Mike & Kay Sibley this year’s May Fest Grand Marshals

OROVILLE – Mike and Kay Sibley, local historians and retired educators, have been named this year’s Oroville May Festival Grand Marshals.

“We were quite surprised to be asked,” said Kay Sibley, upon hearing they were this year’s Grand Marshals.

“It’s kind of like being on jury duty, you never know when your number is going to come up,” quipped Mike Sibley.

Mike and Kay Sibley
Mike and Kay Sibley

While now they are probably best known for their volunteer work with the Borderlands Historical Society, including at the Depot Museum and the old Customs cabin, the Sibleys worked for many years in education at Oroville High School in various positions.

Mike Sibley came to work at the school in the 1966-67 school year after graduating from Western Washington University in Bellevue, not far from where he grew up in Ferndale, Washington. He said after working on the family dairy farm he knew that he didn’t want to do for the rest of his life.

“(Superintendent) Bob Drummoned, who was influential in originally starting May Day as a school event, hired me. Principal Stan Porter assigned me to be Class Advisor with Effie Coulton,” Mike said.

He added that meant he had to helping the legendary Coulton, for whom the OHS gym is named for, with doing the float.

“They were all rabbit wire and stuffing. She had books and books on design,” he said.

Kay adds, “She also had books on the PTA from the 1930s and 1940s, with drawings and programs she did for those books. She did an amazing job. Eventually we want to make those available at the museum.”

Mike says he started out teaching Contemporary World Problems and he was teaching seniors who he was just barely older than. He also taught Social Studies, Psychology and Anthropology.

“Some of my students who had their 50th reunion thought I was old at the time… they were 18 and I was 22,” he said. “I taught lots of Social Studies and some English.”

Kay, who grew up on an apple orchard in Tonasket, said her first exposure to May Day was coming up to Oroville as a kid and going to the barbecue.

“That was started in 1955 and it was a huge function,” she said. “My mother taught here in the 1960s so I came up then for May Day as well.”

Her teaching career began in 1972, despite not yet having done her student teaching.

“At that time teachers weren’t scarce like now and I knew Oroville and Tonasket had openings. They knew about me and I put in an application to Oroville. (Superintendent) Dr. Neff said he really liked my strengths, but asked why should we hire you when you haven’t student taught and I have a lot of teachers that have to choose from?’ He hired me without those credentials, so I really lucked out.

She was hired as the Home Economics teacher, but added she didn’t realize that meant that she would be immersed in May Day responsibilities.

“About the last week of April Miss Doyle, the art teacher, said ‘Don’t forget we need 10 flower baskets full of lilacs. And, check out the chair (May Queen’s throne) and we need to adjust a couple of the girl’s dresses.’ That was my intro to being part of May Day.

Sibley started the Future Homemakers Association at Oroville during her tenure as Home Ec teacher.

“That’s how the May Day Tea got started because we needed to make money for the group,” she said.

Kay was teaching Marriage and the Family and Mike was teaching Sociology and the two blended their classes and “team taught.”

“I mostly sat in back and made comments,” he said.

“Before we had pre-school we had three weeks of child development and the students ran a pre-school in the classroom,” she added.

Kay went on to be the librarian at the high school and said she was involved in a controversy about where to put the school’s first personal computers, which she felt should go in the library. At the time none of the staff was really trained in the new technology.

“I said I will know by August, so I learned and we got the computers in the library. It was fun, that’s where the computing stuff started. I taught word processing and spreadsheets,” she said, adding, “and that’s when I got a library assistant.”

She also remembers pulling fiber optics lines for wifi into the school.

“We ran it in December of ‘94, right after school let out for Christmas. The crew was the custodians and Larry Perkins taught us how to pull fiber because he was doing that at Gonzaga,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mike’s job at the school changed and he became the school counselor, something both he and his wife trained for, in the mid-1980s.

“I liked being the counselor, but you got to know the kids a lot better in the classroom,” he said. “I ran groups, counseled for college and did job prep,” he said.

In addition to being on the Historical Society Board, the Sibleys are also on the Wenatchee Valley College at Omak Foundation Board.

“We support things that the state doesn’t fund very well,” said Kay.

“It’s a full time, part time job,” added Mike.