School days of old

The town of Black Diamond has seen its fair share of change over time.

The town of Black Diamond has seen its fair share of change over time.

Far from the industrialized shopping centers and malls featured today, the area once prided itself as “coal-mining country.” Black Diamond featured as many as seven mines within a quarter-mile of each other, and where the mines ended, timber and railroads stormed through town.

One school bus traveled from home to school; otherwise, students were in store for a healthy walk to class.

The once-teenage students who attended high school in the area were treated to something special recently in a town they once called their own.

The graduating classes from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s gathered Wednesday at the Black Diamond Community Center to reminisce about their time spent either at Black Diamond or Enumclaw high school. Some in attendance were unable to finish school in Black Diamond due to the Depression and closures of local mines. The event united both groups and brought old acquaintances closer together to reflect.

Ruby Keney, who graduated from the old Black Diamond High School and is the only surviving member from the class of 1926, couldn’t see herself missing Wednesday’s event even at the tender age of 101 years old. Keney was joined at the gala by friends, cousins and her son to honor those who endured harsh times in the coal miner’s town generations ago.

“It’s wonderful,” Keney said. “I enjoy this, I wouldn’t miss it.”

“There were 13 of us,” Keney added about her graduating class, “and they’re all gone but me.”

Conrad “Coke” Roberts hosted the reunion as the master of ceremonies on Wednesday. “Coke” earned his nickname in tribute to his aggressive stature as a ballplayer. Roberts, 85, admitted he couldn’t live in a coal-mining town with a name like Connie.

Although the town has changed drastically since he attended Black Diamond High, Roberts wasn’t exposed to the transformations in his hometown once he left for the Navy and eventually graduated from the University of Washington. The final mine in Black Diamond was closed in 1975 at Ravensdale due to expensive costs for the city.

“I never saw the changes that really took place in town when the mines closed down,” Roberts said. “Once the mines closed, everything collapsed. Miners were a well-knit group. Everybody helped everybody else.”

Black Diamond Mayor Howard Botts also attended the reunion as part of the Enumclaw alumnus. Botts went to school in Black Diamond from first to seventh grade before leaving for Enumclaw High School. The mayor was treated to a retrospective of his high school days spent in Enumclaw while also reconnecting with pals from Black Diamond.

“I get to see a lot of people I haven’t seen for at least a year, and some of them I haven’t seen for longer than that,” Botts said. “It’s fun to see people you went to school with and people you grew up with that have moved out of town.”

Reporter Newspapers intern Mike Baldwin can be reached at