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Washington School

Washington School at North Five Points is seen in this early Clarence E. Bisbee photo.

Editor note: This column first ran Nov. 1, 2012, in the Times-News and on Magicvalley.com

A new grade school was built on the edge of town in 1916.

Washington School was handy for families living on the outskirts of Twin Falls. But its convenient location — at the five-point intersection of Addison Avenue, Blue Lakes Boulevard and Shoshone Street — led to its eventual demise.

The town grew rapidly in its first dozen years, prompting the construction of Washington School just outside the city limits. Back then, Addison and Blue Lakes marked the north and east edges of town.

The school sat at the northeast corner of North Five Points, where Albertsons supermarket sits today.

As Twin Falls continued to grow, so did the traffic on the three streets in front of Washington School.

Many of the school’s students needed to cross two of the streets before and after school — and many walked home for lunch at noon.

A stoplight was eventually installed at the intersection and teachers were assigned traffic duty. The Twin Falls Police Department took over the duty in 1959.

A student safety patrol was created to assist the traffic cop at the intersection. Lynn Brandon was part of that safety patrol in 1972.

“There were no buses at Washington School when I went there,” Brandon said. “We all walked to school.”

The safety patrol consisted of sixth-grade students who had good grades and showed responsibility, he said.

Members of the safety patrol wore red caps and orange Sam Browne belts and carried long poles with red flags at the end.

Every school day, morning and afternoon, the safety patrol would position themselves at each of the five points of the intersection. A traffic cop whom Brandon remembers only as “Johnny,” would insert a key into a control box on a pole at the school corner. When turned, the key triggered the stoplights, bringing all traffic to a halt.

The student lieutenant would give the order and the safety patrol would lower their flags into the lane of oncoming traffic, while other students scurried safely across the intersection.

In 1975, Washington School was torn down and replaced by Sawtooth Elementary School in a neighborhood with less traffic.

When built, the Twin Falls Times called Washington School one of the most modern schools in Idaho, complete with a basement heat plant, a stage and assembly room, three storage rooms and two “toilet rooms.”

The first three schools in Twin Falls — Bickel, Lincoln and the first Twin Falls High School — were two-story, red brick buildings. Washington School broke this pattern with its gray stucco walls and single-level construction. The school was built in a unique “L” shape.

High school students on Shoshone Street who could see the grade school from their building’s second-floor windows dubbed Washington School “The Tombstone.”

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Mychel Matthews reports on agriculture and rural issues for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and on Magicvalley.com. If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at mmatthews@magicvalley.com.

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