The auditorium of the Geary County Historical Museum echoed with some mild laughter as memories of businesses from the 1950s and 60s were shared among a group of residents Sunday during the monthly Memories at the Museum series.
Katie Goerl, Geary County Historical Society executive director, said that she and museum curator, Heather Hagedorn, came up with the idea for Memories at the Museum after overhearing conversations among volunteers.
“It came out of overhearing conversations between some of our volunteers about such and such department store that is not here any more; where did those folks end up and that sort of thing,” she said. “We began thinking to ourselves that we would love to get some of these stories recorded. It’s easy enough to track the location of stores. You can track change over time in that way but those stories are going to disappear as soon as the people with the memories leave town or pass away. Now is the time for us to collect those stories and that’s why Heather and I started the program.”
Businesses that brought back memories for the group included: Fabias Furniture Repair, Duckwalls, Meseke’s News Stand, Shell House and Daniel Bakeries, White Kitchen, Longs Department Store, Woolsworth and several more.
Each of the participants, after introducing themselves, started talking about a location and with help of others were able to talk about other businesses that were in that some location, prior to and since that business was there.
The small group discussion is what Goerl was looking for when beginning this project.
“Having a big group is sometimes counter-productive, she said. “You don’t get to sit down and talk with them one-on-one. We like having a nice small group and getting a discussion going. I loved it today. That’s my ideal situation.”
She said that the conversations also allow her to find out more about the personality of the businesses the once lined the streets of Junction City.
“To me it’s more about capturing those stories and those personal details that are otherwise lost in the historical record,” she said. “You might get a newspaper article about a business but you can’t ask anyone questions about that article if they have passed away. It’s more about getting into the nitty-gritty of the personal stuff than about actually collecting data.”
In July the series continues with predominate women, past and present.
“We are looking for women that broke the mold, so to speak,” Goerl said. “Whether that was a professional, in the workplace, as a mother, sister, caretaker or anything like that. All kinds of women took leadership positions in the 20th Century, especially by the middle of the 20th Century. We are interested in hearing stories about those local leaders and women who really took a role within our community.”
Goerl is also looking for the public’s assistance with documenting Geary County businesses, regardless of when it was established.
“Even if it’s from the 1990s if it’s a business that isn’t around anymore we may not have a picture of it whatsoever,” she said. “Especially (bring in photos) if it’s after the 1950s and the more recent past. We’ve got all sorts of black and white photos from WWII and before that. Those more recent photos we may not necessarily have. We love photos, we don’t turn a whole lot of photos away.”
More about the Geary County Historical Society, what is happening there or how to donate can be found on their website www.gchsweb.org.