One question leads to another, and another… I noticed that the Lakeview High School graduating classes were especially large in the 1970’s. When I asked about it, people told me that those were the years when kids from Bly attended high school in Lakeview. Caused me to wonder: What was it like for the Bly kids? Long bus rides, knowing that the other kids were eligible for the Daly scholarship and they weren’t? 

I asked Will Cahill, a 1975 Lakeview H.S. grad about the Bly students. Will connected me with Sheila McKelvie who, in turn, connected me with other former Bly students who sent me emails about their experiences. Here’s what I learned.

Bly is an unincorporated community just across the county line to the west, was the home of a Weyerhaeuser lumber mill that employed about 240 people in 1979, more than half the town’s total population. After the Bly High School was condemned in the late 1960’s, the students were given the choice of attending either Lakeview High School, about 40 miles to the southeast, or Bonanza High School, about 35 miles to the southwest. Many chose Lakeview because of greater academic and sports opportunities.

Those who went to Lakeview had bus rides of an hour each way.  If they played sports, they had to take the smaller activity bus later in the afternoon or well into the night. In the winter, they would have to wait for the wrestlers to finish practice, then boys basketball, then finally girls basketball – there just wasn’t much gym space. There were times when they wouldn’t return home until 10:00 at night and would then have to be ready to leave early in the morning, and somehow have to find time for homework and chores. Some of the away games were so far away that the Bly kids didn’t get home until after midnight.

The Bly kids all knew about the Daly scholarship and understood that they weren’t eligible since they lived outside the county. One of the former Bly students said he never thought about it, that’s just the way it was; another said they felt badly that they didn’t have the opportunity for the scholarship; another said that since she knew college wasn’t a possibility, she didn’t put in the extra effort to get A’s; and another told me that she was one of five girls from Bly to graduate in 1977, all five went to college and three have master’s degrees. It does seem that, although they couldn’t receive the scholarship, the Bly students were impacted by the college-going culture in Lakeview and many went on to college. 

The last good year for Oregon’s lumber industry was 1979 when 78,500 worked in Oregon’s mills, more than a third of all of the state’s manufacturing jobs. Oregon’s economy tumbled, unemployment grew to 11.4%, one of the highest rates in the nation and the greatest in Oregon since records were kept. Most of the employment in Bly was lost and in 1981 the Bly mill closed.  A few years later, in 1984, there were only five Bly kids who took the bus to Lakeview. After they graduated, the few kids remaining in Bly went to Bonanza High School in Klamath County.

Note: Many thanks to Will Calhill and Sheila McKelvie for connecting me with former Bly students.

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