Hello Fellow Fans of Mattole History!
It’s time for a little catch-up on the current situation of the MVHS.
I sent out a General Update to our email list last October (2014); that long message included the idea of a Mattole History Art Festival, which has not gotten off the ground. And this March, I mailed out a 4-page notification of the good fortune of a new building site being offered to us. All MVHS members should have received that mailing—the one with the photo of the old Rock House, the Knights of Pythias building, and a rough sketch of a new building plan. Also, all members were updated in our Spring newsletter, Now… and Then.
Since we got news of this offer of land on the Petrolia Square in January, 2015, and particularly since our late March Board meeting where we decided that the option of building there downtown (rather than at the Grange location) was best for our Historical Society as well as for the town of Petrolia and for many of our members (though certainly not all), we have been enjoying a new wave of energy. I have been very happy to find myself working amidst a group of a dozen wonderful, interesting, and dedicated people—our new Board. Many others have come forward, also, to ask how they can help. They are not only wanting to help make the new building a reality, but are offering to conduct interviews with old-timers, help organize the present Grange office, throw in their energy in the future on actually building the structure, etc. It is a very welcome wave of community involvement.
There were certainly many arguments for a mid-Valley location (Grange property) for a new building, and several good cases made for simply carrying on as we have been, while digitizing the entire historical collection as quickly as possible, to achieve true fireproof security. However, the people most willing to be involved came forward and agreed upon seizing the opportunity to do something big and good for the whole Valley, based in downtown Petrolia, which would become a “historical town”. Here is our current situation there:
We have held monthly Board meetings in the open air, right there on the Square in Petrolia, but, for various logistical reasons, are skipping the August meeting. In lieu of the gathering, I am sharing, briefly, the news of our progress.
Basically, there are two fronts we are working. One is the building plan. Jeff Hoalton has been given the responsibility of coming up with an initial plan. He is working within the general idea of making a place that fits with a historical Western theme, but is not as expensive as building entirely with natural materials. One of the first considerations is that the building be fire-safe, and of course, in our area, it must be relatively earthquake-safe, and able to withstand some mighty winds and rain. Jeff is particularly desirous of working with some of our elder members, to make sure we enjoy the old-timer seal of approval. So we have a sort of “de facto” building committee in that Jeff says he wants to work closely with Board members Becky Enberg, Francis Sweet, Bob Stansberry, and of course our younger-generation builder on the Board, Kelton Chambers.
The other important work we’re doing is in the paperwork department. We are reviewing by-laws, articles of incorporation, and our non-profit 501(c)3 status. We have also added new official signers to our Coast Central Credit Union account, and opened a special savings account named the Building Fund. The officers we have named for these official purposes are Dyan Damron, Treasurer; Ken Young, Secretary; Laura Cooskey, Director/President (I really dislike that latter label, and have been assured that in general, my duties will be more along the lines of Historian–focussing on preserving and enlarging our actual store of historical information; for that reason, we have a new position, Connie’s, as follows); Connie Thunman, General Coordinator; and Cindy Lyman, Corresponding Secretary. These five, plus the five listed in the paragraph above, and two more Board members, Ellen Taylor and Bob Stansberry, make up our Board of 12 members.
We have discussed all the things we have to do at great length, and finally achieved some clarity with the realization that we can’t get the cart before the horse; things must go in a certain order, and I believe we are focussed on the necessary first steps now. The general order will be:
- Get a rough plan going, including site issues such as water, septic, utilities, and access.
- Meantime, establish our legal legitimacy as a non-profit corporation with the sorts of paperwork described above; basically, this means getting our own 501(c)3.
- Finalize the plans, including the phases needing permits, with Board approval.
- Make sure the lease agreement is legally tight and approved by the Board.
- Apply for initial permits.
- Apply for grants and fundraise in many other ways.
- The fun part—get to work on the site and the building!
It’s never too early to start gathering funds, however; feel free to mail a contribution to the Building Fund of the Mattole Valley Historical Society, acct. #104881, at the Coast Central Credit Union, 2650 Harrison Ave., Eureka, CA, 95501.
I put out my feelers for a weatherproof box to put on the signpost on the Square, and Joyce Benton of Capetown came through. There is now a stack of information sheets about the MVHS, including a plea for donations, in that plastic box hanging below our sign.
But note that since we don’t have our new non-profit number, you won’t yet be able to claim your donation as a tax write-off. (For years, we were umbrella’d under the Mattole Valley Community Center’s non-profit status. I don’t know that anyone ever used that status or the number for it, and I’m afraid I don’t even know the official number of that 501(c)3. But not to worry; our capable new Treasurer, Dyan Damron, is working on our new number, and I will let you all know when it’s ready.)
Members who pay dues should know that unless we are expressly told otherwise, from now on, whenever anyone pays their dues with a particularly generous contribution, anything over $50 will automatically go into the Building Fund. The usual dues amount paid is $20 per membership/subscription; we frequently get a bit extra from particularly grateful or interested members, and if our checking account gets up to where we’re unnecessarily storing cash there, we transfer it to Savings. Now, of course, we’ll transfer it to the Building Fund.
Slowly it goes, but it goes. Meantime I seem to have a bit more time for this blog; and my next real focus as Historian will be to set in motion a series of interviews with some of our elders. There are several “old-school” old-timers we need to talk with; and a whole crop of “newcomer” back-to-the-landers who are over 70 and, if we are not premature, well worthy of in-depth interviews. Some people like the idea of video recordings of the sessions—Living History, as they say—and others prefer the old-fashioned notes-and-essay form. We do have one eager young woman who would like to put together a collection of written interviews in the form of a new Mattole history book, and will be meeting with her next week. Please let me know if you’d like to be interviewed, or know any others whom we shouldn’t overlook!
Yet there is also the organizing and digitizing of our collection. That is surely the best bet against any threats to our photos and other paper archives. Therefore, I will try to set a regular day a week, at least, to clear up and organize our present Grange office, and to start scanning and saving as quickly as possible. Several people have offered to help with that, but I don’t yet have a system in place. I would like to use a mounted camera over a table, such as Greg Rumney uses for photographs, rather than a traditional copier-scanner—and we don’t have a camera set-up yet. It would save an immense amount of time in scanning such a great amount of material, not to have to save each image separately while re-positioning items upside-down on a small screen.
So there is a general idea of what’s up with the Mattole Valley Historical Society lately. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions or would like to get involved—or of course, to sign up for a membership, which includes the twice-yearly newsletter, Now… and Then.
Please mark this change, also, somewhere in your files: All previously listed phone numbers will not work! Since I am living in Arcata now, and the office at the Mattole Grange does not have its own phone, the best way to reach the MVHS is by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; by writing to us at PO Box 144, Petrolia, CA, 95558; or by calling me, Laura, at 707-840-6044, or my cell phone, 707-601-7300. Thank you all for your enthusiasm!