Special Collections Oral History Program
John R. Calhoun
Campus School, 1941-50
Interviewer: Carole Morris
Date of Interview: August 22, 2005
Location of Interview: Miller Hall, Western Washington University
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CM: State your full name for the record and tell us where you currently live and what you do.
JC: Well, my full name for the record is John Robinson Calhoun. Iím the senior minister of the Manhattan Beach Community Church in Manhattan Beach, California and I have been there for 35 years.
CM: You lived at one time in Bellingham. Were you born here?
JC: No, I was born in Chicago, Illinois and made my way through Montana and arrived in Bellingham at the age of three. My father was the minister of the First Congregational Church at Cornwall and D in Bellingham.
CM: As you know, this interview is about the Campus School which was located here at what is now Western Washington University. Can you tell me how you happened to attend the Campus School and what year that was when you started?
JC: Well, how I actually got into the school Iím not really quite sure, Iím sure that everybody applied and they took people from different segments of the community. I probably arrived in 1941. Probably in the fall and entered it in Kindergarten. We started in Old Main, which is across the way from Miller Hall, of course. Then sometime in 1942 we were the first Kindergarten class to come in here and actually begin our schooling in this lovely building here at Miller Hall.
CM: Did you go by a different name when you were enrolled at Campus School?
JC: Yes. I actually was Robbie Calhoun in those days. My mother and father intended to call me John. But when I arrived for my first day at Kindergarten in Old Main, my teacher, who was Miss Nicol at the time, asked my parents what my name was. I had been called Robbie all my life, and they wanted to have me called John in a more formal sense. The thing that happened was that Miss Nicol said, ďOh, dear, we already have four other boys in the class named John.Ē And I said, ďThatís not my name anyway, my nameís Robbie.Ē And so I was Robbie Calhoun until I was twenty-eight and entered the ministry.
CM: So, when you come back to Bellingham, is that how your classmates still address you?
JC: Yes, everybody in Bellingham knows me as Robbie Calhoun and my secretarial staff in Manhattan Beach at the Manhattan Beach Community Church where I have been employed, when they get a call from Bellingham and someone asks for Robbie, they always say, ďSomeone out of your past is calling.Ē
CM: How many years did you attend Campus School?
JC: Well, I started in 1941 and I went through the eighth-grade, which puts it into about 1950. Part of that time was spent, the original part as I mentioned, at Old Main and then we did Kindergarten through sixth-grade right here in Miller Hall. Then we had to go back to Old Main on the top floor and do seventh and eighth-grade. It was really a demotion to leave this fancy new building and go back to the school that we had started in in Kindergarten.
CM: Describe the building, since you thought it was so fancy?
JC: Well, I was thinking the other day that, as we know, Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941, had this school not been built and hadnít been in the making prior to that, Iím sure because of the war effort Miller Hall and this new Campus School (we always referred to it as Campus School), would never have been built because there probably wouldnít have been money and material. So, we were very fortunate to come to this state of the art building. This was supposed to be the school of the future for elementary school children. I think that this is the best school that Iíve ever seen, in my recollection and Iíve visited a number of elementary schools through the years. I also taught school later on before I entered the ministry, and I never saw another school that was as nice as this one as an elementary school. This was supposed to be the school of the future. Weíve been to the moon and still kids today all over America donít go to schools this nice. Thatís an interesting subject for the Department of Education to think about.
CM: What made it nice?
JC: Well, this school was very unique. First of all, the new facilities, and it was a state of the art building. Iím sure whoever put it together was very creative. You had two rooms instead of one. Most grade school classes, thereís only one room like the one weíre sitting in. This is one of the downstairs rooms that we are sitting in. The lower grades were downstairs, Kindergarten through second-grade and then upstairs here in Miller Hall was third through sixth grade. When we were here, not only did we have this room, we had the room next door, which was kind of a creative arts room. We did clay and woodworking and all kinds of things. But each class had two rooms. Thereís a bay window in this room and that was the library corner which was something for the future of course.
The unusual part of this school was it didnít have stairs in it. We always referred to it as the ďschool without stairs.Ē It has these rubber ramps and these ramps are still here today. We would run when we were in the upper grades, and would roar down these rubber ramps when we were supposed to be walking down them, but they were something very innovative. Nobody had seen rubber ramps before. It is interesting to notice that here in Miller Hall, all these years later (from 1941) some of the same linoleum is out there on the floors.
We had a lot of things that most elementary schools didnít have. We had a lovely auditorium, which is still here, which is now used for classrooms. I can remember being in a play there, in a Chinese drama of some kind. I was the property man. I remember, whenever they needed the river, I had to unroll a blue sheet of something.
This school was all about creativity. We had a music room, and I should say a couple things about that. Mira Booth was my music teacher and we would sing everyday. Something you canít do in schools today is that at Christmas time, we would arrive early in the morning, probably about 7:30, before school started, which was probably around 8:30. Weíd go into the auditorium, they had a beautiful Christmas tree, and we would sing Christmas carols for about 45 minutes. Of course, you canít do that, relative to church and state today. But every kid that went to Campus School, at least in my era and Iím sure before and beyond that, had the opportunity to know Christmas carols very well whether they went to church or not.
We got a lot of special attention. That was probably the big thing. Every class had a master teacher. I can remember all my master teachers, of all things. Miss Nicol was my Kindergarten teacher. Miss Elliot was my second-grade teacher. Miss Casanova, whose brother was a famous football coach at the University of Oregon, was my first-grade teacher. Miss Kinsman taught third-grade. Miss Merriman taught fourth-grade upstairs. Miss Kinsman was upstairs, too. Miss Channer taught fifth-grade. Then Miss McLeod showed up to teach sixth-grade. She was the only new one; the rest of them had been around Campus School and probably in Old Main for many years. We were fortunate to have very good master teachers.
