Lewis and Clark Elementary's wrinkled stucco and arthritic support beams creaked as nearly 4,000 people plodded its halls Saturday.

But those who celebrated a school reunion viewed the building as if surrounded in a halo.

Similar glittering images of the school began visiting Eddie Lee last year after his brother died.

Lee lives more than 70 miles away in Milwaukie and he hasn't attended Lewis and Clark for 66 years.

But when his brother Glen's veteran's flag arrived on his doorstep one morning, 79-year-old Lee began dreaming of the school and the flag together.

"I began having these fleeting images go through my mind again," he said. "I began thinking it would be kind of nice if the flag could fly over the school."

Glen died in March 2001 at age 71, but it seems he was tapping his brother on the shoulder with his wishes for the flag.

So on Saturday, Lee donated the veteran's flag to principal Craig Hoppes along with another outdoor flag to fly in Glen's memorial.

Glen was the last of six children in the Lee family to attend Lewis and Clark during the Great Depression years.

The Lee family moved to Lewis and Clark to farm mink in 1934 and were the only Chinese family attending the school at the time.

"All of us were in somewhat modest circumstances, but we didn't know we were poor," Lee said.

But Lee said he never felt discrimination from other students.

"There was not the social classes and racial distinctions in the small community," Lee said.

Lee's sister Flora Lee Law and Helen Lee Sun attended the reunion as well.

"We thought it was a very nice memorial and, after all, the school could use a nice flag," said Law, 75, who graduated from Lewis and Clark 62 years ago.

Seventeen months and nearly $4,000 went into organizing the reunion.

Because of limited parking, yellow school buses jostled alumni in shuttles to the school - for some, it had been 70 years since they attended.

Volunteers guided tours of the new school and visitors guided themselves through tours of the old school - rediscovering old hiding places and bumping into old friends.

"I ran into so many people I didn't expect to see," Law said.

Patrons pored over old books in the library, hoping to find ones they checked out and buy them - five for $1 or 25 cents each.

Others posted their memories on the reunion Web page, while others tacked photos to the old school's halls - sharing their history in the snapshots and class portraits.

"Hugs and tears are permitted today," former teacher and administrator Fred Clayton said.

On Saturday, Lewis and Clark alumni posed for new class photographs according to the decade in which they attended.

Several people posed for decades following the 1930s and 1940s, but only a few were left from the 1920s.

One of them, Virginia McConkey Hendrickson, now 82, was in the third grade when the school opened in 1927.

Hendrickson can still recall the day community members gathered to lay the cornerstone for the gym in 1930.

Over the years, the gym was used for dances, school assemblies, basketball games and even student circuses in the 1970s.

Saturday, organizers estimate about 1,000 people packed into the gym for a ceremony during the reunion.

It was the last gathering for the decrepit gymnasium.

The building, built by volunteers for less than $1,000, will be torn down this week.

"After the doors close on this building, workmen will begin demolishing it," Lewis and Clark principal Craig Hoppes said at the gathering Saturday.

This summer, the rest of Lewis and Clark will be demolished.

But about 370 of its bricks have been sold for $35 each to help pay for library books and playground equipment at the new school, which is under construction behind the old school. The deadline for ordering bricks is today.

In September, students will begin attending the new Lewis and Clark, build for $5.7 million and funded by a bond measure passed in 2000.

But graduating fifth-grader Michael Seymour, 11, said she's jealous of the students who will attend the new school.

"We wish we could go to the new school," Seymour said.

Her friend Sharian Aiken, 10, said: "I'm not really sad about seeing it go."

The girls said they'll miss their teachers, but as for the old school, they will only miss the best hiding place - "down in the lower hall in the girl's bathroom behind the doors."

The starched white walls of the new Lewis and Clark Elementary School will not be completely devoid of history.

Thanks to the Lee family, the new building will carry the flag of memory from the old building.

"Childhood and early school-time memories are some of the roots that we cling to," Lee said. "And they seem to become ever more important ... as we march along through the years."

Lewis and Clark Elementary memories can be read at www.freewebz.com/lcc-reunion/

Videos of the reunion can be purchased by calling (503) 436-2558.

Memorial photographs can be purchased by calling 861-3897.

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