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Summer Contra Dances Bring
Blaine Schoolhouse Back to Life
Renovations have kept the historic building alive and well

By Omie Drawhorn, Daily News staff writer
August 16, 2007

Nick Ogle discovered his mother's childhood school in disrepair when he moved back to Moscow in 1974.

The roof of the old one-room schoolhouse in Blaine was leaking.

"Fortunately it had only just started to leak," he said. "I called everybody up and we met one afternoon. One guy took out the windows and refurbished them. We fixed the holes in the roof, stopped the erosion and went on for a while that way."

Ogle is a member of the Blaine Community Association, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving what's left of the community of Blaine located. The community, located between Moscow and Genesee, now basically consists of the old schoolhouse and Ogle's house.

The schoolhouse has been brought back to life by dancing couples and laughing children who gather for the Palouse Folklore Society's summer contra dances. The building also is used occasionally for weddings and meetings.

The Palouse Folklore Society started to use the building around 1989.

"They put a roof on it, painted it, shored up the foundation and put a stage in the back," Ogle said.

Palouse Folklore Society member Roberta Radovich said the group has kept up maintenance in exchange for use of the building.

"We repaired a hole in the floor to make it danceable," Radovich said. "Swinging dancers tended to migrate to that spot."

Last year the society added a stage so a band could play during the group's summer contra dances.

"It's for summer use because it isn't insulated," Radovich said. "I don't know how kids survived out there in the winter."

The school was built in 1890 and closed around 1940 when all its students eventually trickled into Moscow for school.

"Blaine used to be a thriving community with a church, general store, blacksmith shop and many homes," Ogle said. "It was a stage route."

Although the community no longer exists, the Blaine Community Association tries to preserve what is left.

The Palouse Folklore Society holds contra dances in May, June, July and August at the schoolhouse and at the 1912 Center during the rest of the year.

Radovich said the atmosphere at the dances during the summer months is light and carefree.

"We usually get around 50 people, including young and old folks, kids circulating and playing around the building and roaring through the dance floor periodically," she said. "It gives us a sense of community; it's a nice group of people."

Radovich said she a dance caller put it best when comparing the local contra dances to those in Spokane.

"The difference between our dance group and the dance group in Spokane is if he tries to call a new dance here right after the previous dance is completed nobody listens," she said. "We are all visiting and catching up on the last months worth of news; in Spokane they are impatient and want to get going right away."

She said participants include a mixture of beginners and more experienced dancers.

"This kind of dance is pretty easy, there isn't a lot of fancy footwork like swing dance or international folk dance," she said. "This group is really welcoming to newcomers."

A potluck begins at 6:30 p.m. and the lesson starts at 7:30 p.m. A different band plays during each dance.

"It's the most fun I have all month," she said.