Inside

Close to a hundred of us gathered in the library, cameras out, curiosity high, ready to see what was going to happen. At the front of the room our assistant principal and a senior stood together, masks over their faces, goggles on their eyes, power tools and a crowbar laid out in front of them on a table. Also on the table was a box.

box

Beautiful patinated copper, sealed decades earlier, the box was an object that had been in the principal’s office longer than most of our students had been alive.

Rumor had it that the box was found when workers moved a sign denoting the construction of C.E. Mason Elementary and opened the wall where it had been stowed. With no markings on the box and no indication who had put it there or how long it had been tucked behind the metal plaque, it got put on a shelf and there it stayed.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 1.48.55 PMUntil today.

A few weeks back we started advertising the event, our opening the box that we believed was a time capsule. No one knew how old it was, or to be honest even if it was a time capsule. Old cynics wondered if there would actually be anything interesting inside. One cheeky alum suggested it might “unleash the demonic horde upon its unsealing.”

But we opted to brave disappointment or swirling demons, and during an all school lunch we gathered anyone interested in joining our adventure, prepped the power tools, and cued up a couple of cameras to capture the event.

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It took some work, but we broke into the box, pulled away a flap of copper, and looked inside. What we found was amazing.

IMG_0742Three stout newspapers were tucked in the time capsule, dated 1951. From them we learned about a school bond measure, rattling sabers of international conflict, and the shocking headline: BOY TUSSLES, DIES. Ye gads. One student asked afterward: “People really read these?” We assured him they did.

More local were copies of Live Wire, the elementary school newspaper, complete with jokes, updates, and stories written by the first through fifth graders. An example: “What can a canary do that a strong man can’t do? ans. Take a bath in a saucer.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 1.31.17 PMA photograph of the land on which the school was built came next, a glimpse back at 1947 when Beaverton looked much more rural than it does today.

An accompanying document, aged to sepia, informed us that the price of the parcel was $11,000 for “ten acres, more or less.”

Next out of the box were a fistful of envelopes, carefully labeled, containing documents relating to the school: a Teachers’ Bulletin, a Parent-Teachers Program, and a Teachers’ Handbook. That handbook told us that “every teacher should train her homeroom in good citizenship to prevent vandalism” and that “freak or cruel punishments should never be used, and all corporal punishment will be administered by the superintendent.”

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More photos came next, smiling faces of the children of C.E. Mason Elementary. Many of these pupils, to borrow the parlance of the age, would be in their seventies now. A couple of our current kids wondered aloud if we might track them down. We might.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 1.35.53 PMIncluded was an Oregon Department of Education report on the school, which proudly reported “The spirit of the school is excellent. Children show their pride in the new school by their behavior as they move quietly and busily about the building. They show a desire to learn and an enthusiasm about the school curriculum. A pleasant comradeship among the teachers reflects a comfortable environment.”

A history of the Beaverton Schools written by 8th grade students told us that “in the 1890s, boys and girls of Beaverton went to school in a three room, frame schoolhouse …at the entrance to the school yard was a sort of stile, with steps designed to keep stray stock from entering—at that time cattle and other animals roamed about pretty much as they pleased.” 1890 was closer to 1951 than 1951 is to today.

Another envelope labeled “silver coins” revealed $1.80 in nickels, quarters, dimes, and a half dollar, not enough to buy anything fancy, but a treasure nonetheless.

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Rolled up tight beside the envelopes were a stack of scrolls signed by the faculty of C.E. Mason Elementary and each of the classes. From familiar (to Beaverton educators) names like Errol Hassell to the childish scrawl and budding penmanship of 1950s youngsters, these lists of names made a personal impression on those of us gathered in the library.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 1.29.23 PMTucked inside with the rest of it all was as pamphlet from the Masonic Lodge. Somehow that felt right.

Principal Esther Peer’s “Monthly Report” told us the details of the school: 198 students filled C.E. Mason, with four tardies for the month, and a 98.2% attendance rate. I can picture her sitting in this same office I’m in today, pencil in hand, writing out the report with beautiful precision.

Right now, of course, my office smells like 1951.

With the box open and lunch at an end, the assembled students and staff went back to classes, thinking, maybe, about the faces of those who have filled these hallways before us. The former English teacher that I am couldn’t help but think of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society inviting students to lean in and really look at the faces of the lads who had come before them. Carpe Diem, he whispered, seize the day.

