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The Vaughn High School football team in 1937. Photo courtesy of KP Historical Society

The original Vaughn High School, constructed in stages beginning in 1906, had come to the end of its serviceable life by 1955. At least, that’s what the Peninsula School District thought when it was put up for sale.

Key Peninsula residents wanted to save the historic building. The district wanted $8,100 in cash.

The community met to gather support to buy the building for use as a community center. A substantial portion of the price had to be pledged in time for the October school board meeting. Ollie Whitmore, elected as chairman of the organizing committee, would present their proposal.

Eager volunteers contributed to various fundraising efforts, but they were short more than $7,500 as the due date loomed.

Whitmore convinced his banker to loan him the balance, confident the community would pay him back. They did, and the Whitmore Room was named in his honor as a thank-you for his generous spirit.

The Key Peninsula Civic Center Association (KPCCA) was incorporated April 10, 1956, and sale papers were signed April 18.

The original citizens’ board that created the KPCCA included Dulcie Schillinger, Clint Buckell, Rich Hall, Don Olson and several others. Volunteers from the whole peninsula contributed to dinners, dances, variety shows, card parties, bingo games, fishing derbies and Fourth of July firework stands to raise funds to pay off their loan from Whitmore, as well as to maintain the facility.

“They were work and fun rolled into one and they melded the community together in a common effort to afford a place for the veterans, grangers, Boy and Girl Scouts, basketball and baseball teams to meet and play at the lowest and most affordable cost,” wrote secretary Dulcie Schillinger in her unpublished record of the KPCCA history, now held at KP Historical Society museum.

A final work party in June 1956 finished painting and cleaned the kitchen to prepare for the dedication dinner and dance. KPCCA board members hauled tables, chairs and dishes from wherever they could borrow them.

Invitations were sent to dignitaries and guests. The 750 attendees included U.S. Sen. Henry M. Jackson, Attorney General Don Eastvold with wife and four children, and Assistant Attorney General Lloyd Baker. Other guests included Pierce County commissioners, the superintendent of roads, the Peninsula Light Co. president, the Peninsula School Board chairman, the mayor of Gig Harbor and the vice mayor of Tacoma.

E. L. “Tiny” Reynolds, Clint Buckell, Ernie Anderson and others set up a barbecue pit on the front lawn to grill 700 chickens, while Bob Tachell filled four new garbage cans with coleslaw.

In 1957, $500 from the sale of the old library hall—the previous site of community meetings and activities in Vaughn—was contributed as a trusteeship and paid for a room for the library. Glencove Hall contributed its sale price to a room for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

KPCCA had its final mortgage burning celebration Feb. 26, 1960.

The board continues to honor one of its early goals of nurturing and supporting the larger Key Peninsula community by discounting about $11,000 per month on facility rentals for youth and nonprofit organizations, according to Patricia Ghiossi, marketing and facilities coordinator for the civic center. Free use or reduced rates account for much more than money collected, she said.

Volunteers donate an average of over 350 hours per month. Additional volunteers are always welcome, and grants from various organizations have made building improvements possible. But monetary donations and participation in fundraisers is what maintains the civic center.

Since its inception, it has taken the whole community to maintain and improve a facility that exists to benefit all who live on the Key Peninsula.

This is the second of a two-part article; you can read Part I here.

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