Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Time Flies When You Love History . . . .

I went to our local museum yesterday to do some research about our Amtrak depot, which has been going through a major renovation.  As mentioned before, the depot is important to our family history because my mother's arrival at that very building by train from Chicago in 1945 signaled the start of our existence here:  70 years this Christmas. 

So, with that anniversary coinciding with the upcoming soft and official opening of the depot in its set of new clothes, so to speak, I'm hoping to put together a story about one of Sandpoint's iconic structures. 

Well, I did get a start on my research, but that was after spending some time learning about the cataloging of information now residing in computers rather than simply being tucked away in all those boxes "in the back" like it was during my previous times spent researching. 

And, so it was:  Will Valentine gave Marianne Love a brief primer on how I could find stuff by title or by date.  Then, he brought out one of those boxes where I could put my fingers on the actual documents. 

We had a few station breaks during this orientation.  

Will pointed to the maps of Sandpoint on the wall from 1910 and 1940 where local history buffs, Vern Eskridge and Dale Selle, meticulously organized information and graphics, showing where buildings were located on downtown streets and their names at the times designated on the maps.  

I made a mental note to myself as he explained the origin of the maps:  gotta get back here sometime and take a good look at what these two long timers left behind during the countless hours they spent at the museum before they passed on. 

Will also clearly exhibited his fascination for the first Sandpoint depot, which somehow later got moved over the railroad bed to the other side.  Both of us wondered "how'd they do that?"  

Eventually, I began noting depot-related documents available for my research---but just barely.  I looked at the clock, and it was already 2:55 p.m., meaning I'd have to be leaving soon. 

So, the depot work sat while I grabbed my camera, which had been brought along to snap a few photos of the exhibit soon to open at the museum.  

It's still a work in progress, but by Saturday and for several weeks afterward, museum goers have a treat in store. 

Volunteers have put together two major exhibits----one features vintage clothing (specifically some magnificent wedding gowns worn by locals a while back), and the other exhibit will take visitors on a trip through Bonner County's farm history. 

The museum has a few new volunteers who have blended in very nicely with some of those familiar faces I've seen working away at historical projects for years.

I met one of the new faces for the first time one day at Tango Cafe a few months ago in the Columbia Bank.  I instantly liked Heather Upton, and that day we exchanged some good laughs about her family business back in Oregon where she lived until moving to Sandpoint four years ago. 

Once again, I was delighted to see Heather again at the museum last week.  As an art history major, gem and jewelry expert and all-around lover of all things vintage, she has found heaven at the museum where she has begun helping with displays.  

From the looks of her first efforts, I have a feeling the museum crowd is going to make sure Heather hangs around for a long, long time.  So talented, so knowledgeable and so nice.  

Another volunteer, writer extraordinaire, editor and blogger Jenny Leo has contributed to the vintage display with her words and her research (as seen in the text below the first photo).   Jenny's blog can be found at

And, of course, Olivia, the curator, has provided quiet leadership, guidance and knowledge to help with this exhibit and the others.  

I loved the farm display, especially the dairy segment.  When I see a cream separator, I sail into family history where ours sat on the back porch on a bench my dad had built. Over the years, ours went from crank to electric. 

One of the great family stories involves my mother floating through outer space in the separator bowl.  Discrepancies exist as to whether the bowl was filled with popcorn or potato chips.  I still vote for potato chips, but it's okay cuz the separator bowl saga occurred in one of Mother's many crazy dreams.

Because of that and our farm history, it's hard not to get excited with the sight of a well-maintained, good as new cream separator. 

All tolled, my time spent at the museum yesterday flew by, which means I have to go back again.  And, I may just go back many, many more times cuz it's a fun place where---to everyone involved down there---history is Heaven. 

Tales from the Wardrobe: A Look at Fashions from Bonner County History 

Clothing ranks with food and shelter as a basic human requirement for survival, yet it is so much more. What we choose to wear is a cultural expression, a mark of celebration or mourning, a signifier of gender, class, occupation, income, and age. Styles evolve from season to season, reflecting wider changes in technology, taste, social values, and even world events.

Displaying items pulled directly from the Museum’s collection, as well as photographs, prints, vintage advertisements, and other ephemera, Tales From the Wardrobe is series of exhibits featuring garments, shoes, accessories, and jewelry worn by Bonner County residents from the 1880s through the 1950s.

ERA I: 1880-1919

Prior to the 1880s, the population of what would become Bonner County consisted mainly of Native Americans, explorers from “back East,” and prospectors passing through on their way to the storied gold fields of Montana and British Columbia. Practicality trumped fashion for these rugged individuals, who sported deerskin hides, leather, hardy fabrics like canvas and flannel, and (after 1873) the sturdy denim jeans produced by Mr. Levi Strauss of San Francisco--the one trend that came and never left!

The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1882 brought first a trickle, then a steady stream of people eager to log the forests, mill the timber, and work the land. Soon followed merchants, lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, teachers, law enforcement, barkeeps, and others to serve this budding population. And all of them needed clothes.

The 1880s and 1890s marked the waning of the Victorian era, as its cumbersome crinolines and corsets gave way to a gentler S-shape (helped by a bustle) in the Edwardian period. By 1910 new designs out of Paris revealed a columnar silhouette inspired by ancient Greece and Rome. But of course, what was fashionable in Paris took its time getting to North Idaho, and what worked well for an affluent city dweller didn’t necessarily suit a camp cook or logger’s wife. World War I brought other changes, and hard work called for looser garments in practical fabrics, yet special occasions have always called for special clothes. By decade’s end, bustles were a memory and skirts no longer brushed the floor.
             -----Jenny Leo, writer, editor, actress, Bonner County Heritage Museum volunteer

For more information about this exhibit and the museum in general, visit

1 comment:

Jenny Leo said...

Thank you for your generous write-up and the fabulous photos, Marianne! I know exactly what you mean about time flying when you're doing research. Sometimes it's as absorbing as detective work or a mystery novel come to life.