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Throughout this year our school has taken the opportunity to look back over the decades that this campus has welcomed students, from the opening of C.E. Mason Elementary through short stays by Five Oaks Middle School, Greenway Elementary, and a slew of special programs, and finally the establishment of Arts & Communication in 1992. These reflections help to give us perspective, root us in history, and show us a human face for the passage of time.

When we open our new building in 2021, seven decades after the first school opened on this site, our current students will install a time capsule of their own. How I wonder what the principal and her students in 2090 or so will think when they break open our box.

I hope that they will have that same feeling of wonder and exhilaration that we all felt in the library today, that looking back and seeing ourselves, that experience of connection with a group of people learning and laughing where we now do.More than history, today’s grand opening of that present from 1951 was true inspiration. Carpe Diem. Lean in. Seize the day.

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We’re working to scan and photograph all the objects from this marvelous collection, and we hope to have it online in early April.

Gramps

His email arrived like a gust of Alaskan wind, ruffling an otherwise uneventful Thursday and bringing with it a hearty smile.

Nanuq!

That’s Inupiaq Eskimo for Bjorn.

I’m trying to find the photos of my grandfather, Dr. CE Mason, which I know I have someplace. I fear they may be in my Conex shipping container, which is at this time completely buried in snow.

But these two photos are good for a start. They were taken by my grandmother, Bertha Clement Mason. She developed and printed her own photos. The information says they were both taken on the Canby to Molalla Road.

I’ll keep looking for the other photos. Gramps was a big fan of getting studio portraits taken.

thanks,

James Mason
Nome Alaska

As many folks know, I spent the better part of the fall searching for a photograph of C.E. Mason, the fellow our school building was named after in 1949, a local doctor and school board member, and a truly valued citizen of our little town in the first half of the 20th century. He was, by all accounts, also known as being generous to those he served as a physician, an advocate for quality education in Beaverton, and an extremely kind person.

Stories of the hundreds and hundreds of babies he delivered in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, many in peoples’ homes, abound, as do memories of him taking in payment what his patients could afford. As I heard these stories in the fall, I could imagine him traveling the dirt roads out to farms, calling on those in need with the care, kindness, and professionalism that would endear him to generations of Beaverton families.

With this note from his grandson James came photographs that brought those imaginations to life. The first was of Dr. Mason traveling by horse and buggy.

DR. CE Mason 1912. Near Canby Oregon

I could almost hear the clop of the horses and see the doctor as he bent his head toward the work at hand, helping those in need. It reminded me of a story told to me by one of C.E. Mason’s other grandsons, Richard, who said that once he “met an old couple whose family farm had been sold to build a new housing development. The couple, twin brother and sister, had a fascinating personal story that still made them smile.

“They were born at home in the late thirties to a young mother. Back then, twins were a challenge, so apparently C.E. never told their mother she had twins. She went into labor late one night and C.E. drove out to the farm and delivered the first baby around 11:30 at night. Then, he told the mother, “My goodness, we’ve got another baby in here.”

“The mother said, “Well, I’m exhausted.  I’m going to sleep.” After 45 minutes, she awakened and pushed out the other baby, which was born at 12:15 am. The two were delighted to tell people (all their lives) that although they were twins, they had different birthdays.  They smiled when they told me the story and they were in their late 70’s.”

Dr. CE Mason 1912

The next picture, from the same era, shows the tall, lean C.E. Mason, bowler hat and dark suit, standing in a very Oregonian landscape. Not one to be confined to a city, I thought, not unlike his grandson in Nome.

Look close at this photo and you’ll see the rutted dirt road on which Dr. Mason piloted his horse and buggy. From his dapper bowler and bow tie to his well worn shoes, C.E. Mason is every inch a country doctor who made a difference. I can almost make out his stethoscope bulging from his coat pocket.

I love the fact that it was Bertha Mason who took and developed the photographs, something I mentioned to our current photography classes when I showed them the pictures. She was an artist in her own right, I thought, looking at that photo in the woods, and a good one at that.

Dr. CE Mason and wife Bertha

Another email followed the first, with two more delightful pictures. The first gives a face to Bertha, standing beside her husband, taken sometime around 1910. They’re a handsome couple, poised on the start of a grand adventure that will take them from Illinois to Oregon.

