Spotlight Series – Mrs. Almer
Where were you born? I was born in Silverton, Oregon. Silverton is about 1 hour south of Portland.
Did you grow up in the Silverton area? No, I actually grew up in Cathlamet. I lived in Estacada, Oregon for my first three grades, and then went to Cathlamet from fourth through high school.
Why did your family move to Cathlamet? My dad was working for Crown Zellerbach.
What did your father do for Crown Zellerbach? He was a road-grader building logging roads.
Mrs. Almer, Mint Valley Elementary School
What year did you move to Cathlamet? We moved to Cathlamet in 1963. That ages me!
Where did you go to school? It was called Cathlamet Elementary when I was there, but now it is Julius A Wendt Elementary. There was no middle school, it was just K-8 in one building, and then you went to high school for 9-12 grades.
What year did you graduate from Wahkiakum High School? Wahkiakum High School class of 1972.
Did you enjoy high school? Yes, I did well in school with a 3.8 average. It was small classes, about 42 kids in the whole graduating class and I was number five.
Did you participate in activities? I did Pep Club all four years, and Girls League. I was ASB secretary my senior year.
What did you want to do for a career? I wanted to be an airline stewardess. I wanted to work in travel. It has always interested me.
Why did you want to be a stewardess? I thought it would be an exciting life, seeing different people and going different places.
What did you do after high school? I was going to go to Business College because school was easy for me and I did not really want to go to college. I finally decided to go to work.
Where did you go to work? My first official job was at the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Health Department in 1974.
What did you do at the health district? I was a clerk typist and greeted people.
What were some of your job duties? Back then, they did immunization clinics and I kept track of all of the immunization cards. I was there three years.
How were immunization records kept? We did it by hand. The information was written on 3×5 index cards. You had to write their name, birthdate, address, and what they came in for, on the card. We would give the card to the nurse, the nurse would give an injection and they would bring the card back to us and we would file it.
What sort of filing system did the department use? We would file the cards in a card file like the one they used to have at the library. I think it was twice a week that they had immunization clinics. They had a “TB” (tuberculosis) clinic where the patients that had been diagnosed with TB received medication.
Was tuberculosis an issue back then? I think TB mainly affected older people, but it phased out eventually. We had patients who came in monthly and a doctor would come up from Portland to talk to them about their health. We registered birth and death certificates too.
How did you register birth certificates? The hospital would send them over typed out and somebody would notarize and file it with the state. The certificate would stay in our office for a certain amount of time and people could come in and get certified copies of their birth certificate.
How were death certificates handled? With death certificates, funeral homes would bring them in all filled out, we would notarize and keep it on file for a certain amount of time.
Then you moved jobs within the Health Department? Yes, I worked in the Environmental Health area for about 1 ½ years. I moved to Longview in 1974 with a friend and her mother. I lived across the street from Broadway school and I would walk to work in the old McVickers funeral home. I walked to work because I did not have a car.
When did you get married? I got married in 1977 to my high school sweetheart – Jim. I was 15 when we started going out. We have been married 42 years.
Where did you meet your husband? At school. He was a senior and I was a freshman. He grew up in Skamokawa. His dad was a county commissioner and a sheriff.
Where else did you work? I went to work for Dr. Hastings, who was an allergist in town. I would do all of his dictation when he did testing on his patients, putting together their allergy books. I needed more hours, so I took a job at The Daily News for two or three years. I started out as a receptionist taking classified ads.
So this is the late ‘70s early ‘80s? Yes, that was about the time I got married. From the Daily News I went to work at an OB/GYN clinic for 5 years in billing.
After working at OB/GYN clinic what did you do? I went to work for a health insurance company named Select Care.
What did Select Care do? They were health insurers for local businesses. It was in the bank building downtown. It started out just seven of us in the office.
What did you do for Select Care? I was assistant to the care manager. I would work with doctors’ offices for referrals and authorization for procedures.
Do you have any children? Yes, I worked at Select Care until I had my son, prematurely at 25 weeks. He was 1 pound, 11 ½ ounces when he was born. His name was Tom.
How big was your son at birth? He fit in the palm of my husband’s hand.
Did being born prematurely cause Tom complications? Yes, his complication from premature birth was legal blindness.
Did you get advice or support along the way? Yes, I organized and ran a support group for parents of children with special needs for many years. The group was called PUMS (Parents United for Moral Support). I loved working with Ann Cavanaugh and David Stockard (former SPED Director and Asst. Director) – they kind of mentored and encouraged the group.
