Cleveland Spirit

By Don Duncan ’43

Don Duncan
Don Duncan ’43

Like many seniors coping responsibly with the lockdown, I sought to bring a semblance of order to a long-neglected area of my home – an upstairs closet piled high with newspaper clippings (1949-1991) and hand-written letters from those who once qualified as Seattle’s movers and shakers. Which is how I stumbled on a battered book titled “Cleveland Spirit.”

On the left side of the red-and-white cover is a sketch of snow-capped Mount Rainier atop a scaled-down Cleveland High School. On the right are dueling open-cockpit airplanes (presumably Boeing-built) followed by the numerals 1927-1928.

My discovery, of course, was the yearbook of the first students to graduate from Seattle’s then – newest high school. I am “unsure” – a better word than “forgetful” at 94 – how it came to be in my closet.

Besides being Cleveland’s first yearbook, 1927-‘28 is historically significant because it pretty much marked the end of this nation’s sometimes wild-and-crazy “Roaring Twenties.” The “Crash” that triggered The Great Depression began in ’29 and didn’t end until World War II.

Full disclosure: I was born in ’26, making me one year older than Cleveland High School, and graduated in ’43 – 77 eventful years ago.

Cleveland’s official colors in ’27-‘28 were “blue-and-white,” and its teams were The Highlanders. The colors, of course, would be changed to red-and-white, The Highlanders would become the Eagles and “Spirit” (perhaps used only once) would give way to Aquila.

The ’27-‘28 yearbook is signed by H.N. Gridley, principal of both Cleveland High School and Cleveland Intermediate School (junior high), which were first combined in a Georgetown elementary school building.

The first full-page photo inside the yearbook is of Charles Lindbergh (“Lucky Lindy”), who stunned the world by making a solo airplane flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Jeopardy question: “What was the name of Lindbergh’s plane?” Answer: “What is The Spirit of St. Louis?” Lindbergh also was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in ’27. As for who appeared on the cover of Time the most times (“Who is Richard Nixon’’ (55 times).

I’d have preferred Audrey Hepburn.

I was a 13-year-old 9th grader upon arriving at Cleveland from Beacon Hill in January 1940. Almost immediately we “new” students heard about “The Trek,” which teachers and older students seemed to rank only slightly below The Lewis & Clark Expedition and the first ascent of Mount Rainier.

It started the morning of Jan. 3, 1927 at the Georgetown school. Principal Gridley led the march, at first on the level and then up “a steep hill” (huffing and puffing sound effects) as 525 high school students and their 22 teachers, plus 452 intermediate-school students and their 15 teachers pressed on to reach The Promised Land at 15th Avenue South and Lucile Street.

There they found a beautiful new three-story, all-brick schoolhouse named after Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in The White House as the 22nd president (1885-1889) and the 24th (1893-1897).

The new school had 31 rooms, an auditorium, a well-outfitted cafeteria, and at least one indoor sports venue. There was no blueprint for juggling the schedules of high school and intermediate school students so they wouldn’t bump into each other in the halls or the cafeteria. Nor were there any outdoor sports facilities. But the latter, everyone said, was sure to come. Someday!

The ’27-’28 yearbook was dedicated to Miss Alice T. Stach, “whose teaching (English) has lifted us to heights beyond the commonplace.” Besides Miss Stach, five other teachers from the ’27-’28 faculty were still at Cleveland when I graduated 15 years later: Gaylord Peltier, Dora Leavitt, Lynden K. Hassenmiller, Bill Maginnis, and Margaret Raine.

Hassenmiller, who answered to “Hassey” and taught science, coached virtually every boys’ sports team for a year or so, during which Cleveland suffered some horrific defeats (losing 65-5 against O’Dea’s basketball team). Hassey would finally settle on coaching golf, which had less pressure. Students took losses pretty much in stride, learning early to say “Wait’ll next year.”

Girls played only volleyball, basketball, and field hockey, where there was less pressure.

In addition to academics and sports, there were a variety of clubs. The Intermediate Boys’ Yacht Club showed imagination. It wasn’t for students whose families owned yachts, but for young men and a smattering of young women who designed and built small wooden “yachts” they showed off in a local pond.
Although the Latin Club had a handful of members, the school orchestra – open to all – had enough members to fill the chairs of The New York Philharmonic. No indication of how they sounded.

