Early memories of Morro Elementary School by Mary Elizabeth (nee Williams) Madonna
Grade 1 Mildred Overman
Grades 2 and 3 Viola Stoddard
Grades 4 and 5 Mary Ellen Benson Cann (principal)
Grades 6,7, and 8 Marian McCandless
When I came to Morro Bay in September, 1931, I took Miss McCandless’ place as she had left to be married. Miss Benson also was married in the summer of 1931 to Robert Cann of San Luis Obispo. I enjoyed the upper grades, but the next year, when Ms. Cann left, the board hired a man, Mr. Fred Peterson as principal. The board asked me if I would take grades 4 and 5 because it might be more suitable for the man to have the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. It was all up to me, they said. I agreed to teach 4th and 5th, and did so for 2 years.
Fred Tonini was bus driver and janitor, usually assisted in the latter job by his older daughter. In the last year that I was there, 1933-34, Donald Baldwin was janitor. He was of the old time family who lived at the headwaters of Toro Creek. His brother Carey Baldwin was zookeeper for the Hearst Castle, and later for San Francisco’s Fleishacker Zoo. But I digress!
In the 6th,7th and 8th grades, I recall Maria Menard, Victoria Rosa, Howard and Harold Elmore, Bill Pierce of the Morro Creek family, Duke and Gertrude Pierce of Morro Bay, a Walter Pierce, Virgil and Mary Parvin, Ida Brebes, Gwen Sylva, Stanley Genardini, Iona Williams, Archie Whitlock, Verl Wagner, Peggy Price, Carl Tonini, Anna and Andrew Forsting
In the 4th and 5th grades, I remember Nellie and William Nagano, John and Arbie Church, Ann Rae Boyes, Lucille Brughelli, Ruth Myers, Shirley Rippingham, Rosie and Johnie Montgomery, Otis and Reba Revieia, Marian Bickmore, Louis Domenghini, Jackie Krebs, Ben Maddox, Billy Penman, Manuel Silva, John Silva, Frank Medeiros, Everett Righetti, Doreen McCowen, Lavern and Lathern Carpenter, Jerry Richter, Melvin and Harry Cottrell, Billy Elgin.
The year 1933-34 brought us a new principal, Mr. Hugh Bruce.
Until the 40’s there was no road to Morro Rock so those who wanted to go there had to wait for a low tide and walk over on the sandbar. One Monday when I was teaching the upper grades, one of the students called me: “Miss Williams, come out and look at the Rock!” So I did, and they told me, “See the flag on top of the Rock? That’s Howard’s shirt.” Several of the boys had climbed it over the weekend. It was probably dangerous, even then.
We teachers walked back and forth from home to school. Only Fifth Street, now Morro Bay Boulevard, and Main Street were paved as those streets were the highway. The first year that I was there, Mrs. (Benson) Cann, Viola Stoddard and I lived in a tiny house on Sixth Street close to the corner of Piney Way. After Mrs. Cann left, Miss Stoddard and I still rented the house from the Smith’s,, who lived next door. We bought our groceries from Maston’s General Store. Mr. William Maston was a trustee as was Mrs. Smith.
There was the Morro Bay Rexall Drug Store, owned by David and Frances Leiter, who were good friends. Mr. and Mrs. Leiter, in later years moved to Santa Barbara, where his brother Harry Leiter had a drug store on the Mesa. David also worked at a pharmacy on State Street and Mrs. Leiter was at a hardware store as bookkeeper.
During the lean years of the 30’s, about the only steady employment was offered by Standard Oil Co. with headquarters at Toro Creek, the pier being the end of the Toro Creek pipeline from Kettleman City. A. Manford Brown had made money in the oil fields there, and had properties in Morro Bay, among them a row of cabins along the bluff about where Dorn’s Original Breakers is now. The modern earth fill embarcadero did not exist, but stairs led down to Jackson’s Wharf where Basil Jackson and his wife Henrietta had a small fish café in and old boat for a while with chowder served in abalone shells. Later, they had a fish market. Ian, their son, as toddler, fell off the wharf and was rescued by his mother. The fishing industry, including diving for abalone, was moderately prosperous. The Pierce brothers, William, Adrian (Dutch) and Les, and others had an abalone shed. When Miss Stoddard and I wanted to splurge, we walked over, and bought abalone steaks. They were 45 cents per pound for the dark, 55 cents a pound for the white. At the store, ground round was 25 cents a pound. Our rent was $30 for the month.
Neil Moses and his wife Marian ran the Morro Bay newspaper, The Sun. She used to walk all over the business area of town getting ads for the paper, always in high heels, nice black dress, lovely hat, her hair perfectly coiffed. The paper printed our students’ poems from my 4th and 5th grades, and other school items. There wasn’t a Bank of American branch then in Morro Bay, but someone from the San Luis Obispo branch came to the school regularly to collect the children’s deposits to their savings accounts.