New Times

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 10.36.28 AMIn 1994 Arts & Communication High School was under construction. Hammers, saws, and pliers show up on the cover of the yearbook, and in a photo that could be a synecdoche for the year, the profoundly creative multi-faceted Mona Lisa just outside of the dance room in the main hallway is captured in progress, a work of art not quite done.

Art in progress was a reality at Arts & Communication in our school’s third year, just as it is with construction looming today.

Marisa Gonzalez was an eleventh grader that year, and one of three students to paint the film mural above room #104 in the front of the school. She and her friends Ian and Aaron “painted it as a project for Spanish class during our Junior year, with the promise to our teacher Susan McKinney we would be practicing our conversational Spanish while we were painting.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 10.42.14 AMMarisa recalled that “Susan was also my Ohana teacher that year. I remember how easy she was to talk to and coming to her with my ‘boy problems.’ That was probably one of the most refreshing things about the school, feeling like we were in a partnership with the teachers and that they valued our ideas. The teachers created the framework, but as students we were also able to help shape the school into what we wanted it to be. I think Tom Marsh had a lot to do with creating that culture of mutual respect between teachers and students. It was awesome to feel listened to by adults.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 7.57.57 AMThat respect and connection between staff and students has been a defining trait of Arts & Communication since the beginning, and is still one of the realities valued by the adults and students who make up our school. Rooted in the caring work of our founding mothers and fathers, care and kindness are as important in our history as art and communication.

The 1994-1995 school year marked a turning point for Arts & Communication, with the graduating class the “last of the original test group” who opened the school. Those 78 seniors were a creative bunch, painting, writing, working with clay, making music, and making a difference.

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 7.58.20 AM…and sometimes making mischief. Marisa, that muralist, also served on the yearbook staff and recalled “Yearbook was also a blast. I remember working weekends where it was just the yearbook staff and our supervisor Deb Monnier at the school, doing layouts. Back in those days it was all done by hand, cutting and pasting everything into place. Deb let us play music over the PA system (usually the Violent Femmes), and on breaks we would push each other on rolly chairs down the long ramp in the hallway. Deb would always warn us to be careful, and we would jokingly say, ‘Okay, Mom.’”

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 7.59.15 AMBut along with that laughter, and humming along to New Times some real learning, and long term skill building, sidled in alongside the silliness. Marisa added: “We loved our yearbook Mom and she taught us a lot. I’m now a graphic designer working on the yearbook that really helped give me a good foundation for my future career path. I had done yearbook in junior high, but there it felt more like the adults were in charge and we were just there to follow directions. With Deb, she let us take charge. It’s always nice as a teenager to have adults trust you. She even let us sneak a few ‘easter eggs’ into the yearbook. Our senior year, a couple of former students, Trevor and Mahlon, came by to visit. They had graduated the year before and were on the yearbook staff previously. Somehow we decided that it would be really funny if we snuck them into the yearbook. So we took their pictures and added them in among the actual seniors. I still giggle when I flip through my old 94/95 yearbook and see them in there.”

As the school evolved, becoming something more than a fledgling program, so too the building was remodeled to meet the growing needs of Arts & Communication. New science labs and a new stage sprang up on campus, the dust and wet paint a part of the school’s life throughout the year.

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Even amidst this hammering and sawing, at Arts & Communication the spirit of creativity flourished. Students photographed their world, performed on stage and off, and produced a yearbook complete with silly photos. 

Arts & Communication served as a place where those students in the silly photos became young adults, where they began to set the trajectory of their lives, lives as diverse and interesting as they were (and are) and colored by the imaginations fostered in classrooms on the evolving C.E. Mason campus.

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A few pictures from the 1995 yearbook, including two graduates from 1994.

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Springing to Life

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One of the most shocking differences between campus in 1993 and 2018 is the greenhouse. Show photos of the place to current students and staff and jaws drop. “How big is that?” isn’t an uncommon reaction, nor is “Here?” But get past the images of lots of four-square courts, an extra basketball hoop, and powder blue trim on our building and you’ll see something familiar.

Students from 1993 look like they could walk ACMA’s hallways today. Looking at photos of young sculptors, painters, and musicians, the founding mothers and fathers of our school, is a reminder that while hairstyles change, the spirit of creativity is as strong as ever decade after decade.

IMG_9306In the second year of Arts & Communication, the creative spirit was very strong.

Jean Pence was the principal of Arts and Communication in 1993, and she remembers “walking into an old elementary school building that was trying to adjust to having high school students roam the halls and occupy the classrooms.” In its second year, this “fledgling program” was busy making art, making meaning, and figuring out what it meant to be someplace different.

