Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Historical artifacts being moved to storage location

Cooperative local efforts have identified a storage location for the thousands of historical artifacts held in the former county courthouse building in Shelby, N. C.

The collection will be moved in early May to the large gymnasium of the former Hunter School building on Pinkney Street in Shelby, adjacent to and sharing back parking with the Cleveland County Schools’ instructional center. The gym area is no longer used for school purposes.

The artifacts were donated for a former historical museum at the old courthouse and have been held there by Cleveland County government, on behalf of all citizens, since that museum closed. For several months now, volunteers of Destination Cleveland County, Inc. (DCC) have been working to inventory and properly document the artifacts, with the guidance of professional museum collection managers. They estimate that about half the overall job is done so far and expect to complete the work more quickly going forward, by having the artifacts in a building purposely set up for their cataloging, inventory, and storage, said Sherry Grenier, co-chair of the DCC History Committee.

Local volunteers Libby Sarazen and Millie Lattimore have been leading the documentation of paper archives ranging from early governmental documents to letters from famous forebears to hundreds of old photographs. The ambitious goal is to inventory and document each and store it by proper accession number for ready access in both original form and computer scan. Right now, their workroom is a cramped former office in the old courthouse, ringed with boxes and files.

“It will be wonderful to have adequate work space and facilities to process a document completely all at one time and know it will not have to be touched again for proper archiving,” Ms. Sarazen said.

Local governmental and school leaders cooperated to arrange use of the space, and DCC collection managers provided information about optimum storage and work needs, said Eddie Bailes of the county manager’s office. Preparation of the site for its new function is being completed by county maintenance director Pete McFarland and crew.

The relocation will also facilitate planning for the interior renovation of the former courthouse building, which DCC has leased from the county for development of the prospective Earl Scruggs Center – Songs & Stories of the Carolina Foothills. Plans for the Center anticipate rotating exhibits drawing from the local collection of artifacts.

Roger Holland of Holland & Hamrick Architects, PA, engaged to provide architectural services for the renovation, said planning work could proceed more efficiently after the relocation. “We’ll be better able to move around and thoroughly examine the structure – for example, determining which walls are load-bearing,” he said. Work so far has been careful and cautious so as not to disturb the unprotected collection or create dust or debris that would compromise it.

Relocation of the collection also addresses other needs, DCC board chairman Brownie Plaster said. Fundamental are adequate security and environmental conditions for preserving the collection – for example, lighting, heating, and cooling, she said. Another is adequate space and furnishings such as shelving for organizing and arranging the artifacts, as well as proper work tables and facilities such as bathrooms for those working on the collection.

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Ready for move to storage location -- The courtroom in the historic old courthouse saw justice meted out in days gone by, and it will be a gathering spot as the building is revitalized as the Earl Scruggs Center. For now, by necessity its lawyers’ tables, jury box, and benches hold historical artifacts being inventoried and catalogued. They will be moved to a more suitable storage and work area in early May.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

School trophy cup presents mystery

This tarnished old trophy cup was catalogued during a recent workday at the old county courthouse building in Shelby -- and it presented a puzzle. The cup was donated to the former historical museum in 1984 by the Shelby City School system. Engraving on one side of the cup indicates it was awarded in 1929 by The Cleveland Star newspaper to Washington School as winner of an elementary school contest. However, the name “Washington School” has been scratched over and an arrow incised pointing to the other side, where the name “Graham School” is engraved.

Volunteer cataloger Eleanor Morgan, inventorying the cup, and others around the worktable raised some possibilities. Perhaps the engraver made an error? Perhaps it was a rotating cup? Perhaps as the Great Depression began there was no money for a new one?

But there’s no way of knowing for sure, unless some reader has knowledge of the cup and lets us know by sending a message through Comments below.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy birthday to Laura

Volunteers at an April 12 workday for the historic county courthouse collection project surprised Laura Overbey, right, with recognition of her birthday during their lunch break. Joining in with a “Happy Birthday” sign is Sara Mac Wood, daughter of Millie Wood, DCC History Committee co-chair and provider of the cupcakes. Laura and her colleague Lenore Hardin are professional museum collections managers helping guide the local project.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

In case of fire…throw grenade!

