WINTHROP — Old rivalries die hard.
So when the old Winthrop High School’s bell that’s been out of the public eye since the school burned down in 1961 was re-erected in the Winthrop Park on Friday, Donna Martin couldn’t help herself.
“To think a Yellowjacket had it all this time,” said Martin, a 1953 Winthrop High School graduate.
The Yellowjackets were from the Twisp High School. Martin was a Pirate, from Winthrop.
“We were fierce rivals,” said Elinore Drake, from Winthrop’s class of 1951.
It’s been nearly 40 years since Twisp and Winthrop consolidated high schools and became the Mountain Lions. But when alumni from the old Winthrop High School gathered this weekend to share memories and admire their 100-year-old bell, the old rivalry kicked in.
Six Winthrop alumni who worked to get the two-foot tall bell rehung were among two dozen people who came to watch the 1912 bell go up in a newly-built gazebo, one of the first things visitors will see when entering Winthrop after driving over the North Cascades Highway.
Martin’s son, Brad — Class of 1972 — finished the brickwork around the gazebo last Thursday, with help from Rick Northcott and others, just in time to hoist the bell into place for reunion weekend. Martin said they decided not to put a ringer on it, envisioning the constant ringing by kids visiting the Winthrop Park. But they’ll get a nice tone out of it by clanging it with a rock, he said.
Mary Ann Bame — Class of 1953 — said she learned a few years ago that the bell was hanging in a yard in Twisp from her friend, D’Arlene Hadfield.
Bame said sometime in the mid 1970s, Hadfield’s son, Tye, saw it in a pile of scrap metal and retrieved it the day the metal was headed out to be melted down.
Her husband, Duane “Dewey” Hadfield, built a structure in their yard for it. “That’s where it’s been hanging,” Bame said on Friday. “She had it for probably 36 years. She said, ‘Someday, I want to give it back to Winthrop.’”
And so she did, before she passed away, Bame said.
Back in January, 1912, the Winthrop School District announced it was holding a “Bell Grand Ball,” and sold tickets for $1 each to raise money to purchase a bell to hang in the bellfry of the eight-room schoolhouse.
Martin remembers whe she was in school, the bell tolled twice a day. “The janitor rang it at 8:30 in the morning and 3:30 in the afternoon,” she said.
She also remembers looking out her window on New Year’s Eve in 1961, seeing the sky glowing, and hearing the roar of fire that destroyed the school. The school’s furnace caused the blaze.
A new school was built, and the bell — cracked and damaged in the fire — sat in the school’s shop class for a while. Alumni believe that welding students fixed the cracks, and some recall that it was tipped upside down and was used to hold left over paint for a time.
But for many years, most of them had no idea what happened to it.
There were no speeches or ceremonies after the old bell went up. But spirit came out among those who helped make it happen.
“Onward Pirates!” the six Bell Committee women shouted after getting a picture taken in front of the bell.
But after the all the commotion, there were indications the old rivalry had softened, at least some.
Bame, who now lives in Twisp, stuck up for her new town, less than 10 miles down the road. After all, she said, “It was a Yellowjacket who saved it. They brought it back to us.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512