FORMER RIVERIA STUDENT ASK...

May 28, 2002 11:00 pm
Attended riveria in 1918:J. Howard Stoop of Island City was among thosein attendance at Riveria School's dessert social Tuesday night. The 89-year-old recalled such things as the wooden viaduct that many students had to cross to reach the school.  (Observer photos/Phil Bullock).
Attended riveria in 1918:J. Howard Stoop of Island City was among thosein attendance at Riveria School's dessert social Tuesday night. The 89-year-old recalled such things as the wooden viaduct that many students had to cross to reach the school. (Observer photos/Phil Bullock).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Seven decades have passed but Mike Kilby of Pendleton still gets perplexed when he reflects on the day that he and a friend played hooky at Riveria Elementary School around 1930.

"How we thought we were going to get away with it I don't know. We just did,'' Kilby said.

The boys' unexcused absence was noted. Both were called into the principal's office the next day and were paddled.

"He (the principal) gave us the privilege of having a licking,'' Kilby said with a smile Tuesday night.

Kilby was one of about 100 former Riveria students and staff who reminisced during a dessert social at the school. The event was conducted to salute the school before it closes permanently in June. The La Grande School Board has decided to shut down Riveria because of its poor condition and to save money.

A second dessert social will take place at the school from 6 to 8 tonight. This event is aimed at current Riveria students and families but is open to everyone.

Kilby and other Riveria alumni spoke primarily of fond and humorous memories of their 90 year-old school.

Genevieve (Roe) Loveless of La Grande is among those who have nothing but good recollections of her time at Riveria.

"It was a very happy time in my life. We grew up like brothers and sisters,'' Loveless said.

Some of those present had not seen each other for 50 to 70 years. After recognizing each other via name tags. they appeared to have no difficulty getting reacquainted.

"It's fun. It is like it was yesterday,'' said Evelyn (Ballard) Gooderham of

La Grande. She attended Riveria from 1923 to 1930.

Those in attendance also included J. Howard Stoop of Island City. Stoop, 89, first attended the school in 1918. He talked about things such as the wooden viaduct that many students had to cross to reach Riveria. Stoop recalled that there was once a train accident beneath the viaduct that his father was involved in. Stoop stood for a long time on the viaduct looking below. The viaduct proved to be solid and fortunately Stoop's father was not injured.

Historic moments were also discussed Tuesday. Phyllis (Harmon) Taylor of La Grande has an indelible memory of the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt gave his famous "Day of Infamy'' speech on the radio that morning. Riveria's students gathered in an open area in the school to hear his address.

"It was so scary,'' Taylor said.

The children stood so long that one boy fainted, Taylor said.

Many alumni said that Riveria's exterior has changed little over the years; however, the school's interior is much different.

For example, the cafeteria was where the library is today; and the school had a small auditorium on its third floor where its resource room is today.

The auditorium had a stage, according to Orville Miller of La Grande, who attended Riveria from 1943 to 1950.

Riveria now educates children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. However, in the school's early years it had classes for students in grades 1-8.

Ernie Rostock of Pendleton attended Riveria from 1926 to 1934. Classrooms for grades 1-4 were in the lower portion of the school and classrooms for grades 5-8 were upstairs. Rostock said it was a major event for students when they got to move upstairs.

Much time was spent Tuesday by alumni pouring over old Riveria scrapbooks. They contained school photographs, newspaper articles, minutes of PTA meetings in 1914 and more.

One of the most interesting was a 1957-58 scrapbook that contained photographs of boxing matches between Riveria students. The boxing "smoker" was conducted to raise money for playground equipment.

Riveria alumni also spent much time discussing their favorite teachers. One of them was Pauline Johnson.

"She taught me to love English,'' said Marianne (Feik) Fullmer of La Grande, who attended Riveria from 1943 to 1950. She also remembered Johnson for her long red fingernails and striking jewelry.

Few people at Tuesday's event have stronger ties to Riveria than Midge Mink of La Grande. Mink attended Riveria as a child and later worked at the school as a secretary for 21 years before retiring in 1993.

"They called us a family at Riveria, and boy was it. We pulled together,'' Mink said.

Mink has nothing but positive recollections of her time as

secretary.

"It was the best job in the world. It wasn't a job; it was a way of life,'' she said.