The final photo is a studio portrait from 1960. The fifty years that separate these two photographs were filled with so very much history, including in 1949 the naming of a new Beaverton Elementary School after the good doctor. Arts & Communication Magnet Academy now lives on the spot of C.E. Mason Elementary, and as we look to rebuild campus at the end of this year, it makes me happy to have a photograph that we can frame and put in our office, a nod to a founding father, and a reminder that kindness and generosity, dapper bowlers and well worn shoes, a sense of civic spirit and a dedication to education will always have a place in our school.

Dr. CE Mason

On a personal note, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to James Mason for sharing these beautiful photographs of his “gramps.” They bring to life a person I’ve read much about and whose story I am proud to share with our school community. Thanks too to Richard Mason for the memories of C.E. he shared. Learning more about our past helps us gain perspective that can make our collective future better and better. Thank you.

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.

pics

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.

What are you going to be?

A decade into its life, C.E. Mason Elementary was an established school showing children how to behave in the world around them. Kids studied hard, played hard, and got the kind of advice you can imagine a serious adult might wag a finger at the youngsters and deploy. Hearing stories of the school from the 1950s and early 1960s is a reminder that the anxieties and playfulness kids bring to school with them today are the same their parents and grandparents brought with them when they were youngsters, and the concern and care educators and parents have for kids isn’t all that different now than it was when Eisenhower was president.

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Back then, however, the voice of education echoed over the school intercom.

“I could nearly write the message the principal read over the intercom every morning,” a C.E. Mason alum told me this fall, recounting word for word the stentorian adult voice that filled the school to start the day.

Are you going to be ‘Mr or Miss Daydreamer?’ Are you going to stare out the window all day, thinking about your horse or favorite TV show and ignore your teacher? Or you going to be ‘Mr or Miss Ants-in-your-Pants?’  Are you going to wander around the room and not to your school work?”

“Same speech nearly every day,” he remembered, the words as fresh in his mind today as they were almost sixty years ago.

Richard and his brother came to C.E. Mason Elementary as fifth and fourth graders, transferring when their neighbor put up a fence to keep kids from walking through his driveway. New to the school, he remembered sitting in Mr. Miller’s class and thinking that all the kids knew each other. “I just wanted to fit in,” he told me. “Not stick out.”

The “Playshed” was Richard’s favorite place at C.E. Mason. “It was the big round topped play area,” he recalled, describing the Quonset Hut that still stands just northwest of the main building. “We played four-square, which was quite competitive and serious at C.E. Mason, compared to Raleigh Hills. I had a friend named Larry who was overweight, but quite good. His mom was a cook in the cafeteria at BHS. I didn’t see him again until our 20th High School Reunion. Everyone was raving how great Larry looked.  He’s lost weight and was very virile and good-looking. He is now a physical therapist in Alaska. He told me that he was embarrassed that everyone commented about his appearance. I asked him when he lost all the weight. He said, “Years ago. I lost weight as soon as I got away from my mom’s cooking.”

Lunches were a big deal at C.E. Mason, which had a cafeteria in an age when not every school did. Richard remembered once coming home from school and telling his mother that he had discovered that he really liked beets. “I asked her why we never had them,” he said. “She was silent for awhile and then admitted my dad hated them, and that’s why we had never had them in my childhood.” Thank goodness for the C.E. Mason cafeteria.

But it was more than beets that stuck with Richard most from his days at C.E. Mason. For a student who just wanted to be a part of the crowd and not stick out he had one major strike against him.

On Richard’s first day in Mr. Miller’s class the principal did more than just quiz the kids about what they were going to be. Richard remembered: “The principal announced on the intercom on the first day of school that for the first time in the school’s history, there were grandchildren of C.E. Mason attending the school.” Richard and his brother.

To be the grandson of Dr. C.E. Mason meant more than a little notoriety. It also led to an incident Richard remembered with fifth grade “horror.”

“The school had some kind of contest for being quiet on the bus, or not leaving litter, I forget the specifics.  The winning bus, we were told on the intercom, would have “C.E. Mason ride on the bus with them.” I was horrified. My grandfather was about 83. He had thick glasses, a big gut and he shuffled when he walked. I doubted he could even climb the stairs of the bus. I couldn’t believe they would subject me to that kind of humiliation. I learned a few days later that C.E. Mason was actually a stuffed tiger mascot that the principal kept in her office.  She really had me worried for a few days.”

