Arroyo Grande began celebrating its centennial June 4 by opening its first of three centennial plays with two young poets, who participated in the Poetry in the Schools program in the South County this spring. Each presentation will be preceded with readings by two young poets from the program.
Bonnie Young of Arroyo Grande, our SLO Poet Laureate this year, organized Poetry in the Schools with the help of Evelyn Cole, Margie Hurd, Mary Kleeman and Paula Lowe.
Young had them write to music. She plans to take Poetry in the Schools to San Luis Coastal and North County with the support of poets/teachers.
“I am trying to expand the presence of poetry in others’ lives,” Young said.
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Cole took the children back 100 years and forward 100 years in a guided fantasy. Students responded to the question: “What would it be like if I were to wake up in 1911?”
Sophie Mitchum, 9, a student at Ocean View, read her poem “If I Woke Up in 1911,” first. Sophie will be in fourth grade in the fall. Morgan Edmunson, 10, read her poem, “The Village a Hundred Years Ago.” A student at Harloe Elementary, she will be in fifth grade in the fall.
About 250 third- through fifth-graders at Harloe and Ocean View School participated in the program.
The play, “100 Years of People, Stories from Our Past” will be presented each Saturday this summer at the Odd Fellows Hall on Bridge Street in three parts. The first installment “Young Clara,” runs each Saturday in June from 2 to 3 p.m. The second will run in July and the third will run in August.
Paulding Middle School was named after Clara, who became an advocate for education. The play tells about Clara’s young life on an Indian reservation, where her parents were missionaries. She goes to Mills College in Oakland and eventually takes a teaching job in Arroyo Grande in 1883 at the age of 28.
To get there from Oakland, she must sail down the Pacific Coast to Port Harford (now Port San Luis), then take a train to Arroyo Grande.
Jan Scott wrote and directed the play for the centennial based on the 1947 book, “The Gallant Lady,” by Ruth Paulding. Scott has been curator of the South County Historical Society for eight years and comes from a background of acting, directing and teaching theater.
Sage Young, 9, who plays the child Clara, enters fourth grade in the fall. Shelly Cochran plays Sage’s mother, Deb Rowlands plays Ruth and Kerry Aller plays Clara as a young woman. Joe Swigert is assistant to the director and the stylist, and runs the front office of the Historical Society, housed in the International Order of Oddfellows Hall building.
The Oddfellows Hall on Bridge Street in Arroyo Grande is a great venue for the centennial plays. In July, Clara’s story will be completed. In August, there will be tales of two local boys growing up in Arroyo Grande in the early part of the 20th Century.
The Altrusa club, whose main service is for children’s literacy, is sponsoring Poetry in the Schools. The plays are free (donations accepted). For more information, visit www.arroyograndecentennial.org.