Patty Stell has many memories of her six years at Kenwood School in the early 1960s, but the one that stands out was the day she brought a goat for show and tell.
She walked the goat into the Kenwood courtyard, where it stayed for students to gawk at and interact with all day long.
“It was kind of like having a small part of a petting zoo,” recalled Stell, 64, laughing.
Kenwood — known as Highland Magnet at Kenwood School — is turning 100 this fall, marking a century’s worth of memories for many who grew up in its hallways and classrooms. The brick building on Newport Avenue welcomed its first students in the fall of 1919, when Bend’s population was only about 5,400, according to the U.S. Census.
Although he didn’t grow up in Bend, Kenwood Principal Brian Kissell said he understands that his job requires him to not only oversee daily operations, but also to serve as a steward for Bend-La Pine’s oldest school.
“In a positive way, I feel a lot of pressure to have that really good experience for people to come back and visit their old stomping grounds,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve taken lightly since I’ve been here.”
Simply mentioning that he’s the principal of Kenwood in conversation can make about 25% to 30% of people in Bend suddenly start sharing memories of the school, Kissell said.
“It’s not your typical school, where I can have that many people all around town, or even outside of town, have a good chance of them having some connection to this building,” he said.
When walking through the hallways of Kenwood School, it’s hard to tell that the building was built a century ago.
But even after an extensive, $4 million remodel of Kenwood in 2015 put a clean, sleek sheen on the school’s hallways and classrooms, there are plenty of quirks intact from its history. Right by the front entrance, a metal radiator from the 1940s remains for nostalgic reasons, although it no longer works. And all the classrooms that were part of the initial 1919 structure have their original wood floors, with visible marks and stains from decades-old desks.
Larry Blanton, the former Deschutes County sheriff who works for the Bend construction firm Kirby Nagelhout, attended Kenwood from fourth through sixth grades in the late 1960s. Every day, he walked to and from Kenwood from his home on Columbia Street, lugging his trombone with him, he said.
“It was three or four blocks away, but at that age, it felt like the proverbial uphill both ways,” said Blanton, 62.
For fifth and sixth grades, Blanton was taught by Jack Ensworth, who would later be named National Teacher of the Year in 1973. Blanton said Ensworth taught him and his classmates many skills outside the typical academic subjects, such as fly fishing and American Sign Language.
“I’m a little rusty on it right now, but I certainly used it in my law enforcement career,” Blanton said of learning sign language.
Redmond resident Philamena White, 45, said she remembers running around Kenwood’s gym as a fifth grader in the mid-1980s while the hit song “Eye of the Tiger” was playing.
Stell, who served as Bend’s city recorder later in life, said although typically, she walked home for lunch every day, on occasions when her mother wasn’t home, she got to eat at Kenwood’s cafeteria. She said those occasions were “a treat.”
“They had the most wonderful dinner rolls in the whole world,” she said. “It’s still hard to find any that compares.”
Kenwood’s students also lived through historic American moments. White said her fifth-grade class took a field trip to Central Oregon Community College to see Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run as vice president from a major party in 1984. Ferraro was stumping for her running mate, Walter Mondale.
Stell said that one day in fourth grade, a student came back from the office and informed the class that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. She said her teacher began to get teary-eyed, and soon, a voice on the school intercom told the students to pack up their things and go home.
All the students walked home “with purpose” and didn’t play around like on most days, Stell said.
Stell said she was confused that day, because she had always mixed up Kennedy and her principal, Henry Hall.
“I thought Mr. Hall had been killed, and I was very upset,” she said. “He wasn’t, of course.”
When the roof of Kenwood’s gym collapsed due to heavy snowfall in 2017, more memories surfaced for Kenwood’s alumni. Because his new company Kirby Nagelhout was tasked with tearing down and rebuilding Kenwood’s gym, Blanton said it was an unusual feeling, seeing his old stomping grounds in disarray.
“I remember standing at the edge of the foundation, looking into what used to be the basement,” he said. “Quite a number of people had gathered around; it wasn’t a good time for a lot of people.”
On Saturday, Kenwood will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for community members to reminisce. Kissell said visitors will see “memory boards” in each classroom, where people can write notes about their experience at the school.
When walking through Ensworth’s former classroom, Kissell noted that its wood floor was ragged and patched up with old putty. He chuckled at how the authentically worn surface had become trendy.
“People pay to have this put into their homes now,” Kissell said. “It’s just here.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, email@example.com