Two important notes: Ray K. Imus, who spent 35 years as Cleveland’s vice principal, had yet to join the staff in ’27-’28, and all women teachers had “Miss” in front of their names. They would continue to be “Miss” in the years ahead “because a married woman should not be taking a scarce job from a man.” Sexism 101.
Marguerite Fox was Cleveland’s first valedictorian and Mona Mueller its first salutatorian. Also speaking at the first formal graduation were Walter Fisher, representing the arts, Gunnar Carlson, representing science, and Marjorie Brown, who touched on both writing and dramatics.

Frances Beyering wrote the senior-class poem. The first stanza: “As we leave your doors old Cleveland/To face the world anew/We want to thank you dearly/For the things we owe to you.”

Fifteen years later, the poem I was asked to write was recited by the class of ’43 at a Moving-Up Day Ceremony. It spoofed many things and was followed by a dozen or so limericks aimed at high-profile grads. Joy Malde and Ruth Barnier, singer and pianist respectively, provided background music for the limericks.
The first graduating class was small, just 52 grads. Mine, 15 years later, was barely over 100. Class photos show boys and male teachers without a hint of a beard. Nor was there a hint of trousers on girl students and female teachers.
Many girls and women teachers did, however, have “marcelled” hair (tight curls) in the ‘20s. Fifteen years later their hair was “more relaxed.”

A nice touch in the school’s first yearbook was giving each grad an opportunity to say what he or she hoped to do in life. The boys wanted to be salesmen, engineers, lawyers, journalists, airplane pilots, and businessmen.

Although ‘stenographer” dominated the girls’ choices, even that of the valedictorian, some bravely hoped to become a church or theater organist, gym teacher or businesswomen. One even said “a rich woman’s traveling companion.” Two said simply “a housewife.”

One boy said his main goal was to become “a husband.” Perhaps he connected with one of the young ladies with matrimonial ambitions.

Class prophecies were provided, gratis, for each student – predicting a career on Broadway for one student and playing in one of the great symphony orchestras for another. The amateur psychology was also interesting: “Just because a man blushes is no sign he’s bashful,” and “Knows a lot but says nothing.”

In 1997, I emceed my old high school’s 70th birthday party in the school auditorium, which hadn’t changed much in well over half-a-century. There was a wonderful turnout, even a visit by Al Hostak, who had been a student at Cleveland High School for several years before launching a prize-fighting career in which he won the Middleweight Boxing Championship of the World. Al brought down the house when his arrival on stage was delayed because he didn’t hear his name being called. “Ya shoulda rung da bell,” he said, laughing as he ran across the stage.

Don Clifford (’44) and I closed the celebration by singing lyrics I’d penned to a melody [I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face] from Lerner & Loewe’s “My Fair Lady.”

The final verse:

We’d grown accustomed to this place,
To all the times we didn’t win.
We’d grown accustomed to the rain,
To tests that were a pain.
Tan cords, white shirts, saddle-shoes, and skirts,
Were such a habit with us then,
Like faded loves that might have been.
Like Mr. Imus roaming hallways
and rules that didn’t bend,
Tardy bells and blackboard chalk
– we thought they’d never end.
We’d grown accustomed to a way of living that’s no more,
Accustomed to this place.


Don Duncan spent 41 years on newspapers, 28 as a reporter and columnist for The Seattle Times. A Pulitzer judge in 1977. He won two national (Ernie Pyle) awards for human-interest writing and wrote two books. “Washington: The First 100 Years” and “Meet Me at The Center.”

Biggest coups: a solo interview with Elvis, two hours alone with Eleanor Roosevelt, and about 15 minutes with Princess Di, while the rest of the press corps was looking for her.

Wife of 69 years died two years ago.

He never worked for the P-I, which The Times staff called “The Pig’s Eye.” The P-I staff, in response, referred to The Times as “Fairview Fanny.”

George L Breland, Principal CHS

From the Principal’s Desk

Dear Cleveland Community and Alumni,

It has been a successful start to the new school year, and there have been some bumps in the road, but families, staff, and students have been flexible and understanding as we work in this new virtual learning environment.

