Current and former students and staff members will say good-bye to Cannon Beach Elementary School when they gather for a farewell party Thursday, June 13, at the school.
Festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The school, which has existed since children began attending classes at the Hotel Bill in 1912, will close in June.
The party will offer former students the chance to share memories and reconnect, as well as pose for a massive group photo by local photographer George Vetter.
As school officials prepare to shut the school’s doors for the last time, some former students paused recently to reflect on the place that helped shape their lives.
The Daggatt family knew that having their daughter, Risley, attend Cannon Beach Elementary was the best possible choice.
“My mother was always very passionate about education,” Wilkinson said. “She studied the statistics and found that a high percentage of kids who went to school in Cannon Beach went on to higher education.”
Though the Daggatts owned a business in Cannon Beach, their residence was in Seaside, making it difficult for Wilkinson to enroll.
“My parents put in a request for me to attend, but it was denied,” she said.
Undeterred, the Daggatts rented a home in Cannon Beach so their daughter would have access to the school.
Beginning in 1984, Wilkinson would attend kindergarten through second grade. Despite moving away for two years, she returned for grades five and six.
During a reorganization in 1994, Cannon Beach Elementary became a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school, and Broadway Middle School absorbed the sixth grade.
Wilkinson remembers the small classes and attention provided each student.
“I had 16 kids in my whole class,” Wilkinson said. “We were all friends.”
Those friendships have managed to stand the test of time.
“I still stay in touch with a lot of them,” she said. “How many people can say they’ve kept up with people they knew in kindergarten?”
One of Wilkinson’s favorite moments was participating in creating artwork that is still visible today.
“My class made the murals that are in the gym,” she said. “An artist from town took what we had drawn and painted it on the walls.”
Now the mother of a 2-year old son, Wilkinson splits her time between Portland and Cannon Beach, working part-time at the Oregon Gallery.
Looking at her son, Wilkinson is amazed at how his educational journey to Cannon Beach parallels her own.
“We live in Portland but bring him here to the (Cannon Beach) Children’s Center when I work in town,” she said. “If things were different, I seriously would have considered having him attend the elementary school.”
Kimm Mount attended Cannon Beach Elementary from kindergarten through sixth grade and remembers the closeness small class sizes encouraged.
“It was a unique experience, having only about eight boys and eight girls in each class,” Mount said.
Like Wilkinson, Mount is still in contact with everyone in her kindergarten class, even though that was nearly 30 years ago.
She also remembers every single teacher and the impact they had on her young life.
“I loved Mrs. Nance, my kindergarten teacher,” Mount said. “She would give books to every student on their birthday every year. I still have the first book she gave me.”
Another favorite teacher, Mr. Stampler, wouldn’t let kids quit on themselves or on each other.
“He was our P.E. teacher, and not everybody was always excited about P.E.,” Mount said. “He would always say, ‘I work hard to be the best I can be.’ Pretty soon he had us all chanting it, and the mood improved.”
Stampler also stepped in when dissent was brewing.
“The boys were not getting along with the girls in sixth grade,” Mount recalled. “Mr. Stampler sat us all down and had an intervention, making us talk it all out.”
As an adult, Mount married and moved with her husband to Spokane, Wash.
After their daughter was born, the Mounts returned to Cannon Beach so she could grow up in a small town and attend Cannon Beach Elementary.
On the verge of kindergarten age, Mount’s daughter, however, will not get a chance to sit in the same classrooms her mother so fondly remembers.
“I had such a close connection with teachers and students, I wanted her to have that,” Kim Mount said.
Mount, who is on the steering committee for the proposed Cannon Beach Academy charter school, will homeschool her daughter next year.
“It’s not out of any doubts about Seaside Heights,” Mount said. “I just don’t want her eight miles away right now.”
Growing up in Cannon Beach, Suzy Roehr always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Attending Cannon Beach Elementary gave her the sense of the type of teacher she wanted to become.
“I always knew I wanted to teach here,” Roehr said. “It had that small community, family feel that was so important to me.”
Roehr attended Cannon Beach Elementary from kindergarten through sixth grade and enjoyed being surrounded by the same group of students, many of whom stayed together from Cannon Beach through high school.
Throughout, memories of the little school near the ocean stayed with her.
“I’ll always remember the swirly orange, brown and tan carpet in the kindergarten room,” she said, laughing. “It was there when I was a kid, and they finally removed it a little while ago.”
She also fondly remembers the many activities her teachers shared with their students.
“There was the big jump-a-thon organized by Mr. Stampler,” Roehr said. “We collected pledges and jumped rope all day in the gym. There was also the school sandcastle contest at the end of the year. All our teachers were so great.”
Wanting to do her part as an adult to carry on the student connectivity she enjoyed as a student, Roehr enrolled in Pacific University after high school.
After graduating, she began teaching at Cannon Beach Elementary in 1996; her dream job came true.
“I grew up here and wanted to come back,” she said.
Over the years, Roehr taught Title 1 reading and math, as well as kindergarten, first grade, second grade and fifth grade.
As the school begins making plans to transition to Seaside Heights next fall, she tries to put on a brave face for her students. One face in particular is on her mind.
“My son, James, is in my first-grade class,” Roehr said. “I wanted him to have the experience I did.”
With the end of the school year approaching, Roehr pauses at what is normally a time for celebration in her class.
“One student was counting down the days until school’s out,” she said. “Then we all stopped and realized, ‘This really is it.’ It’s become a grieving process for me.”
Cannon Beach City Council President Sam Steidel knows more than most that the school’s closing is the end of an era.
Steidel was born and raised in Cannon Beach and attended the school from the second grade through the sixth in the early 1960s.
Classes were small, helping names and faces stay familiar as the years passed.
“There were about 10 to 12 people in class,” he said. “John Nelson (of Coaster Construction) was a classmate of mine.”
The school’s place near the ocean stuck with Steidel.
“I always remember being so impressed with the location,” he said.
Being near the ocean allowed for some interesting sporting moments.
“Whenever we played baseball, someone always ended up hitting the ball into the creek,” Steidel said. “The town preacher came over and pitched, even though that was the position everyone else wanted to play, too.”
Steidel remembers the 1964 tsunami that hit Cannon Beach and its effect on the school.
“We lost our swing set, it was all bent by the waves and logs hitting it,” he said.
During his fifth-grade year, Steidel’s family lived out on Oregon Highway 53 and traveled to school on a bus driven by John Nelson’s father.
He described the trip as “long and tedious” and was glad when it was over each day.
Steidel’s love of the community school led him to become involved in the committee that is working to build a new school in town.
As that process moves forward, Steidel remembers the moments that made going to the school special.
“I’ll always remember that gym,” he said. “We put on shows there every Christmas. The firefighters always participated, and (former Fire Chief) Bruce Haskell always made a great Santa Claus.”