- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—ANACORTES — More than a century ago, a tiny, one-room schoolhouse was built on March Point in Anacortes.

Built in 1886, the school, known now as Old Fidalgo School, was the second built in “Whatcom County,” which then comprised both of what is now Whatcom and Skagit counties, said 71-year-old Carl Howard, a graduate of the school.

At the time, it was a school for the area’s pioneer families, including his great-grandmother who came to teach there.

“That’s why my family came here,” Howard said. “That’s why it’s sacred to me.”

Four generations of Howards, including his 11 siblings, all went to the school, he said.

Six of his siblings, includi n g 9 1 — y e a r- o l d G e n e Howard Landers, attended a reunion celebration Monday at Summit Park Grange.

” We h a d w o n d e r f u l teachers,” Barbara Howard Ruby, 80, said. “(School was) completely different from today.”

Howard Ruby, in her y o u n g e r y e a r s a s e l f — described trouble maker, recounted a story of the time when she and a few other students locked a substitute teacher out of the classroom.

“I went here seven and a half years,” Howard Ruby said. “I think they were glad to get rid of me.”

In seventh grade, she transferred to Columbia Junior High School in Anacortes, where students would then graduate from the high school, she said.

The Fidalgo School District would later merge with the Anacortes School District, Carl Howard said. Its last class of eighth-graders graduated in 1954.

The school closed in 1957 to make room for the Tesoro Refinery.

“We had a great little school out there,” said 100-year-old Jack Hill, who attended the school from 1920-29. “It was on a hill where we could slide down on our slides in the winter.”

Hill attended a Fidalgo School reunion about 20 years ago, said his son Tom, who also attended the school. He’s been waiting for another one ever since.

The school typically had around 100 students, Carl Howard said.

“We knew everybody,” said Sylvia Johnson McKee, who was in the last class of eighth-graders to graduate. “It was a real community.”

Johnson McKee’s father, Arnell Johnson, was the principal of the school for 39 years, she said.

“He loved the kids,” she said.

Johnson McKee donated about 35 pictures of the former school and its students to the event, Carl Howard said.

“We didn’t have photographs (growing up),” he said. “I’d never seen a picture of my sister when she was little.”

Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, [email protected] skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.

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(c)2015 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.)

Visit the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.) at www.goskagit.com

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