10/03/04 — William Dees remembers Community Building

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William Dees remembers Community Building

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on October 3, 2004 2:01 AM

William Dees Jr. can step outside his law office on William Street and see the Community Building's burned out hull looming across the street.

The view is painful for Dees, who has memories of the building stretching over his lifetime.

"I remember going there with my mother to the Curb Market in the 1920s," the 84-year-old lawyer said. "Farm families would sell their goods. I liked looking at all the pies and cakes. We went about every Saturday morning."

In May, the 79-year-old building burned after a fire started in the cupola atop the roof. An investigation could not determine what caused the fire.

The building was opened in 1925 and dedicated to Wayne County veterans who fought and died in World War I.

Dees, who is on the board of trustees, says he didn't see the building burning last May, but he stood outside his office the next morning shedding tears over the loss.

Though the yellow and black crime scene tape has been removed from the building's perimeter, the charred brick walls and blackened timbers visible through the open roof are a constant reminder of the community's loss.

Directors and trustees for the building met in July to discuss the building's status and approve the report received by a private engineering consulting firm. The report recommended not rebuilding, because the damage was too severe.

Soon Dees, along with the other building trustees and directors, must make a decision about the future location of a new Community Building.

For him, like others in the city and county, the decision is influenced by personal memories of and family ties to the building and its programs.

When he was 11 years old, he joined a Boy Scout troop that met on the second floor every week.

"The Boy Scout Executive Office was on the ground floor then," he said. "Our troop, No. 6, met on the east side and Troop No. 2 met on the west side."

Ceremonies to receive merit badges and awards were also held at the building.

During his high school years, from 1934 to 1937, he remembers swimming in the newly built pool.

"I could dive and do a flip and a half off the diving board," he said. "I thought I'd learned a whole lot."

The pool, he said, was built as a result of President Franklin Roosevelt's Work Progress Administration program. That agency provided work for 8 million Americans by constructing or repairing schools, hospitals, airfields and other government owned property.

Roosevelt's plan was to put unemployed workers back to work in jobs that would serve the public good.

To get the federal money to build the pool, the space was leased to the city for $1 a year.

Dees also remembers going to local plays in the community building, as well as competitive high school boxing matches.

His son also participated in programs at the Community Building.

In addition, his father served on the board of trustees for about 30 years, resigning in 1972. Dees has served as a trustee for almost 20 years.

Many families in Goldsboro have enjoyed the programs at the building for generations, he said.

Citizens have voiced their opinions, memories and hopes for the future of the building in letters to the city's recreation department. Those letters have been forwarded to the building's trustees and directors.

So far the response from citizens indicates they want the Community Building rebuilt at its old downtown location, according to Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Director Neil Bartlett.

"About 60 percent were in favor of seeing it at the same location, and about 40 percent want to see it somewhere else," Bartlett said.

The reasons given for putting it elsewhere were concerns about parking and access.

Trustees and directors will meet within the next week or two to decide where to rebuild the Community Building, and to find out how much the insurance company will pay.

Dees said many people had fond memories of the building.

"There are a lot of people that grew up going to activities there, and their children went to activities there," he said. "It served a genuine service and need, and was a popular place to go."