We had four student teachers every quarter, this was a teacher training college; it was a normal school originally. It was called Western Washington College of Education. We were all a part of the campus here. The Campus School was built around the notion that you needed a laboratory to bring prospective teachers into. We were the ones that worked with all of the extra teachers, so we got a lot of special attention. If you had trouble in math, or you had trouble in English or any other subjects, you got special attention. There were a lot of small groups which gave the student teachers a chance to really teach and get acquainted with the kids. We got a lot of special attention.
CM: What were your favorite subjects or classroom activities?
JC: Well, for the early part of my life -- itís kind of a funny story -- I liked mathematics because mathematics at the lower levels was memorization, and I have a wonderful memory if nothing else. For the first two or three grades, people thought I was very bright because I could memorize everything. I could spell very well too. I was very good in mathematics because we would do subtraction and addition and my mind worked very well on that; and multiplication tables, I could outpace my classmates with nine times eight and so forth. But when we got to story problems and fractions and long division, they realized that I didnít know very much about mathematics. I had a lot of help. My father had been a math major before he had been a minister, and after working with me he said, ďItís a good thing all you have to do is spell your name and not add it up.Ē
I think the great opportunity for me came in the creativity of all of the programs and all of the special attention we got and the chance of self expression. I have never been afraid to speak in public and one of the reasons is that we were always up giving reports and doing spelling bees and we were in the auditorium doing plays and various kinds of activities. My favorite kinds of things to do had to do with speaking and it had to do with English. We had Spanish classes, even. We even learned to type here in the third-grade. That was an experiment at the time. I, to this day, have a 1928 Royal portable typewriter, that I use for the fun of it from time to time. I learned to type and I could type 120 words a minute by the time I got to high school. It helped me through college, but it was an experiment here at Campus School to teach us to type.
The other thing that was interesting was that we had a teacher for penmanship and a period for penmanship. Her name was Miss Gragg and I can remember her standing at the blackboard and going ďcircle straight,Ē that was a d or a b depending on what you were doing. We all learned to print before we learned to write and many of my classmates were wonderful printers. Iím a pretty good printer. But, we didnít learn to write until later years and nobody can read our handwriting, but they can read our printing, which is interesting.
We had a lot of fun here because there at least were two gymnasiums and we spent a lot of time in the gymnasiums doing all kinds of activities. I remember, Miss Muffly and Ruth Weythman were two of our gym teachers and we played dodge ball and we played some volleyball and we did tumbling exercises and things. We had these lovely gyms that are located at the north of Miller Hall. I can walk around the building and see where those were. Now theyíre offices or classrooms or things of that nature.
Another thing that we had, that I expect was kind of innovative, was when we were in Kindergarten we used to be trooped from Old Main over to Edens Hall for lunch, but when we moved here, up on the second floor, across from the third-grade room, which was at the south end of Miller Hall, there was a state of the art cafeteria. We would work in the cafeteria, as well as eat in the cafeteria. The first gal that ran the cafeteria was a fluffy woman of good humor by the name of Mrs. Downer and we all loved her. If you got on her good side and you worked in the kitchen (and we all took turns helping in the kitchen, that was part of our education), you got free ice cream and extra ice cream. To this day, ice cream is one of my downfalls, I learned that at Campus School as well, I suppose.
CM: What kind of food did they have?
JC: I remember little stuff like the corn. On Fridays, of course, we had fish, because all Catholics (I didnít happen to be a Catholic but many of my classmates were) had to have fish. Every school in town had fish on Friday until the Catholic Church decided that wasnít necessary anymore. We Protestants ate fish for years on Friday as a convenience to our Catholic friends. We had very good food. I donít remember the food. Iíve traveled all over the world and I donít remember the food I have eaten in all those places but I certainly remember the people and all the adventures.
CM: Was the food provided for all students or did some bring lunch?
JC: You could bring lunch. We had lunch pails. You could eat in the cafeteria and then you could have ice cream or you could buy your lunch. I remember we all had lunch buckets and we often traded sandwiches.
My life was interesting in that at the age of five I started Kindergarten and I lived over in the Broadway Parks section, so I had to ride a bus to Campus School everyday and home. I always remember it was labeled Alabama, 16th and Garden. It went around over by Sunset and Cornwall. During the war we had black outs because they didnít want the prospective Japanese invaders to see where the towns were and at night all lights were shut off into early in the morning, so I remember it was dark in the morning and I remember waiting for the bus in complete darkness as a boy of five.
Then weíd come through town and some people had to transfer from one bus, it was public transportation, and then come up here on the hill. They dropped us off down at Garden Street. Then we would walk up and there were two famous Saint Bernardís. They were the biggest Saint Bernardís that anyone had ever seen and I havenít seen any bigger ones since, who lived halfway between, I guess itís High Street that runs along here, between High Street and Garden. Everyone would pet those two big Saint Bernardís and then weíd walk up here.
Outside of Miller Hall it was interesting, because, now we have Red Square and of course thereís an addition on Miller Hall here, but in those days it was just a field, and fields on both sides. The front door here, to Miller Hall, was connected to High Street in part by a board walk. We would come along that board walk, and in the winter time it got icy, so we would skate along there. In the fields on either side, we played baseball in the spring and in the fall, and weíd play football out there in the fall as well. It was nothing but fields out there and of course, theyíve added buildings and Red Square. Fraser Hall was not there.
There was an old industrial arts building north of Miller Hall that is no longer there, as well. This whole facility, Miller Hall, kind of stood by itself, with Sehome Hill behind it. It was very picturesque. We were all envied because we went to this very new and beautiful school. As you look at the outside of this building, it has stood the test of time. Itís been an incredibly lovely building, and has been used by the university since 1967, when they decided that they didnít need the school here, and I guess they needed the rooms here to expand the university. I donít know what closed Campus School down, actually.
