I grew up in Salem, Oregon. Our family moved to the Pacific Northwest from South Dakota, in the fall of 1976.

My first and favorite public school was Englewood Elementary School, the yellow brick building pictured below. Except for second grade, when I attended Washington Elementary, all of my formative years were spent there. I loved the place.

Washington, on the other hand, was an unpleasant experience. Thankfully, I was only there a year. Standards were lower. The quality teachers and teaching I had witnessed at Englewood were strangely absent. I was forced to go because we had moved and the school boundaries mandated it.

Thankfully, after second grade I was able to return to Englewood, my friends and the terrific teachers there.

After Englewood, instead of moving on with my compatriots, most of whom were slated for Parrish, I was assigned to Waldo Middle School. It was a mix of good and bad experiences, though I have fond memories of playing basketball and learning Spanish.

My high school years were spent at McKay. At the time Douglas McKay High School was the most recent, most modern, most up-to-date high school in the district. It was a nice facility.

It was in high school that I found my voice. As a very introverted, nervous freshman, I auditioned for a part in West Side Story.

There was a sheet of paper with three empty spaces. I had the nerve to write the name of the male lead, Tony, in the first slot. I was naive and totally unprepared for such a dynamic, heavy role.

Oddly, after a disastrous audition, I was awarded the part of a character no one knew much about, noted in the script with the term Glad Hand.

“What? Who the heck is Glad Hand?”

Later I learned it was the same character played by John Astin in the movie, famous for his role as Gomez on The Addams Family and adoptive father of Sean, whose films include The Goonies, Rudy, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

This portrait of Douglas McKay hangs near the high school library.
This portrait of Douglas McKay hangs near the high school library.

This introduction to stage craft led to a succession of roles and a lot of fun. I am glad to have taken the plunge. Before taking a break my junior year, I tried for a role in every play. There were at least three productions every school year. My senior year I was awarded a letter for drama.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I was desperate to find one last elective to take. Most of these classes were full. One of the few options remaining was keyboarding, a glorified title for typing.

It was already two weeks in to the semester and therefore I was well behind on a litany of assignments A few days into it I realized that there was no way I could catch up. I am no Della Street. (In fact, I had a personal assistant, Amanda Siler, a sort of secretary for me, later.)

Besides all of this, it was the most useless class I have ever experienced. It was boring, sure. But beyond that, it was just busy work. At least we could have been typing up stuff people actually needed. But, no, we had to go through these numerous lessons to learn how to type. The teacher had no sympathy for me. After a few days of the torture, I dropped it.

So, desperate once again, I carefully scanned for any open electives. I settled on journalism. The student newspaper, The Tartan Times, had some spots. Little did I know at the time how much I would love this class. By my senior year I had become editor of the paper.

While at McKay, I enrolled in a few classes for college credit. The two I remember most fondly were College Writing, with Mr. Cooley, and AP European History, with Ms. Plantz.

After graduation I attended the local community college, Chemeketa.

Oregon Coast Community College
Blue Mountain Community College

Portland State University
Eastern Oregon University

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