?

100 years of diplomas, graduations and a lifetime of hopes and dreams in West Linn

The years 1916 and 1917 were big ones for West Linn.

The U.S. had finally entered the Great War in Europe and local boys were leaving for military service.

Workers at the Crown-Willamette paper mill were on strike, holding out for 25 cents an hour and overtime wages.

And the little community of Willamette — with just four seniors in its high school — was annexed into neighboring West Linn, making this month’s group of graduates the 100th graduating class in West Linn.CLACKAMAS COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY - Willamette School was doubled in size in in 1912 but high school students still attended class in Oregon City for many years. It was 1917 before it had its first batch of graduates.

According to Kevin Mills, principal of today’s West Linn High School, while somewhere along the line some people in the community pointed to 2016 as the 100th class of West Linn High School graduates, that would be incorrect. The school considers 2020 to be its red letter year.

“That’s the year the first seniors of West Linn High School graduated from West Linn High and that’s a big deal so we’d like to celebrate it all year long,” he said.

West Linn High School on A Street was not built until 1920. So those first seniors to get their diplomas in 1917 attended classes in a temporary building at Willamette Grade School and judging by public records, all came from relatively modest means.

Vivian Bartholomew’s family was living in West Oregon City in 1910, according to the census, which listed the home’s street address simply as “Graveled Road.” Her father, William Bartholomew, was a teamster, and later, a mill worker.

Marvin Woolfolk’s father was a farmer and in 1912 the family was drawn into a murder trial when a casual laborer on their Willamette-area place was arrested in a double homicide connected to a robbery.

Fred Junken’s father was an electrician in 1910, out of work and living in a rental home on Walnut Street in Willamette with a wife and six children. Later Junken’s father began working as a carpenter.

Linn Van Cleve — whose given name was Bertram — was several years older than his fellow graduates and it’s unclear why he finished school so late. In 1910 he was living with his mother and stepfather, a farmer, in Barlow. Later his stepfather began working for the West Linn paper mill as a grinder.

The four classmates appear sporadically in public records during their teens. Vivian walked in the Portland Rose Parade in 1912 with some other Willamette children. She became secretary of the Industrial Club (akin to today’s 4-H) and “fourth vice-president of the Epworth League.”

In 1912 Fred earned a second prize for handiwork, including a towel rack and magazine holder.

And in 1917, the year of their graduation, Fred, Marvin and Ed Buckles — Vivian’s future husband — served as pallbearers for a younger classmate who was killed after a train he was jumping from severed his leg.

The four classmates graduated June 1, 1917, in a ceremony in Willamette, as reported in the Oregon City newspaper: “Vivian Bartholomew, Marvin Woolfolk, Fred Junken and Lynn Van Cleave graduated from Willamette high school Friday night. A program consisting on the following numbers was given: orchestra selection; Vivian Bartholomew, salutatory; Mr. Theroux, violin solo; Marvin Woolfolk, oration ‘The Immigration Problem’; Miss Morieta Hickman, vocal solo; Vivian Bartholomew, essay ‘Patriotism’; orchestra selection; Fred Junken, valedictory; orchestra selection. Mr. C.B. Wilson presented diplomas to the graduates.”

After graduation, life sped up for the four West Linners. Initially Vivian remained at home with her parents, three siblings and her grandmother, a milliner. By 1920 Vivian was working as a clerk in a store and her older sister Clara, listed as divorced in the census, is also living at the family home with her eight-year-old son and working as a music teacher. Later that same year Vivian married Ed Buckles, a millworker, and the couple settled in the Willamette area where they purchasd a home. West Linn High School's first annual, in 1920 -- three years after the city's first graduates accepted diplomas on a primary school stage.

Marvin headed for University of Oregon; in June 1921 the Oregon City Enterprise published this: “Marvin Beverly Woolfolk of Oswego, majoring in commerce, will be graduating from the school of business administration and will be granted the degree of bachelor of business administration.” During his time at U of O he was named an alternate for West Point Academy.

According to records Fred also attended the U of O but probably not before a stint in in the armed forces, which is also where Linn headed after graduation.

In 1918 the newspaper reported: “Military training has again been taken up at the Willamette school. Both the high school board and the grammar school board secured the services of Perry Barnes, who gives three weekly drills, not only to the boys but to the girls. Several of the older boys intend to enlist this coming summer and they hope that these drills may give them the same advantages that those last year gave those who had them, for both Arthur Rogers and Linn Van Cleve, who are now in service in France, report advancement on account of the knowledge of military tactics received through Willamette School.”

Linn fought in many key Army battles in France and Germany. By May of 1919, he was on a steamship back to the U.S., accompanied by his uncle, a physician and retired military man.

Like countless other WWI soldiers, Linn — nephew and grandson of military veterans — had been exposed to toxic gasses on the battlefield.

For a short time Linn resumed his life in Oregon, working as a guard at a mill in Toledo, Oregon, but his wartime injuries were too severe and he died in a veteran’s hospital in Tacoma at the age of 26, in 1921.

Fred, too, died tragically young. After his Navy service Fred resumed his architecture degree at U of O, and in September 1922 the local paper mentioned his return to Eugene for his junior year.

However in February 1924, before his graduation, the same paper published his obituary, citing complications from an appendicitis operation as the cause of death.

In the ensuing decades Vivian Buckles remained in West Linn, where she raised her children.

Marvin Woolfolk, president of the Industrial Club at Willamette High School, entered the business world and married late, at age 35. In the interim he became very involved with a local hiking club, ascending many peaks around the region, and relocated to Portland. Years later he again appeared in public record, this time as the father of the Portland Rose Festival Queen, his daughter Mary.

Leslie Pugmire Hole can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 103 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..