September 9th……...”PLEASE SHARE WITH US, GRANDPA, ABOUT WHEN YOU WERE A TEENAGER AND HOW YOU HELPED YOUR CUSTODIAN DAD DO SUMMER CLEANING AT GLENWOOD HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.
A dappled shade, flecked with dancing spots of summer sunlight, filtered down through the coolness of the two massive Birch trees that stood as stately guardians in the front of Glenwood Heights Elementary School. Within a stone’s throw, the rural, two-lane highway of NE 134th Street was the demarcation line between this quaint, domicile of education and local farmer’s fields to the south. In those quieter times, one was as likely to hear a tractor and hay baler drive by as you would a local family car.
In the regal, warm ritual of routines, I’m taken back to those early days when our father, Russell Noorlun, was the Head Custodian of Glenwood Heights School. The governing Principal of the school, in those pleasant days of long ago, was the very respected and loved Mr. Lowell Horace “Pic” Lyford. Although these two men had traveled life in different echelons of education, they were of the same echelon in that they were brothers in their Christian faith as well as kindred spirits in the comforting facts that they were both born the same year (1918), came from the Midwest (Iowa & Minnesota) and both came from farming backgrounds. In the enjoyment of those summer rituals of routine came our daily lunch time…..together.
Mr. Lyford (as my father always called Lowell out of high respect for his position of leadership at Glenwood) would join Dad and myself as we would bring a transistor radio with us just outside of the school’s front main entry doors to the shade of those lovely Birch trees. Out came the traditional black, metal lunch pails and always a thermos of coffee to wash down their sandwich and cookies.
In amongst the fragrance of good coffee and visiting, the three of us would “keep our ears peeled” as we’d listen to the “Paul Harvey News & Commentary” broadcast. There was a sense of honor, truth and camaraderie, and yes, even a believability to how Mr. Harvey shared the news of the day and would end most broadcasts with his favored “Rest Of The Story”. It was like a dessert at the end of each broadcast. While birds above us sang and summer breezes cooled the three of us, we enjoyed that fellowship of a relaxed summer day and lunchtimes. Once school would start up in the Fall, life at Glenwood would be too hectic to take these satisfying lunch times together. It was a time relished by we three each Summer when I helped Dad clean his school.
Our dear father had been a farmer for his entire life up until 1967 when he began a new career as a custodian for the Battle Ground School District at Glenwood Heights Elementary School. Needless to say, there was a lot to learn in this new occupation of cleaning a school. For instance, one summer afternoon, Dad decided that he and I would use rags to clean the interior windows of the 3rd & 4th Grade East Wing of the school. We sprayed and rubbed and rubbed and sprayed for hours, thinking we had done a pretty nice job on those windows. NOT!!! When we arrived the following morning to school, the sun was cresting over the Cascade Mountains to the east of us. We gazed with forlorn shock into those East Wing classrooms and their windows. Sadly, you could see every single rag swipe on those slimy windows that we thought we had properly cleaned the previous afternoon. It was time to swallow some custodian “humble pie” in our paradigm shift and quickly relearn the right way to clean windows with a proper window cleaner solution and a squeegee.
From that first Summer of 1967, through my High School graduation of 1972, I was glad to spend time with our father as he learned the trade of taking care of a school and meeting the needs of students and staff. There are some things Dad gleaned from previous custodians teaching him and many things he was able to improve on his own. For myself, rather than learning to drive tractors, as I would have done on our farm in Minnesota days, I instead learned how to drive a rotary scrubbing machine and a myriad of other bits of knowledge that helped me in my own 31 years of being a custodian for the Battle Ground School District. I’m grateful for those warm routines of life that have come back to bless me as the Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