Spokane Valley Online
The Spokane Valley News Herald
City of Spokane Valley, WA
Otis Orchards reunion features fond memories of simpler times


News Editor



The photo from five decades ago shows Gary Tainio with hair that would have made Buddy Holly proud.

In the official picture from the 1960 senior class at Otis Orchards High School, Tainio’s classmates sport similar slicked back locks or crew cuts that resembled well-known athletes of the day like New York Yankees slugger Roger Maris. Female students, meanwhile, look like they have just stepped out of the same salon favored by matinee idol Doris Day.

Representatives from the 1960 graduating class at Otis Orchards High School were the guests of honor at last Saturday’s all-class reunion held in the banquet room of the Spokane Valley Eagle Lodge. The Otis campus functioned from 1911 to 1961 until it was replaced by the new East Valley High School.
Photo by: Craig Howard

These days, Tainio requires a little less hair product.

The Liberty Lake resident was one of 11 Otis Orchards alumni from 1960 to attend the all-class reunion at the Spokane Valley Eagle Lodge last Saturday. A total of 31 students graduated from the school 50 years ago.

“I think I recognized everyone when I saw them,” said Tainio, now a resident of Liberty Lake. “I don’t think we’ve changed that much.”

For over 25 years, graduates of the now defunct school have been gathering in Spokane Valley to reminisce about a simpler time when most people lived on farms and an electric typewriter represented the latest in new technology.

The campus was established in 1911, a year after the formation of the Otis Orchards School District. A total of 28 students were part of the inaugural district, according to Florence Boutwell, Spokane Valley historian.

Starting with the 1961-62 school year, students in the Otis Orchards area began attending the new East Valley High School. A bus barn now occupies land along Wellesley Road where the old Otis Orchards High School once stood.

“It’s a shame,” Tainio said. “They should have preserved it as an historic building.”

The reunion has become an annual tradition for former students, many of whom still live in the area. This year’s event – featuring a buffet dinner, door prizes and a presentation of certificates to the class of 1960 – included close to 125 guests.

“It’s good to see old friends,” said Ted Lloyd, one of five members from the class of 1949 to attend.

Lloyd played football at Otis during a time when the school played rivals like Rathdrum, Post Falls and Mead. Despite a home field that lacked bleachers, fans turned out in droves on Friday nights each autumn to cheer on the purple and gold.

The basketball team played in a small gymnasium located in the center of the one-level school. Graduates like Colleen Wendler (class of ’54) remember the building as a stucco structure with around a dozen classrooms.

Wendler said the emphasis on learning translated into long-range success for many Otis alumni.

“The majority of students went on to get college degrees,” she said. “Many became teachers.”

In a time when studying took place via real books, not on Kindles or computer screens, the distraction of today’s high-tech world was not an issue, according to Mavis Davis (class of ’54).

“We didn’t have a TV until the mid-1950s and even then the connection broke most of the time,” Davis said. “It was such a different way of life.”

Lloyd, now retired and living in Coeur d’Alene, said exercise and work were more common among high school students years ago than modern-day trademarks like fast food and the computer – often mentioned by researchers as two contributors to the escalating percentage of conditions like juvenile obesity and diabetes.

Groups like the Future Farmers of America were a popular staple at Otis, along with classes in the basics of agriculture. Davis recalls the terrain around the school consisting “mostly of orchards and farms.”

After living in central California for years, Davis returned to the Spokane area in 2006. She says it’s good to be back among friends, including many fellow students who attended school on a cherished campus all those years ago.

“I got smart,” Davis said. “I moved back.”  

TheSpokane Valley News Herald
is the City of Spokane Valley, Washington's official Newspaper. The City Council of the City of Spokane Valley, Washington named the Spokane Valley News Herald as the city's "official" newspaper. The designation means the Spokane Valley News Herald will publish the city's legal notices on a contract basis for one year.

E-mail: vnh@onemain.com
Phone: (509) 924-2440
2010 Valley News Articles Archive
2009 Valley News Articles Archive