Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California
Remembrances of the Famous
"Schoolhouse Move" of 1992
By Ginny Salisbury
By the year 1990, the Twentynine Palms Historical Society was desperately in need of a building for its museum. The current museum had outgrown its cramped space at city hall and the donated artifacts and historical memorabilia were piling up! At about this time, historical society board members and the public learned that the local school district was going to tear down the old grammar school off Utah Trail, near Luckie Park. It was hidden and wedged in behind Morongo Unified School District administrative offices.
Bill Holmes, historical society board member, brought up the idea of the feasibility of asking the district for the old schoolhouse. The board decided to look into the matter. Bill and Gene Ludwig, then president of the historical society, met with school officials and it was ultimately decided the society could take possession of the building, provided it was moved within two years and at historical society expense.
After discussing the pros and cons of moving and restoring the schoolhouse, as opposed to erecting a whole new facility, the board voted to undertake the former enormous challenge. To be sure, those board members desired, above all else, to save the beloved building that held so many sentimental ties and fond memories.
The board knew, to execute this job, it would need the support of the people in terms of volunteer labor and of course, money. To this end a steering committee was formed chaired by Jim Bagley. Other vital members to make it all work were Paul Hoffman, Max and Christine Proudfoot, Faye Bouldin, George Morang, Gene Ludwig, Bill Holmes, and Donna Tower Schutz. Architect for the project was Fred Noel.
The committee met weekly at the Inn and often at the Proudfoot home. It was a very lively, hard working and dedicated group. Indeed, many discussions were hotly debated. What fun! What agony! Make no mistake, it was truly a labor of love. The entire town and even people basin-wide worked in countless ways to make the museum a reality.
And who could forget the selling of those little gold lapel "foot pins" for a dollar or more, symbolic of moving the schoolhouse a "foot-at-a-time."
Remember the first fund-raiser at Donna Schutz’s place, the Tower homestead? And what about the steak fry at J.B. and Lois Carrol’s home? Just two of the great fun times that earned "dough-re-me" toward the project.
Finally, with the necessary money to make the move, Bill Holmes put out moving bids. Bill Forman and his Allied Heavy Moving crew from Bloomington, California, did the job for the sum of $22,000.
Imagine the Herculean task of moving a 3,000 square foot, building in one piece, two miles! It was said from a reliable source that those movers could place a glass of water on a table and the glass would still be full at the end of the move!
It was decided to make the long awaited move, April 4, 1992. Board members then wondered if Huell Howser, KCET Television out of Los Angeles, would air the move on his "California’s Gold" series. One of the committee members made the call. At first, Huell said he was sorry but could not at that time. However, after hearing and learning about the tremendous community effort behind the project and the love the people of Twentynine Palms had for the building, he said, "Yes, I’ll be there!"
Sure enough, on the appointed day and time, Gene Ludwig spotted Huell and his cameraman, Luis Fuentes, in the crowd at Utah Trail. They began filming the activity and interviewing on-lookers immediately. Cal-Trans and the Citizen Patrol were crucial for a successful move. They were there!
The assembled crowd was truly amazed at seeing the old schoolhouse slowly lifted and loaded onto the wheeled conveyance. Once the building was secure, a smart looking Marine Color Guard, that Max Proudfoot had recruited from the base, led the procession. Moms, Dads, kids, dogs, well-wishers, and anything or anybody that could move up Utah Trail, followed the schoolhouse as it was so tenderly moved. And, of course, the Twentynine Palms High School band played their lively rendition of "California Here I come." Oh, what a sight! Happy Day! But there was one memorable and nail-biting stretch after the building platform crossed south on highway 62 and had to make a tight right-angle turn westward onto National Park Drive then past Blessed Sacrament Church (must have been a couple of guardian angles squeezing it along.)
After the otherwise smooth journey, the schoolhouse was carefully placed at its new home at Cottonwood Drive and Inn Avenue. A short program ensued with brief speeches by Mayor Fred Libby and others, followed by enthusiastic applause. The part of the program that is perhaps best remembered was Don Malone’s reading of a poem written by former school chum, Don LePage, shortly before his death. He had asked Don to someday, when the time was right, read the poem: It is called "Desert Kids." A perfect way to conclude a most beautiful day!
Almost three months after the "move" on June 28, 1992 at 4:57 a.m. the great Landers earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.3 roared through the basin. After the severe shaking stopped and daylight appeared, a board member made a frantic phone call to Faye Bouldin, who lived within one-quarter mile of the schoolhouse. The caller asked, "Faye, is the schoolhouse still standing?"
"Yes. It is still there!" replied Faye.
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