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Let’s Hear It For Our History Of Can-Do Men!

Wouldn’t you love to never pay for a household repair again? For much of Eden Church’s history the combination of an aging campus, financial thriftiness and the superior fix-it skills of our members meant that we relied on a team of our own men to keep the church facilities humming along at no cost.

On Monday mornings from the 1950s into the 1990s a varying group of Eden’s handymen met at a restaurant in Hayward, then at the Baker’s Square in Castro Valley, to map out the week’s repair and project schedule. This was an extension of the “Craftsmen of Eden Church,” a church men’s club founded in 1940 to reduce church expenses and raise money for repairs they could not do. Led by John Schaap, the group included (over varying times) Bob Sorensen, John Livingston, Jim Alexander, Henry Schumann, Charlie Allan, Bob Peterson, Carl Rule and others. Bob Sorenson refers to this capable crew as the “Ways and Means Committee.” Lest you think the meeting was all work and no play, the group rolled dice to determine who would pay for the coffee consumed at this meeting, while they all pitched in for the tip!

John Schaap ran an auto business and was a gifted practical mechanic who learned to repair and tinker with everything mechanical on his parent’s farm. He was famous for being one of the few who could wriggle under the church to repair the temperamental furnace, often on short notice and under unpleasant circumstances. More than once other members remarked that if John wasn’t so accommodating, the church would have to finally buy a furnace that worked.

John and his crew of irregulars climbed on the roof to replace shingles, repaired plumbing, mended fences, trimmed trees and quieted squeaky floors. Ruth Schaap recalls John responding so generously to the many calls that she threatened to change the family’s name to “Eden Church” so that when she needed something done around the house John would hop to it! His pickup truck was called into service so often, first for church business, then for members’ chores, that he finally just parked it at the church and left the key in the office so that it could be at-the-ready without him.

Henry Schumann was a master painter trained in Germany who headed up the many painting jobs required for a large, public campus. Charlie Allan was a professional contractor who could be counted on to direct projects and organize crews. Bob Peterson’s career was with the phone company, and he oversaw the complex wiring of 28 cables required for a church building full of offices. John Livingston was knowledgeable in many aspects of managing projects big and small and volunteered for a range of essential duties. Cal Rule volunteered his banking expertise to save us money on financial advice.

Bob Sorensen’s experience as an electrical engineer at Lawrence Berkeley Lab has been invaluable to Eden’s modernization and upkeep, as well as his willingness to turn his capable hand to more down-to-earth chores, such as replacing the broken clay sewer line. In a nod to the men’s crew’s willingness to recruit from the other team, Bob and Ruth recalled an incident when a natural gas odor was detected around the campus, but no one could pinpoint the source. The men had to call on Ruth, who was famous for “being able to smell something before it happened.” While the usually fully competent men watched, Ruth put her nose to work and found the leak under a lawn. Good teamwork!

Today, we continue to have men who put on their work clothes and put off their own entertainment to keep our campus running in as low cost a manner as we can. Our current heroes follow in a long and proud tradition of selfless giving and service. To them and to the men of character in our past, we say a heartfelt “Thank You!” Next month: Who paid for the things only money can buy?  Eden’s women!

The 150th Anniversary Committee