Growing up in Maplewood meant that we rode the “Blue Bus”, Tualatin Valley Stages- either Garden Home – Maplewood, or Garden Home –Metzger. My family lived on the southwest end of Maplewood, which was the closest to Garden Home. In fact, at one time, we were part of the Garden Home Water District.
– Patti Waitman-Ingebretsen
In 1950, my parents, Don and Mildred Ransom, purchased a new ranch style home at 4608 SW Maplewood Rd. An almost identical house was built at the same time next door at 4620. The builders were the Orth brothers and each property was ¼ acre. This land has been part of the William Borsch mail order nursery property. Saxton-Wilson and later, just Warren Wilson, operated a mail order nursery next door at 4600 SW Maplewood Rd. That parcel of land continues to be owned by the Wilson family today. In order to landscape our new property, my father hired a man with a horse and equipment to grade the embankment into a sloping front yard. We children were put to work picking pieces of glass left from when the old greenhouses had been destroyed during the building process. It was not fun.
Garden Home Rd was still the main route to Garden Home at that time. The last stretch Multnomah Blvd had replaced the railroad tracks to SW 45th at the Maplewood Rd. intersection only.of Multnomah Blvd was probably paved to Garden Home Rd by 1952.
Our neighbors on the west side of Maplewood Rd included Mrs. Catherine Borsch (4804), the Warren Wilson family (4600), the Eby family (7821 SW 47th) and the Eggleston/Bernick family (4763). A variety of families lived in the house next door at 4620. I recall the Fleenors, Stricklands, Butts, and Kelly’s in the 1950’s. The families on the east side of Maplewood Rd were Ingraham’s (4559), Morris Schlaifer (4577), Joe Ehler (4611), Miss Olive Brown (4621) Donald Devine (4641) and Harry Reynolds (4719).
Maplewood Rd had been paved and part of that road had been the railroad trestle. The road had no shoulder or sidewalk but there were houses on both sides of the street until SW 48th. The road from SW 48th to SW 51st was the section that was paved trestle and that was scary. There were no homes on this stretch. It did have a guard rail on the east side. It was straight down on the west side of the roadway. A path was added after a young girl had been hit and killed while walking on the shoulder of Maplewood Rd. As I recall, the path/walk way was a brownish material and slightly raised from the road way on the west side of the street only. It was a long way down from the top of the paved trestle and we children felt anxious and unsafe walking to and from school each day. Many years later, fill was used to level out the steep area on each side of the trestle. There are homes built on that fill and several roads have been added as well. The familiar curve of Maplewood Rd can still give one a sense of train tracks and trestle even today.
My first year in the old Maplewood School was 3rd grade. I have often thought of the layout of the old school and believe it had two sets of stairs going up to the second floor. The lower level classrooms were upper grades with the primary grades in the upper level. Class rooms had cloak rooms and upper story outside wooden stairways as well. I have no idea where the bathrooms were located. Primary teachers were Mrs. Dorothea Fix, Mrs. Juanita Amspoker, Mrs. Dorothy Blaylock (later known as Miss Nelson) and Mrs. Ramona Alsman. The old school grounds included a real tennis court. An area on higher ground was known as “the grove” because it had fir trees and also picnic tables and a large stone fireplace. It is probably an area that was used by the Maplewood community at large. Portable classrooms are found in this area today.
The first section of the new Maplewood school was built behind the old school and students moved into the new school when my class was in the 4th grade. The old building was then torn down. There were not enough classrooms that first year so Mrs. Gate’s 4th grade class spent the school year in a basement room below the gymnasium. The lack of sizable windows would not allow that room to be used as a classroom today. At least we were close to the cafeteria and lunch each day. The back door of the new school opened into the south end of the school property and a wooden path/walkway was built so that students who lived on the south or west side of the school could easily exit in that direction. It was also safer than walking along 52nd and around to Maplewood Rd. Safety Patrol was at 51st and Maplewood Rd so that students could cross safely. As it rains a lot in Oregon, the wooden walkway was often just about under water and evil boys took great pleasure in jumping up and down to get the swaying walkway to periodically submerge into the swamp area. I am not sure if the school used that land as right of way or perhaps the land owner allowed the walk way to keep students safe. There are houses in this area today and students no longer exit at the back of the school property.
The second stage of the new Maplewood School added on the two class rooms across the front of the building and those were initially a combined 7th and 8th class and Kindergarten. It also completed the link from the building to the passage way to the gym building and cafeteria in the lower level. The school office and principal’s office were also in the area that connected the phase 1 and phase 2 of the new Maplewood School. A porch was added on the north side for entry into the school. My 4th grade class came out of the basement and joined the rest of the school as 5th graders in the last room on the right side of the hall. Upper grade teachers were Mrs. Billie Gates, Mrs. Martha Hennen and Mr.George Little. Principals often taught the 7th and 8th grade students. Mr. Les Buell, Mr. Ole Wold and Mr. John Cannon were principals in the 1950’s. Maplewood was a Multnomah County school and many of our fathers served on the Maplewood School board which certainly did keep that small school/community flavor.
I never got over being afraid of the walk to and from school. The paved trestle with little shoulder, and nowhere to go, made it a very scary and lonely daily journey. It did not help that only a small portion of Maplewood students lived south of the school.
It is hard to imagine how things looked in that 1950 era. The older homes are still there and new ones have filled in the gaps. New roads have been built but the small community feel is still there. Although my route to and from school each day was anxiety producing, the innocence of the 1950’s, coupled with the closeness of the little Maplewood community, made it an ideal place to be a young girl.
Maplewood School celebrated 100 years of school in the community in 2012. The writer was invited to give a brief recorded video history of Maplewood School and the community as well as speak briefly to the students.
By Patti Waitman-Ingebretsen, 2016.