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Antique Mill Whistle
 Comes Back to Life...
Whistle Timed to Sound Each Day at Noon

                                                                                                           (photo by Bob Walter)

       November 2008: Standing as erect as the columns he created to commemorate the mill town era, the sun breaking through to shine on the foothills, the towers and the man, 86-year-old Charles Matheny exults, fist raised, in the sight and sound of the former mill's Lunkenheimer steam whistle.
       Fittingly, the whistle was made in the same year Charles was born - 1922. It was a 13-year-long campaign of creativity and determination - carried on over many airline flights, work sessions, phone calls and emails with no cost to citizens - that finally resulted in this day, November 22, 2008, when the sculpture was dedicated. Charles, you deserve to celebrate!

After More Than 50 Years of Silence the
Mill Whistle Sings Once More...

       by Bob Walter
       President, South Pierce County Historical Society

     About 30 people turned out Saturday to honor one of Eatonville's native sons, California artist Charles Matheny. Matheny was born here in 1922 and lived in Eatonville for about 20 years before joining the U.S. Army in 1940, and later moving to California.
     About 13 years ago, during a return visit to Eatonville, Charles Matheny decided he wanted to create a tribute to the town. The result is the "Whistle Sculpture," which was given its inaugural toot at a dedication Saturday afternoon at Mill Pond Park.
     After a reception for Matheny at the Mill Village Motel meeting room, those present headed over to the park to view and listen to the sculpt. Participants cheered as Matheny activated the whistle for the first time since he had restored it and tested it in a trial run a few years ago.

    The sculpture includes massive sheets of steel that Matheny salvaged from the mill ruins.The whistle was the last element to be incorporated into the sculpture, after Matheny had noticed it in an old goldfish pond at the home of Joe and Joan Hamilton, who now own most of the old mill property.
    The last time the steam whistle was blown to announce the time was in 1954, before the mill closed for the last time. The South Pierce County Historical Society plans to have the whistle blow each day at noon, as a nostalgic reminder of the days when the town lived by the sound of the mill whistle echoing off the surrounding foothills.
    The sculpture includes five steel pillars, the tallest of which supports the whistle, now operating off an air compressor instead of actual steam. The simulated "cold steam" is created by a water valve. Eatonville town staff contributed considerable labor to get the sculpture up and functioning. Much of the work on the air and water lines was volunteered by Rich Elliff, with electrical work contributed by Mike Williams. A compressor near the Van Eaton Cabin supplies the air to sound the whistle. The softscape around the towers was leveled and planted in creeping red fescue grass by myself.
    After being presented with a plaque for his donation to the community, Charles Matheny wept "tears of joy," as he could not contain his emotions, having worked thirteen years on his vision, enduring countless delays and setbacks.  When the whistle was fired off, Matheny could not contain his glee, raising his fist as an orchestral conductor would, only this time the music came from a Lunkenheimer whistle, made the same year Charles Matheny was born.
    To see a brief video of the historical society's reception for artist Charles Matheny and hear the melody of the antique whistle please go to Listen and Watch the Great Old Whistle - The discussion at the beginning of the video is about the beautiful and intricate blackberry vines Charles made which were on the giant sculpture in the past. These works of art are not on the sculpture now as the town was worried about a danger to children. However, the "vines" are still in town and many believe that part of the artist's work should be used in a non-dangerous way.

Friends and Helpers...

                                                                                                                                (photo by Bob Walter)

     Left to right: Rich Elliff, Ladd Smith, Arne Haynes, Charles Matheny, Dave Williams and his son, Mike Williams. Rich and Mike were part of the group that finally made the Matheny Whistle Sculpture a reality after 13 years of work.

Honoring Charles Matheny
Most Photos by Bob Walter...

Part of the Crowd at the Reception for Charles Matheny

     The meeting room at Mill Village Motel was filled by well-wishers as Charles Matheny met up with old friends and new during a reception honoring him for the enormous art project he donated to the town.

Charles Describes His Creation...

     Questions and reminiscences made the historical society's reception for Charles a lively time. Audrey Roley, Stage Stop Museum director, was in charge of the reception where cake and sparkling cider were served along with much town history.

Memorial Plaque for the Artist..

     Bob Walter, President of the South Pierce County Historical Society wrote the tribute on this plaque and presented it, for the society, at the reception preceding the official first blowing of the antique mill whistle.

Friends for Life...

     The Greatest Generation - Ladd Smith - Navy Veteran; Arne Haynes - Air Force Veteran; Charles Matheny - Army Veteran; and Dave Williams - Navy Seabee Veteran. These men have been friends since they were youngsters and enjoyed their mini-reunion during the dedication of the whistle sculpture.

Youth in the City...

     Arne Haynes and Charles Matheny in Tacoma when they were very young. Arne wears an Eatonville High School letter sweater. Photo courtesy of Roni Haynes Johnson.

Elders in Eatonville...

     Both men are now in the 80s and have been extremely successful in their lives. Arne took the local independent telephone company into the modern age and Charles was a renowned jewelry maker in his day. He can make a tiny, exquisite piece of jeweled art as well as the huge whistle sculpture behind the men.

Checking Out Those Antique Skis...

     Marlayne Elliff, wife of Rich in the background, chats with Charles about antique wooden skis in the Elliff's basement. Charles was raised in the house the Elliffs own on Orchard Avenue and the families struck up a relationship during the artist's earlier visits to Eatonville.

Visiting With a Long Ago Friend...

     Charles Matheny and friends greet long-time Eatonville resident, and historical society member, Rosa Hibbard at Mill Pond Park where people gathered to hear the first official blowing of the old Eatonville Lumber Company whistle.

Hugs for a Job Finally Finished...

                                                                                  (photo by Judith East)

     Long-time historical society president, Bob Walter, and Charles share a laugh and a hug celebrating the "completion" of the artist's huge monument to Eatonville timber industry past. A job well done despite years of difficulties. In the background is the skeleton of the town's picnic shelter which was being built when the dedication of the historic whistle sculpture.

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