Supporting Our Schools Through the Decades

By Pam Carroll

The other day my first-grade grandson called, which is not unusual. But there was something different about this call. McCoy wanted my husband and me to share stories of what first grade was like when we went to school.

I shared my thoughts about school way back when some good memories and some not so good. But it really made me start thinking about my own early days in Great Falls.

And it drove home for me why I am a strong supporter of public education.

My family moved here in November of 1961. Dad’s company had transferred him here from Spokane. Finding housing was a challenge as Boeing was doing some major work at Malmstrom. In fact, we had to stay in a motel with a kitchenette for weeks while my parents tried to find a house to rent for a family of five.

I attended Roosevelt, Lewis and Clark Elementary, East Junior High and Great Falls High School. I walked to school most days with my younger sisters.

Dad served as PTA president for several years at Roosevelt. I think it was unusual for men to be involved with PTA at that time, but Dad loved it. He organized the most amazing carnivals, which raised a lot of money. I have such fond memories of that time.

I vividly remember conversations around the dinner table about funding Great Falls Public Schools. My parents were strong supporters of public education.

Great Falls was growing and our schools were bursting at the seams. Great Falls High was on double shifts. There were too many kids for one high school, and CMR was in the works. That would solve one problem, but more loomed on the horizon.

seven construction workers standing on white field

We also needed another junior high. When the children my age would reach junior high there would not be enough room for us. At the time we had East Junior High, West Junior High, and Paris Gibson Junior High, located in what is now Paris Gibson Museum.

Dad got involved in a community of volunteers, who went door to door with petitions and information on why we need to build another junior high. There were many naysayers. It took a lot of footwork and time, but eventually, a bond issue was passed.

It didn’t come soon enough for some of us.

My middle sister and I had to double shift in junior high. The morning shift went from 6 a.m. to noon, then the afternoon shift came in from noon to 6 p.m. Needless to say, it was a challenge. By the time I reached high school, North Junior High was finished and normal school times resumed.

I am so thankful for my parents’ support of Great Falls Public Schools. They worked hard to pass bonds for new buildings, and they always said yes to operational levies.

Their legacy of supporting our schools was passed on to me and my children. I’m trying to set the same example for my grandchildren.

person opening photo album displaying grayscale photos

Let’s put the GREAT back in Great Falls Public Schools. Use your vote to support full funding for our classrooms.