Whitefish Schools

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

At a school board meeting on November 6, 1920, the board solemnly resolved that “girls coming to school with artificial complexions must remove same with soap and water as a condition of entering classes.” School dances were forbidden, a ruling that was said to have increased attendance considerably in public dance halls.

By 1925 there were 21 grade school teachers in the Whitefish school system and 1,035 elementary school children. There were 175 students in the high school.

A new gymnasium was built in 1927-by a two-year mill levy raising $34,000. It was formally opened December 9, 1927. A marker twelve feet high reading WHITEFISH was placed on the gym roof to help airplanes. It had an arrow pointing north. Unfortunately the arrow did not point true north, and a second arrow had to be added.

By this time, of course, Hayden had left Whitefish and been replaced in 1923 by E. A. Hinderman (“Hindy”) as superintendent. Hindy brought a lot of changes. Excerpts from an article written by Dorothy Johnson at the time of his retirement in 1953 help to explain the man;

“…It’s hard to imagine him as retired-he is wired for high voltage. His curly hair is white, and sometimes he limps a little, but he gives the impression that he could still make the winning touchdown.”

Hindy was born in Reichenweier, Alsace, Germany.

“He and his roommate, Vic Cassidy, had set themselves a goal – $100,000 apiece by the time they reached 40. Cassidy made it, but not in teaching school.”

Hindy came west in 1911, worked at many odd jobs, was principal at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.

“In 1923 he started his work at Whitefish, not guessing that the job would last for 30 years. He made athletics hum and kept a lot of boys going to school because they couldn’t play football if they didn’t. Education wasn’t popular 30 years ago in
Whitefish –it was all right for girls, who weren’t good for much anyway, but a boy could fib a little about his age and get a job on the railroad. E. A. Hinderman changed that.

“By 1928, Whitefish had the best high school gym in Montana. It had a good band the year before and was one of the first schools in western Montana to make visual education part of the program. Hindy had the first movie projector for school use in the western part of the state, took his own movies and showed them by invitation at a lot of other schools.

“He coached all sports his first three years and kept on with football until ten years ago Whitefish won the football district championship three times under the tough tough old system in which big and little schools competed on an equal basis-and Whitefish was a little school. But the Bulldogs chalked up victories over Missoula, Havre, Great Falls, Butte Central, and Flathead High in Kalispell.

“In 1938 Superintendent Hinderman faced a problem that kids, but not school Superintendents sometimes pray for. The school started to fall down.

“The old central plant, opened about 1912, was built of defective brick and without sound supporting beams. An earthquake shock weakened it, bowing one wall so that it was noticeably out of true. Part of the school was still safe, but the main part had to be rebuilt at once, and school had to keep anyway Hindy made plans to hold classes in the school gym and church basements. But the condition was hideous, with groups of students in the bleachers and on the gym floor, and parents said the church basement couldn’t be heated property.

“Hindy went to see the local division superintendent of the Great Northern Railway…who…telephoned headquarters in St. Paul and in fifteen minutes had permission to set out passenger coaches for classrooms. Next day men started laying track to a point just west of the school gymnasium. And in a week, the kids started going to school, two classes to a coach. Men faculty provided heat for the temporary schoolrooms. A threshing machine engine made steam alongside, with a 40-foot culvert upended for a smokestack.

“After all his efforts, Hindy amost didn’t live to see a new school building completed. Two floors of the old building, which was being demolished, collapsed thirty seconds after he had walked under the spot where they tumbled into ruins.

“Hindy never did get rich. He gave up the idea. But a few years ago Vic Cassidy, who did (in California peach land and the newspaper business) came through Whitefish and met part of the Hinderman family-the Missus and Dan and Marcia. His comment was, ‘Dutch, I’d trade with you any time!”

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorWhitefish Schools