CM: Was there a tuition charge?
JC: I donít know about that. I think there might have been. There was a tremendous mixture of kids in my class. There were about 28 in every class. Basically, I went through school with the same kids, the ones I started out in Kindergarten with were the same kids. My parents were not wealthy and many of my classmates did not come from wealthy homes in particular. Others came from some of the wealthiest homes in Bellingham, so there was a mixture of students. But Iím sure the tuition couldnít have been very great at all Ė if any.
CM: Were there a lot of students who had professors for parents?
JC: Yes, that was one of the perks, and I suppose, one of the drawing cards for professors to come here was their kids could go to this modern new innovative creative school where theyíd get all this special attention. I think that was true.
We knew the professors. I knew most of the professors by name. When I came I think the university, which was then a college, had about, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 students. Then, as the war ended, why there was a large influx of people coming back from the war who wanted to come to college and wanted to become teachers.
The interesting part about being here, in addition to our school here was that we used the library over here, and there was a childrenís section. I remember during the war we had air-raid drills and we used to go down into the bottom of the library. And we helped with the war effort with things like care packages and afghans.
In the early grades, until you got through about second-grade, you sat on rugs rather than on chairs. Everyone sat cross-legged and we did sit in chairs on other occasions, but there basically was a rug in the front of the room and Miss Casanova in the first-grade would preside and sheíd have a desk up here.
Each teacher, and this is another innovation, each master teacher had their own private office and that was back in 1941. That was unusual, because most teachers in elementary schools today donít have private offices, but each teacher had a private office that was not a part of the classroom. That was very special for the teachers.
We used to refer to the kids in our class whose fathers were professors as some kind of faculty brat or something like that. But they were good kids, too, some of my lifelong friends, theyíre fathers and mothers were teachers here.
CM: Were the master teachers ever also faculty?
JC: I donít know that. I know that Frank Punches, who taught me in the eighth-grade (and his son is a good friend of mine, his son lives down near Port Orchard in McCormack Woods and I speak with him on a regular basis), came here and he taught the eighth-grade and later supervised all of the student teachers at Campus School, and sent them to their assignments throughout the city.
Not only did student teachers draw time here with the kids at Campus School, they were sent to Washington School and Roosevelt School and other elementary schools and junior high and high schools. Of course, there was one high school, Bellingham High and then there was Whatcom and Fairhaven as junior highs in Bellingham in those days.
CM: What was his sonís name?
JC: His name was Jerry Punches. He became the registrar at San Luis Obispo and is married to the former director of admissions at CalPoly-San Luis Obispo. They are both now retired. As a minister, I was the one that married them and I married them at Mammoth Lakes, California. Theyíre still good friends of mine.
Thatís another aspect of Campus School; as you know, in 1993 we had a reunion here. Weíd never had a reunion of Campus School kids. Everybody thought, ďWell, there might be a hundred people who would show up.Ē Some of the people here who had some memories at least of Campus School, thought theyíd get together and see what they could do. Some of the administrators here said that would be a nice alumni event and so they started planning. Well, as it turned out, we had two big evenings and as I recall there were 350 alumni of Campus School which went back to the turn of the century and to 1967. People came from all over, places overseas. We had 350 on Friday night at a get together in the Viking Union. Then the next night we had the largest dinner up to that time ever held on the campus.
Interestingly enough, that was President Morseís first public appearance on the Western Campus. She appeared at this alumni dinner and was astounded to find this huge aggregation of people who had come back who had attended Campus School. Of course, many of them brought their spouses as well. But it was an overwhelming event and we had a lot of fun. Dr. DeLorme spoke about the structural history and I did what Iím doing pretty much now. I was the master of ceremonies and recalled the fun kinds of things that we used to do.
Many teachers, of course, got their start here. And many of my classmates and many of the kids that went to the Campus School were teachers and many of them came back here and went to school. Some of them got graduate degrees and their teaching degrees here. Many of them are teaching in schools and most of them in my class have retired. But a great many teachers in former years in Bellingham and other towns went to Campus School and I think it had a good influence Ė a number were also administrators.
But by the time we got to the third, fourth, fifth and sixth-grade, we knew what to do with student teachers. We would run them around the place. We really broke them in. Iím sure some of them, I know one in particular told me, after he had been in our sixth-grade class, he decided, on the basis of all the foolishness that went on, (that was partly our initiation of the student teachers), that teaching wasnít for him.
I can remember one event that was a real specialty of ours. When weíd get a new crop of student teachers, they were always assigned to take us on nature hikes, because weíre here in the woods and Sehome Hill behind us. One of the things a student teacher would be assigned to do by a master teacher would be to take us to the top of Sehome Hill and look at the flora and the fauna. Well, we would have a signal amongst us, as we got to be fifth and sixth-graders. When we all get up there, the signal would be heard through the woods and everybody would tear down through the brush and come back and sit in the classroom, leaving the student teacher up on the top of the hill wondering what was going on. Then someone would go tell the master teacher that there wasnít a student teacher in the room. It was that kind of fun, but the student teachers were wonderful people, they were very kind to us and they helped us.
After the Second World War, there were a lot of people that came back whoíd really been through it. One of our teachers was highly revered; I believe his name was Ed Higginbottom. He had lost a leg in the war and had a wooden leg and came in here that first day, and I donít think any of us, living in this sheltered atmosphere, had ever seen anything like that. He was an example of spirit and courage and good will. I think everybody whoíd had him as a teacher would remember him.