Richard Mason’s memories paint a vivid picture of C.E. Mason Elementary. Like so many who attended the school in those first dozen years, his are recollections of a time when order and high expectations pushed up against the exuberance of youth. Competitive four-square, beets, and stuffed tigers, 1960 feels a world away, and still just like yesterday.

If you build it…

IMG_8448It was hardly a year old when they realized that the new school wasn’t big enough. Constructed in 1949 with just eleven classrooms, offices, and an assembly hall, C.E. Mason Elementary School found itself not quite able to accommodate the postwar expansion that had prompted its creation and swelled the population of Beaverton from in the late 1940s to the early 1950s.

In 1950 a library and another seven classrooms joined the original construction, perched a bit higher on the incline north of the original building, high enough to provide students for the past sixty eight years with a ramp to climb on the way from the main office to the northernmost classrooms.

main hallwayBuilders added a play structure north of the assembly room in the early 1950s, which stood until replaced with our familiar Quonset Hut in 1958. To the west of the extended wing of classrooms students played in a courtyard looked out at through walls of windows, a temptation for flying rubber balls in the 1950s as much as those same windows are today.

Inside the building, a team of educators greeted students with the energy always present in a new school. Principal Esther Peer, whose alma mater Oregon Normal School (now Western Oregon University) now has a scholarship named after her, was the first administrator in the building. She oversaw eleven teachers when C.E. Mason opened its doors in the fall of 1949, and presided over the hiring of a few more as the school grew.

CE Mason OpensAround C.E. Mason Elementary Beaverton exploded with growth as well. Highways, neighborhoods, businesses, the history of Beaverton, Oregon is one of great postwar boom.

And as town grew, students in the 1950s, wearing skirts, slacks, and button down shirts, poured into the school to learn the three Rs …and a little art and music too. C.E. Mason alum remember the bright classrooms, both stern and kind teachers, and a sense of fun.

Then, after 8th grade, C.E. Masonites trooped across town to Beaverton High School, and later Sunset High, taking with them memories of Miss Moshofsky’s arts and crafts class, Mr. Gillmore’s band, and the cafeteria downstairs. Life at C.E. Mason prepared them for the greater world beyond the rounded entryway at the top of the front steps of their little school.

You can see living memories of the original C.E. Mason building in its current incarnation: a wooden door here, a fixture there, the assembly room’s wooden floor beneath the carpeting of today’s library.

Most schools have only one chance at the wild energy of the opening years; this campus will have at least three. And looking back through the fog of time it’s clear to see that the foundation on which so much history has been built is solid, and the notion that our school is always outgrowing itself is ever present.

Young Trumpeter

Everyone has a special something to offer inside of them. So I think that part of being a composer, or an artist of any sort, is to find your own special gift and to nurture that, and don’t worry about anything else. If you’re a writer of haiku or short story, whether you’re a painter in oil or acrylics or collage, a dancer, a sculptor, it makes no difference. Find your own voice and pursue it, and then back it up with technique and craft.”      -Morten Lauridsen

Morten Lauridsen has been described as an icon among choral composers. His works have been nominated for Grammy Awards, earned him a National Medal of Arts, and are performed across the United States and the world more often than just about any living choral composer.

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 9.19.27 AMBefore any of that, before the awards and accolades, the applause and the performances, before shaking hands with the president or having his work performed at Carnegie Hall, back when he was a youngster in 1950, Morten Lauridsen started playing trumpet in the school band at C.E. Mason Elementary.

As a part of our school’s historical retrospective, I reached out to the composer this summer, asking about his time at C.E. Mason, and was rewarded with a charming reminiscence of life in Beaverton in the 1950s. C.E. Mason was a new school in 1950, large windows looking out from solid classrooms, a voluminous assembly room with a stage that is now our library. Imagining a young Morten Lauridsen playing trumpet on that stage is a connection to history that our current students, musical and otherwise, can relish. Like him and his mid-century contemporaries, students today are striving to find that “special something to offer inside of them” that a more seasoned Lauridsen described in the 2012 documentary film of his life.