At first, none of the group working to catalog historical artifacts at the old county courthouse building in Shelby could identify the object that volunteer Rebecca Love, M. D., right, had on the worktable before her.

The strange-looking device had an accession number on it, though, and from that and the label, Dr. Love was able to give it a name and a bit of history.

“It’s a fire extinguisher for manual use,” she said, donated to the former historical museum many years ago by the Kings Mountain Fire Department. How was it used? She pointed to the label: “Throw bulb at base of flame.”
Apparently, no one ever threw this particular device. Its frosted globe top and shiny metal base are in excellent shape. Whatever flame-killing liquid it might have held, however, seems long dried up – shaken gently, it seems to have grains or crystals inside. But the label is clear, bearing the name of the Out-o-Matic Co. of 1737 E. 31st St. in Denver, Colo., and various identifying numbers.

For any who are interested, the volunteers thought, it should be easy enough to follow up and learn more detail about home firefighting in days gone by. But follow-up turned out to be tough and tantalizing. For starters:

-- No one reached at the Kings Mountain Fire Department could immediately recall the device or donating it.

-- An Internet search at first turned up no useful results: no Out-o-Matic, no vintage fire extinguisher, no fire globe, no search term that yielded a description or image of a device like this.

Then came a breakthrough, and it was a good thing on Martha Stewart’s website that unlocked the puzzle. Her interview with a firefighting historian covered the evolution of extinguishing devices, from the leather buckets and warning rattlers that colonists used to early water “syringes” pumped by hand to grenades to extinguishers improved to the models used today.

Ah, ha, a fire grenade!

Use of that search term on the Internet yielded dozens of results, including the Glass Extinguisher Emporium. That site is the only one found that had a reference to and picture of an Out-o-Matic fire grenade exactly like ours.

The site tells the general history of fire grenades, which had a life span from 1860 to 1960 or thereabouts. Grenades of the first generation frequently were made in the form of ornate, colorful bottles prized by collectors today (see the many illustrations on the Emporium site). The second generation by post-1900 makers took on a more industrial design, similar to the professional-looking model in Cleveland County’s collection.

Saline solution and other fire-killing liquids were used in the grenades. At one point, many used carbon tetrachloride, considered hazardous today. The label on the local device, however, says “Contains no carbon tetrachloride.”

The search led to Denver, where the device was made, and contact with the Denver Firefighters Museum where Angela Rayne is enthusiastic executive director.

As expected, she reported that the Out-o-Matic Company and its street address exist no longer. She shared information about the large number of thriving firefighter museums across the country and how they work together in the Fire Museum Network. This organization has nearly 300 fire museum members across the country. The site indicates they range from “a spare room in a firehouse basement” to magnificent institutions such as the New York City Fire Department Museum.

Ms. Rayne sent best wishes to local volunteers. She also wanted them to know the fire museum network has undertaken a collective project to further delineate the standard museum classification system (used locally) in the area of firefighting. When completed, this will provide museums an in-common nomenclature for more precisely naming items within the standard system’s broader categories.

Note: If you recall fire grenades or ever used one, we’d like to hear about it. Tell us by clicking on Comments below.

Contributor: Pat Poston

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Perspective: Remembering ‘Miss Fay’

When we volunteers come to the old county courthouse building in Shelby to help inventory and document the historical artifacts stored there, our main workroom has been the area set aside for a local Hall of Fame. Its walls are ringed with portraits of Cleveland County’s great, and its display cases are filled with souvenirs of their service.

We imagine sometimes their eyes are upon us. And we feel very accountable for good stewardship of the legacy left us by these leaders and our other forebears here in the foothills of North Carolina.

