Tuesday, July 22, 2008

". . .but you can't see that."

“I wanted something to do, so the folks at the Museum suggested I come in on Mondays to lead tours and answer questions. I spent quite a few days reading, and I’m ready,” was the explanation Bob Simpson gave for his reason for starting his work at the Ratcliffe Memorial Museum in the Railway Station in Pulaski, VA.

The tour began in a room with copies of news stories about the town, its war heroes and its tragedies. There was also a section on Count Casimir Pulaski, the Revolutionary War general considered the Father of the American Cavalry, after whom the county and city were named.

As we moved to the second room, the items common to many regions caught my interest. When I saw the switchboard, my thoughts jumped to Lily Tomlin's character, Ernestine. I could even hear her saying, "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?", but I kept this reference to myself.

In the corner sat a wood-burning kitchen stove. As soon as I saw it, I thought of my maternal grandmother's sugar cookies. I'm not sure how accurate my memory is, but as I recall those wonderful sugar cookies from her old stove, they didn't taste quite as good when the modern stove replaced the old wood-burning stove. (My relatives will correct any mis-recollections.)

In a prominent position in the Museum was the cart that at one time was parked outside the Pulaski Theater. At this cart, moviegoers could purchase a bag of hot peanuts or popcorn and take it into the theater. The cart looks as though it could still prepare a fine bag of hot peanuts.

Then I saw a rather ordinary-looking wagon--except for the words "Chain Drive" on its side. Mr. Simpson then asked if I had ever seen anything like this. I hesitated, thinking I should say "No." Before I could answer, Bob picked up the plate in the bed of the wagon to reveal something that I hadn't ever seen. There were pedals beneath the wagon that created a pedal-car out of the wagon. A hand-written card read "1917." That was really neat.

Then Bob asked what I thought of the Tin Man. I hadn't seen this fellow standing over us near the ceiling. The Tin Man had been built by Robert Kirkner in the 1950's. Mr. Kirkner, the owner of Pulaski Tinning, built this fellow from sheet metal, straps, duct work, and joints.

As we were wrapping up the tour, Mr. Simpson mentioned that there was a display that was very important to the citizens of Pulaski. He described an 80' x 20' scale model layout of Pulaski in the 1950's. Even though I would not realize the significance of the town's appearance five decades ago, the work that went into producing a layout of that size would be very interesting. But then came the wet blanket from Mr. Simpson, "but you can't see that."

I learned that Dr. Milton Brockmeyer, 93, a retired dentist, has been working for about 40 years “off and on” on a scale model replica of Pulaski with Wilmer "Willy" Ryan. Mr. Ryan, a projectionist at the Pulaski Theatre who died in 2003, came up with the idea in 1945. Dr. Brockmeyer has wanted to donate this model to the town, but he and the museum staff have a slight problem--the 80 x 20 foot layout is in the doctor’s basement (The Southwest Times, August 13, 2007, Pulaski, VA).

I'll just bet the layout is a beauty--replicas of the courthouse and the railroad station, the cars, the trains . . . .

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