Ceremonies Saturday for Annex at Heart of West Texas Museum
RONALD W. ERDRICH
Sep. 26, 2017
COLORADO CITY, Texas (AP) — Poor old Abe, caught running whiskey.
The Abilene Reporter-News reports or so reads Dick Hickman's ticket booth from 1943, on display at the newly opened Annex of the Heart of West Texas Museum.
"I had to look through that ticket book really good and get my dad to OK whoever I chose, so it wouldn't be somebody that someone would know," said curator Patty Pharis. "Because some of them are gambling with dice and that sort of thing."
Whoever Abe Thomas was, we can only hope he learned his lesson — or at least how to elude Hickman who was police chief in Colorado City during the 1930s and '40s.
But Hickman's ticket book isn't the only thing of his hanging on the wall. There's also his doors.
"He wanted to be able to jump out of his police car really fast, so he took the doors off his car," Pharis explained. "We had lots of bootleggers."
Bobby Sparks, a local businessman, gave them to the museum. She didn't know what kind of car they belonged to; they hang beside Hickman's framed leather holster, beautifully hand-tooled with his first name boldly stamped across it.
On Saturday, the museum will celebrate the recently opened Annex, along with the dedication of a historical mural painted by Leola Anderson. That will be part of the day's larger Mitchell County Reunion which will also feature a reception from 10 a.m.-noon at the Colorado City Civic Center. A luncheon with Helen May Ledgerwood will be held at 12 p.m., then the reception for Anderson's mural will be at 2 p.m. in the museum where the artist will discuss her work.
"The Annex was a garage, it was actually a barracks at Camp Berkeley near Buffalo Gap," Pharis said. "When they closed the camp, they sold the buildings."
The owners of the Kiker Funeral Home purchased two of the surplus barracks. One became the garage, the other a lake cabin. In 1971, Bill Seale bought the business but retained the original owner as manager, renaming it Kiker-Seale. Twenty years later, the funeral home moved and the original building and its garage were given to the city who converted it into the present museum.
Near Hickman's ticket book rests an American LaFrance fire engine purchased by the city in 1924 for $3,500. From 1980-81, the fire department restored the truck, drove it in a few parades, and then put it back in storage.
"It's pretty cool. My husband Allen was one of the ones who helped restore it," Pharis said.
Hoping not to deafen myself, I asked her to ring the machine's big brass bell. Standing 15 feet away didn't help.
"It is loud," I barely heard her say. "The kids left to ring it."
It features a spotlight jutting from the open-air cab's dashboard, right next to the steering column. About the size of a dinner plate, the light was set into a swivel.
On the other side of the room is the old Wallace School basketball scoreboard. Now a school for accelerated learning, Wallace originally was the segregated campus for black students.
The school won four state basketball championships; 1959, 1960, 1962 and 1966. Those trophies are now on display at Colorado High School, but the scoreboard hanging near the Annex ceiling still appears nearly ready for action.
Wire mesh covers the countdown clock and the bulbs still seem present for illuminating the score. But Wallace had a perennial problem with their scoreboard — with room for only two digits, their tally couldn't go high enough.
"When the ladies came for a reunion, they said it was funny because Wallace scored so many points that when they would pass 100, (the score) would start over," Pharis said. "They'd have to remember the '1' was still up there for the home team."
She said they hope to restore power to the device in the future.
For a trip down Memory Lane, however, it's hard to beat Anderson's mural hanging back in the museum's upstairs big room.
"She painted it in her garage for the Mitchell County Reunion," Pharis said. "She gave it to the First National Bank and they kept it in their foyer for a long time, and they got bought out."
About 16 feet or so across, the painting was donated to the museum and hung a few weeks ago. It depicts 2nd Street at both ends, with an actual parade as well as the more metaphorical one depicting a pantheon of characters and moments from the city's history.
"Up there is Seven Wells, on the Champion Creek south of town," Pharis pointed out. "It's an area of deep wells, the Indians went there, the buffalo came there.
"In the '50s, '60s and even the '70s, that's where everybody went on a Sunday afternoon to swim and play. Now it's covered by Champion Creek Reservoir."
Alfred Eisenstadt's iconic image of a sailor kissing a nurse on V.J. Day is there among the locals, as is a representation of a young Frank Sinatra. Store fronts bookend the work at either end; some gone and replaced by pocket parks, others still present.
Pharis was born and raised here, so the memories come thick looking at Anderson's work.
"I shopped in JC Penney's, I went to the Palace Theater when I was a little girl," she said. "Colorado Drug was where I was a soda jerk for one day."
She lifts an arm toward another section.
"No matter what age you are, you can see things from your childhood," Pharis said. "Every time I come up here, I see something that I haven't seen before."
She paused for a moment, losing herself in her thoughts.
"It's really a treasure," she said.
Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com