BANDON - Miss Farley’s third-grade class posed on the steps of Bandon High School for their class photo in the spring of 1939.
Those kids had been through a lot. Born in the depression, their town and their elementary school burned in the fire that swept through Bandon in 1936. The kids had been going to class in the high school gym since the fall of their first-grade year.
The financial bite of the depression and the uncertainty about how to rebuild Bandon delayed the construction of a new school. But with the help of the Public Works Administration, a depression era program to put people back to work, a new building was ready in the fall of 1939. Miss Farley’s kids would be the first fourth grade class in the new elementary school.
Ocean Crest Elementary School turns 80 years old in 2019 but its exact birthday is a little trickier to pin down.
“Since we don’t know Ocean Crest’s exact birthday, we’re stretching the 80th birthday celebration throughout the fall,” said museum volunteer Jim Proehl.”
The Bandon Historical Society will host an 80th Birthday Celebration Community Open House from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Ocean Crest Elementary School, 1040 Allegheny Ave SW in Bandon.
“This will be a good time for people who attended or worked at Ocean Crest to pay a return visit, or for people who never thought of the school as a historic building to look at it in a different light,” said Museum Director Gayle Nix. “You can also share a little birthday cake, or at least a cupcake.”
School photo albums and pictures of Ocean Crest from the museum’s collection will be available to look at during the event.
Construction was just underway in January of 1939 on the site of the three-story Central School that burned in 1936. The location of the new school building confirmed that Bandon was not going to be rebuilt according to any of the model city plans proposed after the 1936 fire.
The building was completed on May 9, 1939. The community got its first good look at the building May 26 at graduation for the Class of 1939.
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“The graduation exercises were held in the new grade school auditorium which was attractively decorated for the occasion. The new steel folding chairs had arrived that very day and were in place to accommodate the large attendance. The auditorium afforded an ideal setting for the program, the stage being attractively appointed,” reported the June 1, 1939 Western World.
The School Board formally accepted the building from the contractor July 14, 1939, according to the July 20 Western World. The paper gave a detailed description of the new building and concluded that “Bandon has one of the finest, most suitable grade schools in the Pacific Northwest.”
School was set to open Sept. 5.
“The children of Bandon are about to get the break they deserve after having endured the adverse conditions of the past three years,” reported the August 24 Western World. One hundred seventy-two students in six grades reported to school on opening day.
The new school cost $58,000 including equipment. The Public Works Administration contributed $24,450.
“As far as we have been able to determine, there never was a dedication ceremony for the school,” said Proehl. Perhaps an issue with a booster tank delayed the final bit of paperwork long enough that a dedication would have seemed like an afterthought.
Students are still learning at Ocean Crest Elementary School. The original building had seven classrooms. The building has since had two major expansions and was retrofitted for earthquakes last summer.
“Shaped by Fire, The Surprising History of Bandon’s Schools” is the title of a program by Jim Proehl at 3 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, at the Bandon Public Library Friday, 1204 11th St. SW.
“The library was looking for a September program and this opportunity seemed like another good way to celebrate Ocean Crest’s birthday,” said Proehl.