Attendees of the Gales Creek Elementary School 2019 Reunion gather in the history room in the Jennie Raines building. Photo: Chas Hundley

GALES CREEK - On a warm August day, more than 50 people gathered in the heart of Gales Creek to reminisce over a bond that fewer and fewer can can claim as the years go by: attendance at the Gales Creek Elementary School.

With live music by local duo the Coin Club Band, featuring Don Patch and Willie Nelson lookalike Kirk Larson, the scene was a jovial gathering of past attendees, staff, and community members of all ages.

A few notable alumni included local historian and writer Joyce Sauber, a scion of Gales Creek's Shorb family, Fred Marble, recently retired from the Forest Grove School Board, and Janeen Sollman, current state representative for house district 30, representing Roy, North Plains, Hillsboro, and Beaverton.

The August 25 event is a volunteer led effort by former classmates, some who still live in the Valley, and some who have been pulled to different states, or, in the case of Tate Murdock, somewhere on the ocean.

Murdock, who has spearheaded the event for several years, works as a commercial fisherman, and answered questions from the Journal about previous reunions from a vessel in the Bering Sea.

The community event drew people throughout the afternoon, who trickled in to enjoy the potluck-style food, and the hot dogs and hamburgers provided as part of the event.

Some families brought children with them, but it's unlikely these children will join a more than 150 year tradition of being schooled in the Gales Creek Valley, since the Gales Creek School was shuttered in 2011 and then reopened as the Oak Grove Academy, a therapeutic program that serves students that qualify for special education from grades 6-12.

According to an Oregonian article from October 2012, the school closure saved the Forest Grove School District just $55,940, when the district had originally projected to save $715,000 through the school closure and creation of the Gales Creek Therapeutic Day Program, a precursor to today's Oak Grove Academy.

The gathering was the second reunion held on school grounds this summer; another, featuring much of the last class of students to attend the school when it was an elementary school can be read about from guest writer and local historian Joyce Sauber here.