Ideas offered to preserve Mount Tahoma High Schools boulder
When Mount Tahoma High School’s campus moved in 2004, it left behind a boulder-sized symbol of school pride.
Now school Principal Greg Eisnaugle is working on a way to bring at least a piece of that school tradition to the new campus.
For decades, a massive rock sat in front of the Tacoma school’s old building at 6229 S. Tyler St. It was a meeting place. Students sat upon it to eat lunch. Every once in a while, someone would paint a message on it. Birthday wishes were a popular choice, but gang graffiti also began to creep in.
When the school moved to its new digs at 4634 S. 74th St., the rock remained at the old site. Today it sits among construction debris as crews renovate the building to become the new site of Gray Middle School.
Some Mount Tahoma boosters wanted the rock moved to the new location, but Eisnaugle opposed that. A plan to demolish the rock and sell the pieces sparked blowback and fell through because neither the school nor the booster club wanted to front the $1,000 it would cost to break it up.
Eisnaugle believes he has arrived at a good compromise.
“We’ll take a piece of the rock – say, the size of two footballs – build a really nice display case in our commons area, enclose it and put a history (plaque) on it,” he said.
“It’s to signify the importance of that thing and that there’s still a connection between the alumni and the rock.”
For Angela Strege, who graduated from Mount Tahoma in 1985, the rock and other traditions evoke nostalgia and pride. “If the memory goes on by slicing and dicing,” she said, “then maybe that’s the best thing.”
Strege, a former school board member, offered a different proposal: Ask famous alumni, like former NFL player and broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, to sign the rock, then auction it away.
“If someone can sell a sandwich on eBay,” she laughed, “they can sell this.”
The main reason Eisnaugle opposed moving the rock was that, in the waning years at the old building, it became a target of gang tags and other graffiti. The new school has been proudly graffiti-free for two years, he said, and the rock could encourage tagging.
“There were 23 instances in the last five years (at the old building) where someone from the buildings and grounds department had to come out and paint the rock because there was gang tags or inappropriate things painted on the rock,” he said. Other concerns factored in Eisnaugle’s decision. The current student body has never attended classes at the old building, and no student in his three years as principal has asked him why the rock wasn’t moved. He acknowledges it’s an important part of the school’s history, but it’s destined to remain history.
“This has become someone else’s tradition,” he said.
Eisnaugle is waiting to hear from the Tacoma School District office about his idea. If his bosses approve it, he’d like the transfer to be respectful and low-key.
“I’m not going to be able to make everybody happy,” he said, “but I can tell people there will be a respectful place for the rock here at the new Mount Tahoma.”
Scott Fontaine: 253-320-4758