By Nancy Covert
Forget commercially made pastries such as Cinnabons or Peggy’s Cinnamon Rolls! For hundreds of Steilacoom school kids, there was nothing that compared with Lorraine’s cinnamon rolls.
The yeasty scent of rising dough filled the school’s hallways on the days when Lorraine Nichols baked that special treat, recalls retired Pioneer teacher Lenore Rogers, who had been a student during Lorraine’ kitchen reign. Having endured the sweet-smelling torture all morning, by noon the kids were eager to chow down on the baked-that-day cinnamon rolls.
In mid-April, Mrs. Nichols was preparing to reprise that culinary experience for the school’s staff. The culinary trip down memory lane was just one of several “school closing” activities scheduled as the 2008-09 school year winds down.
The Pioneer Middle School building, formerly Steilacoom School, that has served the district since the early 20th century, is scheduled to close this summer. The original school, a two-story wooden structure was erected on the site in the late 1890s. The central brick structure was built in 1916.
Special Closing activities are scheduled from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 31. Please check the District Website for details about that event. The new Pioneer Middle School will open in late August at DuPont/Northwest Landing for the 2008-09 school year.
During Lorraine’s years in Steilacoom‚Äîshe and her late husband, Chet, moved here in the 40s‚Äîshe’s earned a reputation for her baked goods; especially cinnamon rolls.
Roll making was a special treat, she explains‚Äî”usually done only a couple of times a month.”
On ‘cinnamon roll day’ Lorraine began working “bright and early” to prepare the dough. Conveniently, she lived not far from the school.
The mouth-watering smells that spiraled through the hallways and classroom must have been torture to the kids‚Äînot to mention the teachers‚Äîwho eagerly awaited the sweet end results.
As has been Lorraine’s custom, when it comes to baking, she uses no prepared mixes. Everything is “made from scratch.”
“I love to bake,” says Lorraine, who retired after 20-years as head cook in the district.
“And I like to bake more than cook,” she stresses, adding that her favorite items include pies, butterhorns, and, cinnamon rolls, of course.
Lorraine’s culinary career began in 1957 when she assisted one-time head cook Virginia Brown for about five years. After Virginia retired, Lorraine stepped into the role, overseeing lunch preparation for the district’s student population, around 200 “more or less.”
“All meals were ‘home-made’: cakes, rolls, biscuits, cookies‚ÄîI boned turkeys, and made a lot of jello,” she recalls.
“I used a lot of government-issue commodities in those days: cheese, milk and butter, as well as lots of fruits and vegetables.”
Her “trial by fire” came the year Principal Blair Taylor, later the district’s first superintendent, asked her to be camp cook at Camp Seymour, the first year that she worked at Pioneer.
“I was the only cook there.” She insisted that she have an assistant during the next four years of her camp cooking chores.
When Cherrydale school opened in 1962, Lorraine transferred there and remained as cook until retiring in 1977.
Looking back over all the baking that she’s done, are there any regrets?
“None at all,” she asserts.
“I bake because I like to.”