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Board members share memories of soon-to-be closed county museum

Board members share memories of soon-to-be closed county museum
The Obion County Museum, located at 1004 Edwards St. in Union City, will be closing Friday. Many of the artifacts that have been displayed there through the years will be moved to Discovery Park of America, which will be open in about a year’s time on Union City’s northwest side between Everett Boulevard and I-69.
The museum, which was founded in 1970 at the site of the Obion County Fairgrounds and which moved to its current location Oct. 15, 1986, has preserved the history of this community in interesting, informative and important ways through those years.
As its days wind down, The Messenger has asked members of the board of directors to share their memories of favorite exhibits.
Area residents who would like to visit the museum prior to its closing may make an appointment for a specific time or take advantage of the hours for display from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today, Wednesday and Friday.
From Larry Mink: “The assembly of the woolly mammoth was a fun-filled and exciting three nights: except for the breaking of one rib, which was later repaired to perfection.
“The Western display was a great fun display at the museum when we had the opening for it. We had a great crowd and lots of fun with some old-time cowboys, including Jim Hill, who used to tour as a cowboy entertainer.
“Lots of good people have come and gone and donated their time to make the museum what it is today.”
From Karl Ullrich: “I ‘discovered’ the Obion County Museum shortly after moving to Union City in 2000. I had seen the small sign on Reelfoot Avenue countless times as I drove by, and I decided to drop in one day to see if there was anything to it.
“I was impressed with the exhibit, ‘Then and Now,’ a comparison of technology and daily life, spanning roughly a century.
“It and the Sabin photograph collection remain my favorite exhibits.
“It wasn’t long before I was recruited as a volunteer by Mr. John Bell, whose stories of Obion County and Union City are as entertaining as they are comprehensive.
“If I have a favorite artifact, it would be a Sabin photograph, circa 1920, of a troop of Boy Scouts boating on Reelfoot Lake. I have always made a point of showing that image to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts who visit the museum. I’d like to think that it helps bridge the gap between their own experiences and the history in the exhibits.
“The Obion County Museum has always been something of a hidden treasure, so I’m excited to see Discovery Park taking shape. Of course, Discovery Park is not meant to be the Obion County Museum on a grand scale — there will be so much more than a local historical museum could provide — but the stories of our communities and region will still be there, better cared for and on display to a much larger audience.”
From Alice Fennel: “I have served on the Obion County Museum board only a few short years. During that time, I have enjoyed helping with tours for school children and adults from the county and surrounding area. I have learned a lot from working with fellow members of the board and talking with people who have visited our museum.
“One of the things that surprised me was the realization that some of the vocabulary that I am familiar with is beginning to fade from our language as time moves along. One of the ways to keep this vocabulary alive and well is through visits to museums such as ours.
“Obion County history depends on the people who work in the current and future Discovery Park of America educating the youth and future visitors about how this county began and what has happened to it during the past and what will happen in the future.
“An example is the following story: My job for the museum tours involved the tour through the one-room school house. During a visit here, students and visitors were invited to come inside and sit in the 1800s desk and write on the slates with chalk. We talked about the size of the room and the placement of doors and windows. We did math from the book that was used for all eight grades.
“The first instruction from me was to listen. As I read the math problem aloud, it said to answer in a full sentence. Imagine that — having to talk using a sentence. Naturally, the student would yell out the answer using one word. This was incorrect and we would spend several minutes trying to figure out why the answer was wrong.
“Finally I would remind them of the first instruction — listen and answer in full sentences.
“It never seemed to fail that someone in the group wanted to know if all students were together in this one room. During a visit, I would read the contract between a teacher in 1890 and the school board. There was a list of 20 rules she must follow. One that brought giggles to the teenagers was the fact the teacher had to be in her home before 6 o’clock each evening, unless she had special permission from the board.
“Also, what was most awakening to me was when I read the rule concerning dress. The statement that the teacher’s dress must be no shorter than ankle-length went by my mind with little concern. Then I came to the statement that the teacher must wear two petticoats. At some point I started asking the question of the students, ‘What is a petticoat?’ This is where my education started. I would say that only 1 percent of the students who visited my ‘little red school house’ could come close to knowing what this word meant.
“I wish I had kept a notebook of the answers that I received.
“You see, that word is no longer in our vocabulary.
“Another awesome event that happened in the little school building was when I got to the part about where the students went to get water. This would bring up the question as to how they could get a drink. Most of the young students could not imagine all of the school drinking out of the water dipper, let alone having to walk down the path to the stream to fetch the water in a pail. Many would ask, ‘Where did they go to wash their hands?’
“Oh, the simple life of the 1800s.
“Wonder how they survived with all those germs.”
Published in The Messenger 5.14.12

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