Sometimes we talk about them. In this presidential campaign year, particularly, we’ve chatted about the “Shelby Dynasty” and its mark on politics. I’m partial to stories about Mrs. O. Max Gardner (the former Fay Webb), whose luminous portrait hangs beside that of her husband, former governor of North Carolina and subsequent Washington presence.
As the Webbley site describes her: “She had the uncanny ability to be at ease and at home in the White House, the Governor's Mansion, or at the home of a friend in Shelby. These characteristics were publicly recognized … when she was honored in 1958 by the Women's National Democratic Club in Washington. During these ceremonies, she was described by former President and Mrs. Harry S. Truman as ‘North Carolina's all-time gracious citizen. A wonderful woman, and the wife of one of the great men of our time.’ During these same ceremonies, Eleanor Roosevelt stated that Miss Fay was ‘always the same - cordial, enthusiastic, human, understanding and delightful.’ Margaret Truman added that as long as she could remember ‘Miss Fay had been an ornament to political and social life in North Carolina and Washington’.”

I remember how she loved politics, staying active after her husband’s death and integrally involved in Democratic affairs. I believe she would be delighted that North Carolina once again has relevance in a presidential campaign, just as she was in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency.

She campaigned hard in her gracious way that year, and I had the privilege of seeing her in action. I was a young, inexperienced reporter for the Shelby Daily Star, and she kindly invited me to a luncheon in Charlotte during one of Candidate Kennedy’s campaign stops. The event was at Ivey’s Tulip Terrace, where ladies went for lunch then, and I wore a hat. The other three guests were Lady Bird Johnson, whose husband Lyndon was running for vice president, Rose Kennedy, the candidate’s mother, and Jeanelle Moore, wife of N. C. Governor Dan Moore.

I wish I could say I came away with deep insights from these remarkable women, but at the time I had no hint of history to come, was too young to appreciate the portent, and was, in fact, a little frustrated at being confined to what I thought was the women’s beat and not the main Kennedy rally going on elsewhere in the city.

But over time I came to understand that Miss Fay didn’t see her broad role in politics as a limited woman’s beat. In fact she was a pioneer in demonstrating the value of women’s contributions to politics, and having Miss Fay out there before us made it easier to step out and take part.

Another courthouse volunteer, Barry Hambright, has a sparkling story illustrating that. He recalls as a youngster watching folks gather for a rally at the local Democratic headquarters in downtown Shelby, during that same Kennedy campaign. On the sidewalk outside was an elegantly garbed Miss Fay, vigorously shaking a tambourine, smiling and beckoning the people in.

Contributor: Pat Poston

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Public ‘Conversations with Cissy’ sessions scheduled at four county locations

The design team working on a master plan for a revitalized historical center based in the old courthouse building in Shelby, N. C., has been engaged for months in dialogue with Cleveland County people.

And to keep the conversation going, four more public meetings have been scheduled to share findings and progress of planning efforts to date, elicit more local input, and hear any questions about the process.

The sessions will be led by Cissy Anklam, who heads the master planning team for the prospective Earl Scruggs Center – Stories & Songs of the Carolina Foothills. The center is being developed by Destination Cleveland County, Inc. (DCC), a local non-profit organization working toward improvement in the area’s economy through cultural tourism.

The four County Conversations with Cissy will be held at sites across the county and at varying times to make it more convenient for local residents to take part in a session, said Brownie Plaster, DCC board chair. The schedule:

Wednesday, April 30:

7:30 p.m., Cleveland County Arts Council, 111 S. Washington St., Shelby

Thursday, May 1:

9:00 a.m., Lawndale Community Center, Piedmont Drive, Lawndale
12:00 noon, Boiling Springs Methodist Church fellowship hall, 215 S. Main St., Boiling Springs (please bring a bag lunch)
7:30 p.m., Kings Mountain Historical Museum, 100 E. Mountain St., Kings Mountain

Ms. Anklam is a professional museum planner and formerly directed exhibit design and educational programming for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. She is now a principal of Museum Concepts, which works with museum clients across the country.

The master plan being developed anticipates the former courthouse building as a base of exhibits, interactive features, and lively programming showcasing the area’s unique history and heritage, including culture embedded in song and story. It will draw upon the county’s store of historical artifacts remaining from an earlier, now-closed historical museum at the site.

