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Remembering the early years at Ripon High
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Two early graduates of Ripon High School, Harvey Douma, 93, and Madelyn Enslie, 97, have been selected to be the grand marshals in today’s homecoming parade to mark the school’s centennial year – first opening in 1910. Enslie graduated in 1932 and Douma in 1935. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON — A rich collection of memories of Ripon’s earlier days mark Ripon High School’s Centennial Celebration weekend from two graduates Harvey Douma, 93, and Madelyn Enslie, 97 – both will share grand marshal duties at today’s 100 -year parade down Main Street that starts at 10 a.m.

“I used to pick lupines from the river bed and sell them for 10 cents to the older ladies in town,” Douma chuckled.  “They looked forward to getting them.” He also enjoyed digging clams off the embankments of the Stanislaus River as a boy and making use of the old swimming hole.

He would also play pranks on his friends from the basement of one of the older two story buildings on Main Street where he would stand on a box and call their names through air holes at the sidewalk level.  They would always look up toward the roof, he said, never knowing the source of his voice.  

Only three years apart in school there were memories that overlapped with friends and family members.  Enslie had been most involved with art in high school and eventually went to work for a Stockton photographer as a negative retoucher as well as hand coloring artist working on finished portraits.  “Those retouching pencil leads had to be as sharp as a needle,” she noted.

She had warm words for her art teacher, a Miss Tupper.  “I did everything in art,” she said. “I had to go down in the basement to work, because I was making too much noise.”

The late and much loved Wes Stouffer was her favorite teacher during her years at Ripon High.  Douma – a former Ripon police chief for 18 years – said that his dad Andrew Douma was on the school board when Stouffer was hired as principal.

Enslie’s grandmother – Loretta Farschon – was also on that board.

She vividly remembers swimming in a ditch with other girls wearing dresses they had made and being chased out by the boys.  They didn’t have bathing suits and the dresses looked awful when they got wet and stuck to them she said.

Boys had own private swimming hole
“We got run out of the ditch, because we didn’t have bathing suits,” she laughed.

As for swimming, the former chief recalled when he and other boys would go swimming down at the river at the end of Acacia Avenue in their private swimming hole – no girls were allowed.  

In her senior year, Enslie and a group of seniors drove to Stockton to attempt to pick up a concrete bench that their Class of 1932 was going to donate to the school.  Principal Wes Stouffer let them use his car which she remembers heated up and caught fire.  She said driver John Hollander pulled it over in front of a rural home and got the sprinkler to attempt to put the fire out.

They weren’t able to bring the bench back with them and their principal was understanding about the damage to his car.  He was quoted as saying he was young once, too.

While in high school Enslie worked cutting and drying fruit on a Weststeyn farm and Douma worked much of his summer both on the farm and stocking shelves in his dad’s Douma Market.

Milking cows twice a day had also been added to his schedule.

Milking crowded his football game action a few times and he knew the milking had to come first.  One game night he got to the gym late after his dad released him and he asked a janitor to let him in to the locker room so he could get his uniform.  The janitor asked if he could hitch a ride to the game that was up in the hill country.  The road between Jamestown and Sonora was pretty bad, he said, but they had to hurry to make game time.

Douma didn’t let any grass grow under his feet in trying to get to the game in his V-8 powered pickup.  He thinks that janitor was a little shaken by the ride as he opted to return home with someone else.

As for the football fields, Douma said they were all hard-packed dirt, no grass.  He can still show friends where he suffered one broken finger going down on that hard pan. “We’d often have to halt the games to wait for the dust to settle,” he said.   Frank Heath was the football coach – possibly the first gridiron coach at Ripon High, he added.

Enslie rode the school bus to Ripon High, catching it half a mile from her Frederick Avenue farm home.  Her parents farmed alfalfa and some row crops and her dad was an irrigation ditch tender before SSJID was formed.

It was a portion of her family’s land that was sold for the building of the original Weston School on Frederick Avenue.

Douma had to help his dad with mail and parcel post that was picked up by the Southern Pacific train that passed by the station behind the Odd Fellows building on East Main Street.  Twice a day the train would roar by and pick off the mail bag from a hanging post and drop off an incoming mail bag along the rails.

Christmas time brought an excess of mail and packages coming into Ripon, Douma said.  Occasionally the bag would rip open and mail would be strewn behind the station.  He had to pick it all up, he said.

Both started school at old 2-story Ripon School
Both RHS grads started school in Ripon in the first grade in the old two-story Ripon Elementary School on Main Street.  Mrs. Wiggins was the teacher then with most classes held on the second floor.  

They both recalled a large basement in that school where physical education classes were held in the winter months.  Douma said the floor was dirt in those early years.  

Enslie chuckled recalling her early elementary school years playing with a young Mexican boy whose mother always had him dressed smartly in white suits.  “He would chase me and I would chase him around the school grounds,” she said.  

The restrooms – girls and boys – were located outside behind the school and he ducked into the boys’ restroom to get away from her, she said.  She couldn’t go in after him, terribly embarrassed, and those playground chases came to an end as did a friendship, she said.

Douma said one of the best teachers ever at the high school was Ernie Poletti who led the speech class to regional and state recognition at many speech tournaments.  Poletti continued to serve students at Ripon High School beyond the mid-60s giving many students stage presence and bringing out public speaking talent that would benefit them for years.

“I didn’t take public speaking, but I did take algebra,” Douma said.  “It didn’t make sense to me, but I had a very smart girl, Janette Buddy, sitting next to me,” he laughed.

Both grads said they had more than their share of fun while at Ripon High in the ‘30s.

Douma remembers his brother Bill would go down to the old vacated Weston School at night and catch woodpeckers nesting there.  One night when they were going to a movie at the town theater, Bill took along a woodpecker that let out a scream from his coat pocket as he was getting his ticket to go into the show.

The ticket taker didn’t notice the bird and they headed for the balcony that was full, deciding instead to sit on the floor level.  When the lights were dimmed and the movie started to roll, he let the bird loose.  It flew right into the screen and stuck its bill through the silver screen’s surface.

Douma said it flew upwards into the theater and landed next to him as ushers rushed down to his seat accusing him of bringing the bird into the show.  

“Yeah we had some good times, some good, clean fun,” he said. “The class put on a play every year and I guess I was in every one.”

Enslie said she remembers being in a school play with Leo Barfonline.  “Miss Tucker and Mr. Harrington figured out this little play with me and Leo being man and wife,” she said smiling.

“I opened my mouth and boomed out what I wasn’t supposed to say,” she said.  “I mixed up my lines.”

Ditch day was at Long Barn
While separated by several years in school, they both enjoyed the ditch day tradition of going to the snow line at Long Barn for tobogganing and playing in the snow.  It was a favorite place to go years ago, they noted.  Ditch day was worked into the school calendar.

They remember well the Memorial Day parades down Ripon’s Main Street when all the classes would be in the line to march.

Douma’s claim to fame as a young boy was the fact his dad bought the first 7-inch, black and white television to be turned on in Ripon.  It was a Hoffman set that found its place in their living room.

Harvey Douma arrived in Ripon when he was only a year and a half.  The family had made the trip from Northern Michigan in a Page, seven passenger car.  The clutch went out on the trip and they took the train for the remainder of their journey.     The arrived in Lathrop November 17, 1918, where they were waited to transfer to another train that would take them to the Ripon station – an eight hour wait.  

He recalls his dad later saying it was a good day.  They arrived in the small California town of their choice and the Armistice was signed that day, November 18, 1918.  World War I had come to an end.