I hope everyone understands that Cleveland is not a perfect school, but we are always striving toward perfection. Many times we fall short but not for a lack of effort. This year has been tough for families, students, and staff, but I am proud of our staff, which has worked hard over the summer to prepare a quality learning experience for our students.

We are focusing on two primary themes this academic year at Cleveland. First, we want to meet the social and emotional needs of our staff, students, and families during this pandemic. If teachers, students, and families are not healthy in mind, body, and soul, nothing else matters. Creating a caring and collaborative environment for teachers, families, and students is our most essential task as a community. We have ensured that every student has access to a laptop and quality wi-fi, school supplies, school lunch, and health and wellness support through our Teen Health Clinic. We truly believe that a student’s basic needs must be met before they can perform efficiently in the classroom.

Our second focus is to make sure that students have a quality virtual learning experience. Cleveland teachers spent many long hours this summer collaborating with colleagues preparing, planning, and developing innovative lessons and projects for their students. We are social creatures by nature, so this has been an adjustment for teachers and students, but Eagles always rise above the winds of change. Cleveland students still have eight classes, four classes every other day, except on Wednesdays. Students work on Microsoft Teams with 50 minutes of live instruction followed by 20 minutes of small group instruction.

Cleveland’s goals for each student haven’t changed: they are to reach every student where they are and help them grow one day at a time. Athletics have been affected by the pandemic also. The fall sports season as currently set will likely not happen, as King County would have to be in Phase 3 for it to happen (golf is an exception). See the schedule below:

  • WIAA Season 1: Cross Country, Slow-pitch Softball, Girls Swim & Dive*, Golf (Alternative Season), Tennis (Alternative Season)
  • WIAA Season 2: Basketball, Bowling, Boys Swim & Dive, Gymnastics, Cheerleading, Wrestling
  • WIAA Season 3: Volleyball, Girls Soccer, 1B/2B Boys Soccer, Football
  • WIAA Season 4: Tennis, Fastpitch Softball, Track & Field, Baseball, Golf, Boys Soccer, Dance/Drill

I don’t know what the future holds, but the “Eagle Nation” will stick together during the storm and rise above our trials and tribulations as long as we stay strong and stay united. As always, a big THANK YOU to the Cleveland Alumni Association for your continued support; you are an integral part of the Cleveland community– I cannot wait to get back to the Eagles Nest!! Cleveland Eagles
keep soaring!


George L Breland
Principal Cleveland High School

Richard Lee Dyksterhuis

Richard Lee Dyksterhuis — a CHS teacher, passed away on June 10, 2020, at 93 years of age. He was born to Eddie Dyksterhuis and Pearl Wright Dyksterhuis in Denver, Colorado, on May 20, 1927. After graduating high school at age eighteen, Richard joined the Army in June 1945 and served overseas until October 1948.

On his return to the United States, he pursued degrees in higher education and served for many years as a teacher and administrator for the Seattle Public Schools. The schools he served include Monroe, Blaine, Ballard, Ingraham, Rainier Beach, West Seattle, Nathan Hale, Garfield, Cleveland, and Meany.

After retirement, he worked for over three decades as an activist promoting the completion of safe sidewalks for streets in North Seattle, including Linden Avenue North, the street of his home. As an advocate for pedestrian safety, he was featured in the 2010 documentary, “A Different Path.”

Richard is preceded in death by his parents; his brother Mort Dyksterhuis; his wife JoAnn Presler; and his longtime companion Cleta Hughes. He is remembered fondly by his many students, his dear friends, his fellow activists, and his loving family. He is survived by his children George (Gloria), Roger (Jamie), and Carol (Ken), five grandchildren, and two nieces.

“May you walk through forests of magnificent trees, listen to the songs of harmonious birds, hand in hand with your beloved Cleta. Your storytelling, your quest for justice, your thirst for knowledge, and your ability to build a kinship with a stranger while walking the sidewalks you had built, is a legacy that will live on. You spread kindness to all, and found joy in the little things.”

With all my love, your darling, proud, and blessed granddaughter.

Joyce Alcon

Joyce Alcon

Joyce was a STEM student (Science Technology & Engineering and Math) at Cleveland High School where she excelled in a series of courses in computer science. Interested in becoming a nurse and working in the healthcare field, Joyce’s plans after high school include attending UW-Seattle to start in the Pre-Nursing field of studies.

