Category Archives: education

A Trip to the past…youngsters visit Lelooska Cultural Center

School buses visit Horseshoe Lake Park after Lelooska field trip 

By Pat Nelson
For: The Daily News, Longview, WA
May 2, 2008
Reprinted with permission


Three weeks ago, on a cold and blustery April day that threatened snow, I looked out at Horseshoe Lake and saw more shoreline activity than I thought the nippy day deserved. Two men fished from an aluminum boat. The wind pushed them along as though they were trolling. Their heads were bundled in hats and hoods, and I imagined them pouring hot cups of coffee from a thermos as my dad, who was a die-hard fisherman, would have done on such a day. Two anglers in yellow rain jackets fished from shore. City workers circled the skateboard park on machinery, leveling the dirt that they would soon cover with grass. A boy rode his bike down a bowl of the skateboard park while his friend, in shorts, sat on the frigid concrete. In the gusty wind, Moose Lodge volunteers held tightly onto the canopies they had just set up for their fishing derby.

It was almost lunchtime, and my computer displayed a temperature of only 48 degrees. I shivered as I watched people going about their various activities on the lakeshore. Three yellow school buses pulled into Horseshoe Lake Park, and then another. I watched as children, accompanied by several adults, got off the buses. Kids walked across the parking lot, and then hurried to the playground equipment, swinging their lunches in paper bags, insulated containers, and plastic grocery sacks as they ran.

I’d always been curious about the many buses that visit Horseshoe Lake Park from other school districts. Reluctantly, leaving a steaming-hot cup of tea on my desk, I snuggled into my warmest coat, grabbed my camera and note pad, and drove to the park to ask why anyone would choose to picnic on such a day.

As the wind whipped my coat, I talked with a teacher named Kim who told me she was accompanying 120 third graders from the Tualatin (Ore.)School District.  They had visited the Lelooska Cultural Center in Ariel where living history programs have been presented for more than 40 years.  My own children had attended the Lelooska school programs 30 years ago when the late Chief Lelooska was the storyteller. He dedicated his life to preserving the arts and culture of the Northwest Coast Indians. A well-known wood sculptor, he carved totem poles, elaborate masks, panels, rattles, and bowls. When Chief Lelooska died in September 1996, his brother Fearon Smith Jr , called Tsungani, became chief. Tsungani carries on the traditions of his brother as storyteller and narrator of the living history programs, sharing the heritage of the native peoples of North America with more than 13,000 individuals each year through cultural programs and the museum.

The Tualatin students attended as part of their school’s Native American unit, arriving at 10:30 a.m.for a cultural program where they were entertained by headdress dancers wearing carved masks, and by drums and stories in the Kwakiutl ceremonial house. After the presentation, they visited the museum before stopping at Horseshoe Lake for lunch.  

I stood talking with Kim near a covered picnic table, next to a tall lilac that was beginning to bloom just in time for Woodland’s annual Hulda Klager Lilac Festival. A Twix wrapper that missed the garbage can somersaulted past us in the wind. Most of the kids had hats on or hoods up, but one boy in shorts didn’t seem to know it was cold.

“The kids love Lelooska,” said Kim. “It’s something they have never seen before. They haven’t been exposed to storytelling, and it’s good for them to hear stories.”

As we talked, she kept her eyes on the youngsters. A girl named Amanda hurried over to report that there were five duck eggs nearby. Next, a boy ran up, rubbing his red hands together, saying, “I’m cold, I’m cold, I’m cold.” We quickly ended our conversation as the adults rounded up the youngsters and walked them back to the warm buses. 

As the kids left the park, the ducks and geese took their places, cleaning up sandwiches, cookie crumbs, and potato chips.

If you visit Lelooska on a chilly day, as the students from Tualatin did in April, the cedar fire in the ceremonial house will keep you toasty warm while you listen to stories and watch the costumed dancers. If the day is cold and blustery, though, how about a cup of hot cocoa instead of a picnic?


What:     Lelooska Living History Program and Museum

Where:   165 Merwin Village Rd., Ariel

When:    May 10 and May 31, 7 PM, reservations required;

Contact: 360 225-9522


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Filed under education, entertainment, Horseshoe Lake, Lelooska, Native American, school field trips, The Daily News, Woodland

Crafting Your Own Life Story is ‘Like Therapy’

Life StoryNovember 14, 2007
by Pat Nelson for

©South County News/The Daily News, reprinted with permission

Write Your Life Story students learn from each other, and I was on hand November 7 in Woodland when Lower Columbia College English students learned from them as well. Carmen Webb leads the group of 19 writing students, who meet from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. Webb, a part of the group since 1998, has been its leader four years.