“Sometimes we didn’t agree on what our mission was,” Jean remembered. “Sometimes there were struggles among the ninth and tenth grade team members and the eleventh and twelfth grade team members.  Sometimes there were struggles between the staff and the administration. Often there were misconceptions from the larger schools and community about our students. Students were bright and articulate, albeit dressing a bit different.”

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Those differences extended beyond clothing; students at A & C, as it was sometimes called, thought divergently and approached life and school from a different point of view. Playful, creative, and iconoclastic, most were focused on those two defining words: arts and communication.

IMG_9303You see that in the beautiful audacity of the artwork they created: giant sculptures, huge canvases, and lots and lots of poetry. Students wrote, danced, and made art. Music, movies, murals were all a part of life on a campus becoming its own.

By the spring of 1994 some of the most iconic Mona Lisa murals were up in the hallways: the flannel Mona Lisa, the Dog Mona Lisa, and the abstract Mona Lisa that hangs near the Tom Marsh Gallery today. Tom Marsh was teaching in 1993-1994.

IMG_9309During this second year, students were making the school theirs with a prom, open houses, and an end of the year picnic.

The program was growing in the 1993-1994 school year, like the plants in the greenhouse, nurtured by the sun of creativity, the water of hard work, and the constant tending of passionate people who cared deeply about the arts.

“tappity-click”

“September 8th, 1992. The Grand opening of CE Mason Arts and Communication high school. Approximately one hundred and fifty high school students came that anxious Monday morning expecting something different than the ordinary run of the mill (preppy) high school that most of us have more or less attended in utter boredom. Our expectations set a high standard for the CE Mason staff, and we all wondered if it could be met. As the year progressed, there were many doubts as to the flexibility and quality of our school, and there were some who gave it up and returned to their home schools. But there were also some new faces around the middle of the year who had heard about our school and decided to give it a try.”        -from the 1992-1993 yearbook

Students willing to try “something different.” It’s a hallmark of Arts & Communication Magnet Academy, as it has been since before ACMA was ACMA.

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 10.03.49 AMIn the fall of 1992 our little art school burst into existence with a flash of color. While the school kept the C.E. Mason name on the curve above the front doorway and the powder blue trim around the building, inside the hallways resonated with teenage voices and the classrooms became places where students created art.

Those students, so very many of them sporting flannel shirts and mischievous smiles, drew, wrote, and worked with clay. They painted, made music, and a lived life unconventionally.

Peek inside that first yearbook, its cover adorned with an incongruous dragon, and you’ll see faces that look like they could belong to students today, students at pottery wheels, students laughing in wainscoted hallways, students mugging in the courtyard beneath a basketball hoop.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 9.41.36 AMMixed in with the student mug shots, which aren’t divided by grade level and are not quite in alphabetical order, you’ll find photos of Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and Barbara Streisand, artistically mature tastes in stark juxtaposition to the playfully sophomoric senior quotes.

And so much flannel.

That yearbook dedicated three pages to student poetry, and even more to student artwork. One poem captures the spirit of the times, the longing of the creative soul, and the tools a poet took to her craft in 1992.

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I can hear that typewriter clicking in our unnamed poet’s bedroom. See her rolling up the paper, taking it out of the machine, and submitting it to the yearbook editors. That poetic sensibility is as real in 2018 as it was a quarter century ago.

IMG_9203Today, looking back at Arts and Communication in its first year means pouring through slides, bags of them. To do this as well as possible, yesterday some intrepid ACMA photography students found a slide projector, learned how to load it, and set up shop in my office, projecting on a blank wall.

As they clicked through the images, clunk-clunk, clunk-clunk, they marveled at the differences on campus (there was a second basketball hoop!), puzzled whose room was shown in the the photos (Ms. Chapman and Ms. Fanning’s rooms were once combined as the library), and laughed at the abundance of plaid shirts. So. Much. Flannel.

In a week or so we’ll put together a grand slideshow (literally slides, clunk-clunk, clunk-clunk) at lunch to look back at the early 90s. If it goes well, we could add a sequel with the stack of slides from 1998 and 1999.

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But in its first year, Arts and Communication at C.E. Mason was finding its voice, a voice filled with wit and whimsy. It knew it didn’t want to be an “ordinary run of the mill (preppy) high school” but just how it would get there was still blank space on a map.

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 10.03.33 AMIn the 1992-1993 school year the portables were still used by other district programs, and A&C students still shared space with community school and CEYP. They were together, however, at the opening of a journey whose possibility stretched forward like something out of Tolkien. That they would be unconventional, there was no doubt. What that would look like …just wait and see.

