This is a column that nearly didn’t get written.
You may have noticed that it has been several weeks since the last one, and there’s a reason for that. After writing a weekly column for over 13 years and never yet missing a deadline, I hit bottom, emotionally. I felt I wanted to stop writing them forever and then jump into a hole and pull the hole in after me.
Instead, more logically, I asked the owners of this newspaper, Chad and Coralee Taylor, if I could stop writing columns for a month and regroup before I tried to resume submitting them, and they agreed.
I could think of nothing else I wanted to write until a sentence at the end of the last column I had written began to pique my interest.
They were words to the effect that all that was left of what had once been a thriving community named “Gate” was a one-room schoolhouse. I suddenly felt I had to see that schoolhouse. It’s not hard to find. Just drive west on U.S. Highway 12 and when you’re about 2 miles west of Rochester, turn right onto Moon Road and, after about another mile, the school will appear on your left. If you come to the railroad tracks, you’ve gone a bit too far.
What you’ll see is not a shack with peeling paint and the roof about to cave in but a building restored — as close as can be done — to what it looked like when it was filled with school desks and children so many years ago.
This has come about through the efforts of local residents and others who couldn’t bear to see it collapsed or abandoned and bonded together as The Gate Community Club. The club’s first mission was to acquire ownership of the school and the land it sat on. This was achieved through a grant from Thurston County Historical Preservation, but then the work of restoration had to begin.
The most immediate chore was to repair or replace the roof. This was mostly done by Gene Weaver and an assistant. Painting — both inside and outside — was determined by the weather and by how much money was available. One source of money at the beginning of the restoration was for the ladies to make quilts and sell them. An example now hangs on an inside wall along with many large photographs of the building and activities from the earliest years of the school’s existence.
I wanted to see all those things, so my friend Anne and I crashed a potluck dinner at the school, which — after a scheduled meeting of the club members — was a routine part of their planned gathering. I only had time to say “hello” to the vice president of the organization, Michael Langer, who had just conducted the scheduled meeting before I was lost in conversation with other members of the club.
The rest of the evening was devoted to talk about the work that went into restoring the building while also viewing the collection of enlarged old photographs lining the walls. I learned that the blackboards that span the inside walls of that one room schoolhouse are all the original ones, as is the refinished flooring.
At this point, I feel a bit over my personal goal of around 600 words per column, but I wish to congratulate the very successful restoration efforts made by the Gate Community Club, and hint that there may be a wee bit more on this subject next week.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at email@example.com.