Pioneer Middle School at DuPont is set to promote its first class of graduates from the new school, it seemed appropriate to collect memories from previous classes about their big day.
Between 1898 and the late 60s, hundreds of area students departed Steilacoom Grade School (the school’s original name) for Stadium, Lincoln, Lakes and Clover Park high schools.
Imagine the mixed feelings: surprise, disappointment, and what else to walk into a ceremony and discover your best friend/sister classmate wearing, not only the same style dress, but also the same color!
That’s what Margaret Humm Wilkinson recalls from her 1954 promotion. She and friend, Sandy Stucker, both unknowingly purchased the same style/color (yellow) dress from People’s Store on South Tacoma Way!
Barney Bair got the surprise of his life at his promotion in 1939. He learned what his real name was: It’s “Byron!”
Barney—a nickname he’s had all his life—was named for his uncle “Byron T. Drew”—also called “Barney.” When his name was called at the ceremony, Barney just sat there. “Until Miss Tait “gave me the high sign!”
Most folks still call him “Barney,” he says.
Speaking about nicknames, Steilacoom Town Councilmember “Milt” Davidson acquired his when he was in the first grade. His given name is “Robert,” but because there already were several Roberts in his class, his teacher asked his mother if it would be all right to use his middle name: Milton. The name stuck. Milt played a steel guitar solo at his 1949 promotion ceremony, although he doesn’t remember “what tune” it was. “There was a reception afterward at town hall, he adds.
Jean Dyer Swanson wore a blue satin dress “with lace trim” and her twin brother, Jim, wore slacks, a shirt, tie and sweater for the ceremony. No sense investing in a suit for him, she explained, “since it would have been outgrown in a few months.”
A trio of Pioneer grads—Lenore Rogers, Jody Snyder and Roberta Black—all current teachers in Steilacoom district—remember their promotion, too. Roberta, French teacher at SHS, says that then-teacher, and later the district’s first superintendent, Blair Taylor, rented a piano for Roberta’s solo, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”. The following year, the District purchased a new piano for the school district, and Mrs. Black believes it’s still in use somewhere in the district.
Lenore, retired from teaching at Pioneer (she also taught at Laughbon Jr/Sr High at DuPont and served on the school board) says she agonized more over selecting her dress than she did for her wedding gown.
“Far too many girls took piano lessons, and we had to listen to each one play a solo,” she continues.
“We learned everyone’s middle name as we were introduced to tell a little about ourselves. One very chagrinned boy had to admit his middle name was “Mork.” That was long before Robin Williams starred in the TV sitcom about Mork from Planet Ork!”
Jody Snyder, Home and Family Life Instructor at SHS was promoted in 1966. “This was the first time I wore wear mascara, lipstick and high heels.
“Our graduation dresses were very important, and I remember that my two aunts and my grandmother took me shopping in Seattle to buy a special dress.
“My Grandma Dyer always made my clothes, so it was very exciting to buy one from a store. I chose a white eyelet, empire-style dress with a pink grosgrain ribbon. I still have it (along with my mother’s graduation dress from Pioneer) in my hope chest. Our class sang all verses of “God of our Fathers”. Whenever I hear that song I think about my 8th grade graduation.
In years to come, no doubt, the current batch of 8th graders from Pioneer also will have many moments to remember.