Finding Mineral Part I

What’s Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million 1857?

3868. Always have fresh air in the room in which you work, but so that you shall not be in a draft.

On the Speaker’s Circuit

If you are like me, no matter how long you live in a state, there are still places to explore. For the past two years I have been DIGITAL CAMERAWashington Humanities speaker, going around the state to the most far flung places to speak about the Civilian Conservation Corps and its impact on Washington State parks, national parks and streams and forests. My last talk was set up last winter after meeting Jane Hodges at the AWP 2014 in Seattle. She invited me to speak about the CCCs in Mineral. Mineral School would sponsor along with the Fire Mountain Arts Council.

Now the only thing I knew about Mineral was that at one time it had a CCC camp. I would go there to talk about the CCCs in the state and in addition present some facts and pictures about this local camp. As plans were formatted, additional pieces came into my program: I would speak at the Centralia College’s Lyceum (with a number of Running Start students included) at noon on November 5th and that evening after I gave my Humanities WA talk, a group of local thespians would put on my reader’s theater play of Tree Soldier. What I didn’t know was that four high school students would be in the cast. More about that later. From the start it was decided that going by train would be best, so that was added to my blotter.

Going Down to Mineral School

I took off for Centralia, WA on November 4th. It was first time I had boarded a train out of my town in a long time so I was IMG_0880interested how AMTRAK worked on this side of the coast. (I’ve taken several rides from Boston to Baltimore in the past). The ride was very nice, complete with wif-fi. At Centralia I got off. Jane Hodges herself met me. I was starving so we went to a fabulous little treasure in the town, The Olympic Club. A quick bowl of soup and we were off to Mineral, heading east into the forests south of Mount Rainier. As she drove, Jane filled me in again about Mineral School and her plans to transform it into a writer’s retreat. The country around it is stunning with forests and tree covered hills that reminded me of places in New Hampshire and Vermont where the “hills” (really small mountains) came right down to valley floors. After an hour’s drive, we pulled up in front of the school itself.

Mineral School was built in 1947 after the town firebug first burnt down the old school and after the kids moved into the gym, burnt that down too. The “new” one is built of solid brick and reminded me a bit of my old Hawthorne Elementary School in Pittsburgh whose primary wing was built after WW II. Dragging my suitcase, laptop and books down the hall, I could imagine the students coming out of class as the bell rang for lunch or recess. I was put up in a Mineral school 3rd grad classroom (3) smallerroom down the hall from the lunchroom, later identified as the third grade classroom. What a delight. The school has been closed since the early 2000s, but characters from Looney Tunes were still on the closet doors. I had, however, an elegant bed. This would be my home for the next three days.

Meeting the Community

I have felt quite blessed since this talk was put on the calendar. As part of my visit, Jane planned an evening at Mineral School, partnering the event with the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad Museum. As soon as I was set up in my room and the tables set up, we were off down the road to this museum. As twilight dug in, we found a group of people waiting at the main building. I couldn’t have had a nicer welcome. These were folks from Mineral and surrounding area who care the history of their region and are passionate about not only preserving, but sharing. I learned later a county commissioner was there too. I had no idea what I was getting into here, but soon learned that this collection of buildings are there to tell the story of logging trains in the region. A train runs between this museum and Elbe.

Lady's buckhouse smallerThe main part of the museum was a collection of about six buildings as I recall, each with a theme. Some of the buildings, I learned, came from Camp 6 which used to be at Point Defiance in Tacoma, WA. Some of them were on runners, so they could be moved around. Others were moved by train. One I thought interesting was one for the ladies (c. 1940s) They worked in the mess hall. They had only beds, IMG_0894a radio and shower. Wood crates were their living room furniture as they were never there except to sleep. As we took off for where the trains were housed and worked, we passed two huge donkey engines in the near dark. I’ve always seen pictures of them, but not up close. They’re huge! Finally, we entered the big barns that housed massive engines used for logging. I knew the types –Shay and Climax – but never seen real ones. Again, very impressive collection.  You must visit.


A toast

Mineral School lunch with partyMy first evening in Mineral ended with a little party back in the lunchroom. Many came from the museum tour, others joined in from Morton where I would be the next day. What an honor.

Finally, the guests left and I had some time to absorbed all I learned that night. As I returned from the girl’s room down the hall and settled into bed for the night, I knew that I had fallen in love with Mineral.

More on the talks and other events on the next day in the next post.



Mineral School lunchroom


2 thoughts on “Finding Mineral Part I

    • I enjoyed meeting you Meilee. What a cool museum. And I now can say I’ve seen a Climax and Shay engine together. Thanks for hosting the tour.

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