A Night to Remember

With its closure nearing, Ochoco Elementary's past students and faculty come visit the school one last time


LEXIE TOMBLESON - This cake was available for visitors during the Night to Remember event.

On Thursday, May 21, a reception was held in the library of Ochoco Elementary School, giving people who have been associated with the building an opportunity to come and share its history and their own memories.

Royce Chadwick was the principal of the elementary school for 14 years. “I hadn’t been here very long when I decided I had the best job of any in the state. Good people, good staff. The parents were cooperative, the kids were good.”

Longtime physical education teacher Jeff Hunter, standing with Royce, shared his story: “Royce hired me; he decided to take a chance on me.”

“Well, you decided to take a chance on me, too,” laughed Royce.

Then Hunter continued, “I was from out of state, and everyone here just took me in. I felt like I had a whole new family. And I stayed right here for 30 years.”

Amos Madison, former student, with Ann Sherman, reminisced as they looked at scrapbook pages. “I remember the teachers, they were so caring about the kids, and maintained such good discipline."

Sherman attended “that other school (Crooked River)," but they both remembered stewed tomatoes often being served at lunch.

“We hid them in our milk cartons so we could be excused for recess,” they laughed. “I think that was my main motivation to bring my own lunch,” said Madison.

Audrey Roseberry was the head cook for several years; Jewel Mooney was second cook, and Janet Gillett was a kitchen helper and whatever else was needed. They all retired in the early '80s, but came together to the reception with their friend, Barbara Beatty, who also worked in the kitchen. The four ladies still meet once a month to have lunch together.

“You had another family here,” they all agreed.

Grace Deboodt has taught at the school for the past 12 years. She is very sad to see it closing. “I subbed here before I took over for Gilda Condron when she retired. I got to learn from the best. And Gilda’s shoes were awfully big ones to fill.”

Condron herself recounted a very special memory: “One year I had a Hispanic girl in my class; she was extremely quiet, shy, almost withdrawn. Then we did a unit on South America, and I asked her if her mother would make tortillas for the class. Her mother agreed. She came to school and made them right in the classroom. The kids absolutely loved them. From then on, that little girl was a different person. She was so much more relaxed and outgoing. I will never forget that.”

Condron taught at Ochoco for 20 years.

When Marv Cochran arrived in 1967, the school was designated a “poverty school;” the majority of the children were classified as “poor.” “But they weren’t poor in intelligence or enthusiasm,” said Mr. Cochran. “And it was an honor to teach with such dedicated teachers.” Cochran taught music at Ochoco, and at every other school in the district, during his career.

Cochran's wife, Mary, has a favorite memory of the school: “When we performed The Prineville Follies in the gymnasium and it was 30 degrees below zero outside. It was so cold inside that when Jan Boles played a flute solo, you could see her breath.”

Krystal (Moore) Madison was a member of the first group of students to attend the new school, in 1945. “We started the year at Crooked River, then we were transferred here. My mom was a substitute teacher, and I always got in trouble from her. We had tables with students sitting at them in the gym and even on the stage.”

Her husband, Gary, was assistant principal and a classroom teacher for 18 years. “I really enjoyed teaching math and history. I liked to dress up according to what period of history we were studying.”

Nancy Fehrenbacher taught first grade for 12 years, and had the pleasure of seeing her daughter, Jennifer, take over her classroom when she retired.

Von Thompson remembers having to go to the principal’s office because he’d been in a scuffle on the playground. The principal also happened to be his dad.

“I ended up getting a swat, and so did the other guy. Then when I got home, I got another swat for embarrassing my family in public.” When Thompson was 5, the school flooded. “The water came in the east doors of the gym, down the main hall, and took a right at the elementary hall, following the old creek bed. I was volunteered to hold sand bags while the adults filled them. We did get the water under control.”

To the left of the main entrance is a plaque which reads, “Mission Statement, Ochoco Elementary School: To improve academic achievement and foster physical, social, and emotional growth in a safe, caring, engaging, and challenging community.”

Mission Accomplished, Ochoco Elementary.

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