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Old PTA Documents Shed Light On Firgrove Elementary History

By Carl Vest

The South Hill Historical Society would like to acknowledge a very significant gift.  During its October meeting, Mrs. Louise Walworth presented the Society with a bound volume of Minutes of meetings of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for Firgrove School.  The record covers about a five year period starting in October 1959, some 56 years ago.

In 1959 Firgrove was an independent school district.  It’s now part of the Puyallup School system.  The physical plant at the time consisted of only one building, built in the 1930s which still exists as part of the contemporary Firgrove campus — located at 13918 South Meridian.  There were three classrooms and an auditorium.  The school offered instruction in grades one through six.  Grades one and two were combined in one room, a second area housed classes three and four, while educational level five and six occupied the third classroom.  The auditorium was used by all students.

Firgrove was not a large school.  In October 1959 there were 22 children registered in grades one and two, 15 students were credited to levels three and four while classes five and six had 15 learners, for a total enrollment of 52 students.  Current matriculation for Firgrove is nearly 700 pupils. Attendance numbers varied throughout the school year as noted in the PTA accounts, which used the statistics to award prizes to those rooms that had the best turnout each month.

Mr. Ed Zeiger was the principal at Firgrove during the 1959 – 1960 school year.  He also taught 5th and 6th grade.  Over the years Mr. Zeiger continued his career as an educator and is now retired and living on South Hill.  As a tribute to his distinguished service, to the South Hill educational community, a school on 94th Avenue has been named in his honor:  Zeiger Elementary School.

The records show that the Firgrove community was actively involved in the education of its children.  The PTA met monthly and maintained a regular liaison with the school. There was, for example, a Room Mother assigned to each classroom.  Mrs. Mary Glaser was a Room Mother in 1960.  She says it was her job to make sure the students had their birthdays acknowledged and that Christmas festivities, room parties and other special events were organized.  These occasions took place in the school auditorium.  Student needs for specialized clothing for events was also a task, money being raised by such means as bake sales.

The PTA was concerned about the safety of the children.  Members worked closely with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to see that selected students were trained in traffic duties.  In May 1961 it is recorded that WSP Sergeant L. H. Thomas presented pins to the school patrol.  At one point the PTA considered clearing paths along Meridian Avenue so children would have a safe place to walk while attending school.

This record is a window into South Hill for this period.  The Society is indebted to Mrs. Walworth for her generous contribution.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.

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