Where the school once ended and new gathering places have been created, a new connection is born and history is celebrated.
Cascade Locks High School alumni and friends joined forces to design and build a new trophy case in the foyer where the south end of the school meets the entries to the Community Health Clinic and Library District branch.
The case and neighboring memory wall together hold almost all the Pirate basketball, football, baseball, soccer, cross country and other trophies, including National Honor Society plaques and other framed mementoes, stored for years in boxes in the basement.
Cascade Locks for decades had a K-12 school that was, for most, the town center. Hood River County School District closed the high school in 2010 due to declining upper-grade enrollment, and students in grades 6-12 now take the bus to Hood River. The county library branch and health clinic occupy former classrooms disused after the paring of enrollment 10 years ago.
The trophy case is a visible testament to the history of the school, when the community fully engaged with its teams and games, the days of packed gyms and parent-driven road trip caravans.
“We have more trophies than we know what to do with,” said the elder statesman of the group, Ken Wittenburg, who taught and coached “every sport you can think of, sometimes three or four a season” from 1962 “until ... now.”
In a way, it’s a history of the Gorge. The Cascade Locks Museum was offered the trophies but had no room, according to project coordinator Mike Nichols, so all but a few pieces went into storage.
Arlington Snowball Tournament 1998, Second Place ... Mitchell Invitational ... The Dalles JV Tournament ...
A few date to the 1930s, but most are from the school’s athletic heyday of the 1970s and ‘80s, including a girls 1981 soccer trophy.
... Klickitat River Tournament of Champions ...
The plaques and trophies touch virtually every Gorge small town in the Mid-Columbia from the days of active middle school and high school sports programs.
Wishram ... Dufur ... Bonneville (1976 Bicentennial Basketball Tournament — the school, in Dodson, closed about 30 years ago) ...
1952 and 1953 Cascade Locks baseball ...
More than sports: Citizenship, Award of Merit, National Honor Society ...
When the district upgraded the main entry foyer last summer, the small trophy case there had to be moved, and Nichols and other Alumni Association stepped up to create a new, larger case.
“I don’t know how I got involved in this things” Nichols said. “I found out they were putting them in boxes.”
The team spent months constructing and installing, completing the project in late August, other than the lighting.
Across the hallway is the Wall of Honor, with plaques and photos from over the years, starting with John Hansen, class of 1964, who died in Vietnam and was honored with a plaque created by Class of 1964. His mother was long-time math teacher Grace Hansen.
“I think this is great,” said Marianne Bump, class of 1978. “Being able to show what we have done as an alumni is a great way to go. It will honor the alumni who are still around and can come and see it. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of these trophies. I’m really pleased our alumni stepped up and did this.”
While the group would have preferred the case be located in the main hall, the “high school hall” as it is still called, Nichols noted that “this is the part of the building people most of the time can get into, especially when the library or health center is open.”
Nichols (aka Mick), CHS class of 1968, worked with the district and assembled the volunteers who worked from a design by Rod Chambers (class of 1968), starting in a warehouse in Portland owned by Phil Nolin (class of 1972) and former CHS basketball coach. Nolin, whose sister, Nicki (class of 1968), is Chambers’ wife, donated the quarter-cut oak that forms the back of the glass case.
“From a history standpoint, you lose it,” Chambers said, without a place to display the wares of accomplishment. While the trophy case project is not officially an Association project, “a lot of this (project) was pushed by the older generations, who contributed and were quite passionate about seeing us retain these examples of our history.” For the past 20 years, the Association has also funded local scholarships, through the Hood River Education Foundation.
“It’s a separate project but it’s really alumni-centric,” said Chambers, who is Alumni Association president, adding that in association activities in general, “it’s the older generations keeping in touch.”
He joked, “I’m a woodworker so I was called in, and you can’t say no to Mick, so ...”
“Without the high school here, it’s nice to be able to come in and look at it,” Wittenburg said. “I’m thrilled, because I was here for most of it.”
Wittenberg jokes around with the “kids” who were once his fellow students and athletes.
“I can tell you a lot about these two right here,” he says of bright-blue Big Sky Conference plaques. “I had really good basketball teams. Boys in the 1970s and ‘80s and in the ‘90, the girls. I coached football, cross country, track, and middle school. I had everything, at different times, sometimes three or four sports.
“I look back now, those were wonderful years,” said Wittenburg, who still lives in Cascade Locks with his wife, Joann. “In 1970, we had the town support. It was a family town, we still had families, but the town changed when the mill went down. Sometimes we couldn’t get buses to travel to our league games, and we had parents volunteer, and we had more parents who could.
“I used to take uniforms home to wash them and one year the parents decided I needed a washing machine. I came in one day and they were putting in a machine and never said anything,” Wittenburg recalled.
“The games all drew big crowds, people filling seats on the stage, and we’d say, ‘Everyone shift to the middle.’ The whole place was jammed. The whole town was there.”
Wittenburg noted that the trophy case crew is made up of Cascade Locks residents and those who live out of town. He said the association historically has held the alumni picnic event around Labor Day, but it was canceled this year due to the coronavirus.
Many alumni donated materials or money to the project, and one active participant, Ken Cahill of Corbett, moved from Cascade Locks as an elementary student, but is a Pirate at heart and maintains firm connections to Cascade Locks. “I’d have been in the class of 1969. I’ve either dated or I’m related to everyone in town,” Cahill said.
Mike Irving, class of 1970, said, “I’m torn about it just because the real people who should see these aren’t here to see them. They can come back and see them, once COVID is over.”
The group spent a fair amount of time sorting and even sleuthing the trophies by era and sport.
Looking through one box, Irving asked Bump about one unmarked trophy, and she replied, “I don’t know, this fell off,” showing Irving a loose plaque from another.
Throughout, there was a lot of reminiscing and the comradely joshing spanned the decades.
“I only attended (Cascade Locks) through the fourth grade, but I go to all the reunions,” Cahill said. “I don’t know why they let me come.”
“I don’t either,” Irving quipped.
In a group photo pose, someone joked with the photographer, “Don’t take too long, can’t hold it in too long.”
Someone else joked, “It doesn’t matter how much you suck it up in front, it still hangs over the sides.”
The Missing Ones
While the group was surprised to find some trophies in storage, there are others they believe are missing, and would like to know if anyone is aware of their whereabouts:
- 1953 State B Finals six-man football. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so someone must have it,” Nichols said.
- Elks Club “MVP” plaque, officially the Annual Elks Merit Award. Athletes were honored at Mosier, Wy’east, and Hood River high schools. The plaque with name plates from 1958-68 is on display, but Nichols said they are looking for the subsequent one.
“This one goes through 1968, and after that they still did it, but they started a new trophy because they ran out of space. In 1970, my name was on it, and we went to Hood River to the Elks Club, for a ceremony, and the trophy never came back and was never heard from again.” He’s made inquiries but with no results.
Nichols can be reached at MNichols97124@outlook.com.