By Alannah Allbrett
If you grew up and went to school in Orofino in the last 50 years, chances are – you attended school in one of the “modular” temporary school rooms which turned out to be not so temporary.
Marcie Stanton, publisher of the Clearwater Tribune, remembers lining up for school “in the trailers.” Orofino’s Mayor, Ryan Smathers, said he went to kindergarten in them.
In the late 1960’s the need for classroom space greatly increased due to construction workers moving to Orofino to build Dworshak Dam.
The metal frames were built by Milton Stanton. “He worked out of the basement of his home where he and his wife, Stella, raised their family,” said Diane Russell.
Diane’s late father-in-law, Bill Russell (Russell Construction), completed the trailers. The old Banner School building on Grangemont Rd. and Harmony Heights Loop was converted to a shop for his construction company. The modular buildings were placed on the east side of Orofino Elementary School in 1966. All four of the Russell children attended kindergarten in those buildings.
The Clearwater Tribune ran an online poll asking residents what decade they attended school in the modulars. Of the responders, 38 percent attended school in the 1960’s; 33 percent in the 1970’s; 8 percent in the 1980’s; 17 percent in the 1990’s and 4 percent in the decade of 2000.
All of the children at Orofino Elementary School will now be housed in the school building proper, saving on high utility bills. The children will be safer and will enjoy being part of the real school; teachers will enjoy the convenience. But it also marks the end of an era for a little town, spurred on by the construction of the third tallest dam in the United States and the tallest straight-axis concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere.