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Turning back time

History center will bring frontier back to life
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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History can often be a dull, dry subject with lots of memorization of facts and dates. But building a living history center and making history come alive is what Bruce Waymire is passionate about. His vision of a place where students can experience pioneer life will soon become a reality as he completes the Franklin Living History Center located next to the new Franklin Community Park. “I see this center as my legacy, my life’s work in education,” said Waymire, a Franklin Elementary School eighth-grade teacher. The Loomis Union School District has placed Waymire on special assignment for the remainder of the school year to finish the center he’s been working on since 2001. Waymire said the center was initially started to “give eighth-grade students the chance to experience first-hand some of the hardships and challenges of the frontier life.” The site features a log cabin, garden, outdoor brick oven, totem poles and a blacksmithing area. Waymire also has a teepee and a Gold Rush-era canvas tent that will be set up. Paul Johnson, Loomis district superintendent, explained that the center is “kind of like having a Sutter’s Fort experience right here in Loomis.” Johnson said the district hopes the center will be a place where students can experience history and called Waymire “an extraordinary talent” and “really gifted” in his knowledge and passion for history. As a preview, the district is offering Pioneer Days programs in May for fourth-graders. Students will participate in outdoor cooking, blacksmithing, rope and broom making, gardening, butter churning and woodworking. They’ll also experience traditional storytelling and folk music and learn about Native Americans. Over the years students have helped create the Living History Center. They’ve worked on the cabin, carved and painted four totem poles, farmed the land and even participated in blacksmithing. Eighth-graders have raised historic crops such as Mandan bride corn, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans and broom corn at the site. The students then made brooms from the corn, which have been sold at Franklin School dinner auctions. Franklin eighth-grader Quentin Baldwin, 13, has spent time helping Waymire at the Living History Center. Quentin said he split logs with a sledge hammer and wedges and the resulting pieces of wood were used to make a split-rail fence. “It’s great for teaching how life was in the 1700s and 1800s. Building the fence was pretty fun. It’s a nice activity if you want to build something,” he said. For the last few years, students have been building the 10-foot by 12-foot log cabin and its stone fireplace and chimney. According to Waymire, the cabin is similar to one Abraham Lincoln grew up in, and though small in size, could have housed an entire pioneer family. “The center has been about the journey, not just to have it finished, but for kids to use their own hands and get in the skin of a pioneer,” Waymire said. “Everything is instant for kids today. They don’t have to worry about being attacked by hostiles, where their next meal is coming from or how to grow or raise that meal. Most don’t know what hard work is.” Waymire has relied on donations to build the center. He recently received a $500 grant from Sierra Pacific Foundation to purchase rough lumber at a discount through Homewood Lumber. The boards represent the last “ingredients” needed to complete the cabin. Initially, Waymire received donations of pine logs from Wetzel Oviate Lumber Company in El Dorado Hills. The Franklin Parent Teacher Club purchased books and a blacksmith anvil for the center, while the Soroptimist Club of Rocklin-Loomis provided a donation to purchase fabric for period costumes. Loomis/Rocklin Rotary gave the funds to create a map-making/orienteering unit that included the purchase of equipment. Waymire hopes the hands-on program he created will allow students to see the “dreams and aspirations” of pioneers. He wants the center to “give them a snapshot of what that (pioneer life) looked like.” “This gives you a better understanding of how far we’ve come.” Waymire is currently looking for volunteer docents for the center and help with finishing the cabin. For more information, e-mail him at bwaymire@loomis-usd.k12.ca.us or call 652-1818.