When I wrote last week about the restoration of the old Gate school, I didn’t have enough space to also write about what has been done by volunteers to the building itself and to the grounds around it.
Of course, that includes the basics such as painting the inside and outside of the building and replacing broken windows. The most prominent effect is likely to be the first thing you notice when you park your car — the split rail fence that covers the east and north edges of the school’s property.
Built in the classic style of 100 or more years ago, it was put together by Eagle Scouts, earning many points for them in the process, I’m sure. They’re also credited with construction of a covered picnic shelter and tables among the many trees in the more than 2-acre property.
Another project is a small but adequate stage already constructed and with rustic seating in front of it that was not completed when I first saw it. A later visit on Thanksgiving showed that project completed. I was pleased to not be able to see any electric power outlets anywhere near the stage itself. It’s located in a setting that just cries out for intimate performances rather than noisy ones.
That visit showed that underbrush that was growing more than needed — or wanted — has been cut down, and two fire pits that I had missed seeing earlier have been added next to the stage.
Another change from the days when the school was active is impossible to not notice. As I mentioned in a previous paragraph, the area around the building — which I’m sure was devoted to playground activity back then when the school was still active — is now covered by a multitude of Douglas fir trees now grown to almost the size where they could be harvested.
Some of them were rotting and others were too close to the school itself, trees which — if they were left to grow any further — could have caused significant damage to the building that has been so lovingly saved.
Jumping back to that meeting on Nov. 14 I mentioned last week, it was there that I remembered a time, long ago, there was once a Gate resident who wrote a weekly column here in The Chronicle about happenings in and around the former town but that no one currently on the staff remembered who it was. I asked Gene if he knew who it was and he quickly replied that it was David James, who eventually left to finish his career at The News Tribune in Tacoma.
Did I mention in last week’s column that the school was formally closed in 1941 and the children now attend school in Rochester? It didn’t take long before the Gate Community Club was officially formed, devoting its energy and activity to preserving that last formal memory of a city that once existed.
If helping to preserve what has already been accomplished crosses your mind, you can join the club, which meets on most Sunday afternoons and evenings. Individual membership is $15 per year, family membership is $25 and if you’re really serious, centennial membership is $1 for every year the school building has existed.
Well, I think that brings us up to date on the story of the lonely school in a non-existing city.
What have I been doing during the past one-month hiatus? Mostly taking deep breaths and letting them out slowly. The weather hasn’t cooperated. I have yet to plant the tulip bulbs I dug up and separated in early summer. I also haven’t pruned the hedge that I wanted to plant them in front of.
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.