A one-two punch of snow on the roof and foam on the floor sidelined the aging Shingle Springs Community Center in 2011. Fortunately, generous local contractors stepped up, inspired by a recently retired school principal and an El Dorado Rose, replacing the roof and floor and adding several key modernizations at no cost.
On Jan. 21 Shingle Springs will celebrate the grand reopening of its community center with a benefit spaghetti feed and dance.
The community center, located a mile south of Highway 50 on South Shingle Road, has functioned in relative anonymity for nearly 50 years, providing an inexpensive community meeting place, recreation hall and party venue. It includes a commercial kitchen and seats up to 325 total, or 150 at tables, for a paltry $325 per day.
The 4-acre plot includes a youth athletic field built by local Rotarians and tournament class horseshoe pits where the Shingle Springs Horseshoe Pitchers Association hosts national competitions.
The community center is its own nonprofit corporation. A new board took over last year, headed by recently retired Indian Creek Elementary School principal Dan MacPherson, who’s made it his mission to bring back the community center.
So has Mary Ann Harper. She grew up in Shingle Springs, and retired in 2006 after 32 years as school secretary at Silva Valley Elementary School in El Dorado Hills. She was so involved in her Shingle Springs community that it nominated her for the 2012 El Dorado Rose, which she won, much to the chagrin of her faux-grumpy husband Harry, who seems to enjoy playing the curmudgeon.
“I asked him if he thought I should run [for El Dorado Rose] and he said ‘hell no,’ so I told them I’d be delighted,” she said.
Since then Harry has assumed the unofficial title of “El Dorado Thorn,” Mary Ann said, pausing for impact, patting her hip, “because he’s right here by my side.”
Mary Ann said she can’t help but feel connected to the community center. She met Harry at a dance there in the late 1950s and in April 1960 married him in the same building.
She recalls Buckeye School’s eighth-graders first conducting graduation ceremonies at the community center in the summer of 1956. “Up until then we were still on the back of Ronnie White’s hay wagon,” she said.
In the early going the community center was just a shell — no bathrooms, no kitchen, not even a ceiling. “We made do with outhouses out back,” Mary Ann said. “All that stuff came later, along with the soccer field and horseshoe pits.”
Harry helped build the kitchen and bathrooms. As a young Shingle Springs bachelor, he recalled, “There was nothing to do here; we wanted a place to meet, a place to hold dances.”
He recalls Art Williamson, of Williamson Electric, and his sister Ruby Coval leading the effort to build the center. For years, he said, Coval was the keeper of the keys.
The Williamson clan still lives in Shingle Springs. Son Robert Williamson lives in the family home on Durock Road. Grandson Mike lives near the center.
Local historian Tom White compiled a brief history of the center, which was published in the Mountain Democrat in 1980.
According to White, the effort to build the center began in 1951 when community members signed a charter stating their intention to create a place “where people of all races and creeds may carry on their religious, social economic and cultural activities, and where we may work together ONE FOR ALL, and ALL FOR ONE, so that our community may be a better place in which to live.”
The group incorporated as a non-profit later that year, and in April 1952 David and Ruth Barnett gift-deeded the 4-plus acre parcel to the group with the caveat that “should the grantee become extinct or forfeit its charter” the parcel would revert to the Barnett heirs, according to White.
White found records of robust site-clearing and fundraising efforts, with Art Williamson chairing a building committee and Placerville merchants donating building materials. Harper recalls Michigan Cal donating the lumber and Henningsen Sand and Gravel donating the cinder block.
MacPherson said he got involved because the prior board was burned out. “They’d served something like 17 years,” he said. “It was time for someone else to step up.”
In what looks in hindsight like the center’s heyday, the county leased it five days a week to serve senior meals. When the budget tightened the county pulled out, but not before the prior board socked away a tidy rainy-day fund — every penny of which was needed to dig out of the misfortunes of 2011.
MacPherson was elected board president in his second meeting, he said, and shortly thereafter noticed an ominous dip in the roofline. Inside, he spotted a corresponding sag in the ceiling and soon discovered a collapsed roof truss.
The roof was deemed stable and rentals continued, including a seemingly innocuous sweet 16 birthday party in September with a twist — a foam machine.
“Foam parties,” in which revelers writhe in mechanically generated foam up to 4 feet thick, became popular at spring break parties and “raves” in recent years, either outdoors or in water-tolerant venues.
MacPherson soon discovered that the community center’s floor was decidedly non-water tolerant. The corners of the 12-inch tiles curled up, leaving the community center floor looking like a large platter of soggy Doritos.
The bubble-party parents’ insurance covered the damage to the floor, which was scheduled to be replaced by Dawson’s Floor Fashions on Jan. 2, but not the three-plus months of lost revenue from facility rentals.
Harper worries that long-standing renters like the local square dancers have found new digs. The center is currently running $500 to $700 in the red each month.
Straight Line Roofing won the bid for the roof repairs. Job supervisor Dan Dixon drew up plans to replace the broken truss and four others that showed their age. The bid also included a new roof, but Straight Line’s contributions to the community center didn’t stop there.
While they were in the attic they replaced outdated venting for the center’s heating and air conditioning system. They added roof vents and gutters, and also painted the inside and portions of the outside at no cost. The crew also stripped the old “cottage cheese” ceiling and installed acoustic tiles. To cap it off, they retarred a portion of flat roof over the new additions, all at no cost.
“Straight Line Roofing went out of their way to give back to their community,” said Harper.
Electrician John Dyas of Blue Moon Electric in Rescue donated his labor to replace the old florescent lights with attractive recessed lights.
At $325 per day, MacPherson sees the center as an inexpensive venue for almost any gathering — foam parties aside. “Look around for a place this size to rent, with a kitchen and all the seating and tables we have, and you can easily spend $1,000,” he said.
For details about renting the center visit shinglespringscommunitycenter.org.
Residents can also support the community center by becoming a member. Family membership is $15 per year, and includes discounts on facility rental. “For $15 per year everyone should want to be a part of this unique community,” said Harper.
For MacPherson, “This community center is about keeping a tradition alive, keeping families here in Shingle Springs.”
Tickets for the grand reopening spaghetti feed on Jan. 21 can be purchased from board members: Mike Lyster, Ken Brown, Rebecca Leikauf, Earl Jansa, Jamie Faw, Connie Eaton, or from Board President Dan MacPherson at (530) 677-2269.
Shingle Springs Community Center grand reopening
4440 South Shingle Road
Jan. 21 big spaghetti feed.
Adults $8, children $6, younger than 6 free.
Tickets: Dan MacPherson (530) 677-2269