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BACK IN OPERATION Johnston City Scout Cabin reopens after repairs

  • The Johnston City Scout Cabin, originally built by the WPA, has been renovated and is back in operation.

    The Johnston City Scout Cabin, originally built by the WPA, has been renovated and is back in operation.
    Holly Kee photo

  • After having to hold meetings at a local business, the Johnston City Council  moved back to the Scout Cabin on Tuesday.

    After having to hold meetings at a local business, the Johnston City Council moved back to the Scout Cabin on Tuesday.
    Holly Kee photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 9/15/2018 12:07 AM

MARION -- It's been nearly 81 years since members of the Works Progress Administration, touted as the largest and most ambitious of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs, built the Johnston City Scout Cabin.

Briefly renamed as the "Johnston City Community Center," the building has been closed for several months for repairs.

With those repairs now complete, the building reopened earlier this week with a Boy Scout meeting on Monday and the City Council meeting back on Tuesday.

"I think it's kind of fitting that our first meeting back is on 9/11," said Mayor Jim Mitchell. "It's kind of like the phoenix rising from the ashes."

Mitchell said the repairs were extensive.

"There wasn't an ounce of insulation in the building," he said. "It's now insulated and has new double-pane windows."

Crews tore out the floor, replacing it with a new concrete floor and wood tiles. The bathrooms have been completely overhauled and it now has a full kitchen.

"We went to Bi-County (Health Department) and made sure it would pass their requirements," said Mitchell.

Mitchell said while some citizens have complained about the renovation costs, he and the council felt the project was worthwhile.

"We can be proud of it," he said. "I ought to be a pretty good little building."

Alderman Al Peebels agreed.

"There's a million reasons to keep it," he said, "starting with the fact that it's a historic building."

Peebels said the building was originally "largely funded by the WPA and the local Boy Scouts worked hard" to help.

Willie West was one of those scouts.

West, now 95 and living in West Frankfort, is the last surviving member of Von Davison's troop that helped in the fundraising effort.

"I don't remember how much we raised," he said, explaining that the troop sold tickets to the Williamson County Fair for the project.

"I do remember that I sold more than anybody because I had an advantage," he said with a grin.

West had a paper route and he said nearly every customer bought tickets.

Mitchell said he was told that over 5,000 people attended the dedication of the building in 1937.

"We're planning to hold another dedication soon," he said. "I hope we can do that again."

The Scout Cabin will have its first big event tomorrow (Saturday) as the meeting place for the Touch a Truck event.

That event, spearheaded by JC Police Chief Will Stark, is being conducted to raise funds to complete the Mike Dean Memorial Park.

Dean, the son of Jimmy and Donnette, was killed in 2006 when his vehicle was hit head on by another vehicle that crossed the median near Carbondale on Illinois 13.

Stark said the Deans have raised "between $20,000 and $25,000" of the estimated $40,000 needed to complete the playground area of the project.

"We're hoping to raise the rest on Saturday," he said.

The Touch a Truck event will feature over 40 vehicles including helicopters, semi trucks, bulldozers, Fed Ex trucks, emergency vehicles, limos, and more.

"There's just tons of cool stuff," said Stark.

The Scout Cabin will also be the venue for the pork steak dinner and silent auction.

"The dinner is $8 a plate and people can eat in the Scout Cabin," said Stark. Carryout dinners are also available.

Admission to the event is $5 per person or $20 for a family.

It will be held from noon until 5 p.m.

City Clerk Tina Lindsey and her family have also contributed to the revamped site.

A flagpole and bench have been placed at the front of the Scout Cabin, a memorial to Lindsey's son, Nathan Spiller, who died in an automobile accident in February. Spiller was employed by the city.

"Nathan had a great admiration for the American flag," said Lindsey. "He had one everywhere. It was his thing."

Lindsey said putting up a flagpole in his memory "seemed like the thing to do."

"It was the last place he worked," she said.

Mitchell, an agent of Modern Woodmen of America, said there are plans to hold a hayride event at Arrowhead Pavilion in October to help offset the cost of the building repairs.

"Modern Woodmen will match what we make up to $5,000," he said.

Stark will also be involved in that project which is still in the planning stage.

Lindsey said the Scout Cabin is again available for rent.

"We didn't change the prices," she said.

The cabin rents for $75 for a half day and $100 for a full day, plus a $25 deposit. Reservations can be made by calling (618) 983-6651.