A Memorial for Edna Agnes (Wilson) Thorleifson

Memoirs

MY FIRST TEACHING JOB
1941-1943

I graduated in June, 1941 with a teaching certificate for grades 1 through 9; a major in Biological Science and a minor in Health and Physical Education. My student teaching was at the Junior High level. The job I got was at at Lincoln School in East Stanwood. It was for grades 4 through 12. My job was to teach fifth grade most subjects, except I was to trade classes with the sixth grade teacher, who taught my class Social Studies and I would teach the 6th grade Language Arts. I also taught 7th and 8th grade girls Health and P.E. While I taught the 7th and 8th grade girls, someone taught the 5th grade Music and Art. This was in a Scandinavian community and many students’ parents had come from Norway. The parents stressed to their children to study, behave and do well in school. The pupils were obedient and I enjoyed them.

At the High School, there were tennis courts, which the elementary students used during recess. I played tennis with the pupils that I taught. They were thrilled when it was a turn to play with the teacher. Tennis was a popular activity and the 5th and 6th grade students became quite skilled in tennis playing. They also played baseball and other games.

This was the first year that the State of Washington adopted a minimum teacher salary which was $1200.. Stanwood paid the teachers the last Friday of the month. This first month, they paid us on Thursday, but I don’t know why. I remember it because I got my first career pay check on my twenty-first birthday. I was very happy and proud.

Mrs. Lowe, a widow, had a big house and rented rooms. There were three bedrooms upstairs and one bath. I rented one room; Dora Hunt rented one, and Walt Sterba rented the third one. We all shared the bath and we had kitchen privileges. The kitchen stove was a wood coal range. We each bought our own food; did our own cooking. Neither Dora nor I had a car, so we walked to school which was up hill about a mile away. To buy our groceries, we walked downhill and carried our groceries uphill as the house was between the school and town. Our room rented for $10 a month. My food was not much, so I saved all the money I could. Some other prices in 1941 were: bread, 8 cents a loaf; a new car, $925; gas, 19 cents a gallon; and postage stamps were 3 cents each.

We kept busy. There was always lesson plans to make, papers to correct, and grades to tally. For entertainment, we got acquainted with all the teachers. Sometimes we played volley ball. Dora, Elva and I sometimes went salmon fishing off Camano Island. We even caught some. Dora and I became very close friends and remained friends forever. I had my bike and Dora had one and on Saturdays, we often took long bike rides to explore the country. We rode to Deception Pass State Park; to Anacortes and to the tulip fields when they were in bloom. Dora lived in Seattle and sometimes she invited me to go with her for the week end. Elva , another good friend, also lived in Seattle and she invited me to visit sometimes on week ends. Since it took so long for me to travel home to Kittitas and back, I didn’t go just for the week end. I would wait for a vacation At Thanksgiving, I was going to catch the bus to Ellensburg. I rode my bike to the hiway to a gas station. I asked the owner if I could leave my bike there until I came back Sunday on the bus. He agreed. I left it just standing there with no chains or locks. Sunday, when the bus arrived at the gas station-bus stop, there was my bicycle waiting for me. Now I realize how wonderful that was, my bicycle was safe and still there when I came back 4 days later.

Another thing that I did was to develop film and print pictures whenever I had finished taking a roll of film. I made my own temporary dark room at the High School. There was a big book storage room that was completely dark. I took my chemicals, trays, and print box into the room, set them on a counter and proceeded to do my darkroom work. When I was finished, I gathered everything up, put them in a box and stored them in my classroom. I went to Mount Vernon to buy my chemicals for the photos and film that I developed. I had taken a photo course at Ellensburg College. The professor had us make up our own developer from individual chemicals, not from a mix. That way, we could have complete control over what we wanted. When I asked for the various chemicals from the drug store, the clerk realized they were for darkroom work and right then and there wanted me to come work in his photo lab. I told him that I had a full time job. He then wanted to hire me part time--evenings and or weekends. I declined, but was flattered that he asked me.

I was being careful about spending money as I was saving it up until I got enough to buy a car. Dad changed my plans. He told me of an opportunity to buy some raw, sagebrush land in Yakima County that would be able to be farmed because of a new Roza Irrigation Ditch that was getting completed. He told me that if I bought it, cleared it and put it into alfalfa, it would really increase in value. If it were seeded, I would be able to lease it to someone, since I wouldn’t have the time while teaching. He said he had the equipment and would help me and I in return could help him, as he was going to buy some. Dad bought 80 acres and I bought 80 acres. During Spring Vacation and early summer, I cleared the land of sagebrush. Just the clearing had doubled the price of the land. After it was plowed, disced and seeded to alfalfa, again the value of the land increased. The first crop, I did the irrigating and I paid Dad to harvest the hay. After that, I leased the land.

The person who I leased it to would do all the work and pay for the harvest; I furnished the land and paid for the water. I would give him a share of the money after selling the hay.

In the fall, I returned to teach another year. At the first teacher’s meeting, the Superintendent proudly announced that he was able to hire one of the football players that played on the Pacific Lutheran College’s famous football team. I did not know at the time, but PLC had a team that lost only two games in three years. I did not have time to go to games while I was in College. I did not even have time to read about the games, so I was ignorant about the matter. Anyway, PLC had a famous team and one of the members was going to be assistant football coach and teach at Lincoln School. I just assumed that he would be teaching in High School. Then the superintendent said that the person he was so lucky to get was George Thorleifson, and that he would be teaching the sixth grade class that Walt Sterba had. Then I realized that I would be sharing classes with this “famous person”. I had never cared for football players as the ones that I knew in college, seemed conceited. Now I was going to be working side by side with one that already had a reputation for being “great”. I did not know what to expect, so just decided to go about teaching as always and keep my thoughts to myself. I did hope that he would be a good teacher and not too hard to work with. I was sitting in the back row at that teacher’s meeting and George was up front, so I did not really see him at that meeting. Later, when we met to make plans for exchanging classes for our 5th and 6th graders, I realized how handsome George was. He was lean and muscular; had ruddy sun tanned skin, bright blue eyes and wavy, blonde tan hair and best of all, he seemed so kind and willing to fit in. Right then, I realized that all football players don’t have the same personality. He taught his 6th graders and the class for my 5th graders and he taught the boys health and P.E., for grades 7 and 8. He also helped coach the H.S. Football team Well, I got along with that famous football player. We worked together in teaching the 5th and 6th grades and it was enjoyable. We also had a lot of fun playing with the pupils at recess. I should tell you that the pupils all liked him and I think, all of the 6th grade girls “fell in love with their new man teacher.” and I think the fifth grade teacher did too. But she never told anyone.

My second year at Stanwood I decided it was time to get a car. During the war, new cars were not being made, so cars were not very plentiful. I pursued the ads in the Seattle Newspaper, and finally decided to look at a 1940 Ford Coupe with jump seats. The owner of the car and I met at 8th and Stewart in Seattle. I looked the car over and drove it. It seemed in good condition and I thought the price was right, so I bought it. What a joy to have a car. For one thing, no more hills to climb carrying books and groceries.