Many of the student teachers were memorable characters. Their names escape me because we had so many of them, but a number of people did their student teaching here and went on to be principals and superintendents. This was a great place. Western and Campus School had a reputation for turning out very good teachers. These lovely facilities, Iím sure, were a great help.
CM: You mentioned you taught for a few years. Where did you get your teaching credentials?
JC: I went to Washington State University. I was in the sports broadcasting business and I was a disc jockey and a newscaster and I did that for seven years. While I was at Washington State, I had the need to return here for some surgery. I had to go an extra year to complete my work. In those days, you could take five courses, get a teaching degree and go do your student teaching, which I did in Spokane. I taught two years of public speaking and drama in Richland, Washington. Then I taught overseas for the United States Army for a year, near Kaiserslautern, Germany, on a big tank base that Rommel used to train his tank troops on. So, I taught for three years and I also taught public speaking at a college in New England for a while.
Teaching was a very honored profession. I think thatís one thing everybody came away with from Campus School, because this was a very happy place to go to school. It was a lot of fun. If I could put one word to this place, it was a lot of fun, all the time. (Of course the college students were very serious, especially the ones that came back after the war, they were older.)
We got involved with the sports teams. Weíd follow them. I would come up here at nights to watch Western play basketball and go to their football games over on the other side of town at Battersby Field.
We would go to Carver Gym. We went swimming every Friday. We had the big college pool over there. We were all required to go swimming and some of my classmates are remarkable swimmers after that. I was below average in that area, but we had all this help teaching us to swim, too. The student teachers, who were training to be physical education teachers, got their work out there.
End of Tape One, Side one
Then they helped us in the gym with all these different activities along with the master teachers. You always had a lot of teachers around.
One of the joys of this place for me, I can remember the first mechanical pencil I ever saw was in the college bookstore. We had access to the college bookstore, which was over in Old Main when we were in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth-grade. We would go over there and we would buy things, paper and various notebooks and things that the average kid in elementary school would never see. These mechanical pencils were very unusual in those days, and pens (I think the pencils were the first thing). The old bookstore was down at a lower level. I could find it if I had to today. In fact, Iíve walked all over this campus. Itís a great joy for all of us to come back here.
CM: How many students did you think were going to Campus School at the time there were 1500 [regular students]?
JC: Well, Iím guessing that you had at one time nine grades; actually ten because you had Kindergarten through Sixth-grade and then youíd have seventh, eighth and ninth. Youíd average about 28 per room. Youíre going to have to be the mathematician on that one because as I told you, math is not my long suit. There was Kindergarten through ninth grade, about 28 students per class. Iím pretty sure of that 28 figure. I think that was the one they aimed for.
CM: Did you say you went to athletic events. Was there a section for Campus School to sit?
JC: Oh, no. We were interested. We were part of the college here. I mean, you felt like Western was your home, too and the college was your home. The colors were blue and white and the Vikings were the biggest thing in town (Bellingham High School had good teams as well). Going to a Western game was a big deal.
I played on the Campus School baseball team. We were the Campus Bulldogs, I think. I played a lot of basketball. There was an old gym in Old Main we had to play in for a while, but weíd play over at Carver Gymnasium and Sam Carver, was there. I remember him, as a boy.
To give you an idea of how things turn out, my basketball coach in junior high was a fellow by the name of Pinky Erickson and Pinky Erickson had been a basketball star here after the war and he was also a good football player. He was my basketball coach for the Campus School. We played Meridian, Fairhaven and Whatcom. Pinky Erickson later went on, after his rather humble beginnings as a coach here at Campus School, to be a very noteworthy football coach in Everett. His son, Dennis Erickson, who grew up in Everett, went on to play football at Montana State and ended up coaching at Washington State University. He won a national championship at Miami, coached the Seattle Seahawks and up until this last year, the 49ers. Heís on a sabbatical at the moment, but thatís kind of how things progressed that go back into the Forties.
There are a lot of people around town who were sports stars here who remained in Bellingham. This is a great sports town. Everybody who grew up played and watched. Western supplied the Bellingham Bells with players, especially after the war. Thatís when the influx of veterans came. The stars here at Western used to walk around in these blue sweaters with this huge blue and white ďWĒ s on the front. We as kids were very envious of that, but in later years, we had blue sweaters and we had ďCĒs for Campus on them, if we lettered in a certain sport in the seventh, eighth and ninth-grade. That was fun.
CM: When you did your drama productions, were those in the evening for parents to come or were they for other students?
JC: Usually they were in the daytime, but parents could come. They were for the whole student body. I remember also going to the auditorium. I heard Burl Ives, a great singer, over at Old Main. There were concert series that came to the college and we would go as students, usually for a daytime production, and then theyíd have them in the evening. Theatre at the college was beginning to evolve as a major activity.
I think the great strength of this school (though many of my friends went on to succeed mightily in technical areas) probably was in social studies, language arts, and in science. We had kind of a science lab, as I recall it too. We learned a great deal about nature. I remember watching beavers building dams. We were taken places, lots of field trips. We were always going somewhere.
This was kind of a model school. Whoever put this together had in mind that this would be the school of the future and that you would have these kind of lovely rooms and each elementary school class would have two rooms instead of one and youíd have gymnasiums and so on and auditoriums and music rooms and all of the rest of this.
Itís interesting, as you come into Miller Hall, if you turn right, thereís an office there and I donít know what itís used for today, but I looked in it yesterday when I was wondering around. Raymond Hawk was the principal. Thereís a front office in that first office around the corner to your right as you come in. They had a lovely secretary there, her name was Nancy Smith. Then he had the office in the back. Whenever you got to go visit Dr. Hawk that was either a good day or a bad day, though he was a wonderfully nice human being.
