Many of you know Madora Dawkins as a former elementary school teacher at Eatonville. But teaching is only a small piece of this interesting woman’s story.
Madora lost her mother at a very young age and was raised by her aunt and uncle. She lived in Seattle and then Portland. Early on everyone could see Madora had a talent for gymnastics. “I don’t Rremember ever learning to walk on my hands. I always could,” she says.
Later Madora moved to Oakland and got dance training in San Francisco. The lessons she says helped her “smooth out her performance”. At around eight years old Madora was performing a lot, both for her father’s General Stores (vaudeville-like acts) and in other clubs.
During those depression years, Madora was earning money. She got $5.00 as the opening act for the clubs and her dad built her a studio where she could give “I remember I charged 25 cents a lesson. It was fun and I was doing what I liked.”
Madora was back in Washington as a teenager attending the University of Washington, and landed a summer waitressing at Paradise. In the late 30s waitresses there needed to have a “talent” so it was a perfect fit for Madora.
In one of her gymnastic routines, she walked on her hands across the floor. “A man up in the balcony would cry out, “You’re not so good. I can do that,” says Madora. “I would tell him to come down and show me. And he’d throw over a rope and shimmy down and we’d do a performance. We were terribly corny, but we enjoyed what we were doing.”
During the routine, Madora would stand on the man’s shoulders and he would fall forward and they would both go into a forward roll. One evening he forgot to let go and she went down hard.
“I knew how to fall,” says Madora. “But the owner still insisted that I go to the hospital and have every X-ray possible.” It was a good thing she did. Madora’s driver that night was Jess Dawkins, who later become her husband.
In 1940, Madora made the University of Washington swim team, but had to transfer when she got married in 1941 and started a family. (She and Jess eventually had six children.) Later she finished her degree up at PLU.
Jess and Madora’s first married adventure was the purchase of King’s Place, a restaurant by the Ohop Grange. They got the house, the restaurant, and about seven acres for under $8,000.
“Thank goodness for the farmers. I think they felt sorry for us because we were so young and stupid,” says Madora. “We learned so much.”
The Red and White & School
After a half dozen years running King’s Place, the Red and White Store (located where Kirk’s Pharmacy parking lot is today) became available and Jess and Madora purchased it.
“It was a hard job, but we were young and ready to tackle the world,” says Madora. “And it was a big store where people could buy anything — from a loaf of bread to a new suit. We sold everything we could.”
Madora’s next adventure was teaching and she taught at Eatonville for 30 years. Eatonville even benefited from her dance skills — kids are still performing her rendition of the May Pole.
The adventure continues . . .