When graduation arrived in June of 1993 it was announced with a red, white, and blue banner touting Arts & Communications (the first use of an ampersand I’ve seen in the school’s name, and the unusual plural of the second descriptor). About twenty seniors crossed the stage that year, in front of a quilt hung on the wall.

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They smiled for cameras, hugged one another, and left their mark on the DNA of our school. These founding mothers and fathers, the first to jump into the unknown that would become ACMA, prepared the way for every student since who has taken a deep breath, looked out at the world through artistic eyes, and decided they wanted “something different.”

Growing Up

Just as the early 20th century doctor the school was named for was famous for his generosity, kindness, and caring, in the years between 1974 and 1992 the campus of C.E. Mason opened its arms for students of many experiences, challenges, and backgrounds. Beaverton’s Community School called C.E. Mason home beginning in 1980, and a highlight of those open arms years came when the area that was once the cafeteria became the home for Continuing Education for Young Parents program, often known as CEYP.

The basement, now the counseling office and once the cafeteria, held a nursery for children from one month to six years old. Parents entered through what is now the counseling office door and were able to see their children play just to the right, in what is now the lobby, study-room, file room, and bathroom. This area was divided by age groups and the other section of the basement held a space for tutorials, a small cafeteria, and a place for social gathering. It also was the place where the young parents would come to work on homework or prepare for tests.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 3.25.29 PMThe support staff for CEYP was located in the offices near the cafeteria, where they would help some students study for the GED. At the same time, other students would take general core and elective classes with the rest of the Community School “Masonites.”

These years marked the transition of campus from serving elementary students to seeing teenagers at C.E. Mason. Rooms built for youngsters were refurbished and remodeled for bigger kids. It was the start of our school’s life with an eye toward life in the years after school, helping young adults see futures where they could thrive.

Left alone, C.E. Mason might have remained a stable positive influence for years, but from the start this has always been a changing and evolving educational landscape, and as the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, the spark of an idea appeared.

This little campus was about to be changed by one of the most powerful transformative powers around: Art.

Hunting for C.E. Mason

This summer I started the project of chronicling my school’s history from its beginnings as an elementary school in the late 1940s to its transformation into the arts magnet academy it is today. This meant historical research, which provided lots of information and some terrific stories about life on campus in the middle of the last century, but after much digging I was left with one blank that gnawed at me: The man the school had been named for, C.E. Mason himself.

Sure, I had the bare bones of a 1920’s era biographical sketch:

CURTIS EUGENE MASON.
A native Hoosier, born in 1880, the son of William and Isabella (Liggett) Mason, Dr. Curtis Eugene Mason, a prominent physician of Beaverton, spent his boyhood in Missouri after the immigration of his parents to that state, receiving his education in the public schools there. The Masons were of English descent and were Indiana pioneers and Dr. Mason’s paternal grandfather served in the Civil war, participating in Sherman’s march to the sea. Graduating from high school Curtis Eugene Mason matriculated at the University of Chicago and later at Rush Medical College from which latter institution he graduated in 1911 with the degree of M. D. He came to Oregon the same year and entered on hospital work in Portland, practicing for four years with Dr. Bodine of that city. Removing in 1917 to Beaverton he began his practice there. He was at this time enlisted in the Medical Reserve Corps and was prepared to serve in France should he be called. Fortunately for those dependent upon his medical services at home, and they were many, no such necessity presented itself during the war and Dr. Mason continued to devote himself to his practice.

In 1912, Dr. Mason was united in marriage to Bertha Clement, the daughter of a retired banker of Wisconsin now a poultry fancier in Washington county, Oregon. Mrs. Mason is a graduate of the University of Chicago and was for some years an educator. Their children are all boys: Herbert Eugene, John William and David Clement.

Dr. Mason is a deacon of the Congregational church and a member of the board of trustees. Fraternally his affiliations are several. He is a Mason in more than name and a Woodman of the World. He belongs to the Multnomah Medical Society, the State Medical Society and the American Medical Association. While his practice is a general one Dr. Mason has long been interested in the diseases of children and in a larger community would specialize in that branch of his profession. Though still a young man he has built up an extensive practice and stands high in the esteem of the people of Washington county, particularly among those who are his compatriots.

That he married the daughter of a “poultry fancier” …amazing.

Yes, I’d read the newspapers that gave me glimpses of the man, but even though he had been a civic leader for decades, served on the school board for close to twenty years, and had an elementary school named in his honor, as I researched my way through July, August, and September I could not find a single photograph of the elusive C.E. Mason.

