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Mrs. Winter Remembers PUA / PAA

“I won’t live long enough to write all the fond memories I have of PUA and PAA . . . I have loved all the precious people I have taught.” 

Thelma Winter’s words ring in our hearts. She was a PUA and PAA teacher for 31 years. Even as she approached her 102nd birthday this year, her memory was sharp. We are so grateful for the treasured memories she was able to share in these statements from 2010. We are also grateful to her family for providing this information.

Thelma Winter’s words are a precious reminder of who we are as a community. It is a privilege to archive her accounts.

1953, PUA English Class

I won’t live long enough to write all the fond memories I have of PUA and PAA.

I taught full-time from September, 1950 – June, 1981. Then, I came back in September, 1983 and taught the year part-time, 4 classes a day. Over the years, I taught English, Advanced Placement English, history, Bible, & Spanish. I also ran the library.

I taught in the old building on 53rd and Couch, about a block north of Burnside. Both of my sons were graduated from PUA: 1953 and 1959. Incidentally, my five grandchildren and one great-grandchild have also graduated from PAA.

We used to go for weekends with the girls’ club, Gamma Kappa, I believe. Such fun! We rented the beach home for girls at the mouth of the Salmon Creek. We were there the night of the Columbus Day Storm. That was big! October 12, 1962. (I hope I remember the date right). (Of course she did! Read about it HERE.)

The new school plant was put to the test during this storm that smashed through western Oregon. Windows were out all over Portland, but PUA stood firm. One small window over the office was broken out by a limb that fell through the roof. That was the only damage. Most of Portland had no electricity. The school was fine. Public schools were out. We were in business.

Two girls complained to me that everyone else was having a vacation after the storm, so why should we have to go on. “You want to stay home?” I asked.

“Of course,” the girls moaned.

“Do you have electricity at home?” I asked, to which they replied “No.”

“Then you’re better off here than at home, aren’t you?” No more conversation.

I remember when the ground-breaking took place for the “new school” on 96th and Market Streets. I moved to a house on Taylor Street to be close to school. (Its location was or is just about the middle of the southbound lanes of I205, where it passes the southwest end of Mall 205.)

The principal of the old school on Couch Street had saved money for dear life to get money to buy a new location for the school. PUA had outgrown the size of the Couch Street School. So the school board bought an acreage just out of town—a raspberry farm. Next door was the mental hospital for the territory of Alaska. There were also hog pens, a dairy, and other rural things. When Alaska became a state, the property was sold to a developer, who built the super market or started it. I got the bull pen property for my garden. The Conference president said we teachers should be working the ground. So I planted tomatoes.

We ended the school year on Couch Street in the spring and began school at the new campus in the fall of 1962. The building process continued for quite a while, but we were having classes in the new buildings.

A little later—I don’t remember exactly—someone complained that Adventist institutions didn’t show in their names that they were Adventist. The result was that PUA became PAA, and all over the country, our denomination’s name went into all the names of our institutions. Fortunately it didn’t really affect our school’s song. “Dear Old PUA” became “Dear Old PAA!”

Thelma Winter, 1974 English Class

The memories of my classes go on forever. I learned and learned—and unlearned. In education classes at college, we were taught that there should be about 3% of the class getting A’s and about the same number getting F’s. I learned that more than 3% could make A’s, and no one had to fail! If a student would sit up and try, I could teach him or her enough to go to college. In English class, we had fun playing grammar baseball and a host of other things.

One day a lady named Mrs. Johnsson was sent from the office to talk to me. Her precious son Terry had been expelled from the public school system because, they said, he was ineducable. She said, “I know he has a good brain; I want you to help him.” I knew nothing of dyslexia then. (I’m glad that I didn’t have to pay for all the lessons that being a teacher has taught me.) Terry Johnsson graduated and went next door to the military recruiting office and joined the service. His story is told in a book For His Honor. He has come to PAA alumni weekends and let us hear what a fine preacher he has become!

