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Growing Up In Bly, Oregon

Story ID:7333
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
Year:2011
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More from my past...1930's - 50's

Growing Up in Bly, Oregon

Growing up in a small town like Bly was a truly unique experience, one that not too many of today’s kids are privileged to share. Kids who are raised in the asphalt jungle of large cities with their miles of concrete sidewalks have no idea what it’s like to get on their bicycles early in the morning and leisurely coast down the dirt roads or grass lanes that border a pristine meadow, watching for birds, frogs, rabbits, squirrels, or anything that moves. There is solitude in just walking in the falling snow or on newly crunchy snow at 5 below zero with only the sound of your footsteps and your frosty breath protruding out in front of you. I’m sure that there are other kids that experience some of these things but I just can’t see how they can be appreciated in a large city. I will try to reiterate on the joys of this style of living.

Bly School was a large building that held all 12 grades. There was no such thing as kindergarten in Bly those days. I later believed the reason was, nobody could pronounce kindergarten, much less, spell it, teachers included.

Bly School started with 1st grade in one end of the building and as a student progressed from year to year he or she zigzagged through the building and with any luck at all, 12 years later popped out the other end with diploma in hand. Some of us, me included, took a little longer. In my case I was held back (that’s the politically correct word for flunking) in the 4th and 7th grade. Flunking a grade was no stigma and it never hurt me a bit. In retrospect, I just wasn’t ready to move on in those grades. The up side was that the next year, I was the smartest guy in class. In today’s society failing a kid is deemed to traumatic and they are passed on even if they are not ready. I think it only makes it harder for them to cope with the real world when they do graduate if ever. There was also no such thing as summer school. If you couldn’t make it during the regular year, you just took that year over.

The other thing that Bly School had was discipline. It was nothing to get stood up in the corner or made to stand in the hall and later experience the feel of a maple paddle that had carved on the face of it, “The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard.” I can’t think of a kid in Bly who didn’t get a hack or two. If the FBI were to ever to check a Bly boy for identifying marks they would find that slogan imprinted on their backside.

Bly School had its great teachers too and a few not so great. When I started school in 1940, the principle was George Elliott. After a few years he left and he was replaced by a man named Mr. Perry. Bly seemed to be a training ground for new principals or maybe a punishment for old ones. The only thing I remember about Mr. Perry was that he had a wooden leg. I didn’t know this until someone brought him a note and he took a thumbtack out of his desk, pulled up his pant leg and pinned it to the calf of his peg leg. This had to be a forerunner of the Post It Note.

After a couple of years, Mr. Perry left and we inherited Earl Graham, paddle and all. He immediately established a list of things that would invoke the use of the paddle. I remember, they were called hacks and involved bending over grabbing your ankles and gritting your teeth. He wasn’t vicious, he just struck firmly. After the first one or two the others didn’t hurt a bit. It was 1 hack for being caught in the hall between classes, 2 or 3 if the teacher sent you to see him for an infraction, 4 for skipping class for half a day and the ultimate, 8 for an all day unexcused absence. There were some boys who felt cheated if they didn’t get their allotted hacks per week. Girls were no exception and received their hacks too. Whenever someone received a hack they would have to bend over in the hallway and get it. After the last hack had been administered they would shoot down the hallway toward their classroom. The sound of a hack being administered could be heard all over the school and since classroom doors were usually left open we would all watch the doorway to see who came by. Very few tears were shed; it was just a part of life. The worst was when you got home and your parents found out about it, which they always did even before you got there.

My first teacher was Miss. Ethel Lien. I don’t know how many years she had been teaching in Bly but she left to teach in Klamath Falls the next year, I think Ruby McCain was my 2nd grade teacher. It wasn’t until I got to the 4th grade that I was held back. I think the reason was that I couldn’t memorize my multiplication tables. Now, all kids have to do is get out a calculator. How sad, that they don’t know how to multiply in their head. They don’t seem to have any trouble multiplying in the back seat of a car. Other than the fact that my classmates moved on and I had to stay behind and make new friends, it didn’t bother me. I think Wilma Proebstel was the 4th grade teacher that flunked me. I remember that she was teaching penmanship and told me that my “a’s” looked like spiders. I think that hurt me more than anything since I hated spiders with a passion. I still don’t like them but my “a’s” have improved. Fifth and sixth grades were OK but a lot of hard work. It wasn’t until the 7th grade that I was having too much fun and missing too much school. It was the 7th grade that I had to take over. I was now on a track to finish school and could see the light at the end of the tunnel or at least the other end of the building.

