The End of an Era
Not there was any doubt in my mind, but it is official that I’m old. The Bellevue School District is tearing down Sammamish High School where my husband and I, along with his six brothers, went to high school. When my brother-in-law Tim, who is a reporter for KIRO radio in Seattle, sent out an email to the family with a link to the City of Bellevue’s office of land use pages telling of the two and a half year process the school district has planned for essentially tearing down the school in stages and replacing it will a three story brand new building I was gobsmacked.
My parents and I moved to Lake Hills, a post-war housing development in East Bellevue in 1957 where I started first grade in a not-yet-finished elementary school. My classroom had 40 of the baby boom generation in neat rows. Elementary schools weren’t the only ones being built. During second grade my mother drove me past the building site where Sammamish was under construction. “That’s where you’ll go to high school someday,” she said happily. Like many of the greatest generation my mother was optimistic. She was living the post war dream of living in a new, albeit modest, ranch house in one of the developments that sprang up when WWII vets returned, finished school, started careers and needed someplace to raise their families. Bellevue, WA, a bedroom community to Seattle, fit the bill.
There was another side to the optimism of post-war America—the threat of nuclear war. Because my father worked for Boeing Flight Test on the B-52 program he went to Eniwetok for six months in 1956 and again for five months in 1958 as part of the Boeing crew helping to test the atomic bomb. Americans thought that the United States was invincible and that our superior technology could overcome all obstacles. The Space Age was around the corner and the sky was the limit, but because of my father’s work the optimism was tinged with the reality that the Cold War was in full swing.
Overt things such as my father’s plan for what to do in case of a nuclear attack told me that the world wasn’t such a rosy place. Yes, I understood where to walk to at the lower edge of the elementary school grounds where my mother would pick me up. She understood that she and my father would keep the tank of our 1952 Ford at least half full. My father believed that we would have time to get out of range of Boeing, the Bremerton Naval Facility and Ft. Lewis, which he believed were potential targets, and we would be able to drive to my grandparents’ beach house on the coast.
There were things I wasn’t supposed to know about. One of the networks (and I’ve never been able to track down which one or the name of the program) aired a television program of what to expect in the event of a nuclear attack. I’d been sent to bed, but was able to see the television through the crack the door was left open and sat on the floor and was horrified by what I saw. The grown-ups were going to kill us. I became convinced of it.
So when my mother drove me past the building site for Sammamish High School in 1959 I paid scant attention. She couldn’t fool me. She might be my mom, but she was silly if she thought I was ever going to get old enough to go to high school much less grow up. I don’t know if I’ve ever grown up entirely, but I did attend Sammamish High School from 9th to 12th grade, graduating in 1969. The first year I still didn’t believe I needed to worry about growing up. By my junior year it occurred to me that I might. By my senior year it was panic time, but that’s another story. Now they are tearing SHS down to make way for a fancy three story building. The upside is I’ve outlasted it!