Foster High jumping off point for its students | Editor's Note
May 31, 2012 · 5:40 PM
By DEAN A. RADFORD
I was out at my alma mater last week, taking the cover photo for May's Tukwila Reporter. Driving back to the office, I got to thinking about my own senior year at Foster High School 43 years ago. That seems like a long time ago, especially when you say it out loud.
Four decades later, seniors still count down the days to graduation. They still stress over a date to the prom – or maybe not in these “modern” times. By now they know whether they’ve made it into college. Or they have no clue what their future holds.
Every graduating class will take away four years of memories. That’s good, because they will help keep Foster alive in the decades ahead as they are remembered.
Foster was built in 1952, the year after I was built. So that makes this year Foster’s 60th anniversary by my reckoning.
The post-World War II high school was filled with young baby boomers. It aged along with that generation, not always well. At just 20 or so, Foster was declared showing its age, but it still had another 20 years to go.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of what still seems to me like the “new” Foster High School.
Here are some of my memories.
• Werner Neudorf was a real-life teacher and football and track coach, not just a name on a football field. He was memorable and beloved. The football field at Foster was renamed the Werner L. Neudorf Memorial Field in 1976.
• Grace Gylling taught a generation of girls - and boys - to type and inspired at least one of them to become a journalist. There was a really big snowstorm our senior year and we thought, maybe we should cancel the Growler for that week. Miss Gylling said “no way,” or at least something that translates into those words. That instilled in me the importance of what we do as journalists, no matter the hardships.
• There were whispers when one of the guys came to school sporting an earring. In the 60s that could only mean one thing. Was he gay? Today, an earring on a guy is a piece of fashion; most of the time the speculation never even begins.
• We couldn’t wait to get our drivers license at 16. For most, it was the ticket to the open road and freedom. We couldn’t wait to get our draft card at 18, either. You needed no special instruction to get that mandatory card. For many, it was a ticket to southeast Asia and America’s most unpopular war.
• Notice that swimming pool next door? The Growler staff from 1969 (I was editor my senior year) can take some credit that it’s even there. Those were the days of Forward Thrust and money galore to build new swimming pools. We figured Tukwila deserved one.
So, the staff decided to do a survey of sorts, to drum up community support for a pool. We walked door to door gathering signatures. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of a pool. The next year’s editor took the results to the county council to make our case. I didn’t go; too nervous. But Tukwila got its pool and who’s to say we didn’t make a difference.
• Oh, and by the way, the pool is not the only landmark that has graced that piece of real estate. Perched back from South 144th Street was this massive brick structure. As kids, we had all sorts of theories about it. Was it an insane asylum? An old-folks home? It was scary. And we couldn’t get anywhere near it. I am sure someone out there recalls its use. All I know is that in our senior year, it came tumbling down.
I was poking through our archives the other day, looking at clippings in the Foster High School half-folder. The clippings go back to January 1971 and end in 1991. There must be another folder somewhere; history never sleeps.
I did find an interesting bit of history about the Foster rock. I had forgotten the three-ton behemoth had been kidnapped, or maybe rock-napped. It disappeared on April 5, 1980. It turned up in Skyway two months later. Marc Maio, the student body president at the time, wanted to bring in a Marine helicopter to fly it home. That didn’t work out.
So, the rock was moved back in early June with the help of a crane and a dump truck, just as Foster’s seniors were having a pre-graduation party in the parking lot.
The rock-nappers apparently were never nabbed. One suspect had a good alibi.
But the rock, with its layers of paint, remains a piece of Foster lore that no one can steal.
Decades go, we were just small-town kids, speculating about a spooky mansion or angry about a stolen rock or waiting to get a drivers license. The outside world loomed large (and dangerous), but Tukwila was our cocoon.
How things have changed in a few relatively short years. That’s why the Foster of today is so amazing. In reading our cover story today, you’ll see why. These are three vignettes of courage and perseverance.
Literally, the grads today are children of the world. For many their worries were about sheer survival before coming to America. Today, Tukwila and Foster is their cocoon, their jumping off point to a bright future.
(Editor's note: Please be sure to read the Letter to the Editor by Foster grad Ron Lamb, who gives us some answers and also reminds me that there was a Foster High School before 1952. Thanks, Ron)
Dean A. Radford is editor of the Tukwila Reporter. He can be reached at 425-255-3484.