Tuesday, August 14, 2012
When he graduated 8th grade in 1954, Larry Rehma probably thought he was done doing homework for the Portland schoolhouse.
That changed almost 60 years later, when he set out to make a scale model of the original building — it had since been repurposed as the Portland Community Center following its closure as a schoolhouse in 1958 — after the building burnt down in a lightning storm in 2010. 100 work hours later, the finished product currently sits on display in the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society in Fulton.
A talented carver, Rehma has long created things from wood as a hobby. When he found out that the new community center would be rededicated in June, he felt compelled to make something to remember his lost alma mater.
“I am interested in the school because I went there, and I sort of feel like that’s my home,” he said. “I thought I could do it because of my experience with wood carving, and that’s similar in some ways.”
Undertaking the project proved to be more challenging than actually completing the model. To make sure the model schoolhouse was built to scale, Rehma needed reference materials, but no drawings or building plans of the old schoolhouse and community center exist. Currently living in Union, Rehma visits Callaway regularly to see his mother in Fulton and would stop in Portland, and made it a point to try and learn more about the original building while he was there. He finally lucked out when Portland resident Paul Pealer gave him what might be one of the only existing photographs of the original schoolhouse.
“Once I had a photo, I had to try to determine the actual dimensions of the building,” said Rehma. “I counted the bricks in the photograph and figured it was 30 by 40 (feet) in size. It’s neat just to get the dimensions of a building without anyone having them, and no drawings or anything like that.”