When Carl Olson was pulled out of Puyallup High School one day in the midst of his sophomore year to help finish a milk route, the then-15-year-old always thought he would end up going back to school.
But he had to keep putting that thought on hold. Olson was finally was able to go back on Dec. 16, more than 70 years later.
“I finished that route,” the 91-year-old Olson said. “I stayed on the truck for 10 years without a day off. Back in those days, we delivered milk every day since it was before refrigerators, when every one had iceboxes.”
Prior to leaving school at 15, Olson recalls having to miss out on school sports, and even dances, since he always had to head straight home after class to help on the family dairy.
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“When school was out,” he said. “I had to go home and to work in the cow barn ... I didn’t have time to participate in sports or go to class dances.”
Olson, who now lives in Fife, also recalls having an eye on June Strankman and Betty Swanson, two girls in his class that he never could date since he had to work on the family dairy.
He trucked on, delivering milk for the next 10 years with Purity Dairy. Olson spent another near 30 years delivering milk to customers in Tacoma for various dairies before retiring at the age of 60.
Olson, his lady friend Mary Errigo, and Olson’s daughter, Cheryl Blau, and her husband Marc, get together frequently to play pinochle. While Cheryl has heard the story of her father leaving high school early, she never heard it told in such a way detailing how much he missed it.
So, Marc stepped in when he heard Olson never got his diploma or got the opportunity to graduate with the rest of the class of 1942. He wanted to honor his father-in-law for a chapter in his life that was closed some 70 years ago.
“When he would talk about high school, you could sense that it was an important part of his life that he missed,” Marc said. “I wondered if this would be possible (to honor Carl).”
Blau was able to get Dave Sunich, principal at PHS, and Dane Looker, a Puyallup School Board member, in on the idea.
On Dec. 16, Olson finally earned a certificate to recognize his first few years of high school. At the age of 91, it’s all part of never being too old to learn, he says.
“I want to thank my alma mater, Puyallup High School, and the Puyallup School District for making this day possible,” he wrote in his speech for the ceremony last week. “It is a special occasion and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life — and at age 91, that is saying something.”