While many of our narrators started school in Bay Center, Bay Center children went to South Bend for high school. According to Ken Reed, Chinook children from Bay Center struggled to complete high school because of the distance between their homes and South Bend. South Bend was bigger, whereas Bay Center was “out in the boonies.”
Some of the narrators did not learn about Native Americans in school much. Nonetheless, school was a place for Chinook children to connect with other Native children, as well as with white children. Joe Brignone explains that it was at school that he learned to play an instrument, which became very important to him throughout his life.
The GI Bill provided a way for Chinook who had served in the military to go to college. In this way they were able to gain an education. Ken Reed explains that the GI Bill paid his fees. Attending college also provided a place where members of the Chinook Nation could meet other Native American groups and form bonds. These bonds created a sense of pride in their heritage that led to a few of the narrators to get involved with the tribe later in life. It also provided career opportunities.
Ken Reed on early 20th century education in Pacific County:
Well, Bay Center was thought of as being out in the boonies, where South Bend also was bigger. It was the county seat. And you know, it had two elementary schools and a junior high school, high school, and as a matter of fact the Bay Center kids going to high school had to come into South Bend to go to high school. Like I said, the school there went to the eighth grade. But there weren’t that many kids that did it. I would like to know things like—what the dropout factor was after the eighth grade. I think from Bay Center it would have been pretty big, because there weren’t that many Bay Center kids in high school.
Go out and work in the oyster beds, you don’t need an education, or lumber, you don’t need an education.
Ken Reed on University of Washington, post World War II:
Yeah, that was the generation everyone; in fact, most of my classmates at university were on the G.I. Bill. Now I don’t know if you know what that entailed. Well, first we didn’t have tuition, by the way, we only had fees. They paid the fees. They paid for your books. They paid for your equipment. They paid, well for where you stayed, if it were on campus.
Ken Reed on his mother’s experience Cushman Indian School:
Well, I told you, she (mother) went to Cushman School, where they took that all out of her [Indigenous identity]. They didn’t, you know, force it out. But you know. So no, we didn’t have any traditions. I mean, [laughs wryly] we had Thanksgiving and Christmas. [laughs]
Joe Brignone on the school band:
And well the first band I was in was called a rhythm band and that was in grade school and you know, it was just sticks and drums and things you bang on. It was pretty good for the teacher to get the whole class to get the same beat at the same time. And then when I went to high school, you know I started playing in the school band. And then they’d have these shows, maybe once a month for something, sometimes it was just a pep rally and they’d have somebody get up and do acts and stuff. So we got together four guys to do—we called ourselves the Oyster Pickers—that was the only time we ever performed. Somebody took a picture of it and they put it in the annual, and I’m playing guitar and our pants were rolled up to about here and stuff, you know, we’re standing up there in jeans and t-shirts and stuff, you know, and Norman Lynn and Terry Scott, and Kenny Rinks and old Joe Brignone. And I think, I think I’m the only one left out of that four. We didn’t get paid for that [laughs].
Anna May’s mother, Annie Lorton, learned to bake at the Tulalip Indian School:
When Mom was in school she went to the Bay Center school but then she was probably was twelve, thirteen somewhere in there. The other kids went to Chemawa in Oregon but Mom went to Tulalip and, uh, because there was a teacher up there who was also a close friend of my grandpa’s family, is one of the reasons she went to Tulalip. And they had scholastics half of the day and a trade, something to make a living with you were to learn and Mom took the bakery. She learned, that’s how she learned to make all her lovely breads.