Yes, South Hill Has a History

Ballou Junior High Name Honors Education Leader

by Carl Vest

The Ballou family is well-known on South Hill.  Most residents have at some time noticed that name on the junior high school located just down the street from the South Hill Post Office.  The school is so-named to honor Frank Ballou who for many years was very active in civic affairs on the Hill. 

Frank and Helen Ballou moved onto South Hill in the early 1940s.  They settled on a ten acre ranch just across Meridian Avenue from the Firgrove Elementary School.  Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, they came to the Puget South region to be near Helen’s family who lived in Puyallup.

When it was acquired, the Ballou property was considered a “stump farm.”  It was not usable for agriculture and had to be cleared to be of practical use.  Frank used dynamite to blast out the stumps to create areas that could be cultivated.  Initially five acres were devoted to raising strawberries.  Over time the remaining acreage was developed and used for a variety of things, including the growing of hay, the raising of raspberries, and maintaining normal farm activities and animals.

Soon after his arrival, and because of his agricultural interests Frank became active in the work of the local Grange.  He served for many years in the Fruitland Grange organization and by the early 1960s had been elected Master of the Pomona Grange, an umbrella group for some 17 Pierce County Granges.  For a while he also served as Deputy Master for the Washington State Grange.

Frank was one of the leaders in establishing the annual Pierce County Fair.  The Fair, now held each year in Graham, was started in 1947 by the Fruitland Grange and held there for its first two years.  It moved to Sumner in 1950 for the next 18 years before relocating to its present site. 

In keeping with his agricultural interests Frank also worked for the State of Washington Employment Service, helping to provide farm labor to Pierce County.  He was a leader in the 4-H program.  He was on the board of directors for the Firgrove Water Company.

Frank’s second passion was education.  Over time he became active in the Firgrove School PTA, serving as President for a time.  It was in the mid-1950s that he was elected President of a local community organization known as the Citizens Committee for Education.  This grass-roots group was devoted to improving the educational prospects of local students by trying to get better facilities and more qualified teachers.  As part of this effort Frank is credited as being the driving force behind the successful endeavor to move the Independent Firgrove School District into the Puyallup School District thereby providing more opportunities for Hill students.

Frank Ballou died in 1964. In 1971 a new junior high school was built near Frank’s old home.  In gratitude for his many accomplishments, especially on behalf of education on the Hill, the new school was named in his honor.

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