At the meetings, Ms. Anklam will report progress and identify major themes emerging so far from the design team’s research and engagement with local citizens – for example, the county’s farm and textile-industry roots and political history.

Design team members gathered much valuable information during their earlier public sessions and interviews with county residents, Ms. Plaster said. “At our Conversations meetings, we’ll encourage even more suggestions of people to talk to for additional insights.”

Targeted for completion in June, the master plan report will provide the broad strokes of program concept and collections plan, facility, site, and staffing requirements, and planning foundations for the work of subsequent architectural, exhibit design, media and interpretive teams.

Design team members in addition to Ms. Anklam are Richard Molinaroli and Beth Miles, exhibit designers and principals of MFM Design; Jeff Place, archivist of folklife archives and collections at the Smithsonian; and John Hubbell, exhibit writer/researcher. Herman Viola, Ph.D., curator emeritus of the Smithsonian, is an advisor.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

DCC’s Rhythm & Roots campaign announced

“Making history in Cleveland County” is the theme of the Destination Cleveland County Rhythm & Roots capital campaign now underway. A solid start has been made, and campaign leaders hope many others will sign on for the journey.

Cheering that message were approximately 250 local citizens gathered at The Gingerbread Meeting House in Shelby, N. C., April 3 for announcement of the capital campaign to raise a total $7.5 million over five years. The local goal is $4.2 million, and the remainder will be sought from foundations and other grant sources. DCC will use the funds to carry out plans for attracting significant cultural tourism to the area by building on its unique musical heritage, history, and charm.

To do that, DCC plans include two catalyst projects. One is creation of the Earl Scruggs Center--Songs and Stories of the Carolina Foothills, to be located in the historic former county courthouse building. The other is conversion of a former Shelby movie house into the Don Gibson Theatre.

Introduced by DCC Board Chair Brownie Plaster, Campaign General Chairs Robin Hendrick and J. T. Scruggs reported that $3.6 million – more than 80 percent of the local goal – has already been pledged. The amount includes the City of Shelby’s matching grant of $500,000 toward the theater renovation, Cleveland County government’s commitment of $1.5 million for interior renovation of the former courthouse building, and generous gifts from early local contributors.

Also introduced were Linton Suttle and Adelaide Craver, chairs of the campaign’s Leadership Council, and Robin Smith and Will Plaster, chairs of the Leadership Division. Jim Rose is honorary chair of the campaign.

“This is a generous community and an important night,” Scruggs said. The event recognized both the capital campaign launch and progress made to date.

“DCC is less than two years old,” Ms. Plaster reported, “and in that time it has researched the viability of the two projects, secured the leases for the two venues, begun the inventory of the county’s historical artifacts, assembled a growing volunteer base, secured top national consultants to guide us, and established relationships with the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and elected officials on the local, state, and national levels.”

“When the Master Plan for the Scruggs Center and the programming of the Gibson Theatre are revealed, the excitement will grow even more,” Hendrick said. DCC is engaged now in the master planning process with the help of an expert team of museum planners and other cultural historians and specialists.

Those gathered heard more about Rhythm & Roots and saw a special CD presentation describing the proactive five-year public and private initiative to accelerate cultural tourism and economic development and to recognize local history and heritage, as revitalization strategies.

The effort is attracting the attention of others elsewhere involved in development and heritage preservation.

“I am thrilled to know about the exciting plans being developed by Destination Cleveland County,” said Dr. Bill Ferris, eminent professor of history at the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill. “The project will have a significant impact on the state of North Carolina as a resource for cultural tourism and education. I look forward to working with the citizens of Cleveland County as the project develops and am confident that it will be a great success.”

Several early contributors to the campaign were recognized during the event, made even more festive with the music of the Gardner-Webb University Concert Choir, directed by Dr. Paul Etter, and the GWU Drum Line. Among the lead donors are Ann Harry, First National Bank, Linton and Sallie Suttle, the Suttle Family Foundation (Linton and Sallie Suttle, Carole and Jack Arey, and Vance and Gina Suttle), and the Fox family (Mrs. C. L. Fox, Larry and Karen Fox, and Lisa and Mike Poage).

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