I was a member of this enjoyable writing class a couple years ago, and I recognized many familiar faces. Before the college students arrived, the class progressed as usual, starting promptly at 1:00. After deciding who would bring snacks to the next two gatherings, Carmen Webb asked classmates to read their work. Students had been prompted to write memories of stores and shopping, or a subject of their choice. Each, in turn, read one or two poems or essays. Margaret Hepola, age 90, read about learning to face the public by working in a store. “I was bashful when I was young,” she said. Living eight miles from Woodland in the country, she said she was too far from school to participate in extracurricular activities. When she started working, she worked at the bulb farm. “At age 19,” she said, “I worked at a Finnish store located where Classy Hair is today.”

She described how her shyness made it difficult to communicate with Finnish customers who spoke little English. Her workday was from 7:30 AM to 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. most days, but she worked from 7:30 a.m. to 11 PM on Saturdays. When she started work, she made $30 a month, and when she left, she made $120. Hepola told of not having much money, and living on potato soup, which she still likes today. Customer service was important in those days, and she told of sometimes working with a customer one or two hours.

When Margaret Hepola married a Finnish man who owned a thriving country store, he joked that he married her because she knew how to run a store.

Sherri Schievelbein told the class she keeps paper and a light-up pen by her bed to record writing ideas that come to her during the night. “I hate the computer,” said Schievelbein.

Jewell Ellila, a long-time class member, commented that a story runs around in her head five or six days and then it just flows out.

Maxine Rodman, another longtime member of the group, read an earlier writing about the mercantile where  she shopped as a child, and the ice man who would leave ice at her house and who would give the children slivers of ice on hot days.

Maxine Lester read a humorous piece about family sayings. She remembers that when someone would ask her dad, “How do you feel?” he would reply, “With my fingers.” Several people nodded and grinned, recognizing the familiar sayings.

One man read about his memories of the old Red & White Store in Battle Ground, Wash.

 “I always wondered how they got the big stalk of bananas to hang from the ceiling,” he read. He remarked in his story that during the Depression, clothing was purchased for durability, not style.

Dolly Bottemiller’s story was about remembrances of shopping in the 1940s for loafers, saddle shoes, anklets, pleated skirts, and dark red lipstick and nail polish. “Later”, she said, “I worked at Meier and Frank, where elevators were run by women who called out the floor numbers and told what was located on each floor.”

Asked what they get out of the Write Your Life story class, Molly Cowlisajaw replied “friendship and inspiration,” and  Sherry Schievelbein said it keeps her writing; Jewel Ellila jokingly said she’s there for the snacks.

 Maxine Rodman likes hearing about the varied life experiences from different age groups. For Margaret Hepola, “it’s like therapy. You can put your thoughts and problems on paper.”

When Maxine Lester lost her husband, she said it gave her a way to write away her grief. Sherri Schievelbein, who moved here from Wisconsin, said the class helps her learn the area’s history, to which Margaret Hepola replied, “today is history.”

At about 2:45, the Lower Columbia College students arrived. Aralie Niemi and Elias Warndahl interviewed Maxine Rodman about the flood of 1996. Rodman remembered President Clinton’s visit to the area, and remembered how sad she felt for people whose homes were affected.

Kahli Gillis interviewed Jewel Ellila about the possibility of a Wal-Mart in Woodland, and another college student asked about Harry Truman, remembered for refusing to leave his Spirit Lake Lodge when Mt. St. Helens erupted.

Tia Simpson asked Maxine Lester about forms of entertainment in the area from 1930 to 1970. Lester said most of the entertainment was dancing, and that some of the popular dances were the polka, schottische, waltz, and square dances.

Senior Danielle Rusk interviewed Carmen Webb and Dolly Bottemiller regarding the FFA Nursery Landscape program through the high school. The women were unfamiliar with the program, but learned that it is a contest between schools. Students identify plants, draw a landscape, answer questions, do a team activity, and brainstorm as part of the competition. The program runs November to May. Rusk was proud to say Woodland went to nationals in October, 2006.

Write Your Life Story students and young college students learned from each other during the interviews, just as the writing students learn from each other each week. For more information on the Write Your Life Story Class, phone Lower Columbia College/Woodland Center at (360) 225-4768.


Filed under education, Family History, Family Memories, South County News, Woodland, writing

WHS Plants Seeds of Success

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©South County News/The Daily News

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Filed under education, gardening, plants, South County News, Woodland