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 7.33.53 AM.pngThe usual internet search provided little more than Dr. Mason’s advertisement in Beaverton’s newspaper from the 1920s, which stayed particularly consistent for years.

A little more legwork, and the help of some kind souls, provided a bit more: he was Beaverton’s only doctor for a great many years, comforted and cared for the community through influenza epidemics, and delivered so many babies.

Elected to the school board in 1920, he was committed to improving education in Beaverton, hiring and keeping good teachers, and making schools in town as good as those in Portland.

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A friend at the district office brought out a manilla envelope with wonderful photos of the school named in his honor. From the 1960s and 1970s, they showed buildings, vintage cars, and no C.E. Mason.

I tried the local Masonic Lodge where the aptly named doctor had been a member, but didn’t hear back. My school librarian reached out on Facebook and got some leads, but still no picture. Internet searches of historical photographs led nowhere. The closest we got was a picture of his son as a youngster.

My office staff, an intrepid bunch, turned to one of those online ancestry websites, and over the course of a couple of weeks facsimiles of Curtis Eugene Mason’s draft cards (brown eyes, brown hair) and census found their way onto my desk, cool artifacts, but no photo.

My assistant principal, a sensible woman, saw our work, tilted her head, and said: “You’re stalking him.”

I suppose.

Then the day my receptionist leaned in to my office and said: “I have C.E. Mason’s grandson on the phone for you!”

He was calling from Alaska.

He remembered his grandfather fondly, proud of his work on the school board and as a doctor in Beaverton. He thought he had some photos …the holy grail!… and said he’d look for them.

By late September, he still hadn’t found them.

A phone call from a second C.E. Mason grandson, this one living in sunny California, yielded some fantastic stories.

He told us that his grandfather “was self-made and proud of it.  He was a teacher, but his principal at a school in Missouri encouraged him to go to medical school.” That care for education lasted a lifetime, where he was an active member of the school board, eventually its president, and a constant advocate for improving teaching and learning for all students.

He was also proud to be a physician and always ready to make a difference. As his grandson remembered, “when he attended church in Beaverton, his stethoscope often dangled out of his suit coat pocket.  That was not accidental. He had a home downtown, across the street from the Masonic Lodge which had an office downstairs. He saw patients all day, and again in the evening, after he had dinner. That’s the only time many local farmers could see him.”

Caring for others was a hallmark of C.E. Mason’s life. “During the depression,” his grandson remembered, “he accepted trade items for people who couldn’t pay.  A couple chickens or a hog or whatever. Some didn’t pay. Some took years. In 1960’s, he received payment for an operation he performed in the twenties.”

Did he have a picture? He’d look.

While we waited for a photo we kept digging.

I joined the “You know you’re from Beaverton…” Facebook group, which led to some marvelous contacts and great pictures from the school’s past, but nothing more on the good doctor.

As the leaves turned orange, red, and yellow, we had to imagine Dr. Mason from the few details we could piece together: his eyes and hair color from the draft card, his grandson’s description of him in his 80s, overwhelming appreciation for his work as a doctor.

September turned into October.

…and then, a breakthrough!

I should know that when in doubt, the best thing anyone can do is contact a librarian.

I’d reached out to the Beaverton Library early on and gotten some great leads on the early history of our school. Microfiche, still a real thing, offered up clues about life in the last half of the past century, and then, midway through October, Jill Adams, Beaverton City Library’s Adult Services Reference Librarian, sent an email with the short text:

From the title 100 People who shaped the century 1993 LHIS 979.5 ONE 1993

Attached was PDF.

Eureka! I fumbled with my phone, clicking on the attachment and waiting.

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 7.40.33 AMThe circle spun, telling me the file was loading, and then…

An error message.

So. Close.

I hurried to a computer and pulled up the email.

There, in sepia and black, was a scan of an article on this “history shaper” described as “a busy doctor and community leader.” Much was information I’d read before, gathered here as a summation of his altruistic life. “According to his son, Mason, who died in 1976 at the age of 96, remained a member of the Chamber of Commerce until he ended his family medical practice in the early 1960s.”

It went on to say that “He delivered about 2,000 babies in Beaverton and Tigard.” It didn’t mention, I thought to myself, that some of those deliveries, in both homes and hospitals, were done for little payment, or (as his grandson had told me) for the payment of a chicken or what the family could afford.

And then, looking back at me with kind bespectacled eyes, was the man himself.

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Months into the search it was an emotional and satisfying revelation.

