TRAFTON — “Look at all of them,” Chris Ray said, as her own children and at least a dozen others descended upon the playground sets outside of the former Trafton School house. “It’s almost like old times.”
Old times were the focus of the Trafton Community Co-Op’s celebration on Saturday, Sept. 29, as they commemorated the former Trafton School house’s centennial this year. While the Trafton School was closed by the Arlington School District in 2010 and remained vacant for the year that followed, Gary Ray and his daughter Randi reopened it as the Trafton Community Co-Op last year.
“We just wanted a nice house for low-to-no-cost community-centric programs that could serve families in this region,” said Gary Ray, who also serves as pastor of the nearby Oso Community Chapel. “Our desire all along has been to coordinate a variety of services from Trafton to Whitehorse, an area almost completely void of services since the closing of the Oso and Trafton schools, as well as the Oso Store.”
While the Trafton Community Co-Op has provided classes, square dances, movie nights and other events, Ray remained aware that “there were a lot of hard feelings” in the wake of the Trafton School house’s closure, which is why he and Kelly Roundy, former president of the Trafton School’s Parent Teacher Club, described the centennial commemoration as “a healing process.”
“Most of these families haven’t been here since the school’s closure,” Roundy said of the more than 100 attendees that afternoon. “This is bigger than what the district did, though. It’s a celebration of the 100 years that this building has been part of our lives, and about seeing that it still has a future as a community center.”
John Kroeze can credibly claim to have been part of that history almost from the start. Kroeze, who looks forward to celebrating his own 104th birthday this December, began first grade at the Trafton School in 1916 and attended classes there until he graduated from the eighth grade.
“I used to bring the wood in for the stove,” said Kroeze, who was eventually able to remember the names of all his teachers at the school. “The teachers lived upstairs. I used to walk on the roof with no shoes on when I turned the school bell. It was steep, I’m telling you,” he laughed.
Kroeze and Doris Johnson Nelson, who was born in 1919 and went to the Trafton School from 1925-30, both recalled Mrs. Dent fondly, although Kroeze only had her for fourth grade, while Nelson had her for second through fourth grades.
“She was a really nice teacher,” said Nelson, whose brother fired up the wood stove during her own time there. “Every week, the kids would sweep the floors and wash the dishes for nickels and dimes. My grandmother washed the teachers’ clothes for 25 cents. You didn’t change your clothes every day.”
When Nelson attended classes at Trafton, there were so many other Dorises that she had to go by her middle name of Eleanor. She remembers the Kroezes being “well-represented” among her classmates, and credited Trafton with teaching her the first words she spoke in English.
“My family still spoke Swedish at home,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t easy to learn English, but it didn’t take long.”
Eileen Smoke taught at Trafton much later than when Kroeze and Nelson attended classes there, but with 29 of her 32 years in teaching spent at the Trafton School, she witnessed a significant portion of its history as well.
“My classes helped paint the jungle themes in the hallways,” said Smoke, who was Eileen Anthony, or “Miss A” to her first- and second-grade students, before she retired in 2004. “I was here so long that I not only taught the kids of my classmates, but also the kids of the kids that I taught.”
Smoke showed off the quilt that she’d received as a retirement present, which included laser-printed photos of almost all of her classes at the school, and recalled how she made science lessons hands-on by leading student walks into the woods surrounding the school to teach them about nature.
Several students who were among the school’s last classes in 2009 and 2010 pored over photo albums of their classes and reflected on what made Trafton so unique.
“We went to the shed every day after class and the last one there was ‘it,’” said Landon Beale, who attended Trafton from 2005-09. “People really stood out here.”
“It was more of a family here,” said Amanda Lawrence, another 2005-09 Trafton alum. “At Post Middle School, there’s so many more people. I’m glad they reopened this as a community center, with things like Zumba. It’s better than when nothing was going on here at all.”
“They shouldn’t have closed it down, though,” said Madie Pasmore, who graduated from fourth grade at Trafton in 2010.
As Lawrence and her friends reminisced about the games of kickball by the fence and “the drinking fountain that tasted like pennies,” Roundy explained that the supplies that she had in storage for the annual Trafton Fair would be divided up between the school district, for historical archiving, and the Rays, to further spruce up the Trafton Community Co-Op’s second annual Fall Festival on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Please e-mail to TraftonCC@gmail.com or call 360-862-3550 for additional information.