How the Auburn School District Obtained the Land for an Elementary School | Whale tales


North Auburn Elementary School, late October 1967.

School had just gotten out for the day and I was walking west along 14th Street Northeast with a group of six kids from Mrs. McCullough’s afternoon kindergarten class.

All around us, one of those bright and lively autumn afternoons where orange and red leaves cover the ground and crackle underfoot.

Most importantly, Halloween was in the air.

Soon the small group reached what everyone in my north Auburn neighborhood called the Old Grant Barn. I had heard all the stories, but this was my first close examination.

And that’s what he told me: here’s a place to stay away from the sunset.

Long ago, the sloping roof barn was part of a working farm. Now, old, tired, foreboding, he lay in the greenhouses of impenetrable blackberry vines, rising to envelop the barn to its roof like a devouring mushroom.

My imagination was unleashed.

Horrible things happened there. I thought to myself, convinced in a flash that by day a Lovecraft monster was sleeping inside that barn, but when the sun went down the beast woke up with a dark hunger, awakened by its appetite. to reach out and snatch a tasty kid from the sidewalk or the grass, wrap the boy or girl in a horrible embrace and drag the hapless fellow into the barn for dinner.

A girl named Christine said there were bats inside.

As we passed the barn and reached the house, we told spooky tales of knives and murders and walls stained with blood. One girl said if that old woman who lived there caught you snooping around in the barn, she would hit you with a rock salt explosion.

Or, that’s how our 5 year olds saw it. Funny thing, none of us stopped to ask, is that true?

Of course, like Butter’s old barn, Grant’s old barn was a link to the end of the valley’s agricultural era. But as kids we didn’t know any of this and we wouldn’t have really cared if we had. We only knew on this fall day as we walked that there was this spooky thing in our neighborhood, and Halloween was in a few days.

By the early 1970s, the barn had disappeared. I don’t remember when it disappeared, if it was demolished or if the snow got it. Today there is a house where it was.

Luckily, there was a stark contrast to the darkness of this creepy old barn, and it was right next door: North Auburn Elementary School, and especially its playground. This land became the big stage for my little one. childhood, not only because of school, but also because of the countless games of baseball, football and whiffleball that we have played there.

When my older brothers were young and there was not yet a Howard Hanson Dam to control the Green River and prevent it from flooding the valley, the river filled the field with water. My brothers and their friends found inner tubes, pieced together rafts and floated, returning home like muddy mess and content.

Family films taken at this field show my late brother, Jim, in a 1969 Seattle Pilots uniform, swinging a bat on one of the baseball fields.

And there was a time when Jim persuaded a neighbor to put on a makeshift beekeeper outfit and jump on a honeycomb. Hint: the costume wasn’t bee-proof.

In most years since that little group of kindergarten kids walked past this barn and house, I never thought to ask: how did the Auburn school district get the land for this school and this playground? It’s not really the kind of question a little kid would ask, he’s more interested in bringing home the winning race.

One day, leafing through a 1955 edition of the old Auburn Globe News at the White River Valley Museum, however, I got the answer to a question I had never asked.

In one photo, an old woman stands next to an ASD administrator. The photo caption identifies him as the former owner of the former farmland that would become North Auburn and ultimately Dick Scobee Elementary School. He was the person who had sold everything to the Auburn School District. Not a hint of the macabre or goblets of blood about him. Only a chubby, smiling grandmother. I lost her name, but if I remember correctly it was not Old Lady Grant.

For all the great times we all had as children on this land and in this school, we owe it to you. Sorry for everything we’ve said about you.

Robert Whale can be contacted at [email protected]

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