Archive for November, 2010

Salvage Ghosts of John Hay Elementary

John Hay Elementary front door

John Hay Elementary atop Queen Anne Hill in Seattle

John Hay Elementary atop Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill has given up its ghosts. That is, The RE Store’s salvage crew has been working as a part of the major remodeling that is taking place in the fall of 2010. The non-profit’s mission is to keep valuable materials from being wasted.

According to the Seattle Public Schools website, “The first John Hay School building opened in 1905, and the second opened in 1922. The school is located on the site of the old Queen Anne High School track and field. Hay was named after a statesman who served as a foreign policy advisor to several American presidents.”

John Hay Elementary clocks

Clock and "Master Clock" from John Hay Elementary

Pat Finn, The RE Store’s Operations Manager and James Taylor, carried 30 sheets of chalkboard slate out. Some of the sheets were carried down two full flights of stairs and both James and Pat wondered if their arms had lengthened. Tape measures revealed no measurable increases. As if the chalkboard slate material wasn’t enough, the school’s clocks made their way into the crew’s trucks, including the unique “Master Clock” that controlled the entire school’s clock system. The harvest of valuable classic items also included classic windows from the tops of the stairwells with antique wavy glass. Doors and plumbing fixtures were also carted back to The RE Store in Ballard.

“The 360-degree view of the city from the top of Queen Anne Hill was fantastic,” mused Pat.

Posted in: Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry

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Origins of The RE Store 2 – Salvage safety lessons

The early years (mid 1990s) of The RE Store were full of outstanding opportunities including a burgeoning salvage trade. Bruce Odum, former general manager recalled that quick action was always necessary while out salvaging materials.
“In Mt. Vernon, we pulled out a gorgeous solid hardwood cabinet, but had to leave it overnight due to limited space in the truck. When we returned, the track hoe was sitting on top of  the building in the exact spot that we had left the cabinet..”

school cabinets with glass fronts

Schools like Fairhaven Middle School yield high quality items like cabinetry, slate, and more

Safety has always been a big focus for The RE Store, with the many potential hazards of salvage and used materials. Bruce remembered a safety training that had a bad ending. Lowell, a grad student at WWU was very clean-cut and well-spoken. He seemed like the right guy to run a basic safety course for us. When the class was finished, Lowell left the store. As he walked out of the building, he walked into one of the huge utility poles that held up the building’s soffit outside and broke his nose.

Safety on salvage job sites required vigilance as well.
“We always stayed out of identified asbestos areas, or so we thought. Fairhaven Middle School in Bellingham had these great rolled linoleum tops. We had to cut them in half to get them out the doors. After cutting them up, someone came and told us they had asbestos in them. The site was shut down and everyone had to go home. It turned out that the exposure was not enough to endanger anyone’s health but we learned a lot.”

“One of the cabinets in that same school was filled with cleaning supplies and was downright nasty smelling. We walked away from it and were working at the other end of the building. One of the demolition crews drove through the cabinets with a demolition Bobcat, mixed the ammonia and bleach in the cabinet, and released a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas. The whole building had to get evacuated.”

Bruce related a story about how job retraining was a part of the organization, even in its early days.
“Two Russian brothers were on a program where they could work for us, subsidized by a government retraining program. One was a diesel mechanic and the other had been a farmer. They didn’t speak more than a dozen words of english but they had loads of common sense and a solid hard-work ethic. The brothers wore thick wool coats and stocking hats all year long. They traveled with us for a big salvage project in the Methow Valley. The truck, Goldie, overheated. The Russian guy who was the mechanic pulled water out of a wild mountain stream as we enjoyed the scenic views.”

More tales of the early years of The RE Store to come in later posts.

Check out Part 1 – The Origins of The RE Store

Learn more about The RE Store’s licensed and bonded Salvage Services with free pick-ups on our website.

Posted in: Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry

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