GIBSON CITY – There probably aren’t many people who have spent as much time in the GCMS High School gym as Gary McCullough. So, it seems logical that he would be one of the first to order a piece of keepsake furniture made from the original gym bleachers.
“Having sat on the things for 104 years, I thought it was time to buy one,” joked McCullough, the owner of WGCY Radio station. Besides broadcasting an estimated 500 boys and girls basketball games from the stands, McCullough and his wife, Debra, sat in the seats as students at Gibson City High School and as parents when their children were growing up in the district.
Knowing there are a lot of people who are sentimental about their high school days, when it came time to remodel the gym last year, GCMS High School industrial arts teacher Jason Mackinson asked the GCMS School Board for the wood from the bleachers, which were original to the school and dated back to its construction in 1955.
Mackinson and his beginning shop students have used that wood to build benches, stools and other custom wood pieces, and orders have been coming in from as far away as Florida and Arizona. Many of those ordering have requested specific numbers be stenciled on the wood.
Mackinson has even made a few custom pieces utilizing parts of the gymnasium floor.
“It’s something to give back,” Mackinson said of the project. “I like doing different things.”
One of those that is grateful that history is being preserved is GCMS High School Principal Chris Garard, who played basketball at GCHS from 1981 to 1984.
“I have great memories of the old bleachers,” Garard said. “I think it is wonderful that Mr. Mackinson is doing something with the old bleachers so that people can hold on to a piece of history. There is nothing better in a small town.”
It’s not only customers that are happy with the project. The students are enjoying it as well. Last week, they formed an assembly line, cutting and drilling the wood for the benches. On Monday, they assembled pieces to fill existing orders.
It was the first building project for the class and for some like Owen Duke, it was the first time building.
Luke Freehill had experience, but said Monday he preferred using “simpler tools” like manual screwdrivers instead of the cordless kind used in the class.
A basketball player himself, Freehill understood why players would want to own a piece of history but didn’t think he would be able to own part of the bleachers from his school days.
“That would be cool but it wouldn’t be like this,” said Freehill, adding the new bleachers are plastic.
An assortment of the keepsake furniture, constructed of a combination of Douglas fir and pine, will be for sale at all remaining home boys basketball games, including the Jan. 30 Legends Night.
Items are sold by the linear foot. A 5-foot bench sells for $75 and a 30-inch stool for $25. Proceeds will benefit the shop program.
“There’s a few things I’d like to get,” Mackinson said. “I have a lot of different ideas.”