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*Hazel Whitford Miller Goheen...
Her Story

by Paul Hackett

Meet a vibrant Hazel Whitford Miller Goheen, now 95 (she was born on May 3, 1910) whose recollections are marvelous and whose specificity is fantastic. Three hours of videotaped material give us up-close views of 1929-1944 on South Hill.

As a teen-ager in the late 20’s times were hard for many people and for the Whitford family, but Hazel was no burden to her family. She was the third daughter. She didn’t go with a “steady boyfriend” because she was focused on preparing to be a teacher. She went to Bellingham Normal for college.

Hazel portrait
Hazel Whitford Miller Goheen

“I worked as a grade school janitor 2 hours Mon.-Fri. and 2½ hours on Saturday while attending school. Then continued while graduation was going on with the same. I was paid $.35 an hour. This paid my way through normal school. It is too bad boys and girls couldn’t pay their way now—it costs so much now.”

In May 1929, 19-year old Hazel did not attend her graduation because she could not afford a formal dress. Working after school as a janitor to save up money for appropriate teacher-clothes she opted out of the ceremony.

However on graduation no contract came her way.

Her cousin Alvah Huff, who was visiting grandparents in Custer, suggested she send her application to Firgrove, which she did. (The school was 3/4th mile east of Meridian and 136th. It burned down in 1934). She said she would come for a personal interview; they sent the contract immediately, so she signed it and sent it back. Mrs. Winnifred Huff picked her up at the Puyallup bus station and took her to meet the school board. When she was introduced to Mrs. Bock, after a bit Mrs. Bock said, “Are you the teacher?” as she looked down at the 5 foot-1-inch petite “girl” before her, dressed in one of the three new dresses she now owned.

Mrs. Patzner and Mr. Predmore were the other two members of the school board. (Patzner lived just east of the schoolhouse on 136th St E and the street was named after him). But she was hired and after that she got along well with the students. Hazel had good classroom control. She walked to and from the school through the woods.

At that time teachers could not date, could not smoke or drink, and had to be in at 8 PM. Her pay? $100 a month plus $5 for doing the janitorial work in her own room. Of course pay was by an “interest bearing warrant.” She could cash the warrant “if there was enough tax money on hand”. (Some teachers quit because they couldn’t afford to teach when they could not cash their warrant.) However Hazel always got warrants she could cash. “That was good pay in those days,” she says.

She taught 25 children in the 1st-4th grade. Another teacher taught the 5th-8th grades. Hazel took the bus to Seattle twice to bring back suitcases of discarded books from the Library. She also bought an encyclopedia, which she left at the school. Perle Park was a 4th grader and truly found interesting articles in the encyclopedias Hazel bought.
Some of the students came from the “Rabbit Farms” where Dorothy (Nelson) lived as did the Gee’s. The Rabbit Farms were an unrecorded plat of 73 1.5 acre parcels fronting on 122nd St E. Dick Starkel was also a student from the family chicken farm and the Powell and the Wright family children attended. Only about 40 students in all lived in the catchment area from 122nd to 152nd east and west of Meridian.

In 1929 there were almost no businesses on Meridian. At Meridian and 112th St E area there were the Miller’s Grocery store and gas station, the Willows dance hall, where Hazel and her friends Shirley and Enid Wright and Eunice Stover danced to big bands. It was $.75 for males and $.25 for females; Kupfer’s home was on the other corner (now Border’s Bookstore).

This lasted two years until she took up the County Superintendent of Schools’ suggestion that, for her advancement she should take a teaching job at Woodland School. They offered her $115 and no janitorial work.

She taught at Woodland School from 1931-1934. When the school bell rang all would then march into the school. (They still do this, at Woodland alumni reunions, but march in place). Times were hard so although it cost $.25 a year to be in the Woodland PTA, they made a “local” membership provision to pay only $.10.

Hazel taught 30 children in the 3rd and 4th grades. “They were really good children”, she said. Students included Robert Litton, Maudine Swalander. Joe Sladek, and many “wonderful boys and girls”. Bernice Rinehart, (whose father was Grange Master) was in the 6th grade and knew Hazel.

She “knew both sides,” the folks at Woodland school, and her friends at the McMillan Grange that included Patzner, Kehr and Mosolf families. One meeting the Woodland people asked Hazel why she went to the McMillan Grange. She told them about the Grange work and what it stood for. They were interested so she invited the McMillan Grange to come up to Woodland to talk to them. They decided that evening to organize the Fruitland Grange so named for two “reasons”: there was another Woodland Grange in Washington State, and the school fronted on Fruitland Avenue.

Soon Hazel was making news in the state Grange work. She was turned down for the drill team due to her height, but she was featured as a princess standing on a bridge in a Grange tableau for State Grange in Tacoma in 1932. We have a picture of that event.

She was also very active in 4H work, as was Mrs. Predmore. Hazel led the singing when the county held their countywide meetings several times. Each county went in June to Pullman to participate in statewide activities. One time in the stunt contest she was “the Spirit of 4H club work” and Pierce County won the prize (a banner) She had 3 4H clubs at one time because a man club leader could not be found for the boys, so they were a cooking club and had cookouts for supper at Maplewood Springs, a long walk downhill.

She was county president of 4H leaders and later president of SW Washington 4H leaders. The county had people from Washington DC in the 30’s and 40’s to help communities with interest. The people were Mr. and Mrs. Jackson who came for plays and games. Mr. Knapp and wife came the next year for plays, acting, lighting, and positioning on stage.

In 1934 she taught at Kirby School in the Graham area. The school board wanted her because she had captained girl’s baseball team to two County championships. Her husband-to-be was managing a county gravel crusher and “there would then be one too many persons working in a family”. This problem was solved in 1934 when she married him, Clifford Miller, and moved to a home on Stewart Avenue, and then Hazel did not teach. In 1938 their only child, Faye, was born.

Later in 1939 she was one of hundreds of volunteers who built the Fruitland Grange building for $10,000. It is still used today.

In 1942, due to the war effort with many women employed in the Todd shipyards, there was a great lack of teachers. Hazel returned to Firgrove School, which by then was located on Meridian. One of her happy moments was directing a spoof play, “Henry’s Mail-Order Wife”. Actors included Myra and Bill Geddes, Rufle Breckon, Margaret Felker, Betty and Roy Rinehart, and Clifford Miller, her husband. It was such a “laugh-getter success” that many Grange groups asked them to perform it. Again she taught for three years more.

She was involved in helping Leo Hutchins decorate a downtown fountain with daffodils. This led to the creation of the Daffodil parade in 1930.

Later in life Hazel lived in Canada for 20 years. Now she lives in Blaine, the city in which she was born on May 3, 1910. Her daughter, Mrs. Frank Serviss and her husband Frank, live in the Puyallup area so she visits here quite often.

As the Puyallup schools celebrate 150 years of history, Hazel certainly throws a stunning spotlight on several of those years.

*Hazel passed away at age 102, January 3, 2013