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Meadow School Memories

      Exterior of Meadow School, 1938, which later became the Ingman family home. All photos courtesy of the Eloise Ingman Stendal family. Eloise married Bill Stendal of Sedro-Woolley and both attended Skagit County Junior College and Western Washington State College before teaching in District 101.

By Eloise Ingman Stendal
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      My first memory of Meadow School took place in 1933 when I was four years of age, having been born the year the Great Depression began. My mother, Ethel Ingman, had just been hired by the Meadow School Board to serve as teacher of Grades 5 to 8. It was very unusual for a married woman to be hired in those days, especially when my father was a social worker for the State. However, the Board Chairman, Miss Nellie I.P. Lee, said there was no reason Mrs. Ingman couldn't be married and still teach school.
      Our family was offered the use of the teacher's cottage on the school grounds. It was actually just one big room, with a partition down the middle dividing it into two equal sized spaces. My two older brothers had just graduated from Mount Vemon High in May and were off to the U. of W., so that left just my 12 year old brother Dave, myself and my patents to live in the cottage. It was sparsely furnished, a couple of beds and a cot, a small kitchen, a davenport, and that's about it. No indoor plumbing.
      At four years of age and there being no one for me to stay with during school hours, my Mother suggested I attend school as a kindergartener in Miss Florence Nederle's class of grades one through four. Actually, I just did what the other students did, so we forgot about the kindergarten idea. I remember the classroom fondly. (See the photo — I am in the front seat.)
      A painting of Blue Boy hung in front of the classroom, a raised sandbox was at the rear, and an occasionally-used wind-up record player with the famous RCA r dog on the cover was located near the back door. We had blackboards on two sides of the classroom and spent quite a bit of time working up there. (One of the younger boys was at the board near me one day and was reluctant to ask to go to outside to the bathroom. It wasn't long before the chalk and erasers were floating in the chalk tray.)

We entertained ourselves and each other

(Meadow school students 1933-34)
      Meadow school students 1933-34. Click this photo to see a larger size with more detail.

      Miss Nederle was an attractive young lady and in 1936 she decided to leave and marry a fellow from the Midwest. Her replacement was Mrs. Brock, the wife of the local Superintendent of Schools. She was nice matronly lady and I enjoyed her as a 4th grader. The next year, my Mother was my 5m grade teacher. In the small country schools, a lot of time was spent in preparing a Christmas program for the parents and the community. Shortly after Thanksgiving that year, we started practicing The Bird's Christmas Carol, a humorous story about a fragile little rich girl who invited her poor, but happy, next-door neighbor children for Christmas Eve dinner.
      We literally practiced every day until the BIG day arrived. Everyone in the community arrived for this special program and the school was packed! I made sure I would make it this time, because a few years earlier I had practiced a Christmas piece until I knew it by heart. When the big day arrived, I took a nap and was so sound asleep they couldn't wake me up. I missed the whole performance. I wasn't going to let that happen again!
      Recess was always a highlight of the day and our playground was great! We had four swings and loved to pump up as high as we could go, while the boys below would be teasing us with "I see London, I see France, I see (someone's) underpants!" Then there were the Giant Strides — a tall metal pole with a dozen or so long chains attached at the top and with heavy iron handles below to hold onto while running and swinging around the pole. It was kind of treacherous because if someone took off and left one of those swinging, it could knock a person out.
      We played lots of Anti-I-Over the wood shed, and Cops and Robbers by climbing up a ladder onto the woodshed. We also had quite a large gym to play in on rainy days, and a big baseball diamond in the field behind the schoolhouse. I don't ever remember having a teacher on duty during our recess times, so we all had to solve playground problems by ourselves.

Farming area south of Mount Vernon

(Grades 1-4, Meadow)
      Grades 1-4, Meadow School, 1936. Miss Florence Nederle is the teacher. Eloise is in the front seat.

      After school there was always lots to do. The school was located three miles south of Mount Vernon and was accessed by driving south on Hiway 99, then west on Hickox Road, and south on River Road to the school. The Skagit River was just over the dike in front of the school. Years ago a dock had been built for a ferry across the river, and part of the dock remained as a great fishing site. We really could catch a nice trout with just a bent safety pin and some thin string for a line.
      We loved to go from farm to farm checking out all the animals, especially the cows and horses, and barns with hay lofts, etc. I was always one to take a dare, so when I was dared to go into Mr. Dexter's bull pen while waving a red flag, I did. Fortunately, Corky, my best friend and terrier, came to my rescue when the bull came charging at me. Corky barked at his heels and distracted him long enough for me to escape under the barbed wire fence!
      Corky was my constant companion from the day my Aunt Hazel gave him to me when we moved to Meadow until his death in Mount Vemon seven years later. One day he chased a skunk and got sprayed. He smelled so bad that he was soaped and dunked in a metal scrub pan while the clothes I was wearing ended up being burned outside. Another time he played hunter and came home with a beautiful Chinese pheasant that we had for dinner that night.
      It was fun to go down to the Swanson's house and barn. We loved to watch the Holstein cows come obediently into the bam to be milked. All Joyce or Lincoln had to do was go out and call Dolly. Then all the others would fall in behind her and go to their appointed stalls to be milked. They had milking machines, but it was also fun to watch the Dexter's as they milked their Jersey cows by hand. Archie or Rolland would squirt some milk at us if we got too close. Every morning we had a quart of that Jersey milk with the thick cream at the top to put on our cereal.
      A couple of my friends had horses; Betty Finkle and Jeannine Ingman, (my cousin) and we would ride bareback all around the farms. One time several of us got hired to weed spinach on Jeannine's parents' farm, but I got fired because I was a slow weeder.
      We also had a slough that froze up during the winter, located a half mile or so from the school. In the winter we loved to go down there and slide on the ice. Some of the older kids had ice skates. A few parents showed up with their skates, too, and it was fun to warm up by a blazing camp tire. It got a little dangerous when the weather warmed up a bit and more than one person had to be pulled out with a rope thrown to them.

