Ramona Huserik Remembers

By Sharon Barthmaier

Ramona Leuthe Huserik, a native Skyline resident and teacher at Skyline Elementary School from 1941-1980, was kind enough to share some memories of the good old days of teaching and being taught on the hill.

Ramona and her sister, Irma, also a teacher at Skyline from 1941-1980, grew up on Skyline Boulevard in a family of five girls and one boy. They attended Brooks School (at Skyline and Brooks Road) from 1923-1930. For a time, students cooked the one hot meal of the day, two students working under the supervision of a teacher. Ramona, who at the time was in the lower grades, occasionally had dishwashing duties, which were not her favorite! Her fondest memory of those meals was the delicious chocolate pudding. There were 45 students in Brooks School and everyone walked to school. Ramona recalls the Pauly kids walking to school across the canyon from Pauly Road off McNamee. Photographs from that time show little girls with bobbed hair and Mary Jane shoes, and boys with overalls and high-cut, lace-up boots lined up in front of the Brooks School House. The names of the children reflect Skyline history: Leuthe, Pauly, Krueger, Bunch, Schremmeek, and Brooks.

In the days of “real winter,” Ramona’s family and friends could be found sledding on the hill behind her house, on Skyline near Quarry Rd. This property belonged to her Uncle Chris who raised poultry; hence the aptly named Chicken Hill.

The Leuthe family, like others on the hill, went into St. Johns to shop. Their dad sold potatoes, wood and other products there, transporting his horse and wagon over on the ferry from Linnton to St. Johns. (The St. Johns Bridge went up in 1931.)

Ramona met her husband Frank Huserik while picking strawber­ries during the summer on Skyline where the “Street of Dreams” is now located (NW Glendoveer Drive). Picking strawberries was how most of the country kids earned their spending money. The Huserik kids came up from Germantown Road to work. Ramona and Frank were married in 1945 and celebrated 50 years of marriage before his death in 1996.

Ramona began teaching in a one-room school house in Mountain Home, Washington County (near Scholls and Newberg), with 29 kids in 1938. She was both teacher and janitor. Responsibilities included building and maintaining the fire and hiking down to the neighbor’s house to get drinking water. The water was then kept in a crock in the classroom. Ramona recalls the kids being quite well behaved. They were grouped by ability, rather than age, and the teacher did one lesson with a group while the others worked. The older children helped with the younger children. Ramona laughingly remembers the Mt. Home superintendent coming to observe her teaching. However, whenever he arrived, he declared it recess time and everyone ran out to play baseball on the field. He never did observe her teaching a lesson! As transportation was long and difficult, Ramona boarded during the week locally, returning home on the weekends.

Two years later, Ramona began teaching on Sauvie Island in a two-room school house. She took the ferry from Burlington, on the south side of the river, to the Island. Burlington was a small town consisting of a tavern and repair garage on Highway 30, and a few streets in the hills above. The town declined after the building of the Sauvie Island Bridge. During duck hunting season, Ramona had to be sure to catch the ferry early to assure getting to school on time. She remembers the owner of the ferry giving her roasted duck for lunch on several occasions. It was during this time that the Sauvie Island dyke was being built.

Ramona eventually transferred to the present Skyline School building around 1942 where she taught for thirty-nine years, primar­ily third grade, although she also instructed in the second and fifth grades. Teacher responsibilities were different in those days. Much more work was done at the blackboards and students did a lot more copying and writing. Teachers sat with their students during lunch in the basement, supervising and preventing food fights, no doubt. The kids always brought their lunch from home. The basement also served as the playground during snow days until the shed area behind the school was roofed. Even the faculty room was housed in the multi-purpose basement!

After the birth of her first son, Ramona tried to retire, but the principal begged her to come back. The matter was settled when her aunt, who lived just at the end of Quarry Road, was willing to babysit. This pattern continued after Ramona and Frank had two more sons. Many Skyline residents who were students of Mrs. Huserik have that principal to thank for encouraging her to remain teaching at Skyline and continue the connection between school and community.