The two large, uniformly stacked piles of rock marking a driveway on Mill Creek Road have been a mystery to many passersby, including Walla Wallan Joe Drazan, a retired Whitman College librarian.
In response to a delightful vintage photo shared in this column on Nov. 13 of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp once sited at that very spot and a bit of personal history by Robert "Bob" Jamison, 92, Joe just had to solve the question as to what those pylons signified.
The rocks marked the entrance to the Walla Walla CCC camp, one of 13 in the Lewiston District, that was four miles east of town and operated from November 1935-1939.
Current pylon owners are Ed and Nilda Williams, with whom Joe visited recently. "He, too, is very interested in these rocks and willing to share and learn more about them," Joe said.
The Williamses bought the property 10 years ago and knew little about the pylons, Joe said.
They found a website that shows one of the structures after it was built, complete with a builder sitting alongside.
Brothers Harold Claude and Fred Wesley Osborn built the pair, according to online information at bit.ly/YazGVJ. They signed up with the CCC and left their Thayer, Kan., farm to serve.
"They ended up on a cattle car in December, going to Walla Walla, Washington, to work on project SCS 4 as members of Company 1761," an unidentified son wrote online.
"My dad and his brother constructed the two monuments, which flanked the entrance to the camp. As they put the monument together, Harold worked on the outside and Fred worked on the inside.
"When they got near the top they realized that Fred couldn't get out ... so they removed some of the stones from the front, so that Fred could get out, and they then cemented the area back in, and used it for the placement of the information sign. The next monument, on the other side of the entrance road was done the same way, on purpose."
Walla Walla camp corpsmen worked a nearby quarry to provide rock for CCC projects.
They were also involved in soil and water conservation issues. An erosion control project involved a large area in the Mill and Russell Creek Drainage basins.
They gathered black locust tree seed for planting in nurseries in other regions; built check dams of baled straw and wire, poles, planks and rock; sloped gully banks and constructed diversion ditches; and through rodent control measures, "greatly lessened the damage done by pocket gophers."
They also seeded alfalfa, clover and grasses in gullies and other places.
Numbering about 150, these young men also helped out in town on occasion.
Bob's blog, www.wallawalladrazanphotos.blogspot.com/, includes a newspaper clipping showing the 140 young men who "made a big hit with merchants and downtown property owners recently by removing large quantities of snow from the streets," according to the photo caption.
"When Mayor Dorsey Hill saw a chance to reward them for their service, he had Police Judge McKinney 'sentence' Jack Wright, theatre manager, to admit the company to a special performance which took place this morning at the Liberty."
Vitart Studio, a going concern for many years locally, took two photos, published under the heading, "CCC Enrollees Help Dispense Justice."
The camp was fairly self-sufficient. Its 28 structures included one solely dedicated to bathing, shaving and washing and "each enrollee is encouraged to take a daily bath," the U-B reported in 1937. Another was for pressing and laundry; and the library in a repurposed barracks held reading tables, a new lighting system and bookshelves.
Its denizens were encouraged to beautify the grounds, so bordered their barracks with lawns and flowers, built a goldfish pond, kept rabbits, hogs and racing pigeons and grew vegetables in their garden.
They even had a pet cinnamon bear named Sonny. It had a considerable range as its tether was attached to an overhead wire, the U-B reported.
When the camp was dismantled, some buildings were moved intact to a Stubblefield home resident agricultural center.
Some of them were made into a recreation center and the Boy Scouts asked to use the officers quarters as an overnight or weekend camp, according to a photo caption in the U-B, presumably in 1939.
Color her flushed with success. Really. Pun intended. Walla Wallan Sarita McCaw, 81, is on a one-woman mission to round up heaps and piles of toilet tissue. As she's pretty good at it, she's crowned herself "Queen of Toilet Paper."
When AARP's Create the Good newsletter asked readers to share their traditions of holiday service, they didn't know the "Queen" herself would be in touch about the project.
But they jumped all over the story in a blog post, because Sarita has quietly been amassing pallets of the stuff to help struggling families through Helpline.
"Why toilet paper, you ask? Despite being a core necessity, TP is not eligible for purchase with food stamps. It's also often in low supply at donation centers and is surprisingly expensive - placing a heavy burden on the food banks, aid centers and shelters that constantly strive to meet community needs," AARP blogged.
Sarita became aware of the situation through Helpline where she's volunteered for years and her church pantry.
Initially, she bought TP wholesale, but sought a way to cut the cost even more. Janitorial supply business Crown Paper agreed to sell pallets of the tissue at cost, which means a savings of $300-plus per pallet.
She took it to another level by having friends and family exchange TP donations instead of gifts and involved the greater community.
"Since last December, she's helped fund five TP pallets (of 2,400 rolls each) and is well on the way to a sixth. Helpline Executive Director Daniel Willms could not be more grateful. 'We're wiping out poverty one roll at a time,'" he quipped.
For the cause Sarita has been known to wear a TP crown when seeking donations. Her personal thank you notes to donors arrive on the inner tube of toilet paper rolls.
"When you get to be 80, you can have fun with what you're doing," she told AARP.
She recommends looking for "one thing you can do, rather than trying to solve all of the problems in your town. Ask what you would hate to be without, and see if you can be part of the solution."
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at email@example.com or 526-8313.