No monocle or handlebar mustache, no ascot or kooky expression, C.E. Mason looked the kind, sober fellow I’d been hearing about. I know that I’ll keep searching for another picture or two of Dr. Mason; I’d like to have a framed photo up in our new building, nothing ostentatious, just a simple conversation starter about someone who cared deeply for education, his community, and making a difference through kindness.

Get on the Bus

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.47.04 AMThe decade of the 80s was a transitional time for C.E. Mason’s campus. District programs filled the building, young scholars visited campus for special programs and child care was established for teenage students with babies of their own.

One of those elementary aged students, G., who spent every Thursday at C.E. Mason is now an innovator for our district, a teacher on special assignment and happy collaborator on our BSD Future Bus. G. remembered getting on a yellow school bus at Cedar Mill Elementary and driving to C.E. Mason for “enrichment” and active learning.

At C.E. Mason, he and students from other elementary schools dissected cow eyes, made stop motion animation, and once simulated a medieval city. Taking one day a week, 20% of his 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years, to come to this little school where he was challenged, inspired, and encouraged was life changing for for G. and the students from across the district given the opportunity.

As a participant, he remembered, it was “awesome” to do the extremely hands on activities; as a social practice, he reflected, “not so much.”

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.46.29 AMThe 1980s were a time of tracking in education, and G. recalled that while a handful of students from each class were allowed the bus ride to C.E. Mason for challenging curriculum and creative thinking, those who remained in their elementary classrooms were offered instead an extra chocolate milk at lunch.

The world of education has changed greatly since then. Heterogeneously grouped classes, hands on activities integrated throughout the curriculum, and innovators like G. hired to work with teachers to bring creativity, making, and doing into classrooms, show that while once certain kids were put on a bus to go to innovation, now that innovation comes to all kids …sometimes on a brightly painted bus.

At C.E. Mason in the mid 1980s, however, it was cadres of curious, hand picked pupils who studied mental abstraction and spatial reasoning, learned science by doing, and history through creative simulations. Technology loomed large for those students, albeit on floppy disks, and creativity using that technology was expected and encouraged.

For any who believe that education has slipped in the past thirty years, I’d suggest that many of those same approaches and activities that worked for the chosen few students can be seen on campus today …for every student. That, I’d argue, is progress.

Safe Haven

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.46.13 AMYear after year the kids filed in. Smiling faces, eager learners, tears, scraped knees, victories and defeats on the four square courts. From 1949 through 1974 C.E. Mason Elementary was home to neighborhood kids, a solid foundation for future Beavertonians.

Students at C.E. Mason saw lots of change around them, both nationally as events of the middle of the last century marched, lurched, and scurried this way and that, and closer to home with additions to their campus that included covered walkways and a couple of different colored paint jobs.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 1.32.06 PMLooking back at photos of students from across the years is to see in youth what the country was like through the cold war and into the turbulent 70s. In school pictures, the collars widen, hair lengthens on both boys and girls, and formality gives way to a more colorful world.

By 1973, however, enrollment at C.E. Mason had dropped below 400 students, and in June of 1974 it closed its doors as an elementary school.

That’s not to say that C.E. Mason ceased to exist. In the fall of 1974 the building welcomed students from Five Oaks Intermediate School who stayed for two years as their new campus was being built. It was a new life for an old building, a renewal of sorts that would help to define our campus for the rest of the decade.

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.13.31 AMOn September 4th, 285 students from Five Oaks moved onto campus determined to make it their own. They filled classrooms with music played on record players and doughnuts frying in electric skillets in culinary arts. The Quonset Hut became home to the basketball team, gymnasts, and wrestlers, and outside administrators bundled up to supervise in the rain. (That last one has been constant since Principal Esther Peer in 1949 and on up to today. I’ll be heading out for lunch duty in the rain soon).Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.16.05 AM

Five Oaks students had electives like woodcraft and tie-dying, and students from 1974-1976 remember wearing the brightly colored hand made t-shirts in the hallways.

The Bicentennial year saw students doing pull ups on outdoor metal bars, sampling soup in the courtyard, and studying Spanish while wearing the groovy designs our kids dress up in on 70s day during Spirit Week.

All in all, Five Oaks made C.E. Mason their own for the two years they were here, and the photos from the time suggest it was fabulous! When they moved back to their home campus, I have to imagine that a few missed the place they spent 1974-1976.

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Greenway Elementary School followed Five Oaks, filling C.E. Mason until their school was completed in 1980. In these “in between” years our campus was, as Timberland Middle School will be for ACMA next year, a haven for students in need of a place to learn.