I have loved all the precious people I have taught. Any school will go on successfully if the graduates are well able to do what they trained to do. Can they find jobs when they are out of school? Can they do well in college? If the answer to these questions is yes, the school succeeds.

If the school’s graduates have learned to love God, nothing can stop it! My fondest memories include the weeks my classes spent studying the book of Job from the Bible. It is among the greatest pieces of literature of all time. Nothing written in modern history is equal to it. I was taught that by a professor who had little or no religion. The Bible is the world’s greatest literature. If students know and love the Bible and the God of the Bible, they have nothing to fear!

The following are additional memories that Thelma has written about the school (no date given).

I got the job to teach at PUA in a most unusual way. I took my teacher training at Pacific University in Forest Grove, where I got my degree. I did my teacher practice at Newburg Union High School from which I was graduated in 1934. Going back there to be a teacher in training when I had a son in the freshman class was experience enough.

The first day I was left in the room alone with 28 or 30 sophomores was enough to scare a novice out of the job. As soon as my master teacher left, one of the smart fellows leaned his chair back on the rear legs and put his fine pair of feet up on the heat register. I called his last name and asked, “Does your family live in this district?”

“Sure do,” he snapped back.

“Does your father pay taxes here?” I asked as engagingly as I could.

“Sure does,” he snapped, even firmer.

“Then your father will be glad to know that you use the heat register for a footstool,” I said again as pleasantly as I could.

He sat up and put his feet and chair back on the floor as properly as he could. I learned later that the office staff had a window system whereby I could be observed. I was glad that I had been able to handle the situation with little or no pain.

A few weeks later, a gentleman from PUA was the guest speaker at the Newburg Church, where I was a member. At the end of his service, as I was greeting and being greeted at the door, I asked him whether PUA could hire a new teacher. He asked what I could teach. I replied that I would be certificated in English, Spanish, and History. “We’ll need a Spanish teacher,” he said. “Our Spanish teacher is going to the East Coast to teach.” He went on to suggest that I apply for the job.

My head instructor at Pacific University told me they had a job for me at Beaverton High School. I was not interested. I had the job I wanted! The pay would have been more at Beaverton, but I wanted to teach in an Adventist school. I had to take more education classes for PUA, and I did much of it by correspondence.

The first Sunday in September, 1950, I was at PUA to meet with the principal. He showed me my room and gave me the key to it and the library. “You’ll be librarian, too,” he said. I was thankful I had taken School Library Management. I didn’t relish the job. I love libraries and books, but reading shelves isn’t such fun. I took the job anyway. I worked in that room for 12 years.

1958, PUA Library

One day the principal came to my room and said that a family in the Laurelhurst neighborhood was closing the estate of an elderly gentleman, who had recently died. His library was being given to a welfare organization, but PUA could have first choice. PUA could have whatever we took that very afternoon. I jumped to use that opportunity. The man’s library was a book-lover’s dream. The room was about 10’ by 20’ with shelves all around. PUA could have all I could pack in about two hour’s time! I got some jewels!

Imagine my horror two or three years later to find two boys playing catch in the library with an old volume, published in 1803 I believe, giving a history of all the proper names of the Bible and Greek history! I took the book to the principal and reported what had happened. I was no longer librarian, and I came on the incident by chance. I told the principal what had caused the back and front covers to be broken loose. It would need repair. I wanted it sent to Walla Walla to be rebound.

The principal looked rather dubiously at the injured book. I said that I’d give $50 for that text. “You’d give $50 for that?” he asked. “Gladly,” I said. He handed it to me, and I gave PUA $5 a month for ten months. I still treasure that old book. It is a treasure of information.

Our thanks to Tracy Harder, Thelma Winter’s granddaughter and 1979 PAA graduate, for providing this written account plus many family photographs.

Read PAA’s Tribute to Thelma Winter HERE.

Read Thelma Winter’s Life Sketch HERE

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