My Years at Lincoln High School Part I


When Roger started kindergarten at Interlake School, I decided to look for a job. One morning I hopped (yes, back then I could hop) on the Latona bus and went to apply at the State Employment office. That very morning the Lincoln High School librarian, Jessie Eastman, had notified them she needed a clerk. (In recent years the School District has its own employment department.) Lillian Lift, the person I contacted, made arrangements for me to be interviewed. The following Saturday morning I went to Jessie Eastmans's home for an interview. Her home was located on Brooklyn Avenue where the University Safeway and the parking lot are now. Because I was the only one who had applied, I got the job and the following Monday my life at Lincoln began. This was the fall of 1942.

Jessie Eastman belonged to another era. I found, as several others did after me, that working for her was neither easy nor pleasant. She always wore a black shirt waist and black skirt, a long one. Her lunch consisted of Melba toast and tea. She put me in my place and I was to stay there. The teachers' room was forbidden to me; I was to use the "Cabinet" just outside the library and auditorium. One of my stipulations - well, the only one - I made was that I should continue leading the Brownie Troop at Interlake one afternoon a week. However, every minute I was gone had to be made up. If I was gone twenty-one minutes, I had to work overtime twenty-one minutes, not twenty. And my first paycheck was $90! You can imagine how thrilled and happy I was to be offered a job in the main office toward the end of the semester.

One Saturday morning I had shampooed my hair and put it in curlers, covering my head with a red bandana (which I still have) and was in the middle of washing clothes. The phone rang and it was the principal, Mr. Leroy Higgins, asking me to meet him at the school right then. I wondered what awful thing I had done to be called in by the principal and asked if it couldn't wait until Monday? No, it couldn't wait so up to the school I walked. The second clerk in the office had quit about a week before and the head clerk was leaving in a week to work for a Union. Because of the war, secretaries were getting high salaries at the shipyards and at Boeing. Schools paid very little so not many would work for them. Mr. Higgins was desperate. He wanted me to take the head clerk's job, but I refused because of my responsibilities at home.

After several people were hired for that job and were fired and I was doing the work of two people, I decided I might as well take the head job and get paid for it. And Miss Eastman never forgave either me or the principal for my leaving the library before the end of the semester when I still had hours to make up for her. When I first went into the office there was a pile of transcripts to be sent to other high schools and to colleges. By working overtime and on Saturday mornings I finally got them all sent out.

In those days working half day on Saturdays was a requirement. Mr. Higgins was a dear, very understanding and appreciative, so every so often he would keep the office open and tell me to say home. One Saturday my mother-in-law phoned to say she couldn't find Roger anywhere. I asked if I could go home to help find him and Mr. Higgins closed the office and drove me all over the neighborhood and around Lake Union looking for Roger.

I loved working in the office, working with students and teachers. If I had my life to live over I would do the same thing! Every period of the day we had two students who worked for us receiving either honor points or a half credit toward graduation. We taught them the switchboard and other tasks in the office. I still correspond with some of them. On one vacation my husband and I stopped to visit one of the girls, Diane Dailey Venable, in Phoenix, AZ, and baby-sat so she and her husband could go bowling.

We also had a bank messenger and a school messenger. They were always boys. For a number of years after he was graduated one of the office boys brought us chocolate Santa Clauses each Christmas. This ended about the time he bought Helene Madison's home in Laurelhurst. The police chief's son, George Eastman, felt sorry for me having to get up all the time to get a key from the file to give students to open teacher's rooms, so he had a skeleton key made unbeknownst to us. The bank messenger carried thousands of dollars to the bank every day. The amount was much more in the fall when activity cards were sold. Also, all boys participating in sports had to buy athletic insurance. This added to the total when each season began. In all the time I was at Lincoln, there was never a problem with any messenger. I wonder if that system is used now. The school messenger went to 815 4th Ave N every day to the School District Office with mail and returned with mail for us. These boys also received a half credit or honor points.

One of the outstanding students who worked in the office for us was Gary Little, later Judge Little. He was by far the most brilliant of all. He suggested a number of ways we could do things better and save time. He was always helpful. Our friendship carried over into my retirement years and several times he had me, the principal and his wife and a couple of teachers for lunch in his condo. He was the one who helped me when legal steps were needed to help my schizophrenic daughter, taking time from his courtroom to meet with me and all of the grandchildren.

The Gary I knew I loved. It is still difficult to believe all that has been said about him in the newspapers - that he led a double life and had sexual relations with young boys under his protection. Just a couple of months before his suicide in 1988 we were at his place for lunch. He so proudly showed us the annual book from Harvard listing the graduates, telling their accomplishments and showing their pictures. He had just been back for a reunion.

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