Kent’s Meridian Elementary to throw 70th birthday party June 10

The community is invited to attend the 70th birthday party of Meridian, the oldest operating school in the Kent School District. Current and former students, teachers and staff are all invited to share memories about the school, view school memorabilia and enjoy cake, coffee and punch. Four current Meridian teachers also attended the school.

Keith Hunter

Keith Hunter

Morris Skagen remembers walking outside of Meridian Elementary School in Kent as a student in the 1940s and seeing nothing but dairy farms.

“This was all farm country,” said Skagen, 74, of Auburn, as he returned last week to the East Hill school to help prepare for its 70th birthday party on Friday, June 10.

Several of the teachers who were single in the 1940s would board with farm families.

“Sometimes we would walk with the teachers to the farm homes and have cookies,” Skagen recalled.

The community is invited to attend the 70th birthday party of Meridian, the oldest operating school in the Kent School District. Current and former students, teachers and staff are all invited to share memories about the school, view school memorabilia and enjoy cake, coffee and punch. Four current Meridian teachers also attended the school.

“It’ll be interesting to see the former students and to hear the stories of the students who were here in the 1940s,” said Keith Hunter, of Kent, who taught at Meridian for nearly 35 years before retiring in 2008, although he still substitutes at the school. “It’s even changed quite a bit from 1973 when I started.”

Meridian, 25621 140th Ave. S.E., opened in 1941 to replace four smaller schools on the East Hill. Those schools were Brace, Tanner, Covington and Ham. The school initially had grades one through eight. The school was part of the Meridian School District before it merged with the Kent School District.

“Seven grades were in this building and eighth grade was across the street where the fire station now stands,” said Skagen, who is writing a book about the history of Soos Creek plateau, a 35-square mile area that surrounds the school.

Skagen first attended the school in 1943 as a first-grade student.

“I even remember my first teacher Mrs. Feena Mattson Busch,” he said. “The junior high (now Mattson Middle School in Covington) was named after her family.”

Skagen lived about 2 miles from the school along Kent-Kangley Road near Lake Meridian. He rode the bus to school most days. His father drove a milk truck.

“It was very prosperous because of the demand for milk in Kent, Auburn and Seattle,” Skagen said.

Skagen worked 36 years as a librarian at Tacoma Community College before retiring. He now runs the Soos Creek Botanical Garden at 29308 132nd Ave. S.E. in Auburn. He plans to open a small history museum about the Soos Creek plateau in July at the gardens.

But the history this week is all about Meridian Elementary.

“It’s very nostalgic,” Skagen said about his return to the school. “Not much has changed (in the main) building. The office and my first-grade classroom are in the same place.”

The school has undergone several renovations and additions over the years. The fountain that once stood on the side of the school is gone.

Tonya Schneider, who oversees the school yearbook, and Pam Thomasson, the school secretary, came up with the idea to throw a 70th birthday party. They organized the celebration.

“We wanted to do something special,” said Schneider, who attended Meridian in the early 1970s.

Schneider discovered in the school dungeon a piece of the old gym floor that included the face of a cougar, the school mascot. She also found posters from the 1950s advertising Meridian PTA fundraisers that featured special guests J.P. Patches and Stan Boreson, two well-known Seattle television entertainers back in the day.

Cheryl (Hulk) Barrett and Wanda (Gruenich) Ursino attended Meridian in the 1950s and plan to be at the 70th birthday party.

“We were cheerleaders here,” Barrett said during a recent visit to the school. “And I remember square dancing in the gym.”

Barrett said her mother, Verna Hulk, started the first kindergarten class at Meridian in 1949.

Those are just the type of stories Schneider wants people to share at the party.

“We will have an open mike for former students, teachers and principals,” Schneider said.

 

Meridian Elementary turns 70

What: Meridian Elementary 70th birthday party open house

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, June 10

Where: 25621 140th Ave. S.E.

 

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