The Creation of Paul Garrison Picnic Pavilion in Fort Jones…
Forgotten and unused places in cities and towns present the perfect opportunity to reimagine public space and how it’s consumed. Such is the case with the Paul Garrison Pavilion in Fort Jones, where an old storage shed has been transformed into a community hub. “The existing structure was originally an equipment shed used by the Public Works Department to store the dump truck and extra vehicles. Now, it’s a gathering place located next to the Little League field,” explains Michelle DeCausmaker, mayor of Fort Jones, who has been working since 2017 to take the barbed wire and chain link fences away and replace them with something inviting. “The night the lights came on for the first time I went over and cried a good, happy cry. It was magical to see my vision come true.”
As a focal point for the community, it’s only fitting that the pavilion is named in honor of Paul Garrison, a hometown hero and one of the most beloved figures in Fort Jones’ history. Born in Canada in 1926, Garrison moved to Scott Valley when he was around 8 years old. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he returned to Fort Jones with his bride, Charmaine. The couple had three children, and Garrison became integral to every facet of the city. “He wore many different hats, including constable, chief of police for 18 years, a volunteer firefighter for 40 years, manager of the water and sewer into his 80s, the cemetery caretaker and a lifelong counselor for adults and kids. He was an all-around wonderful guy, and I wanted to honor a great man,” explains DeCausmaker. She adds, “When I would explain to people what we were doing, it always brought a smile and a story. Everyone loved Paul.”
When the city decided to dedicate the pavilion in Garrison’s honor, DeCausmaker reached out to his daughters, Pauline Cramer and Shirley Spallino, both lifelong residents of Fort Jones. “When Michelle asked us, we thought it was wonderful,” explains Cramer. Spallino adds she was “humbled” by the request, though it’s not hard for either sister to come up with examples of just how much their father cared for his town and its residents. “When he was the chief of police, he still did the sewers and plowed the snow. He was always upbeat and never complained, no matter what his stresses or pressure may have been. He was also on call 24/7, so even on Thanksgiving and Christmas he usually got a call to help with someone’s pipes, or unplugging someone’s sewer, or whatever. Dad would just leave the dinner table and go help. No one at our table even said anything because it was just common knowledge that he would go wherever someone needed help,” Spallino recalls. Cramer also remembers a time when there was a family driving through in a snowstorm and got stranded. “They were strangers, but Dad brought them home and they spent the night with us. That was just the kind of thing he would do.”
Garrison also had a strong impact on the youth in the community, especially during his years as chief of police. “On Halloween, he would let the kids be kids as long as they didn’t break or permanently damage anything. But the next day he and the school had an agreement. The kids would get out of school the morning after Halloween and clean the town. Any vegetables or eggs that were thrown they had to clean up,” Spallino says with a laugh. His daughters also recall how often Garrison was a mentor, helping get the Little League park going and keeping local kids on the right path. Cramer notes, “He loved all the kids and if one of them got into trouble, he didn’t haul them over to [the juvenile detention center] unless it was really, really bad. If it was a minor theft or something, he would put them to work around town painting the fire hydrants. Well, everyone in town knew that kid had been in trouble because he was out there painting the hydrant. But later on, so many of the kids would come to Dad and tell him, ‘Thank you. That was the best thing you could have done to keep me on the straight and narrow.’”
For DeCausmaker, Garrison’s legacy lives on every time people gather under the Pavilion. “Paul was all about his community, and in a way, he’s still there for them because the community gets to enjoy the Pavilion for birthdays, reunions and any of life’s celebrations and gatherings.” •
The pavilion is open to the general public but to book it for a special event, call the Town of Fort Jones at 530-468-2281.