Phantom Lake Elementary celebrates 120 years

Daniel Farber, who finished Phantom Lake Elementary in 1967, jokes with
Daniel Farber, who finished Phantom Lake Elementary in 1967, jokes with '61 alum Gail Frank.
— image credit: Daniel Nash

Students and families of Phantom Lake Elementary celebrated the school’s 120th anniversary Feb. 28.

Eagle alumni were invited to join in a dinner reception, short documentary viewing and a “parade of nations” that saw current students representing countries around the world. A corner of the gym was devoted to a visual timeline of the school from its foundation as a one-room schoolhouse in 1894, to its induction into the Bellevue School District in the mid-20th century, to the modern day.

Yeizo Masunaga, an 86-year-old alum, said he was awed by the show of pride from the school’s current students.

“All those kids that sang (in a chorus performance), I was really impressed by them,” he said. “The unity was there and I really respect what they did. And the way each of them represented their country, I thought that was great.

“It’s commendable what that school is doing.”

Masunaga began schooling at Phantom Lake Elementary in 1933, when it was still a one-room schoolhouse. There were 28 students in eight grades, all taught by Betty Lyman-Brobst.

The youngest of his family, Masunaga was born in Medina and moved into a cabin on Phantom Lake. Bellevue was a different place then, covered in forest.

“One morning we were walking to school and it was foggy as all get on,” he said. “We hear howling and we look up and see a band of coyotes. My sister started crying and I think I picked up a rock — the roads were all gravel, you know, so they were everywhere — and threw it at them. But coyotes were no big deal, it wasn’t like they were wolves.”

The rugged environment made every child a Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. On the playground, Masunaga gleefully recalled, boys would settle an argument with a wrestling match. The victor might not let his victim up for the rest of recess, but no one would bloody a nose or blacken an eye.

Rob Burton, an alumnus featured in the student documentary on the school, recalled meeting another student on the jungle gym. One turned to the other and suggested the two should be friends. They’ve been best friends since and were the best men at each other’s wedding, Burton said.

“Enjoy yourself,” alumna Donna Murphy told the audience of students in her closing segment of the video. “This is a great time in your life, being in grade school.”


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