Volunteers key help at Tallac Historic Site | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Volunteers key help at Tallac Historic Site

Christina Proctor

They come from around the country. Responding to ads posted in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet, they joyfully offer their time and skills in return for a piece of ground and a view of the lake.

It is not work, they say, it is all just fun. Every day of the week you can find them on the grounds of the Tallac Historic Site, doing whatever needs to be done. They are the ones with welcoming smiles and proudly displaying badges marking them as volunteers.

Bill and Shirley Miller have traveled from Pioneer, Calif., in their RV for the last three summers. They lead tours, run children’s programs and fix things.

“We enjoy it. It’s a beautiful spot, but what I like best is the people,” Bill said while taking a break from preparing for his 1 p.m. children’s program “Wonders of Watercraft.” “The tourists are great, and so are the locals. It’s the people we get to talk to that makes it really fun.”

The Millers are just one of the many retired couples who have made the Pope estate restoration possible. The volunteers are found through ads placed in RV magazines, and in the last year the call has gone out via the Internet. Some come and stay the whole summer, others stay for one of the four summer sessions, which last four to five weeks. There is no pay, only the chance to park their RVs in a hidden spot on the grounds of the Pope estate.

“These aren’t jobs. We all do it because it’s something we like. If it wasn’t fun we would go home,” Bob said with a grin.

Tony Eckroth, a former wood shop teacher, and his wife Joan, have made the 1,700 mile journey from Mandin, N.D., for five years. In that time Eckroth has replaced the woodwork around windows at Valhalla and renovated the interior of a 1918 truck. When finished, the historic automobile will be equipped to carry passengers. The work continues every summer. This year the project is stairs for the back of the truck.

“Maybe I’ll finish it one of these times,” he said, surveying his handiwork.

They work four days a week and have three days off. Just the right amount, according to Tony.

“It doesn’t overtax us,” he explained.

In those four days the amount of work they accomplish is impressive. The interior of the Pope house, which was badly damaged after years of neglect and vandalism, is being restored by volunteer work. Libby Beckett, of San Diego, said replacing the home’s linen wall coverings was hard, but rewarding work.

“It takes three of us to put it up, because you have to match the design, but it looks wonderful,” she said.

Libby and her husband, Bob, said the Tallac site is just one of their many volunteer projects.

“You get on one list and they seem to past that list around,” Bob joked. “I never understood how anybody could be bored in retirement. There is plenty to do if you want to do it, or even if you tell anyone you have an inkling to do it, they’ll find you.”

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