Cascade bench honors former principal’s contributions, foresight

JIM MINTER uses his mobile sawmill to demonstrate to students at Cascades Elementary how 2x4s are made out of a log.

Nearly 40 years ago, on a corner of land at Cascades Elementary, Phil Atkinson knelt down and planted Douglas fir seedlings with a vision to harvest them at their peak for Christmas season.

That vision never came to fruition, though.

Atkinson, principal of Cascades at the time, transferred to another school and the trees silently grew into a grove of forgotten dreams.

The Christmas trees were going to be sold as a fund-raiser for the school, Atkinson explained.

Those trees were harvested this year. An assembly was held May 22 to honor Atkinson for his many contributions to the school during his tenure there, and to surprise him with a token of their esteem.

When the trees were removed, David Gillott, PE teacher at the school, kept one aside with the idea to turn it into a bench while using it as a teaching tool for the kids.

“I wanted to show you what happens when a whole bunch of volunteers work together,” he told them at the assembly.

MACKENZIE LAWRENCE, right, and her classmates try sanding down some of the freshly cut wood.

After the trees were cut, Joe Minter, of Minter’s Mobile Sawmilling, donated his services to demonstrate how he turns a log into 2x4s. Students watched that process, then got to sand the rough-cut wood. Then Steve Hill, Gillott’s friend, took some of the reclaimed wood and built a bench from it.

The bench was dedicated to Atkinson, with a plaque that reads, “Dedicated to Phil Atkinson for his vision to bring together forestry and education, a Linn County way of life.”

While Atkinson was principal at Cascades, from 1977 to 1988, he was the driving force behind having the gym built, the track installed, and shade trees planted around the campus, he said.

STUDENTS show an eager willingness to sand when PE teacher David Gillott gives them a close up look at wood that was just sawed from a log.

The staff had taken a forestry class and earned an appreciation for instilling in the students a respect for the forestry industry and tree planting, he said.


Now retired, Atkinson said he was surprised by how big the trees had gotten and by the bench made from those trees, he said. He noted that many parents and students played a role in building the track and the planting trees.

“If you can help with this school, you can help in Lebanon,” he told the assembly. “You’ll make it a better place and you will be better.”