Retired educator saw his fair share of disasters

He understands what Crestline staff, students are facing

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Fire displaces 500 Crestline Elementary students

OGDEN DISASTERS

July 21, 1948: Ogden Meadows High School, built near Northeast 18th Street and 65th Avenue during Vancouver’s World War II population boom, was destroyed by fire. A 16-year-old boy confessed to setting the blaze. Peter S. Ogden Elementary opened on the same site in 1955.

April 5, 1972: Peter S. Ogden Elementary was destroyed by a tornado that injured 90 students, and killed six people in other locations; a new Peter S. Ogden Elementary was built about a mile to the east.

Evergreen officials will try to get the Crestline Elementary community back into classrooms as soon as possible, while other schools in the district might wind up accommodating the displaced staff and students.

A longtime Vancouver educator, who has seen both sides of that sort of disaster response, wishes his Evergreen counterparts the best of luck.

"I don't envy them their task," Don Cannard said.

Cannard was principal of Vancouver's Peter S. Ogden Elementary when the school was destroyed by a tornado on April 5, 1972.

That was 24 years after a fire destroyed Vancouver's Ogden Meadows High School in 1948. Cannard was attending the old Vancouver High School, at 26th and Main streets, which took in the displaced Ogden Meadows students.

Cannard took a moment Sunday evening to reflect on both school disasters. The Peter S. Ogden tornado had the extra element of danger because it struck just before 1 p.m., while classes were in session.

But the basics of putting the focus back on teaching and learning won't be too different, Cannard said.

The Ogden student body was split among three other elementary schools for the rest of the school year -- Walnut Grove, Truman and King. Cannard visited all three elementaries each day to touch base with his staff and students.

Like the Crestline teachers, many of Cannard's faculty members lost everything in their classrooms when the tornado destroyed Ogden Elementary.

"My teachers collected a lifetime of classroom materials and teaching aids, and they couldn't go back to get it," he said.

Looking back, Cannard doesn't think the former Ogden kids really felt at home during their relocation.

"I don't think they really grabbed onto the new schools, even though the host schools were very accommodating and helpful," Cannard said.

Cannard saw something similar resulting from the 1948 fire at Ogden Meadows High School, when he invited one of those students to a Vancouver High reunion.

"He was a very friendly person," Cannard said, but he told Cannard that he never felt a part of Vancouver High.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.