A Trip to North Salem High School

alma-mater

Recently the blog took a field trip a few miles up I-5 to North Salem High School, where Ava Helen Pauling was inducted into the school’s hall of fame.  A grand old building dedicated in 1937, the current school is not at the same location as the facility where Ava Helen spent her high school years, but it is the successor to the original Salem High School, which once existed in a downtown space now occupied by a department store.

ahp-plaque

North Salem’s 2013 hall of fame class included a former wrestler, a retired teacher and an alum who spearheaded the creation of a scholarship fund for outstanding students.  Ava Helen was inducted in the Distinguished Lifetime category, her nomination penned by Emily Schwab, a member of North’s class of 2009 and a recent history graduate here at Oregon State University.

And indeed, a strong OSU presence was on hand at the ceremony – along with Emily, representatives of the OSU Libraries and the Linus Pauling Institute were in attendance, as was Ava Helen’s biographer Mina Carson, an OSU professor of history. In addition, Cheryl Pauling made the trip down and spoke eloquently of her grandmother, “a tiny little thing” who taught her to make toffee and “was always full of hugs and love.”

Cheryl Pauling sharing memories of her grandmother in the North Salem H.S. library.

Cheryl Pauling sharing memories of her grandmother in the North Salem H.S. library.

Ava Helen's wedding ring, which Cheryl brought to show.

Ava Helen’s wedding ring, which Cheryl brought to show.

It was also homecoming.

It was also homecoming.

Though she grew up more than forty miles away in Beavercreek and later Canby, in 1918 Ava Helen moved to Salem, Oregon’s capitol, to live with her sister Nettie Spaulding and attend high school.  It is not clear why this decision was made; possibly it related to family finances, Ava being one of twelve children afterall.  It is possible too that the school in Salem was better than anything closer to where the Millers lived.  Or maybe Ava Helen, ever independent, simply needed a little more space.

Ava Helen Miller at left, with some of her high school classmates, 1921.

Ava Helen Miller at left, with some of her high school classmates, 1921.

Much of what we do know about Ava Helen’s high school experience is contained in a journal that she kept during the period.  As Mina Carson writes in her biography, Ava Helen Pauling: Partner, Activist, Visionary

Her notes suggest a lively, flirtatious disposition.  There were plenty of boys to write down…even if some were cousins….Ralph Hamilton, Wallace Griffin, and Keith Brown also found places in [the journal]….’He joined the navy during the war,’ she wrote of Claire Gaines of Canby, ‘and I have ever felt happy to think I refused to kiss him good-by which perhaps took a bit of conceit out of him. [He] married in 1921.’ On the back of a photograph of Haines she wrote in retrospect: ‘my heart’s first flutter.’

Ava Helen’s lifelong interest in politics was also evidenced during her Salem years. Again from Carson

The Spaulding household…was probably lively and certainly close to the state’s political heartbeat. Her sister Nettie was secretary to one of the Oregon Supreme Court justices, so there was a direct link to affairs in the capitol, and 1630 Court Street, the Spaulding home, was just a few blocks’ stroll from the Supreme Court building and the State Capitol. Ava Helen carried her father’s Democratic politics into her adolescence; of a family friend, an admired physician, she wrote: ‘We quarreled about politics. He is a Republican.’

One senses that the Salem years were mostly happy for the young woman.

[She] graduated from Salem High School in three years. She was class president her senior year. For her senior class picnic at Silver Creek Falls that spring she helped organize the food for a class of one hundred twenty-five. She dared kiss a boy for the camera. She was a girl of fun and will, as well as a sense of duty.

1921i.50

1921i.62

The many hall of fame plaques lining the entryway into North Salem High School are testament to the institution’s rich history.  In an era where recognition and preservation of the past too often fall prey to tight budgets and the need to cope with present circumstances, it is refreshing to see a school that is honoring its traditions. To us, it is clear that the good folks at North are working to act in accordance with their school pledge:

The Memories of North Salem

Will never fade nor die

We love our alma mater

All hail North Salem High. 

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