One kind of funny story occurred when I was the captain of the patrol in the Sixth-grade. The patrol was like crossing guards, because there was traffic on Garden and High and so on. The captain of the patrol had to be sure everyone was doing their job and the kids were crossing in the right places. Well, there were a lot of woods down below, between Garden and High Street and the campus here. There were woods to go through and some of the kids who walked to school liked to run through those back woods and they were not supposed to do that. They were supposed to go through the crossing guards. So they took the person who could run the fastest in the sixth-grade, and that happened to be me, and made him captain of the patrol because he could catch the younger ones sneaking through the woods.
Well, one day, as I was running through the woods chasing a young man by the name of Phillip Van Aver (whose father was a professor here at this college and whose sister was one of my classmates). I was chasing him up the hill. I was just about to catch him when I looked down in the brush (you didnít hurt him or anything, you just were supposed to bring him in and once they got caught, they all knew they had to go to the principalís office), and I saw a dollar bill. I picked it up and I put it in my pocket and then I caught Mr. Van Aver and brought him to the principalís office. (He had to serve some kind of detention I suspect.)
At any rate, I forgot all about the dollar in the chase and when I got back to the classroom, I put my hand in my pocket and it wasnít a dollar, it was a twenty dollar bill. Well, you can imagine, in the late Forties (1948 probably) when I was in the sixth-grade, twenty dollars was a lot of money. My parents, being in the ministry, we didnít have a lot of money. I worked and mowed lawns, fifty cents a lawn. I was saving for a bike. I had saved $30.00 for this beautiful red and white Schwin bicycle that I needed. Well, all of a sudden, I had twenty dollars in my hand, which is like $150.00 today, I suppose, I donít know. At any rate, I had this twenty dollar bill and I thought, ďWhat should I do with it?Ē
I decided that the only ethical thing to do (and why I was that ethical in the sixth grade, Iím not quite sure), was to go down and see Dr. Hawk, who I knew quite well because he came around and visited with the kids and knew all the kids. He was a nice man. I went in to see him and I told him the story of how I got this twenty dollar bill. He said ďWell, we canít advertise that somebodyís found a twenty dollar bill because everybody in the campus would claim it.Ē (It probably belonged to a college student with a family.) He said, ďIím going to put that twenty dollar bill in my desk for two weeks and if somebody says something to the administration of the college or comes in here and says they lost a twenty dollar bill, weíll give it to them, but because you were honest,Ē he said, ďif nobody claims it, itís yours.Ē True to his word, he called me in one day and said, ďHereís your twenty dollar bill.Ē I went home with this twenty dollar bill and was able to buy my bicycle without working anymore for it, which didnít please my parents that much, but I enjoyed the bicycle!
CM: Did you have grades at the Campus School? Did they have report cards?
JC: No. They wrote individual letters to the parents, just evaluating how you were doing in different subjects and what your strengths were, and your weaknesses. I never got any grades until I left Campus School in the eighth-grade. I went to Whatcom and that was a very unusual experience to come home with a report card. I donít know that we were ever supposed to see what was written to our parents. I know I saw some of it, but itís funny, I donít think the students ever knew what grades they got. We knew how we were doing ourselves on certain subjects like spelling.
I remember Miss Kinsman in the third-grade had books we kept, with all the spelling words we missed, not the ones we didnít. We had spelling bees constantly. I happened to be a good speller only because I had a good memory. That has served me well all my life, but I canít spell today because Iíve had secretaries who take dictation. I have to look up words that I probably spelled in the fifth-grade correctly. Itís funny what you can remember. I remember in the third-grade coming home and being so excited that I could spell October.
Something about reading I would like to share. My mother, I think, probably against all theories today taught me to read when I was three or four. I used to sit in her lap and she would knit and read to me. I remember how thrilled I was to start reading. We read Dick and Jane books with Puff and Spot. You had reading groups. I was good at reading and a number of the other students were, too. We looked forward to the next book. I can remember my first real book beyond Dick and Jane and how thrilled I was because it was quite a thick book. It was a normal classroom book it was stories and so on. But we learned to read here. I think that was one of the chief emphases here at Western in the Campus School that the kids did learn to read.
They would hold people back too. They did it mainly in the public schools but here at Campus School, every once in awhile, they would hold a student back (in my memory, but not many).
Iíll tell you a funny story about the non-report card aspect of this. Your parents would get a statement from your teacher, and it would come in a special form and maybe it came twice a year. I donít know how often parents got letters telling about the performance of their children. But if there was something that you werenít up to that you were supposed to be doing better at or if you were up to something you werenít supposed to be up to, that was in the letter.
I mentioned we had a very great cross-section of young people here. A lot of the old line families, for instance, John Green was one of my classmates. John Greenís father was the president of Pacific American Fisheries, that was the biggest fish cannery in the world. He was quite wealthy. But, son John never could keep any money, he was always spending money. One of the funny things in one of those evaluations that they sent to my folks, and my father talked to me about it, was that I used to lend money to the wealthier students in my class, and there were a lot of them. They were quite wealthy and their children were wealthy and the rest of us came from middle class homes and some of the kids came from homes where I think their parents struggled mightily. (I doubt if there was any tuition, as I mentioned). To get back to the point of the evaluation, my father said that the teacher had suggested I was making far too much money lending money to some of my classmates and charging them interest and that she thought also that I might be making an inordinate amount of profit trading stamps.
Now, being a minister, I would never become terribly wealthy and some of those classmates of mine, who I used to loan money to became very wealthy, in fact, John Green became a banker and I know a lot of people in the business community here who have done very well with business and were far more astute than I was. But I was evidently treading on my classmates who came from wealthy homes and they were given much more of an allowance than I was, and yet they were always out of money.
The other thing we could get at the college bookstore were ice cream bars, I remember that specifically. We would go at lunch time, especially in the seventh and eighth-grade when we went back to Old Main.
