How grade schoolers took on Eisenhower, Hoover and Russia

A group of Roseburg students circa 1959

Some of the most memorable educators are the ones willing to throw out the syllabus in pursuit of a higher lesson.

When a fourth-grade teacher in Roseburg, Oregon, did just that during the height of the Cold War, he sent the US state department and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI into a tizzy.

In a search for pen pals from the farthest-away place they could imagine, teacher Ray McFetridge in 1959 had students write to their congressman, longtime Eugene resident Charles Porter, in hopes he could help them establish correspondence with a grade-school class in the Soviet Union.

Porter dutifully took the idea to the state department, which responded with ambivalence, and there the project died.

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