The 1947 architect’s drawings for C.E. Mason show details for the wooden doors our students still open, doors a young Lauridsen would have passed through on his way to study Oregon history, a favorite topic, as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic too. Even then future artists had to meet state requirements in decidedly non-artistic subjects.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 2.32.21 PMIn his six years at C.E. Mason, the young trumpeter remembered working most lunch hours in the cafeteria, washing dishes so he could have a free meal. I like to think that this work ethic, rooted in his formative years and expressed in the same building our current art students now inhabit, is in part responsible for the prolific catalogue of musical works the composer has built over the decades spent in the busy city of Los Angeles, where he is a professor at USC, and the peaceful silences of Waldron Island, where he composes beneath the stillness of the woods. Morten Lauridsen is a man of the world, but a boy of Beaverton.

As boy, Lauridsen remembered being “patched up” by the son of Dr. C.E. Mason, himself a doctor, after “being terrible spiked in the leg during a baseball game.” The small world of Oregon was smaller yet then.

Life at C.E. Mason Elementary for a creative soul in the 1950s wasn’t however, without peril. “I enjoyed most of my grade school teachers,” he told me. “Although I still remember distinctly the art teacher disapproving of my green bunny rabbit in the third grade–there went my career as a visual artist!”

If Morten Lauridsen were at ACMA today, we would frame his green bunny rabbit.

It is a pleasure to look back sixty odd years and see a picture of our school through the eyes of an artist. Knowing the astounding work that would come later from this young trumpeter and unconventional preadolescent artist puts a glow to his memories of C.E. Mason Elementary, and might serve as a reminder to our current students of the long history of art at this special campus.

Lauridsen ended his reminiscences with a heartfelt comment that I hope many students would agree with across the years. His life at C.E. Mason, he said, was “in all, a fine grade school experience.”

These days, every morning in lieu of a first bell of the day we play music over the PA. Tomorrow morning that music will be Chanson Éloignée. Our kids will be moved, the power of art will swell in song, and the same halls that young Morten Lauridsen walked in 1950 will reverberate with music composed by one of C.E. Mason’s favorite sons.

Wending Toward School

“It has been a long siege, but at length it is over. Once more the church bells may ring and the kiddies wend their way toward school.”
Beaverton Times after the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic in Beaverton

The story of C.E. Mason School begins long before the first bricks were fitted together in the late 1940s. To choose a starting point for this tale one might pick up a newspaper from November 15, 1918. Beaverton, Oregon was a small town in a rural state finding its way in the early 20th century amid the challenges of world war and an epidemic of Spanish Influenza.

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 6.37.49 AMIn times of adversity the community pulled together, raising money for the war effort, planning a celebration for armistice, and looking to local leaders for reassurance and guidance. On that Friday in November 1918, it was the single local doctor who provided that comfort. Writing in the Beaverton Times, Dr. C.E. Mason told citizens that it was safe again to open churches and schools, and that once again students could get about the business of learning.

This value placed on education was apparent throughout the front page of the paper that day, a note just beneath Dr. Mason’s letter explaining that “Janitor Squires” had “used his vacation well” and “thoroughly cleaned the woodwork of the high school building and is having the blackboards in the grade school resurfaced. so that the school will be like new for Monday.”

Enrollment grew in Beaverton schools over the years that followed, and in 1920 Dr. Mason was elected to the school board with the promise of ensuring that Beaverton schools were as good as those in the big city of Portland. He was board chairman by 1929.

This civic engagement, city pride, and dedication to helping students was part of the spirit of Beaverton in these interwar years. Dr. Mason’s pursuit of quality education for local students, including his own kids, helped to define the school district he was helping to lead.

The 1930s and 1940s saw even more growth in Beaverton and in 1947 the school district spent $15,000 on farmland designated for a new grade school to help with overcrowding. That school opened in the fall of 1949 as C.E. Mason Elementary. A year later epic growth prompted the addition of nine more classrooms at C.E. Mason.

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 7.39.29 AMAlmost seventy years later there are still students in those same classrooms, reading, writing, learning, and making art. Creative sixth through twelfth graders sit today where the youngsters of 1949 once did, and while C.E. Mason Elementary has changed much over the decades, the impact the school has on the city of Beaverton is as great now as it ever was. Next week more than 700 students will “wend their way toward school,” a school that our hardworking custodians have spent summer vacation making “like new for Monday.”