English Class? … Don’t They Make a Pill for That By Now?

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What will the world of the year 2000 look like? This was the question posed to Canby high school students in a 1916 English class.

Their predictions included self-starting flying machines and an “automatic horse saddler.” We give them an “A” for imagination, and a “D” for accuracy. But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

One of the most creative suggestions was a pill that would give you an instant understanding of algebra, English and German. Nice to know that the kids of 100 years ago were just as anxious to avoid studying as the ones we have today.

The 1911 merger with the Riverside School District had left Canby with its first full-fledged high school class … and a serious space problem. When the so-called “Canby Castle” opened the following year on North Grant and Fourth Avenue, it helped ease crowding for a few years, but the rapidly growing district was soon at capacity again.

In 1912, Canby fielded its first baseball team. It was coached by P.L. Coleman, one of the city’s top educators along with the legendary Howard Eccles. Speaking of legends, P.L.’s son, Ralph, was on the team.

Beaver baseball fans may recognize Coleman Field as the name of the ballpark at Oregon State University, named after Ralph Coleman, the longtime coach who compiled a record of 561–316–1 over 35 years, won 10 division titles and was nicknamed “The Silver Fox.”

Before all that, Ralph Coleman was born and raised right here in Canby, and graduated from Canby High.

In 1913, a Canby “basket ball” team journeyed to Park Place for its first-ever game, which they won, in a real barn burner. The final score was 23 to 22.

“They were accompanied by a loyal band of rooters and were well pleased with their showing,” The Canby Herald dutifully noted. “With a little more experience the team will be hard to beat.”

What was at that time known as “the war to end all wars” soon broke out, and the United States joined the fray on April 6, 1917, declaring war on Germany. At least 27 Canby boys enlisted, most of them former or even current high school students. Several never came home.

A small ceremony was held at the school in their honor in March 1918. A flag containing the names of the 27 service members was unfurled and hung in the auditorium by Mrs. Otto Schaubel, who had three sons in the service.

Gold stars were used to mark those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. There were three at first: Burton Brown, Clifford Brown and Lee Harding. But more would be added before the final armistice was declared: Harold Vinyard, Ralph Mandeville, Eddie Hulras, and two brothers, Jonas and Edwin Deetz.

Enrollment rose to 120 in 1922, with course offerings that included Latin, Algebra, Civics, Bookkeeping, Geometry, Physics, English, Physiology, Biology, Sewing, History, French, General Science and a terrifying subject they called “Higher Arithmetic.”

That same year, the school board hired a bus owned and driven by a local resident, Ed Shull, to pick up high school students in the outlying areas of Paradise Corner, Macksburg, Yost Corner and Lone Elder. It was evidently this practice that helped spark discussion of a new union high school.

The consolidated district was approved during a meeting at the Methodist Episcopal Church. Delegates of the 16 districts voted unanimously in favor, though they agreed to hold off on any new construction for a time, so as “to prevent any heavy tax burdens resulting from the formation of the new district.”

Heavy burdens were not a concern for a group of 30 Canby residents, most of them high school students, who summited Mount Hood in a 1926 trek led by Superintendent Gardner and physics teacher Wayne Gurley. Talk about a field trip!

A couple days later, several of the young men showed up at the Herald’s offices, eager to give their account.

“Their hands and limbs show the effects of the sharp pointed ice over which they were compelled to climb in crossing Elliott Glacier” the reporter later wrote. “They were forced to work their way over cliffs by means of a rope. When they had accomplished the task and reached the top of the snow-capped peak, all were willing to acknowledge they had been working. But the view from the mountaintop, Mr. Zimmerman said, is worth the climb. It is a most beautiful spectacle.”

Sadly, the newspaper does not record how many selfies the kids took at the top.

The new union high school’s first graduating class in 1927 had 29 students, and the board of directors was ready to start building. Two proposed locations were put before voters, but it was the 29-acre site in southwest Canby, donated by New Era farmer George H. Brown, that was the runaway favorite.

It was later described as one of the largest and most lopsided results in local elections history, with 450 ballots cast in favor and only 14 on the other side.

Rivaling it, though, would be another one-sided result that same year, in which Aurora voters were asked if they should join the crowd in becoming part of the Canby Union High School District. “NO,” they overwhelmingly said, with 86 voting against, and only four in favor.

According to a newspaper story from the time that I 100 percent believe, someone asked, “How did there come to be four votes in favor of the proposition? There were only three petitioners.”

“That’s easy,” another replied. “One of the petitioners must have been a married man.”

We have many more colorful stories to tell you from the history of the Canby School District, but it will have to wait till next time, on Canby Then.

Photo of the 1923 freshmen class courtesy the Canby Historical Society.

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