THE REEDLEY MUSEUM
by Jackie Dale
images by Frankie Leal
The city of Reedley has under its very own nose, a wealth of undiscovered historical treasures! I sheepishly confess that although I have lived in the Reedley area for over 30 years, I had never visited the Reedley Museum. A need for some research information took me there and I was delightfully surprised. Despite its understated exterior, the Reedley Museum in fact, contains a wealth of historical artifacts and memorabilia.
The Reedley museum opened in October 1979. Until the museum was opened, many of the artifacts intended for the museum were collected and stored in the basement of the post office. Georgia Linscheid was then the President of the Reedley Historical Society and she was in charge of bringing the museum to fruition. Now a team of 20 docents maintains the museum, does research and leads tours. An old vault has been converted into climate-controlled environment that contains many irreplaceable documents, books and photographs of historical value, protecting them from the ravages of time.
Local families and individuals have donated many of the museums exhibits (although some are only on loan) so there is great diversity in the museums displays. I always cringe a little as I walk past the medieval-looking doctors examination chair. The pump organ was far more interesting especially when I learned it required two boys to continuously pump the organ as the organist played. There is a large antique photograph of airplanes loaded with fresh figs bound for Los Angeles, preparing to take off from the then named, Great Western Airport.
One area is set up to mimic an old-time schoolroom. Reedley Historical Society President, Marvin Crum, said he gets a big kick out of explaining to the children about dunce caps and chamber pots. Their facial expressions are a combination of horror and disbelief.
Another section features the kitchen of yesteryear. Old style kitchen utensils cover one of the walls. A few of the items you can see include butter churns, heavy irons that had to be heated on the stove, a cumbersome 1910 waffle iron and an ice-box that needed actual ice to keep the food cold. You can also check out one of the infamous wringer washing machines. Two rotating bars would squeeze the water out of the clothes and carelessness often resulted in severe injuries to fingers caught in between the moving bars.
The American Indian room is a spectacular display of Indian artifacts. From grinding stones and arrowheads to the intricately woven baskets and infant carriers, Reedley Museum’s American Indian room is quite possibly one of the finest exhibits of California Indian culture in the San Joaquin Valley. One of the most exciting displays at this particular exhibit is the fishing trap. The fishing trap is made from reeds and milkweed twine. The unique cone-like construction would allow the fish to swim in and become trapped, unable to turn around as it reached the narrow end. The fishing trap is quite rare in that very few of these traps still exist, much less in the pristine condition of the trap at the Reedley Museum.
A field trip to the museum has become a rite of passage and a long-held tradition for Reedley third graders. Marvin said that the telephone room is always a huge favorite among the children. Growing up in the era of hand-held cell phones, the kids marvel at the sheer size and styles of the old telephones. Many of the students have never even seen a rotary dial phone and are quite tickled at what people used to have to do just to make a phone call. The girls always like to look at the old-fashioned dolls and games while the boys enjoy checking out the collection of vintage marbles circa 1908.
The Reedley Museum is a virtual treasure trove of the past. There is nothing quite like a trip back in time to give children, and adults too, a deeper appreciation and understanding of just how life was lived before modern times and co