10 August 2008

HPG Member Profiled in Local Press

HPG Vice-President Jack Coyner and the Depot were featured in the weekend edition of the Daily News, August 9-10. Nice article with three accompanying photos, and captions that mentioned the HPG. Thanks to reporter Mark Williams.

NEIGHBORS: Maintaining a heritage
Potlatch man helps preserve town's past
By Mark Williams, Daily News staff writer
Posted on: Saturday, August 09, 2008

As a young man growing up in rural West Virginia, Jack Coyner often dreamed that his future would lead him to the Pacific Northwest. Now he helps preserve the region's past.
Coyner, 64, is the current president of the Potlatch Historical Society, a group that not only chronicles the history of the former company town but also has recently worked to restore some of its historic structures.
"I guess I've always been interested in history, especially railroads. I just feel like it's really important," he said. "Especially in a town with a history like Potlatch. I just feel that to let it go is a big mistake."
Although Coyner has only been president since January, he has been a prominent member of the organization for its entire 10-year existence. Using bureaucratic experience gained from his 20-year career in the Forest Service, Coyner has put together much of the grant money the society has used for its projects, including the renovation of Potlatch City Hall and most recently the 102-year-old Washington, Idaho & Montana Railroad Company train depot.
"I guess of the things we've done, city hall and the depot are the ones I'm most proud of," he said. "A lot of grant money and a lot of people in the community pitched in to make those things happen."
Coyner said there is still much work left to do on the depot and hopes that eventually the building will be put to some sort of commercial use. But for now he is simply proud that the project has called people's attention to the history of the town and the building.
"I think it's helped people recognize their own history a little bit," he said. "When we first started working on this place we had an old-timer who said he'd help if we just gave him a can of gasoline and a book of matches. Now he's seen what we've done and recognized the value of it and is one our biggest supporters."
Coyner grew up in the rugged Appalachian coal mining country of Clover Lick, W.Va., near the Virginia border. As is typical of the region, Coyner said much of the area was poor with limited options for prosperity. He credits his love of the outdoors and the American West as a primary factor in his escape from a lifetime of coal mining.
"In an area like that back then, kids that graduated high school didn't have much else to turn to except coal mining. It's all old industry over there," he said. "I guess I was lucky that I saw beyond some of that.
"I always liked national forest lands and I saw on the map that out west was where they had the most of it and that's where I wanted to go."
Coyner has lived in Potlatch for more than 25 years after moving here from Kalispell, Mont., while working for the Forest Service and said he has become attached to the region.
"My wife and I sometimes have talked about going somewhere else and every time we think of places it always seems like it's hard to beat where we already are," he said.
Rather than move somewhere else, Coyner said he is content to do what he loves by helping Potlatch preserve its heritage.
"I like this because you just wonder what a town would look like if nobody cared or did anything," he said. "This gives you an opportunity to help."

04 August 2008

Depot Serves as Town Welcome Mat

It is always amazing to see how many out-of-towners stop at the depot to look around. Some say the've been past the building before and can't believe how things have changed. Today Bob and Arlene McDonald of Tacoma pulled up, fresh from a Milwaukee Road gathering at Three Forks MT. They were touring other railroad sites and had heard about the depot restoration, so they decided to check things out for themselves. Thankfully HPG member Barb was on hand to give them a tour and when Bob saw the antique rail drill (donated by Joyce Gilmore) in the freight room, he got into detail about how he'd used one in his early track maintenance days. He said if ever Satan had a torture device in hell, it would be that drill! In the future, we can interview Bob further about it as we develop our displays. Arlene also liked the colorful old safety sign. Clearly the McDonalds enjoyed the depot and their appreciation makes all the effort worthwhile.

On a separate note, it was interesting to see the progress on the interiors, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers. The group took out the kitchen, removed the bathroom and cabinets, and also took out most of the wall between the men's waiting room and the passageway to the vault and women's waiting room. Thank you volunteers!!!