The Start of the Parish, by Fr. Payne - Part 3
Before I left on my vacation, soon after the social, the question came up about a meeting place for organizations and for social events. The men were for having a basement. This was agreed on and while I was away the men began excavating. If I had known all that I was to go through because of that basement I would never have consented to it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have dug the basement in a different place and moved the church over on it. Not knowing it the digging proceeded underneath the building.
All that fall, until the ground froze late in November, the digging continued. Each evening some neighbor's truck would be borrowed or hired and five or six men with shovels, myself among them, would load the truck again and again and dumped on the street leading to Bulla road. This was a great help to cars in the spring thaw. But even in spite of the mixture of gravel and clay on the road cars would be stuck by the dozen early each spring.
When the ground froze in November, we decided it would be better to discontinue the work until spring. That was a fatal decision. The spring thaw brought tragedy. The sandy soil under the church had been reinforced part way up with a cement-block wall. It stood up well as long as the ground was frozen, but when it loosened, it was child's play to cave in the wall, which stood in its own right without any weight what so ever on it.
So we had our basement, but the church was in it, come spring.
The agony of it! The building had to be jacked up and a company was engaged to do the lifting. But we had no money to hire masons to lay a wall for the church to rest on. Our original mason, a good man of the parish, engaged as a mason, at Notre Dame, a Mr. Walter Berger, had by this time got his belly full and could not be persuaded, even though it had been on his advice that the method that proved so disastrous, had been adopted in the beginning.
Then came the WPA to the rescue. All volunteers, engaged by a Mr. Buck Cabanaw, one of their overseers, a group of strangers (God bless them) they came and cleared up the rubble and began to lay the wall.
Hurried and hastened by the lifting company, who wanted their material for other jobs, many mistakes were made, but finally the wall was ready and the building was let down upon it.
Due to the haste, the wall was not level in all places and some of the windows cracked with the result of the twisting of the building. Only the two sides and front wall had been laid. The back end was supported by a post in the middle. The basement was therefore accessible to the whole wide world.
Next week—Part 4 Bazaar