Phone and radio fun, 60 years before iPods
(Meadow 4-H girls)
Meadow 4-H girls. L. to r.: Eloise Ingman, Shirley Carpenter, Jeannine Ingman.

      Every Tuesday after school I had to make a bee-line to my friend LaVerne Hall's house to hear Jack Robinson, the All American Boy, on the radio and then figure out the secret coded message he gave to all of his loyal listeners. (We obviously didn't have a radio.)
      When our parents were away, we loved to call up stores on our party telephone line and ask if they had "Prince Albert in the can?" If they said, "Yes," we'd say, "Well let him out!" We had another one about "Are you the woman that washes clothes?" If she said, "No," we'd say "Why, you dirty thing!" and hang up! Party lines were great. You could just pick up the phone and listen in to your neighbor's conversations.
      When the King of England fell in love with the Duchess of Windsor and was going to renounce the throne to marry her, all four classes of students, grades 5 to 8, came over to the teacher's cottage to hear him declare he could not live without the woman he loved. My mother borrowed a radio for the big announcement. It was one of the most newsworthy things I can remember of those days.
      Living so close to the river, flooding became a big issue. On my sixth birthday, we were about to celebrate my birthday, when we had to be evacuated by boat and taken to my aunt's house in Mount Vernon. The Skagit was ready to go over its banks, but the dike broke farther south of us on Fir Island and flooded there instead. We stayed in town for one night and then were able to come back to Meadow.
      My five years at Meadow were pretty idyllic! I even had my own frog family that lived by our water pump. I built them a town with different levels and stairs and walkways. There must have been six or seven frogs of different sizes. 4-H was a going concern, too. There were lots of different choices to make about what to focus on and we chose sewing! There were few actual results of that activity that I can remember, however. We each dressed alike in green and white dresses. (See accompanying photos.)
      those days, students had to pass state tests to graduate from 8th grade. Many times there would be boys taller than their teachers before they were able to pass the tests. In the accompanying photo, my Mother and Miss Nederle are shorter than a couple of the boys. That was not uncommon at all.

Rural schools consolidated by vote in 1936
(Meadow 4-H girls 2)
Meadow 4-H girls. L. to r.: Jeannine Ingman, Eloise Ingman, Joyce Swanson, ?, ?, LaVerne Hall, Shirley Carpenter.

      All good things must come to an end. In 1936, many of the little country schools south of Mount Vernon were talking about consolidating and "the erection a modem, central grade school, presumably at Conway." The election was held at the American Legion Hall in Conway. Voters approved the consolidation plans, 110-18. "School patrons from seven of eight schools south of Mount Vemon voted overwhelmingly in favor of the consolidation. Representatives from Midway, Rexville, Meadow, Cedardale, Conway, Fir and Skagit City each favored the proposal. Milltown was the only district that showed opposition and that was by an 11-13 vote." (Mount Vernon Argus, 1936)
      By 1938, the new school in Conway was ready, so Meadow was closed along with the other schools. I was heart-broken. I didn't want to leave our little house. The district had chosen to let us buy the teacher's cottage about 1936, so we had remodeled it into a cute, comfortable two bedroom house with indoor plumbing. I remember walking outside around the baseboard of the house, spread-eagled, kissing it all the way, just before we left for the last time.
      The Dexter family next door had the school moved over in place of where their house had stood and remodeled the school into a beautiful home. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground a short while later. All that remains now of the old Meadow School buildings are the wood shed, gymnasium, and our house.
      It's amazing to me how vivid my memories of Meadow are still, more than seventy years later. We left when I was nine years old, but those days at Meadow rank right up there with every great memory I have. Since then, I have lived in Hawaii and Germany, and have traveled to many parts of the world including much of Europe and some of Asia, but nowhere are the memories better than those involving Meadow School!
      (Submitted Oct. 2, 2009)

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Story posted on Dec. 21, 2009. . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
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