Missoula County High School
To get into high school back in the 1920’s in Missoula
we had to pass a state examination. For days I worried about
it for as I have written someplace else, my memory isn’t
that good. I actually passed and entered high school in the
fall of 1920. At this time it was a county high school and
students came from miles away to attend.
My favorite subject was history and I loved to draw and
color the numerous maps that were required, especially in
Ancient History. Most of the countries we learned about have
changed their names.
Another subject I enjoyed was Religion, a required course.
We studied all religions, not any denomination. Because of
the many references to religious subjects and people on radio,
television and in literature I think it should be required
now. Even comedians refer to Biblical characters, Jonah and
the Whale, Samson & Delilah, Noah, etc.
Most of my four years were uneventful. Once that I can remember
I made the Honor Roll and as a senior I was voted into the
National Honor Society.
Instead of actually taking gym, I had to play the piano
for the class to exercise, but I still had to wear my big,
black, baggy bloomers.
My Spanish teacher, Jean Mair, I dearly loved. She would
trust me to bank her pay check every month. She invited me
to her home for lunch one day and I had my first taste of
Spanish Rice. Yummy. Mother never had made anything like
that. For a time she was married to the son of my music teacher,
but divorced him. She visited me at 3824 Bagley one year
and so met my three children and Wilbur.
Mr. Ketcham (isn’t that a good name for a principal?)
had a distinctive cough and without fail he coughed at every
One Sunday as I sat in the choir at the First Presbyterian
church in Seattle, I heard that cough. At the close of the
service I just about ran over people looking for him but
luckily dad had already found him. I was so homesick for
Missoula even the principal seemed like an old friend.
Every year the high school had a carnival and one year,
1924, the Spanish Club under the direction of Miss Mair put
on a cabaret act. While guests sat at little tables eating
and drinking, Spanish music was played and sung. My part
was singing Marquita. Miss Mair loaned me a real Spanish
lace mantilla she brought back from Spain and I felt I looked
really beautiful. Another year I was in the chorus of a cantata, “Yanki
San”, put on for the public.
All of Montana was proud that the first woman in Congress,
Jeannette Rankin, was from our state. Hoping that I would
get a glimpse of her (and once I did) I would stop by to
walk to school with one of my classmates, her niece, with
whose family Miss Rankin stayed. I also walked to school
with Mary Jo Dixon, daughter of Montana’s governor.
My most embarrassing moment occurred when two of us were
sent to Great Falls to
represent our school in the State
Music Meet. My friend and I stayed at the home of a wealthy
family who had a butler. I had read about such people but
I was awed at actually seeing a live one. One night at dinner
he was standing behind me when a piece of meat I was cutting
flew off my plate and over my shoulder, landing in front
of him. I could have died right there. The rest of the dinner
was tasteless. If I had tried to perform such a trick I could
never have done it. And to this day I can’t understand
how it happened.
I have never been good at memorizing or even remembering
names of musical pieces even though I have played them hundreds
of times, and that was what I had to do at the Music Meet.
Several measures of a piece would be played and I was to
name the piece. For days before the Meet I met with Mrs.
Price, a prominent musician in Missoula, and she worked and
worked with me. Because of her help I actually took second
place in this music memory contest.
The outstanding event during the Music Meet for me was the
concert by Paderewski that I attended. It was wonderful!
I can still see him stamping his foot back and forth, back
While my friend and I waited at the depot in Great Falls
we bought ourselves bouquets of roses to impress people as
we got off the train in Missoula. We also dared to buy a
True Romance magazine which neither of us was allowed to
read at home. We were so afraid someone would see us reading
it! Compared to our literature today it would be respectable
reading and it really wasn’t bad then – just
trashy. We left the magazine on the train.
Because of her ill health Mother was never able to attend
programs I was in. I missed her most when the National Honor
Society students were announced at the last assembly of the
year and all the parents except mine were introduced. I know
she was proud of
me. Nor did she attend the cantata or carnival.
Because of this I never missed any of my children’s
performances or programs. And I didn’t my grandchildren’s
if I knew about them. After working all day it wasn’t
easy always but I wouldn’t have missed them for anything.
And I am attending programs and Back-to-school nights of
Our high school auditorium in Missoula was the largest in
town so world-renowned people gave concerts there. The one
I remember especially was the concert by Schumann-Heinck.
I’ll never forget her singing “Danny Boy.” When
she left the auditorium I was standing so close I could smell
her perfume and her clothes touched me! And she smiled at
I was never tardy but once in my senior year. Fred met me
on my way to school one beautiful, sunny spring morning and
we went out riding in the country. When I went to the office
for a permit to get into class I wasn’t asked why I
was late. They just gave it to me. I guess my reputation
must have been pretty good.
On June 12, 1924, I played the Processional March by Holleander
for the eighteenth Commencement of Missoula County High School.
My program was scribbled all over by a fellow with whom I
was going named Uriel, even though I was engaged to someone
else who evidently wasn’t there, Fred Zabell. Dad and
Mother didn’t like Fred so they enrolled me at Linfield
College in Oregon hoping he would be forgotten. But it wasn’t
the end of Fred.
Comment by Viola Allan re Paderewski: Mother took me to see a movie of
Paderewski when I was little because she wanted me to hear
him. I enjoyed it very much and still can see one of the scenes in my mind.
It had to
do with his kindness to a youngish boy.