We were only at Campus School here at Miller Hall from Kindergarten through the sixth-grade, and then we had to go back to Old Main up on the upper floor. We had Miss Hunt for seventh-grade and Mr. Punches for eighth-grade. Then they disbanded the junior high around 1950. They didnít disband the grade school until 1967 but they disbanded the junior high, seventh, eighth and ninth grade, when I was an eighth-grader, so I went on to Whatcom Junior High School, close to wear I lived at Broadway Park. I was the only one.
There were two public junior highs here in Bellingham, Fairhaven and Whatcom. I was the only one that went to Whatcom. I knew all of those kids in my neighborhood. It was a much bigger junior high school and I played ball there and liked it. All my classmates went to Fairhaven and I ended up playing basketball and baseball against them.
Before they disbanded the junior high school, I remember, we were taken to Fairhaven. They assumed everyone would go to Fairhaven and we went over there for orientation sessions, so that when the transition came for the kids that had gone to Campus School to go to Fairhaven that we would feel at home. Most of the kids that went to Campus School probably lived on the south side, too, of Bellingham, because they could walk. But there were a number from the north side. I used to ride the bus with students, so there were a number from the north side.
CM: One more question about the classes, before I ask you some more about your classmates. You were talking about Dick and Jane books and other books. Did you have regular textbooks in the older grades or where they curriculums written by some the teachers since it was kind of a different kind of instruction?
JC: Well, what I remember is, we spent a lot of time in the library. There was a childrenís section, I think it was in the bottom of the library. There was a childrenís library, with books for teaching teachers to understand what they should be teaching young people. As we got older we would use the college library. We learned to use the college library just like the college students, as we got to be sixth, seventh and eighth graders and even before.
One funny incident I remember so clearly, and it has nothing to do with your question is: Miss McLeod came late. She came toward the end of my time here at Miller Hall to teach the Sixth-grade. She was very creative. She had come out of some creative background and she made us all go over to Old Main, to the old gymnasium and learn how to dance. And if you know sixth-graders, boys and girls did not want to learn how to dance. The girls did maybe, but the boys didnít. I remember that so clearly. She would take us over there and teach us how to waltz and do all these things. That was kind of fun Ė at least for the girls.
A lot of the kids came from the medical community in Bellingham. There were a lot of doctorís kids here.
Well, we were talking about educational materials. In my mind, we had certain reading books in the early days and Iím sure we had arithmetic texts. But most of everything was done in the classroom. I donít remember a lot of homework until I got to the Seventh and Eighth-grade. We spent a lot of time, as I mentioned, in the school library. I think that we read and then we learned at whatever pace you could learn. If you were slow in math, you worked along at that pace. You had all these groups, group A, B, C; it was 1, 2, 3. Reading, since that was my specialty, I was always able to continue on, and if you read well, you could read anything you wanted to. We checked out a lot of books from the childrenís library and I think once you learned to read, you could read anything you wanted in a certain subject like science or social studies or history. I love history very much. I donít know if I got that love of history here or not, but the one thing I did get here was the love of reading everything and anything, and the ability to. I think that reading was a big thing and I think math was for some and we spent a lot of time writing.
I think I was an exception. I think most of my classmates are probably pretty adequate in math. But I donít remember, until we were seventh and eighth-graders, having homework. I donít remember having a brief case or anything like that, until we went back over to Old Main in Seventh and eighth-grade. Then I think it was more standardized because they were preparing us to go to public high school.
CM: So when you got to Whatcom, was it kind of a shock for you or was that transition pretty smooth?
JC: With the kids, it was wonderful, because I knew the kids and I was never afraid, I think thatís something they taught us here. We had no fear of anything, really. We dealt with adults, we were around college students, we were on a college campus. We were treated very well by our master teachers and treated very well by everybody, and respected in retrospect. So, schooling was a very happy experience.
When I went to Whatcom, I had a wonderful experience there. I knew a lot of the kids because I played ball with them. It was fun to meet the girls and by that time you were interested in girls. A lot of the kids Iíd met in the neighborhood parks. So, I felt at home at the school. However, the classes were a shock to me, the discipline and the structure. It was a pretty cut and dried thing.
I was awful at algebra. Had it not been for my fatherís ability in algebra, and the fact that the algebra teacher was a member of our church and my father was president of the Bellingham School Board, I might never have gotten through algebra. I took geometry later and had a hard time with geometry, but my father was a wizard in geometry. Again, I was lucky. The teacher was a member of my fatherís church.
When I graduated from Bellingham High School, my father was president of the school board. I was fortunate because I knew all the students in town Ė my age. I was elected president of my senior class, which was about 385 students. My father gave me my diploma. I was the first one to get it.
One other thing about that thatís interesting in Campus School, there were six class speakers and four of them, out of the 385, all were from my class here at Campus School, which was interesting.
CM: This is your senior year?
JC: Yes, in high school. In fact, the class speakers, Terry Rogers and Roger White, went to the public schools and Jerry Punches, Catherine Stimpson, Ann Kingsbury and myself were the other class speakers and we all went through Campus School together. We did get a good education. And I think in the main, that my classmates and the ones that preceded me here at Campus School and the ones that followed me, had a pretty good time at school. I think they were well prepared to go to junior high at Fairhaven and then on to high school.
CM: Would you say that they were more self motivated?
JC: Oh, I think so. We were creative and independent. We werenít used to failing. It was a great shock to get a report card. It was a great shock to fail in algebra. Iíd never failed at anything in my life in school, and I should have. They should have been failing me in math all along. I got to algebra and it might as well have been Greek. We did have some Spanish that I remember we took here and I remember thinking, ďThis is a foreign language.Ē
There are people who canít do math and youíre looking at one. But, the other classes, in junior-senior high school, there were more students in the classroom, there were probably 35, it was less personal. We were used to four student teachers. We were used to a master teacher. We were used to all this special attention and being this select little group of characters on a college campus running around.
