Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Schoolhouse put near saloon/Principal shaky walking plank

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 3 June 1962

Kennewick’s third schoolhouse was a very controversial structure. It was located over a mile upstream. This forced all the school children of Kennewick to walk a mile farther to school. There were no school buses in those days. The pupils walked each way. A slick gang of real-estate promoters came to town and securred a tract of land containing many acres on which they platted an addition to Kennewick. The slickers talked Charley Aune into constructing a building and opening a saloon in this addition. Previous to this time there had never been a saloon in Kennewick.

Kennewick’s old one-room schoolhouse was too small to accommodate all the pupils in the neighborhood. A larger schoolhouse was a necessity. The parents had been considering methods means of building a larger schoolhouse. Several public meetings were held and the matter thoroughly discussed. The school board, on the advice of their attorney, performed all the legal requirements necessary to secure a new schoolhouse. To the surprise of the children’s parents the new schoolhouse was to be built in the addition near Charley Aunes’ saloon. The contract for the construction of the new schoolhouse had been legally let. There was no way of stopping its construction.

The original plans of the new schoolhouse were altered. The completed schoolhouse was far different from that which the voters had designated. The halls and stairways had been widened beyond all reason. The belfry was also enlarged, but the bell was not provided. The entrance hall to the first floor schoolroom was as large as the first floor classroom.

The church going and respectable citizens of Kennewick were up in arms against these promoters. These promoters flouted the ordinances of Kennewick and ran everything with a high hand. They brought in a man whom they claimed was a professor. It was rumored he had never taught school. He was hired as principal of the Kennewick school to teach the older pupils on the second floor of the schoolhouse. The woman teacher that had been teaching in the small, old schoolhouse was to teach the younger children, in the first floor schoolroom. I think her name was Mae Crosno, but I am not sure.

When the fall, or winter term convened, the old, small schoolhouse was closed. We school children were forced to walk over a mile to the new third schoolhouse in the new addition. The new addition had been slightly graded. The streets were without sidewalks and were a sea of mud. 2 by 12 planks were laid on the edges of some of the streets in lieu of sidewalks. Especially those that led to the saloon. Such a walk ran from the schoolhouse to the saloon. Similar walks led to the two small outbuildings situated on the opposite corners of the rear school yard. They were identical in size. One bore a sign “girls,” the other, “boys.”

When school convened that fall the troubled woman teacher had her hands full. The principal would to to the saloon and sometimes he was not able to walk the one plank back. The playground was a quagmire. Leave it to the younger folks to meet any emergency. Frank Potter was the town’s best mouth organ player. The second day of school Frank said to me, “Burt, do you know that from schoolhall floor would handle two quadrilles? I can’t play the mouth organ and call at the same time. Do you think you could learn a few calls and do the calling?” I promised to try. That night I brushed up on some old calls.

The next day Frank and I broached the subject of dancing to the poor, distracting woman teacher. She granted us the right to dance in the morning before 9 o’clock, at recess times, and during the noon hour. The following morning early, Frank and I stationed ourselves on the inner side of the front door. Frank gaily played the “Irish washer woman” and I called out, “get your partners for a quadrille.” Four couples responded quickly and the dance was on. The music was good but the calling was terrible. In a few days we had things under control. No one, in spite of the long travel, was ever late. But oh! That floor was beat up some.

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