Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heritage: Finding Sites in Connell

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON - While I have visited the town of Connell in central Washington state (that's Eastern Washington to people on "the coast") a number of times in my life, I have usually been passing through on my own or with relatives who never actually lived there. On the other hand, as a site central to the lives of each of my paternal grandparents, I had heard plenty of stories about the town. There had always been a bit of a disconnect, as I was not certain where events I had heard about took place. When I had the chance to visit Connell with my grandmother last week, I was able to learn some of the actual locations and connect the dots.

All that remains of the old high school in Connell, Washington was the former gym, apparently used for storage on 15-June-2010

Perhaps my biggest confusion came from the location of the high school. Today, Connell High School is located on a hill west of town, and the other grades of school are also moving to the same hill. My grandparents had always described the high school as "on the hill," but it wasn't the same hill. The high school of the first half of the 20th century in Connell was located east of downtown. When my grandmother and I explored last week, we found that only the old gym remained; there was no sign of the other school buildings. Considering that the school dances were held in the gym and my great-grandfather had worked out of that gym as the janitor, I'm not sure a better remnant could have survived.

The one-time Klinger's Hall in Connell, Washington had been the site of the non-school dances in the town during the Depression, observed on 15-June-2010

Dances at the school had restrictions on them, so a number of social events took place instead in the downtown area at a place that was once called Klinger's Hall. My grandmother could remember walking up the long set of steps to the second floor of this building, which still stands, for dances on Saturday night.

This parking lot was once the location of a gas station owned by one of my great uncles, observed in Connell, Washington on 15-June-2010

One thing I had tried to figure out in the past was the location of a gas station that had been run by a great-uncle for a time. Based on descriptions relative to the railroad station and houses, I thought it was on one of two lots that currently are parking lots, but wondered if I was correct because there was a long-closed gas station across the street and a couple other sites that appeared to be former gas stations in town. My grandmother verified that the stories had been told correctly, and the gas station was on the parking lot pictured above.

There's a lot of value in oral histories, but sometimes it isn't easy to match them with the physical world. A chance to travel through Connell, Washington settled many of the discrepancies for me in the oral histories of my family.

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