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Morningside School

Rocky Beginnings for Morningside School

‘Tis the season for homecomings and school reunions.  This past week we had a couple in to inquire about the history of Morningside Elementary School.  They had a photo of their brother in a school talent show and were hopeful that the museum might have school yearbooks to help identify all of the students in the photograph.  While we have numerous PTA directories and old cast iron flag stands from the school, I was unable to find anything to help with the photo identification.  Can you help?  Do you recognize anyone in this photograph?

1960 School Play at Morningside Elementary School.  Photo courtesy of Gene Cooper.

In my searching, I realized I did not know much about the history of the school and decided to dig a little deeper.  While the records are a bit sparse, they do provide an interesting glimpse into educational issues in Salem during the mid-1950s, which was characterized by record high enrollment and expansion.  The information about Morningside School’s beginnings came chiefly from the school dedication program and a series of amazing news clipping scrapbooks kept by the Salem School District for decades that are now a part of the Willamette Heritage Center’s collections.  Everything from measles outbreaks, to laws requiring schools display the state flag that caused a state flag shortage, to heavily debated decisions on whether to delay school start times to allow students to help with the bean harvest[1] are represented in the yellowing clippings[2].

Selecting a Site

The school board selected a 9 acre lot at the top of 12th Street hill for the site of one of two new elementary schools that were to open in 1953.  Morningside, named after the neighborhood surrounding it was designed by architect William I. Williams[3] and the construction was overseen by Robert Morrow, both of Salem.  The list of building sub-contractors has an overwhelmingly local bent as well.  Two thirds of the contractors on the project, providing everything from masonry work to structural iron, had a Salem address.[4]

Clipping from Oregon Statesman, January 1, 1954.

The siting and construction of the school was not without its controversies and difficulties.  Concerned parents appeared at multiple school board meetings criticizing the location of the school along busy 12th Street that had no sidewalks very narrow shoulders.[5]    They started a petition and suggested the school district consider wider shoulders, crosswalks, traffic lights,[6] a bus system to ferry children to the school,[7] warning signs and, even, an underground tunnel[8] and an overpass.[9]  All concerns were sent to the county, who had jurisdiction over roadways in this area since the school was located outside city limits.[10] A guard rail, cross walk and slower speed limit were eventually implemented after months of debate.[11]

Construction Difficulties

The construction also hit many difficulties.  The deeper crews excavated, the more trouble they had with[12] what one article called “unexpected boulders of mammoth proportions.” While the school had been slated to open on September 18th,[13]  delays forecasted for a few weeks[14] lingered for several months.  Parents were encouraged to register their children to attend Morningside at a special session held in the Salem Heights School playroom[15] and informed that special buses would shuttle the younger students to Richmond School and older students to Liberty School until the new school could be completed.[16]

Morningside School finally opened its doors to 184 students on Monday January 4, 1954, three months behind schedule.[17]  Eleven staff members, including a principal, 7 teachers, secretary, custodian and cook,  welcomed students to the 10- classroom school.[18]  Not everything was in readiness, however, and students used the parking lot for recess until the playground could be completed.[19]

Dedication

At 8 pm on Wednesday, February 24, 1954, staff and community came together to dedicate Morningside School.[20]  The program started out with a flag salute, prayer and piano solo, followed by commentaries by dignitaries and an open house with refreshments served by the Morningside PTA out of the school’s cafeteria.[21]  Despite the rough start, Morningside School has welcomed 52 classes of students through its doors.

Dedication Program for Morningside Elementary School, Salem, Oregon. WHC Collections 2015.066.0476.

Article written and researched by Kylie Pine.  This article originally appeared in the Statesman Journal newspaper October 2, 2016.  It is reprinted here with citations for reference purposes.

Citations

[1] Ganware, Robert E. “Will School Be Delayed to Help with Harvest?” Oregon Statesman.  15 July 1953 Section 2, page 4.

[2] See information for WHC 2002.020.

[3] Another article in the School Scrapbook 2002.020.0157, 38.001 gives a quick biography of William I. Williams.  “2 Architects Form Salem Partnership.”  13 May 1953.  “Williams, who came to Salem in 1949, has been active in state and public school building designs.  Buildings designed by him include the Airport Administration building, Fairview Home School, Pringle School, Blue Lake Warehouse and Morningside School.  Latest on his boards is the proposed 10-room structure to replace the present Grant School.”  The announcement tells of his partnering with John Grimmer Groom at offices at 467 Marion Street, and associates Roy Trask, Donald Richardson and Marvin W. Mizell.

[4] “Dedication and Open House Morningside Elementary School.” Program.  24 Feb 1954.  Willamette Heritage Center Collections, WHC 2015.066.0476. Given in memory of Joanne Thomas.  8 of the 12 businesses listed as “Building Subcontractors on the program appear with Salem addresses in the 1953-1954 Salem City Directory (see X2011.001.0022).

  • Salem Sand & Gravel
  • Shaw & Nickens
  • Oregon Pulp & Paper Co.
  • McGilchrist & Son
  • L. Elfstrom Co.
  • Nelson Brothers
  • Willard Art Tile
  • Stevens Equipment Co.

Not appearing in City Directory: City Electric Co., Billings and Cronn, noise Control of Oregon, Stanley Fagg

[5] “School Board to Hear Protest of Morningside Area Parents.” Oregon Statesman.  26 May 1953.

[6] “School Board to Hear Protest of Morningside Area Parents.” Oregon Statesman.  26 May 1953; “School Opening Depends on Growth of Bean Crop.” Capital Journal. 15 July 1953; “Delay in School Opening Saved the Bean Industry.”

[7] “Morningside Brings Traffic Problems to School Board.” Oregon Statesman 27 May 1953

[8] “Morningside School Site Draws Protest.”  Oregon Statesman.  29 April 1953; “Parents Ask Safeguards for Morningside School.” Capital Journal.  29 April 1953.

[9] “Safety Issue Given Study.” Capital Journal.  26 May 1953.

[10] “City School Costs County $10,000” Capital Journal. 6 October 1953.

[11] “County Orders School Safety Project Start.” Oregon Statesman.  9 July 1953; “Construction of Sidewalk Lansing’s Recommendation.” Capital Journal. 2 July 1953; “Safeguards to Cost $5806.” Capital Journal.  3 July 1953

[12] “Deeper They Go the Bigger they Get.” Capital Journal 15 July 1953

[13] “Schools Opening in South Salem.” Capital Journal. 21 August 1953.

[14] “School Board Plans Deferred Morningside School Opening.” Oregon Statesman. 9 September 1953.

[15] “Set Registration at Morningside.” Capital Journal. 16 September 1953.

[16] “School Board Plans Deferred Morningside School Opening.” Oregon Statesman. 9 September 1953.

[17] “Morningside School Opens Tomorrow.” Oregon Statesman.  3 Jan 1954.

[18] “Dedication and Open House Morningside Elementary School.” Program.  24 Feb 1954.  Willamette Heritage Center Collections, WHC 2015.066.0476. Given in memory of Joanne Thomas.

[19] “Morningside Students Make Use of New Library.” Oregon Statesman.  5 January 1954.

[20] “Dedication and Open House Morningside Elementary School.” Program.  24 Feb 1954.  Willamette Heritage Center Collections, WHC 2015.066.0476. Given in memory of Joanne Thomas.

[21] “Dedication and Open House Morningside Elementary School.” Program.  24 Feb 1954.  Willamette Heritage Center Collections, WHC 2015.066.0476. Given in memory of Joanne Thomas.

2019-01-10T19:15:46+00:00January 10th, 2019|Categories: Community Memories, History Tidbits|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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