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The roots of the Mount Tahoma rock

Post by Mike Archbold on Nov. 26, 2008 at 4:31 pm with No Comments »
November 26, 2008 4:31 pm

The big rock that graced the old Mount Tahoma High School site for 43 years which is now the site of the new Gray Middle School was not left there by a glacier.

A story in Tuesday’s edition about the rock said no one was sure where the rock came from but Tacoma school district officials thought it was found on the site.

Walt Dunlap, 79, said Wednesday he helped bring it to the old Mount Tahoma site in either 1958 or 1959 when the school was being built. The high school opened in 1961.

The rock was found just north of 56th Street by a Lige Dickson Co. crew clearing the Interstate 5 right of way in the late 1950s, he said. A sister rock slightly larger was found next to it, he said.

Dunlap said the Tacoma School District Board at the time thought it would be great to move one of the big rocks to the new Mount Tahoma school at 6229 S. Tyler St. But it was big and heavy, weighing perhaps 80 tons, he said.

"So Lige Dickson came up with a brilliant idea," Dunlap said. "probably the first time it was ever used."

He said they chained two low level heavy equipment trailers together and built a dirt ramp up on one side. A large D-9 bulldozer pushed the rock up onto the trailers.

Then early on a Sunday morning, the two trucks joined at the trailers headed west together up 56th Street and then south on Tyler Street to the school site. There was even a police escort, he said.

The trip took an hour. Dunlap was in one of the pilot cars.

Fortunately the company had two of the best low level trailer drivers in the country, he said.

"It was kind of a fun experience," he said. "It was a challenge. A couple people said we were crazy."

The transport itself was pro-bono. "We didn’t make anything on it," he said.

The rock became part of Mount Tahoma High School’s history. Gray Middle School has moved it a bit and painted it. It will become part of their history and tradition when the school opens Jan. 5.

And what happened to that sister rock? It still sits at the intersection of 56th Street and I-5 and gets a new coat of paint from youngsters ever year.

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