West Linn High School (100 Years of Graduating Seniors)

West Linn High School

Hi and welcome to another episode of Around The Neighborhood with me, Scott McMahon.  This is the show about the quest for fun, history, and mystery in our backyard.


I’m here in West Linn taking a stroll down to West Linn High School, home of the Lions.  I figure I’d take advantage of the school celebrating the Centennial class of 2020. Which my daughter happens to be a part of as a graduating senior.  Yes, it was a 100 years ago that the first graduating class came through West Linn High School. However, at the time of this recording, the whole world is dealing with the quarantine from the COVID-19 virus, so it remains to be seen if there will actually be any graduation ceremony in the coming months.  Unprecedented times, for sure.


Anyway, before we get down to the high school, we’ll pass by Sunset Primary school, which is the first school built in this area way back in 1890.  Sunset was unique in that it offered the first school bus here in Oregon. The school bus was a horse and wagon, but still, it got kids to school!


There was an old log cabin in the Stafford area which some say was the first school in the area, but it’s safe to say that Sunet was the first officially built school in the area.


As we make our way down Sunset to West Linn High School we’ll take a secret passage down through my mom’s neighborhood.


In August of 1919, there was an article in the Oregon City Enterprise that announced the opening of Union High School in September 1919.   Yes, the school was originally named Union High School since it was the only high school built outside of Portland proper.


The school would later be named West Linn-Union High School, then Oswego-West Linn High School, and finally in 1938 West Linn High School.


Apparently there is one remaining relic from the original building and that is a white window stored in the Hall of Fame display case.  I wish I could have gotten inside for you, but you know, the quarantine lockdown is in place.


Even though the school opened in September 1919, as I understand it, there was no graduating class in 1919, which is why they are celebrating the 100th anniversary for graduates in 2020.  Again with the lockdown in place, even the West Linn High School Century Celebration event has been postponed indefinitely, which was meant for all past staff, alumni, and community to attend.  So, we’ll see when that event gets rescheduled.


With over 100 years of history here, I’m sure there are a lot of stories that can be shared.  So, if you feel inclined please share them in the comment sections of this video. If you want to take a stroll down memory lane, the school district has an amazing resource of all the old yearbooks in digital formats on their website.  I’ll leave a link in the description in case you wanted to check them out.


Since my daughter is part of the journalism class, she and her colleagues were able to do a lot of the research for me for the school’s paper, The Amplifier.  Haha. Here are some of the interesting stories about past students who attended West Linn High School.


In the first graduating class of 1920, the first female editor of the school newspaper was Clara Costley, who also happened to be the first May Queen.  Actually, the first graduating class were all women.


In 1923, the paper was called the U.H.S. Amplifier, for Union High School.  What’s neat is that the name of the school paper hasn’t changed in 100 years.  Anyway, some of the interesting stories back in 1923 were why students should shovel snow from the sidewalks.


In 1945, the school paper even had a column entitled, “Around The School”.  Just like Around the Neighborhood. Anyway, the author of the column had a distinct interest in girls from Oregon City, prompting an anonymous author to write, “Why don’t you give West Linn girls a chance?”.  Haha.


In 1978, West Linn High School not only had it’s first person of color to be named student body president but also the first person of color to be named editor-in-chief for the school’s newspaper … and it was the same person.  Her name was Camille Hamilton. Her mother Midori Minamoto was Japanese-American, and her father, H.J. Belton Hamilton was African-American. In fact, Camille’s parents were thought to be one of the first African-American and Japanese-American couples to register to marry in Oregon way back in 1957.  Additionally, Camille’s father was the first Black judge in Oregon, and one of the first Black graduates from Stanford.


Camille would graduate and attend UCLA and then Stanford, where she too became a judge in San Francisco, where she lives today.  Pretty impressive, I think most of us are just hoping our kids graduate with the ability to do their own laundry.


Originally, I was hoping to have a special guest join me for this episode, journalist and author Cornelia Becker Seigneur, who wrote the book, “West Linn” part of the Images of America series you’ve probably seen in the bookstores.  But with the ordinance to stay away from each other, I figure it would be better to do this solo for today.


It’s a great book so I’ll leave links in the description of where to get it at Powell’s Books online.  In the book, Cornelia describes how the high school was originally built as a temporary building next to Willamette Grade School, while construction for the actual building was being completed on A street back in 1919.


High school students in 1921 entered through the new school lined with the tall white pillars.  But in 1923, another building was built. So, there was a gap between the two buildings, but it was still the high school, just two separate buildings.


Between the 1950’s and 1960’s the school would go through variations of a turnaround in front of the school, where I believe the original lion statue mascot was located.


Speaking of the 50’s, there used to be a small snack shop called the “Lion’s Den” here where the New Life Church stands today.  How cool would have it been to go to the Lion’s Den in the 50’s to get a pop back then. I used to refer to my dad and sodas as “pops” because my dad had turned me onto the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet when I was young and Ricky Nelson would refer to his dad as “pops” and I ended up calling my dad that soon after.


Unfortunately, we couldn’t get an inside tour, so I guess we’ll take a fly around the school.


Well, I hope you liked this episode and since the show is sponsored by my real estate services, all my contact information is in the description of this video in case you are looking to buy or sell a home in the near future, please let me know, especially if you have questions about real estate during these unusual times.  Until then, I hope to see you soon around the neighborhood.




Now I’ve gotta make my way up the hill, but before I do, did you know that there is this little piece of history here on the corner of Willamette Falls Drive and Sunset Ave, just around from the high school?  This is where horses, mules, and people would get some water before hauling up goods and people up this steep hill towards the top of the Sunset neighborhood.


So, there you go a little bit of history that most people just whiz by in the cars.






West Linn (Book): https://www.powells.com/book/-9781531637668


West Linn High School Yearbooks: https://www.wlwv.k12.or.us/Page/7445


West Linn High School NOW (Amplifier Digital Edition): https://issuu.com/wlhsnow