Thursday, June 22, 2017

Class project recreates Great Wall

Pilot Rock Elementary School teacher Glen Dyer didn’t mess around when teaching his students about geography. In May of 1995, Dyer’s sixth grade glass finished a recreation of one of the seven modern wonders of the world using a very tasty building material.

Amidst a papier-mâché landscape, students used more than 2,000 sugar cubes to recreate the Great Wall of China in their classroom, and topography challenges abounded. “You have a river right here and a valley right here and you have to build between them,” said Andy Anderson, 11, while pointing out features of the class project, which took almost a year to build. The class was given little more than building materials and a map, and Dyer left the students to suss out dimensions, craft the landscape and glue together thousands of sugar cubes along the humps and bumps of their painted terrain.

Andy Anderson, far right, talks about a class project to recreate the Great Wall of China in this May 24, 1995 East Oregonian photo

Students worked in teams on the eight-foot-long project, assembling the wall in segments before linking them together. At times, they said, it seemed like their structure took as long to build as the Chinese counterpart, which spans 4,000 miles and took 1,200 years to build, beginning in the 5th Century B.C. “If you didn’t get something glued in the right place, you had to tear it all down,” said Jennifer McLean, 12. “It was frustrating at times.”

The project was not the first for students of Glen Dyer. Other classes built a replica of the Nile River, and created balloon rockets and water-powered bridges, among other things. “I like to see them discover it on their own,” Dyer said. “I don’t want to give them anything that says, ‘Make it my way.’ There are many ways to do it.”

Along with creativity and construction skills, students used applied math and science to build the wall, and social studies and English while exploring the reasons why the Great Wall was built and writing formal reports on the project.

China’s Great Wall was originally built as a tribute to the country’s strength, but successive generations extended the wall to keep out invaders. The wall is wide enough for 10 people standing shoulder to shoulder or six people on horseback.

“It’s a pretty good idea because it paid off,” Anderson said. “It kept everybody out and kept in their own religion and culture. It kept them from the outside world.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chicken dinner lures lumber industry to Pilot Rock

Al Moltke, one of the founders of the Pilot Rock Lumber Company, wrote a booklet about the early history of the company for a union get-together in 1954. He told Virgil Rupp of the East Oregonian in a June 1977 interview that it was a chicken dinner in the “wild and wooly cowtown” of Ukiah that brought him, Elmer Kerns and R.B. Fields from Wenatchee, Wash., to Eastern Oregon in 1939.

The three men, who worked for Wenatchee Box Corporation, were looking for a new field of operations because their timber supply was running out. Kerns had already made an initial trip to the area near Pilot Rock, and reported that not only was there a stand of virgin timber worth drooling over, the cattle also roamed the area in grass up to their bellies. Moltke took a look with Kerns in the fall of 1939, and liked what he saw. But it was the 50-cent all-you-can-eat chicken dinners in Ukiah that sealed the deal for Fields.

Moltke was a little disappointed with Pilot Rock at first, however. He was expecting “a picturesque Columbia River port,” not realizing that the rock for which the town was named was a stony butte that had been used as a landmark for early settlers.

But the forests impressed the trio, and Kerns set about tying up 300 million feet of timber that Merritt Griswold and the Eastern Oregon Timber Syndicate had tried to exploit as early as 1906 but gave up on during World War I. And while the 55-mile haul over Battle Mountain was a daunting prospect, Moltke envisioned a day when big diesel trucks and trailers would solve the problem.

The Wenatchee men negotiated with Newt Toyer, Rupe Erwin and George Carnes to develop a mill site in Pilot Rock, which broke ground Feb. 19, 1940, and opened June 19, just four months later. The Kerns Co. remanufacturing plant opened in June 1943 to make ammunition boxes for WWII. It converted to peacetime commodities such as ironing boards and furniture parts at the end of the war in 1945.

The original mill is still in operation today, under the ownership of Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weston hotel destroyed in tragic fire

The Hotel Royal in Weston was destroyed April 30, 1911, when a mysterious fire broke out in the early morning hours. Several nearby businesses were damaged in the blaze, and one guest staying at the hotel later died from his injuries.

The owner of the Hotel Royal, J.N. Klein, and his family were asleep in the hotel when the fire started at around 2 a.m. Klein first awoke to the sound of falling glass and rushed to his office, which was totally consumed in flames. After getting his wife and younger son to safety, he stood at the bottom of the staircase and shouted to awake his older son and two guests who were sleeping on the second floor, but they later told him they did not hear him. All three were able to escape the flames, but were injured in the process.

Klein’s son fashioned a rope out of bedsheets and was lowering himself to the ground when the knots slipped and he fell, injuring himself on broken glass. He was also burned on the face and hands. A guest at the hotel, Eph Williams, also attempted to lower himself from a second floor window on a makeshift rope that failed, and he broke his hip when he landed. He also sustained a head injury in the fall, and later died from his injuries. In the excitement, none of the three staying on the second floor made use of ropes left in each of the rooms for the purpose of escaping a fire.

Local fire crews and Weston residents rushed to the scene to help quell the fire, but by the time they arrived the blaze was too well established, and wooden buildings near the hotel also caught fire. The heat was so intense that windows and glass doors were broken on nearby businesses. The Hotel Royal was completely destroyed, and five other businesses were damaged.

The local baseball team was part of the firefighting efforts, and worked until almost prostrate with fatigue to subdue the fire. But when they contacted the Walla Walla team the next morning in an attempt to cancel a planned game, the Walla Walla team refused.

Klein temporarily moved his hotel business a few blocks up the street to the Marshall building, which he had previously leased as an annex to his hotel. Klein rebuilt his hotel, christening it the New Hotel Royal, but sold the business in December 1911 and moved his family to Los Angeles in July of 1912 to work in the brick yard business.