Building the Community Center

by Bill Goebner

The "old timers" of Kings Mountain know how our Community Center - Fire House was built but many of the newer members of our community don't have any concept of what it took to build it.

I missed the first year or two while the foundation was being built, but participated in the framing, electrical, heating, flooring and roofing of it. It seems that we spent almost every Sunday as a community group pounding nails or whatever it took to create the "masterpiece" that John Cole designed.

Shingling Party at the Firehouse, circa 1967

John Cole, the architect, was a major driving force in the creation of the community center. Not only did he design it, but also spent countless hours building it too. He organized the work parties and among many other things, built the window frames and the original tables, which are no longer in existence. In fact the tables that replaced the ones that he built are now themselves being replaced.

His wife, Jean Cole, was the first Art Fair chairman and for 20 years coordinated and nurtured it into what it is now. As I remember, the first year, when it was held at the red barn across from Bear Gulch East, we took in about $50 for a profit of $35 after expenses. The first year that it was held at our community center, we made about $2000. We thought, wow, how could we top that? We did the next year, making about $7,000. The year after that we made over $20,000. As amazing as it was, the year after that, we made much more.

Getting back to building the building

Because we had more talent and energy than money, we scrounged building materials wherever we could. According to Bob McEwen, most of the studs came from the highway 380 project that was discontinued. The original flooring came from the Merchant Marine Academy, which later became the College of San Mateo (CSM) at Coyote Point. The lighting, which still exists upstairs in the main room also came from CSM.

When it was time for sheetrock, we negotiated with the bank which owned a bankrupt building near Skyline and Kings Mountain Road, to give us the sheetrock which had been piled up waiting to be installed in exchange for cleaning up the trash that had been created by "hippies" who had been living in the unfinished building. They had carved fire pits into the piles of sheetrock and had used the elevator shaft as a toilet.

At that time, we owned a 2 ½  ton surplus army truck, which we used to carry the trash to Purisima Canyon where the road was being repaired to facilitate logging, We were able to dump all of the trash in an area that was later covered by the road construction, rain or shine, while the builders were building, the cookers were cooking. We had many hot meals for lunch which were provided by Ruth Harder, Joyce Polacek, Dot McClary, Mary Cook, Lee Raynor and many others.

The first art fair at our Community Center-Fire House was held before there was a roof or finished walls. I remember for many years staying overnight with Bill Barrows guarding the paintings and the pottery, etc.