When it snowed here, we were great at throwing snowballs at the college students and each other. We were probably, from the standpoint of the college, a nuisance at certain points, because here are these little characters running all over the campus. I donít know if thatís what led to the demise of campus school in 1967 or not. I think they wanted the room.
CM: How did the college students react when you did stuff like that? Were they pretty friendly?
JC: Oh, yes, the college students, they were very kind to us. Because most of them were here to get teaching degrees and most of them had to deal with us, sooner or later. It was funny, like I say, as they got into the older grades, we really ran them through there paces. We had all kinds of crazy things weíd do in classrooms, change seats and do things to confuse them of course.
I remember one experience; I think the fellowís name was Price. Iím sure, given my age and given his, heís probably deceased by now. But I remember and Iím going to say it was in the sixth-grade, he was a student teacher. Nothing was sacred in the front of the room. You never went into the master teacherís office, but the desk in the front of the room, youíd come up there, youíd take things off of it if the teacher would tell you to do that. Well, the student teachers would have different times where they would teach the class individually. I remember Mr. Price, and I donít know if my classmates would back me up on this memory or not, but I have a pretty good memory. He was a very nice man and he was teaching something and when he left the classroom, somebody went up to the desk just picking up stuff or doing stuff and he had left a wine list of some kind, which was very unusual in those days. People didnít drink wine, but there was a wine list up there. Why he had a list of wines and how he left it there, I donít know, but the students got a hold of that, we made a big deal of it, the master teacher heard about it.
I think the master teacher is the one that always went to bed with a worried look on her face every night because she had to supervise not only this group of 28 students, she had to supervise four student teachers all the time. The master teachers were very good and caring people. We liked them, I never had a teacher here I didnít like. Miss Hunt, in the seventh-grade was kind of harsh and very outspoken, that was unusual. She was not the usual kind of sophisticated teacher we had, whatever she thought, she said. We were in contact with a lot of people.
Of course, we had special classes in language and art in our class. We had a lot of good artists. Some of them made a good living in art related activities, because there were a lot of classes for art and we did a lot of painting. We did of course some finger painting in the beginning and then we went to watercolor and various things and some of my classmates excelled in that immensely. I didnít.
CM: Can you talk about some of your classmates, who they were and what theyíre doing now?
JC: Well, yes. Last night I had dinner with one. Thatís the interesting thing, the camaraderie that has remained all through the years amongst kids who went to Campus School. It was kind of a special club of some kind. Last night I had dinner with someone Iíve known for 66 years and I met her, actually, before I came to Campus School, but we came to Campus School together. Her name in those days was Ann Kingsbury, itís now Ann Jones. Ann Jones was a very bright student. We had some marvelously bright students who could do absolutely everything.
I donít know if I mentioned this here or before but we had drafting classes and we would go to the industrial arts building, which was to the north of Miller Hall and it was an old building, but they had drafting boards. They taught us how to do the preliminaries of entering the field of drafting, just to see if that would work with students, you see, like typing and various other skills. I remember she was wonderful at that. I used to look at what she was doing and sheíd explain to me because she could see what I couldnít see.
Ann Kingsbury would be one very good example. She went on to Bellingham High School; she was a very popular student there, very bright at school. She was one of our class speakers. Her father was on the school board in the public schools here in Bellingham and he was an attorney and they lived down here on the south side below the college.
CM: That was Burton?
JC: Burton Kingsbury, yes.
Ann Kingsbury then went off to Stanford, then came home and married a student that had gone here before, Rogan Jones. He was Rogan Jones Jr. Rogan Jones Sr. had developed the first radio station, KVOS here in Bellingham. Rogan Jones, Jr. unfortunately died of multiple sclerosis. He was two years ahead of me in school. We knew all the kids above us because we were around them all the time and looked up to them and Rogan was a particularly nice fellow. He took over the station and when he died Ann took over the station and then added an FM station, KGMI (was KVOS originally). Those were her stations for many years until she sold them.
She lives down on Chuckanut and has been very active in Bellingham civic work. A typical classmate, I would say, but very bright. She herself has three children; none of them were ever able to come to Campus School because Campus School closed before her children were old enough to come up here. They would all go to Lowell School and then they would go to Sehome High School, which came to pass as the second high school in Bellingham.
Jerry Punches, who Iíve mentioned, lives near Port Orchard and heís retired. Most of my classmates, (Iím about 70, Iíll be 70 next May), and most of my classmates are retired. Iím still working, which I think is funny, but most of my classmates are retired. He was a typical bright student as well. He came in the sixth-grade and his father was the eighth-grade teacher. Jerry went on to play basketball and baseball and football at Fairhaven and baseball and basketball at Bellingham High. Then he went on to the University of Washington and was a pilot in the Navy. When he got out, I think he came back up here and finished up and later became the registrar at CalPoly-San Luis Obispo for many years and now is retired in Washington. We had a reunion, as you know, in 1993 and he was very much a part of that.
I also know a lot of classmates on either side of me, just because we were around here together for so many years; you took an interest, which we almost all did. You knew families and kids in Bellingham, it wasnít that big of a place, you knew about everybody. Leib Alexander for instance, [another classmate of mine], he was here at Campus School and then he went on to Fairhaven and then to Bellingham High. He was a very prominent dentist here in Bellingham for a number of years and also got into commercial real estate, either as the owner or part owner of the Hampton Inn out here. Heís retired down on Edgemoor today.
