Times to remember

Alta Vista to celebrate 100 years of learning
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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lta Vista School makes for a great history lesson. In one form or another, the Auburn school has been open for about 100 years. “It’s very old,” third-grader Jacob Campbell said Tuesday. Students and staff of present and past will converge upon the Oak Street campus Saturday to celebrate the many generations of education. Sam Schug, Alta Vista principal, said former students from as far back as the 1930s are expected to attend. “This has been in the back of our minds all year to put this together,” he said Tuesday. “Auburn takes pride in its history. I think that’s important and this school has had so many generations of students. Alta Vista has played a big role in lots of people’s lives.” Attendees can expect old photographs and newspaper clippings, live music and plenty of friendly, familiar faces. Time has been set aside for an open mic, giving people the opportunity to share their Alta Vista memories. Schug expects a large turnout to commemorate a school with such strong roots. “To see the amount of people Alta Vista has touched, that’s neat,” he said. Anyone walking around campus might notice a couple of dates posted on walls and in murals — 1907, 1908, 1911. The old school bell in the main hallway reads 1911, but Schug says there’s enough documentation that indicates the institution that is Alta Vista has been around for 100 years. “In about 1908 the people living on this side of the track decided to form a school district on this side for the smaller children, so they would not have so far to go to school,” Belle Greenfield Riley wrote in notes compiled and edited by family members. She and Carmel Kelly were the first two teachers at Alta Vista, and Riley was also the first of four generations of family members connected to Alta Vista. “She was told that she had to be the principal, too,” said Bob Riley, Belle’s son. “She was also told she would get an extra $12 a year.” A one-room building was constructed off of Lincoln Way, but attendance grew so rapidly that a school was built in 1911 at the current campus site. Bob Riley, who will be at Saturday’s celebration, attended Alta Vista from 1930-1937. “It was a great time to grow up,” he said. “It’s a great part of my life, part of the experience of growing up in Auburn. It was such a place of happy experiences.” Kenneth Newman, age 74, was born and raised in Auburn, and attended Alta Vista in the 1940s with his sister, Jackie Cook. The two siblings are lending photos from that time of their lives to the school for this weekend’s celebration. “From what I understand, our mother was the first cook at the school,” Newman said. Both siblings have fond memories from their time at Alta Vista. “I remember the old school bell on top, upstairs,” Cook said. “Someone rang the bell every morning. It was real special if you got asked to ring the bell.” “If you stopped to see who was ringing the bell, you’d be late, and then you’d be in big trouble,” Newman added. Cook’s children and grandchildren also attended Alta Vista. Newman’s three children attended Alta Vista, and his wife worked there as a teacher’s aide for 25 years. “This is the neighborhood I grew up in, and some of the people I went to school with I still see around town,” he said. “I still live in this neighborhood.” Janet Dufour, school clerk, attended Alta Vista in the 1970s. “Everybody knew everybody — it was a much smaller town back then,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.” Her children, Stephanie and Mitchell, also attended Alta Vista. Dufour looks forward to the centennial celebration, but said it will be a bittersweet occasion, as the campus is scheduled to close at the end of the school year due to district wide declining enrollment. “It’s the closing of an era,” Dufour said. “It’s very sad to see this place go. It’s not to be replaced.” The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at ---------- Alta Vista Elementary School will be celebrating its 100th anniversary from 2-6 p.m. Saturday on the school grounds, 173 Oak St., Auburn. This event coincides with the Alta Vista carnival, which takes place from noon to 4 p.m. the same day. The 100-year celebration will include local food vendors, entertainment and special presentations at a ceremony to be held that day. Retiring teachers Jon Errek, Valerie Jeppson and Jill Keppler, who are all retiring after 37 years at the school, will also be celebrated. All Alta Vista alumni are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact the Alta Vista School office at (530) 885-7066.