While at CHS, she was Vice President of the Filipino Club, belonged to the National Honor Society, and played on the CHS volleyball team. She earned the JV softball Coach’s Award.

Joyce joined the Skills Center Health Sciences & Medical Assisting program while holding internships at Seattle Goodwill and the Boys & Girls Club. She volunteered with United Filipino to RISE, contributed to food bank activities for the Filipino Community, participated in the Seattle Community Farming and Phone Bank for Asian Counseling Referral Services; and provided technical help for Agape Christian Ministry.

Her high school counselor shared that “Joyce is a resilient student who immigrated to the US from the Philippines when she was 14. Despite many obstacles faced in her life and the difficult transition to a new country, she still excelled and put forth all her effort into succeeding in her academics and extracurricular activities. what I also admire about Joyce is her deep commitment and support for her family.” She received a $2,000 scholarship from CHSAA.

Terresa Tran

Terresa has been accepted at UW – Seattle. She had a GPA of 3.99 while taking multiple AP courses. She will major in Prehealth Sciences with a future goal of becoming a family physician. She was fortunate to serve an Internship at Swedish Hospital and that experience solidified her desire to enter the health care field as a physician. Terresa worked 24 hours a week during summers. She will receive $2,000 toward college expenses from CHSAA. One letter of high recommendation pointed out how Terresa was quite shy as a freshman, then took a leap of faith and was elected to leadership roles and became a respected leader in several areas including the Business Club and the Health Organization Student Association, which is geared to future health professionals. She is a team player and has artistic creativity. Community service includes working at a Foodbank and supporting marathons. Her activities include visiting family members, frisbee, and teaching herself a new musical instrument.

Chapel Barnes

Chapel’s range of activities demonstrates a good balance of class work, school governance, community (YMCA),
sports (soccer), and social justice work.

She served in CHS student government for four years and is politically engaged in the community, was a leader on the first-ever CHS literary magazine, and was active in mentoring 9th graders as a leader on the Link Crew.

One teacher commented that, while Chapel recognizes the inequities in the world
and feels strongly about them, she is capable of listening well to the stories and concerns of others.

Chapel has successfully applied for a scholarship from The New School in New York. CHSAA has awarded Chapel $2,000 to help reduce college debt. In college at The New School, Chapel plans to focus on education with a minor in film and has already made a film for the South End Stories’ film festival. It is her goal to support through film the racism work of educators and students of color. This career tracks with her community actions for social justice.

We wish Chapel good luck and success on her journey toward bettering the world for all.

Andrew Hong

Andrew Hong was awarded a $2,000 CHSAA scholarship to Stanford University and plans to major in Political Science and Data Science. Due to the
coronavirus, he decided to take a year off so his funding
will be postponed.

In high school, he was involved in the Politics Club, the debate team, and he was on the swim team. In his community, he was involved with a youth gun violence prevention organization and supporting candidates for public office. His hobbies and activities include competitive swimming on a club team, helping juniors and seniors write college application essays, and mapping and analyzing local and national precinct-level election data.

In his letters of recommendation, he is noted as being mature beyond his age and always wanting to help others shine. Andrew sets a high standard for himself. His assistance in helping political candidates was innovative. Andrew’s career path hopes to lead him to address issues that will improve life for south-end citizens.

Valeria Grasso

Valeria Grasso

Installing sculptures, advertising, scheduling and settings, and leading classes and tours, Valeria volunteered for seven years at a Monarch Sculpture Park – a public outdoor center for sculpture and art set in nature. As a teenager, art was her path to understanding community, equality and individuality of its members, and the power of art as an outlet for strong mental health.

Valeria’s career goal is to work as a therapist where she can help individuals who are suffering through a clinical or non-clinical crisis. She hopes to provide accessible mental health care at a systemic level. It is one reason why she has taken leadership roles and became actively involved in student government and organizations. She enjoys and is dedicated to connecting with people to build a community. She is passionate about the impact of collective community effort and rallies her communities together with her leadership and authenticity. Her teachers commended her compassion, moral compass, and academic capability and achievements.

This fall, Ms. Grasso will attend the University of Washington-Seattle to study psychology. She plans to continue volunteering at Monarch Sculpture Park to give back and to keep it going for the next generation.

Valeria was awarded $3,000 from the CHS Alumni Association.