Heldeberg Workshop history marches on

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

“Humbly, without pomp or circumstance,” David Adkins, chairman of the Heldeberg Workshop board, far right, dedicates the pole barn to the man who built it. Listening are workshop leaders, from left, Wendy Barcomb, Dorothy Matthews, John Sheridan, Kurt Pahl, Bill Morrison, and Mike Matthews. Doug Houser was also present. He quipped of General Frank McLaughlin’s role at the workshop, “He had a ‘general’ interest.”

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

In the shadow of the Helderbergs stands the pole barn constructed by Frank McLaughlin as the first building for the Heldeberg Workshop. A wood plaque now hangs over the stairs, declaring: “General Frank McLaughlin Pavilion.” The land was lively Thursday evening as kids showed their parents what they had learned.

NEW SCOTLAND — The man who built the first structure at the Heldeberg Workshop was honored posthumously last Thursday when that building was named for him — the General Frank McLaughlin Pavilion.

“He was willing to do anything for the workshop,” said Bill Morrison, longtime chairman of the workshop board who recently passed the torch to David Adkins. Morrison and McLaughlin had worked together in the early days of launching the educational summer program for local kids.

“We have a tradition here of dedicating buildings, statues, stages, trees to people who support the mission of the workshop,” said Adkins, standing on the steps of the pole barn as a half-dozen workshop leaders gathered to listen.

All about them was the buzz of activities as parents were on the land at the foot of the Helderbergs, seeing the various things their kids had learned — from archery to spelunking. The enrollment this summer is at a five-year high, Adkins said earlier.

Hanging above Adkins was the expertly carved wooden sign announcing the building’s new name, with “Frank McLaughlin” highlighted in green, a star carved beneath.

Adkins went on to say that such occasions help the not-for-profit workshop trace a path through its 54-year history. McLaughlin, a retired general with the Army Engineers, became involved in the workshop in 1961, its first year.

“We used to send kids to the school in the summer,” said Adkins with a playful grimace on his face. Before the pole barn was built, the workshop classes were held at Voorheesville’s high school. On Saturdays, before the start of each week’s classes, McLaughlin showed up at founder Jean Pauley’s house with a World War II 6 by 6 truck to move supplies to the school. At the close of the session, he’d make the trip in reverse, returning everything to Pauley’s attic and barn.

McLaughlin also helped out in classes and with creating scenery, even taking on the role of Town Crier in a Colonial-era play.

“We wanted to be out here,” said Adkins, gesturing widely to the meadow and forest land surrounding him.

So McLaughlin helped design the pole barn and raise funds. “But it was apparent we would not raise enough,” said Adkins. “Although retired, Frank still had clout,” he said, quoting the Seabees motto: “We build, we fight.”

“Here, we just build,” added Adkins.

Phone poles were donated and pallets that formed the support and walls for the building.

McLaughlin arranged for the area Seabees (from “CB” for Construction Battalion) reserve unit to do the building, and the pole barn was complete in two weekends under McLaughlin’s direction.

When it was finished, Morrison asked McLaughlin about putting a plaque on the building to honor him, but he declined.

“The general said he didn’t stand on pomp and circumstance,” said Adkins. “We’re ignoring him now.”

He went on, “We’re humbly — without pomp or circumstance — dedicating this pavilion and naming it the General Frank McLaughlin Pavilion. We do this to honor him and remind others of his contributions to the success and durability of the workshop 54 years after he first became involved.”

Adkins concluded, to applause, with a grand flourish: “Ladies and gentlemen, I present the General Frank McLaughlin Pavilion.”

“They’ll probably still call it the pole barn,” said Morrison.

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