Bill Davis, I had lunch with him and Leib the other day. That goes back 66 years, you see. When I come to town in the summers (I spend my summers here), and when I come to town we all get together and sometimes we do it in larger groups and sometimes in smaller groups. Bill Davis went on and worked for the State of Washington Department of Highways. He was one of my classmates.
Catherine Stimpson (a lot of the Stimpsons went here to school), her father was a doctor. She was probably one of the brightest students ever to come through Campus School. I think she was at Rutgers or Temple as the dean of women and she went to Bryn Mawr to college. She also, I think, worked for something like the Rockefeller Foundation.
Weíve had a lot of very accomplished students that came out of the class. Some of them are still in Bellingham. Iíd say 75% of my classmates live in Bellingham because Bellingham is a nice place to be. I think one of the interesting surveys that one could take about Campus School is: how many students that went through Campus School got involved in education in later years? Because I think itís a high percentage.
CM: Who were some of the artists that you were talking about?
JC: Well, there was a classmate of mine, a beautiful young woman, who lives in Florida, married to a prominent criminal attorney in Miami. Her name was Celia Onkels and she had two brothers, three brothers actually, that went to Campus School. She was a very good artist. She was very good at everything. She was a very good athlete. Today when we talk about girlsí athletics, if she had grown up in this era Ö Sheís a very good tennis player and has played in tournaments nationally. She was a great swimmer. She was a very good artist, drawing and so on. There were a number of them that came through.
A lot of doctors and dentists came out of here. I think probably they had wonderful eye-hand skills and their science backgrounds here from school I think were important. I think this place afforded a great launch pad and a great opportunity to begin a creative and purposeful life.
In my public school, in Bellingham High School, there were countless students as well that were terribly successful who never saw Campus School in their life. So that was not necessarily the key to success, but a lot of people who came through Campus School were very successful and a lot of the kids that went to Lowell School and Columbia School and Roosevelt and Larrabee School and all the others were just as successful in their endeavors, too.
I think what happened here was enhanced creativity and kind of permissiveness in some ways. They tried out all the fancy educational formulas of the day as the eras went along. I think that started back at the turn of the century. I suspect that if you studied what went on here at Campus School all those years, from the turn of the century to 1967, youíd see every innovation in education tried out on us like typing, and drafting in the sixth-grade and those kinds of things.
CM: Is there anything else that you wanted to bring up that I havenít asked you about or you havenít mentioned?
JC: Oh, I canít think of anything. I think that the memory I have of Campus School is grateful appreciation and affection for the people that I met here and my classmates. We get together and have reunions. There was a bond here that I mentioned. I think that in retrospect, I was very lucky to come here. It was a good place. It was a fun place. You never were afraid. You were kind of like a horse in a horse race. You were given your reins; you could do as much as you could do here. You could be as creative as you wanted to be. They fostered creativity and independence.
When I left Washington State University, I taught for two years and then I went overseas to teach and I had been broadcasting. Then I spent three years on my own just traveling around the world. I donít know if that activity had anything to do with this idea that you had kind of a free life and you could do anything. You asked what you came away from Campus School with -- you felt the sky was the limit. If you wanted to become president of the United States you could become president of the United States; whatever you wanted to be, you could do anything. I think thatís part of my traveling around the world. It never occurred to me I couldnít travel around the world. All my life Iíve had a very open perspective about life that you could do anything. I think that probably came from Miller Hall and those early teachers and these early experiences we had and all the opportunities to do things.
CM: Do you have any memorabilia left, any of your artwork orÖ?
JC: No, probably not. I have not looked through my stuff. Iíve been at the same location in Manhattan Beach for 35 years and I have put things carefully away. I suppose somewhere, I know theyíre floating around, there are campus yearbooks. Not so much from the grade school days, but from seventh, eighth and ninth-grade. I know we put one out in the eighth-grade because that was our last year. They stopped everything. I can remember seeing the pictures. I remember it was white with green print on the front. I can remember seeing the basketball and the baseball team and the different class officers and activities.
We learned about politics, too, here. We learned how government ran and it was a democratic kind of a system. We had elections and things of that kind. That was also true of Bellingham High School.
I will say this, Bellingham High School, in the era that I went, was a marvelous high school. It had been built just before the war. It was a state of the art high school, facility wise, certainly in the Fifties that I remember it. I used to broadcast games in a lot of schools all over the state and Iíve traveled and been in a lot of schools with my work and I think Bellingham High School was also one of the great high schools, the teachers and the caliber of the programs. I think the creativity that was here at the Campus School and Western also led to creativity at Bellingham High School and I think it was a marvelous school.
CM: Maybe a little competitiveness there or is the training of the teachersÖ?
JC: I think the training of the teachers. I donít ever recall any competitiveness. The major competitiveness in town was between Fairhaven Junior High and Whatcom Junior High, when I was growing up. We had only one high school then, we all joined together at the high school. The nice part for me, I knew everyone at Campus School, then I met everyone at Fairhaven, it was not that big a school, maybe two, three hundred students. Whatcom was the big junior high where I went and by the time I got to high school, I pretty much knew everybody in town.
CM: You know, one thing I forgot to mention, I noticed there was a summer school here, was that considered something everyone could choose to attend or not?
JC: I may be wrong about the second [reason], but the first one was, that if you were having trouble in school in some way and you wanted an advantage or you just wanted an advantage in certain courses, kids would come to summer school. I never came to summer school. Why, I donít know and why not, that was up to my parents, Iím sure. But Iím sure if you were slow in reading or you were having problems in math. (I should have come here in math, Iím sure). I think kids from the town generally might have been able to come here to summer school. That was probably to keep the teaching thing going and student teachers involved and the summer program of the college going. Iím sure they did it to help the kids, but I think mainly they probably did it to keep the college moving along.