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Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saving former school a big project for small town

June 1, 2008

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— Graduating seniors of high school in Stark may have moved over the years, but the ties have not waned.

In the last 15 years some have made donations and others have donated both time and money to the project of renovating their former school, which is now known at Grant Community Building, on the west side of the small Neosho County community.

"What we've done is pretty monumental," said Arthena Massoth, member of Class of 1953 who commutes from Leavenworth to help with the refurbishing.

Looking around the room that had to have seven or eight layers of paint removed from the walls, Massoth noted 11 volunteers had showed up that day to work.

"We need for some of the alumni to see the building is looking wonderful," she said.

In June of 1929, Odin Dunham, Class of 1928, turned the first clod of dirt to start the new high school building. Taylor of Chanute dug the basement with horse-drawn slips to remove the dirt. The Class of 1930 spent its final semester in the new high school.

The gymnasium was built in 1942, a WPA project. In the 1946-47 school year, Savonburg and Grant consolidated. During the 1959-60 school year, Hepler and Walnut came to Grant High School and in 1960 the school was called Joint Rural, eventually joining District 101. High school was held until the end of the school year 1966-67. Grade school was held in the building through the 1985-1986 school year.

In 1993 a group of alumni, part of more than 400 members, formed a committee to renovate the high school that was rapidly falling into disrepair and becoming an eyesore.

"If you want a building to last, you have to take care of it," Massoth said.

But that wasn't easy.

"We walked into a mess," said Joe Harding, from California, who is retired and spends some time back in Kansas. "I've seen messes, but this takes the cake," chimed in Oralee Beggs.

"If not for Oralee I'm not sure it would have been redeemable," Massoth said of the building. "It's now a thriving community center."

"It's great," Beggs said.

Seniors walk at the facility, a number of groups meet there and family reunions, wedding receptions, birthdays, etc., are held there.

Volunteers took on the challenge of a new roof and raised $30,000 in three months to replace the leaky building cover.

One of the latest projects was a $3,500 exhaust fan installed in the gymnasium. Murals painted on the gymnasium walls were done by Massoth's daughter.

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