Mattole Valley Community Center Hosting Gala to Celebrate 40 Years

This is a press release from the Mattole Valley Community Center:

A Gala event celebrating an important moment in the history of the lower Mattole Valley will take place on Saturday, August 4th, at the Mattole Valley Community Center near downtown Petrolia. It is, in fact the community center itself that will be honored.

It was in August of l978, 40 years ago, that a large contingent of local residents plucked the old Mattole Union school building off the foundation where it had served the children of our community with great success since it had been built in 1906 right after the ’06 earthquake.

The fear that future earthquakes might render old school buildings throughout California dangerous to students had forced the State legislature to pass an earthquake safety bill. The Mattole Union School Board was required to replace the existing building even though the old wood frame structure was perfectly sound. They sold it for a nominal  $100 to a newly formed non-profit organization, the Mattole Valley Community Center Inc (MVCC)

Meanwhile, members of the new organization had managed to buy a large lot immediately across the road from the school. A site on the lot was chosen for the building and cleared. Then, on that historic weekend, the old building was placed on peeler cores (very straight logs stripped of limbs and bark) and literally pushed across the road by a small loader driven by a 14 year old valley equipment operator (who, at 54  years old, will be in attendance). There are legends still repeated around the valley of loaded logging trucks standing patiently by on the Mattole Road behind signs that warned, SLOW SCHOOL CROSSING as the 50 foot long structure rolled across the road—slowly.

Once across, the building was temporarily set up on posts and perched above the location where the new, permanent cement foundation was to be poured a few weeks later. Plumbing and water hookups followed and in the spring of 1979, the first of what has become a prodigious number of public events—performances, classes, concerts, weddings, public meetings, dances, workshops, art shows, baby blessings, memorials et al—were held.

Thus after 72 years of service to generations of students, the grand old building had taken on a new role equally important to the well-being of our community. And it’s capacities grew and continues to grow as the community dedicates itself to improvements of many kinds.

The celebration on August 4th will start off at noon with a parade around the town square led by the Mattole Marching and Stumbling Brass Band. The parade will feature the Parade Queen, the lovely 95 year old Ruth Rathbun, who was there the day the building was first moved. Also featured will be the Parade Princess, Joyful Raven, who happened to be attending her own birth elsewhere in Petrolia that day.

Events and activities scheduled for after the march include

a comedy show starring local kids, a sing along with the Mattole Valley Singers and storytelling about the founding days. Food, including barbequed beef, lamb and goat, will be served after the parade.  Beer, wine and soft drinks will be on sale as well as desserts.

We urge old friends and new to come help us remember  and honor our cherished memories of this building that has served us so long and so well.



  • This will be a great day!
    The irony of the earthquake-unsafe condemnation of the school building was that it served as headquarters of relief efforts–meals, public services, first aid, etc.–following the 1992 triple earthquakes.

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