How much sight does Tom have? He has a little bit of vision in one eye and light perception in the other eye. He went all through the Longview School District with the vision staff, Pat Kelly, Susan LeMonds and Dianne Lauridsen.
How long was Tom in the hospital after birth? Tom was in the hospital for 11 weeks to the day and he came home 4 weeks before he was due.
How old was Tom when he started talking? At two years old, he was talking in full sentences. We never talked baby talk to him.
Where did Tom attend high school? He graduated from Mark Morris in 2010.
Did you go back to work when Tom got older? Yes, I started at Northlake and my first job was removing a couple of kindergarten girls from class when they were out of control and disruptive.
Where else in the district have you worked? I went over to Olympic and managed the computer lab for the entire school for about 6 years. Funding was lost and I went to Mt Solo for 2 years, but I am not a middle school person.
You prefer younger kids to middle school students? Yes, middle school students are just so different in attitude and respect, or lack of, and the hormones are pumping. I guess at my age, I was not as tolerant.
Did you want to work in an elementary school? Yes, we were having a reorganization. I ended up here at Mint Valley for the last seven years.
What is your role? I work under the nurse. I do all the first aid, all the medical care plans, dispense medications and make calls to parents and families. I take care of all the paper work for immunizations to make sure everyone is up on their forms. It is a huge job.
Is this one of the most important jobs in the building – helping kids in distress? Yes. I have to make a lot of decisions that I feel are above my pay grade.
What sort of tough situations do you face? Do I call an ambulance when a student is injured? I have to make that decision. Parents sometimes are not happy when an ambulance is called. Sometimes the job tough – very stressful. This is going to be my last year; I am going to retire.
Are you retiring at the end of this year? Yes, I am excited! I am just at the time of my life that I just need to take care of me.
Is your husband still working? Yes, he is still working. He has an upholstery shop on Ocean Beach called Jim’s Upholstery.
What are you going to do in retirement? I am going to relax. I want to travel. I have been traveling with my best friend; my husband is not a traveler. My son has gone with me a few times.
What are some of your best places you have been? Savannah Georgia was wonderful and we visited Graceland.
Are you an Elvis Presley fan? Yes, number one! I have always been an Elvis fan. There is just something about his voice. It gives me goosebumps and relaxes me. He has been gone as long as he has been here and I don’t get tired of listening to him. He was such a talent. He is very handsome and nice to look at.
What is your favorite Elvis song? I don’t have just one – I love them all! It has always been that way. I graduated from high school in 1972; Elvis did not pass away until 1977. He was huge then. He was in his prime doing Vegas shows when I was young.
Did you get to see Elvis perform live? Every time he came to Portland, tickets were sold out. I have gone to Graceland three times.
What is Graceland like? It is a time capsule for the ‘70’s, exactly like he left it. They have built a huge visitors center across the street.
Is there much Elvis memorabilia at Graceland? Yes, they have eight warehouses of Elvis artifacts. They kept every check, every invoice, every fan letter – everything was preserved. I do not think there has ever been an entertainer above him.
Where else have you traveled? We went to St Louis up in the arch. We have been to the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Corvette Museum in Boling Green. We stopped by the Jelly Belly factory.
Do you have a bucket list for when you retire? Not really, Graceland was on my bucket list, but I have taken care of that. It is one of my favorite places to see.
What do you do after school each day? I go home and pass out. It is tiring, emotionally and mentally. There is a lot that goes into taking care of the kids every day.
What is the best part of your job? The best part of my job is when the kids come in and say thank you, and say I am the best nurse ever! They say thank you for helping me when I need help the most. Thank you for the Band-Aid and thank you for the ice pack. A lot of it is emotional care.
Does helping kids make you feel good? Yes, that is the fun part, and they give you hugs. You know that you have done something to help them. It makes it all worth it.
What would you like to tell people who graduated in 1972 about what has changed in the schools? Things have changed tremendously since we went to school. They had hack paddles on the walls when I was in school – and used them. There was a lot of parent support for the schools, and more respect was shown towards adults. It is 180 degrees from when I was in school.
Did you ever get a hack? I never got a hack. Just seeing the hack board on the wall was bad enough.
What advice would you give to whoever replaces you? Have patience, pay attention to what you are saying, document, enjoy the kids and help them anyway you can.