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Fall City group preserves stories

A group of volunteers is working to preserve the history of Fall City, one memory at a time.

The non-profit Fall City Historical Society has distributed “Memory Book Workbooks” to Fall City residents, past and present, with the intention of publishing their stories and photos in a book in Nov. 2009.

Remembering the past makes for a bright present and future, said Ruth Pickering, president of the historical society.

“You really want to have that sense of perspective, especially for the newer people as the older ones aren’t with us anymore. There are so many people in Fall City in their 80s and 90s that were born here. A town with that much perspective and that much continuity of people is very rich,” she said.

When you live in Fall City, “you know you’re part of something really special that you can’t find anywhere,” said Cindy Parks, a member of the society’s board. “A lot of these older people will be gone soon.”

But many of their stories will live on.

Since it started passing out the workbooks at no cost last November, the society has gotten 30 back.

“They’ve come back over an incredible range, some with just a story or two, and some with the pages packed,” Pickering said.

Writing prompts such as, “Where did you and your friends hang out as teenagers?” and “Do you have any stories about early businesses on River Street and the changes over the years?” have done much to jog the memories of participants of all ages who have shared anecdotes and photos. Those who fill out the workbooks are also creating a keepsake for their families, as the workbooks are returned to their authors after the historical society scans the photos and makes copies of the writing.

The project has helped the society collect a number of treasures, including photos of a long-gone but legendary downtown confectionary. All items are added to the society’s archives, which are currently housed at the Fall City United Methodist Church.

The historical society launched two years ago following the publication of “Jack’s History of Fall City,” a detailed annal of the township’s past painstakingly researched by longtime resident Jack Kelley and edited by Pickering. While that book is based on primary documents from census polls, cemeteries, schools and other sources that Kelley spent countless hours poring over, the Memory Book will capture more personal views of life back in the day.

“The Memory Book will be a wonderful complement to Jack’s book,” Pickering said.

The Memory Book project is funded in part by a $5,500 Special Projects Grant from King County Heritage 4Culture. The grant also supports summer interns who collect and transcribe oral histories from local people. A separate 4Culture $2,500 Heritage Collection Care Grant will pay for a consultant to make sure the archives are on the right track, Pickering said.

People are welcome to make an appointment to access the reference library, which includes many old photos, school newsletters, phone books and other documents. The archives also contain some unusual, question-raising pieces like an opera cape owned by a member of the enigmatic “Fall City Opera Group.”

“Woodman Hall was used as a theater in the ‘30s or before. The taxes were paid by ‘Fall City Opera Group,’ and we really don’t know who that was,” Pickering explained.

Some community members have tried to donate larger items like antique desks from the old brick Fall City schoolhouse, but space limitations have kept them from being added to the collection.

“We’ve been offered some bigger, bulky things, but we’ve been telling people to hold on to them for now,” Pickering said.

That is, until the society can expand its operation.

The group is also interested in building a Web site that would give the community easy access to their archives.

In the meantime, the society continues to collect memories, and also meets regularly.

• Get in touch with the Fall City Historical Society by calling President Ruth Pickering at (425) 222-6242, or e-mail to fallcityhistorical@juno.com. To participate in the Memory Book project, call Christa Lazenby at (425) 222-6019, e-mail to fallcityhistorical@juno.com, or send a note to P.O. Box 293, Fall City, WA 98024.

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