Students, city officials and school administrators gathered to watch a piece of history come home Friday.A 4,500 pound anchor from a decommissioned World War II Liberty ship was unveiled at Liberty Middle School. It was an event several years in the making.
“This is a very exciting day,” said Liberty Principal Marilyn Boerke. “It has been in the works for six years.”
Eunice Abrahamsen, a local community member, pitched the idea of procuring a piece of a Liberty ship to install in the school when it first opened. The goal was to teach the students the history behind Liberty’s name.
“I was thinking a cute little porthole or doorknob or some kind,” Boerke said. “Then I got a call, ‘Do you want to take the anchor?’ I thought it would be something small. Then I saw it and realized it was ginormous.”
An estimate to build a pad for the anchor was approximately $3,000.
Undaunted, Boerke wrote a letter to Georgia-Pacific, requesting a grant from the GP Foundation, which donates funds to various community projects.
The grant was approved.
After school district officials learned the anchor weighed 4,500 pounds and was 8 feet high, it was decided that professional engineering services were needed to build a concrete stand, which was recently completed.
“Liberty is a community school,” Boerke said. “We are in the middle of town and center of the school district. To have our school named for the Liberty ships, and have a piece of it, is very exciting for me.”
The anchor came from a decommissioned Liberty ship known as the SS Davy Crockett, which had been turned into a flat deck barge. In the summer of 2010, an extensive recovery and deconstruction process began on the ship after it went aground in the Columbia River near Camas. That effort lasted 211 days.
The ship was built between 1941 and 1945, when the United States increased its shipbuilding capacity during World War II. At the Camas mill, now known as Georgia-Pacific, workers built ship rudders, cranes and other wartime materials for the Liberty ships being constructed by Kaiser Aluminum in Vancouver.
When the former Camas High School relocated, the building was remodeled and named Liberty Middle School, in honor of the work done at the mill during World War II.
Gracen O’Dell, student body vice-president, said that prior to the anchor being installed, she didn’t know why her school was even named Liberty. After doing some research on the issue, she learned that her great-grandfather had worked on the ships at the mill.
“This anchor is a symbol of our school, and I hope all the students will find a connection to it, just as I have,” O’Dell said.
Abrahamsen said that having the anchor at Liberty was the culmination of a longtime vision.
“I love the concept of making something new out of something old,” she said. “So I began to make phone calls and write letters to see if I could get something for Liberty. Last summer, when the SS Davy Crockett went aground, things began to happen. Our vision became a reality. When you face hardships, storms and challenges, may this anchor remind you to stay on course and don’t give up.”
Superintendent Mike Nerland called it, “a great day.”
“The joint effort to get this anchor here really exemplifies what our community is about,” he said. “Many people came together to make this vision a reality.”