My years in the seventh grade included a couple of teachers who didn’t last long. One was Mr. Carr and the other was Miss Hadley. Miss Hadley was a very large plump person and being kids we treated her unmercifully. Mr. Carr was a nice meek young man who we tried to pair up with Miss Hadley in a weird sort of way. This was about the time the song made famous by Arthur Godfrey came out called “The Too Fat Polka”. Someone put a copy of the sheet music on Miss Hadley’s desk with a note from Mr. Carr. She just turned red and left the room. After that whenever she would enter the classroom, someone would start singing softly, “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me”. We weren’t bad kids, we were just having fun but she didn’t see it that way. She left before the year was out. The next year Mr. Carr was gone too. Miss Hadley was replaced by Miss Rankin and she wouldn’t put up with any of our shenanigans.

After the 7th grade, school became fun and I looked forward to it. I think maybe that having an extra couple of years under my belt helped. Science was fun with Bill Pohll teaching science and math. He was also the P.E. teacher and coach but having lost my right eye and part of my finger, I didn’t participate in sports.

Sam Porter was the shop teacher having come to Bly School after Mr. Grieves left the shop (he was the one teaching when I cut off my finger).

Mr. Porter was a great person and teacher and he had a beautiful wife, Joyce, who taught home economics and typing. I remember taking typing from her and attribute my typing ability to her teaching. Mrs. Porter was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen and I along with most every other boy in school was madly in love with her. She couldn’t do anything wrong.

Another teacher was Mr. Bunton who taught history. I guess he was OK but he always reeked of garlic. He lived alone across from the school and you could see him sitting in his kitchen in the evening eating a salad that was laced with garlic. He was also a great wielder of the paddle. He had a bad leg so wouldn’t take the kid out into the hall, he would just stand him up in front of the class and let go with as many hacks as he deemed necessary to fit the occasion. Somehow they hurt worse than those administered by Mr. Graham.

Two teachers stick out in my mind and I will never forget them. One was Pretoria Bell, who taught English, speech and some typing. I give her credit for giving me the ability, such as it is, to write and use proper grammar. I don’t believe today’s kids ever learn how to diagram a sentence or the proper parts of speech. In her class you had to learn these or you wouldn’t pass. Mrs. Bell also taught me to print the school newspaper, The Pine Cone.
Mrs. Bell dug out an old mimeograph and it wasn’t long before Doyle and I were putting out a monthly paper. I give her credit for my going into the printing business where I stayed for over 40 years.

The other teacher who will forever be with me was Ruth Obenchain. Mrs. Obenchain taught drama and music. She taught in Bly School for many years. I don’t remember what else she taught but I know she taught glee club. Almost every kid in junior high and high school took glee club from her and I still remember and sing some of the songs she taught us.

There were teachers who you tolerated and some you respected. Mrs. Obenchain was one who commanded the utmost respect. Most teachers were, at times, referred to as “Old Lady or Old Man so and so” but she was not one of those. I never heard anyone refer to her as “Old Lady Obenchain”. She was always Mrs. Obenchain and always will be. Mrs. Obenchain was also a strict disciplinarian but never had to use the paddle. All it took was a stern word or look from her and you got right back in line. I can’t remember her ever sending a student to the principal. What a lady!

Earl Graham left after my junior year along with his paddle. The next year, we had a new principal, Mr. James Chance. What a change he was. It was his first year as a principal and was a learning experience for him as well as us. He came to Bly from Bonners Ferry, Idaho and knew the ways of a small school. He was very well liked by everyone and a welcome change from Mr. Graham (no more smoking back sides). I will write more about him later.

To be continued...