If Dwight Schrute of "The Office" reminds you of that goofy first-grader you sat next to at Olympia's Garfield Elementary School, it might not be your imagination.
Hollywood star Rainn Wilson was an Olympia resident during his early school days.
While Wilson’s ties to the Northwest are well known, usually Seattle (where he was born) and Shorecrest (where he went to high school) lay claim to his roots. But during a recent interview in Seattle where he was promoting his film “Super” (in which he plays the Crimson Bolt), Wilson rendered a pitch-perfect rendition of the ’70s radio jingle for Sound Sound Center mall in Lacey. He revealed his ties to Olympia.
“I went to Garfield Elementary School on the west side of Olympia. Kindergarten, first and second grade. They were building Evergreen College while I lived there,” he said.
Via email, Wilson’s father, Robert Wilson, said he, Rainn and Rainn’s mother moved to Olympia in 1972 and lived in a small house in the woods on Garfield Street, about three blocks from the school.
The family moved to Olympia after living in Nicaragua for four years; before that, they lived on a Lake Union houseboat in Seattle.
The Wilsons moved to Olympia to assist the Baha’i community there, Robert Wilson said. “He could walk to school. He played in the woods around our house with his friends,” Robert Wilson recalled. “Our brief time, three or four years in Olympia, is remembered with fondness. It was a very rural town then.”
Like any other Olympia family, they took advantage of the area’s offerings, including a nearby lumber mill. “I don’t remember if the mill was in operation at the time, but it provided old docks and other dangerous platforms that were fun to climb out on to sit above the water.”
Robert Wilson, who has had a long career as an artist, built a studio in his Garfield Street home. In 1973, he entered a painting of a nude woman into a juried arts fair in Tacoma. The woman at the entry desk refused to take his $15 entry fee or accept the painting because she thought the nude was in poor taste, Wilson said. The ensuing ruckus appeared in The Olympian, along with a photo of the painting.
Robert Wilson said he was hired by the Olympia School District to teach art at an alternative high school. The program, the Individual Learning Project, was organized to keep kids from dropping out of school. Classes were in the old Washington Middle School where the district administrative offices and Avanti High School now are. Wilson taught drawing, painting, ceramics and pottery.
Rainn Wilson said he still has aunts, uncles and cousins who live in the area. His mother is a West Seattle resident and sells jewelry at Pike Place public market.
“I love it here. I love coming back. I’ll always be a Seattlelite, a Northwestener,” Rainn Wilson said.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541