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“Tales of the Past” by Frank Connor

Tales of the Past

Chapter 6 - Historic Site Markers and the Hemlock Museum.

by Frank Connor


The Sullivan sesquicentennial celebration in 1929 and the designating of General Sullivan’s route through New York and Pennsylvania by the erection of markers aroused much interest in historical matters in our section. The unveiling of the marker at Hemlock Lake and the interest shown in its building influenced the starting of a small museum in the school at Hemlock so that personal papers and belongings of the early settlers could be preserved.

Even though the most of us are more liable to destroy such things than to save them, not realizing their historical value, it is astonishing the amount of material which was brought into the school in a very short time to start the museum, and if the section in and about Hemlock is fairly representative of the township and surroundings there would be no difficulty in filling a building the size of the school. It is regrettable that something in the line of a museum could not have been started before, because much valuable stuff has been destroyed that would have given us more facts about the lives and activities of the settlers who followed General Sullivan into this section.

At the annual meeting of District No. 4 in 1929 a small appropriation was voted to start the museum, and in October a meeting was called at which time John P. Coykendall was elected president, Ernest Short secretary, B. R. Beach treasurer. The museum was opened to the public February 16th, 1930, at 1 p.m., and nearly 500 visitors have registered to date. This shows that people are interested in undertakings of this kind and the response to requests for loan of articles more than exceeded the expectations of the sponsors, the room being nearly filled in five weeks. It is impossible to arrange the articles so that they can be shown to advantage. It has grown so fast that it is contemplated moving it to a room 33 ft x 100 ft in the basement which will give a better opportunity to display the exhibits and it is hoped will give space enough to house a kitchen, living room and bedroom of colonial times. The necessary furniture has been offered to accomplish this and it is expected work will start on it soon.

Much encouraging comment has been received from state department inspectors and officials. The high school faculty has found it of value in their work of instruction as it contains many things closely connected with the history of our country and state. Many of the school children are steady visitors each Sunday, finding each time some new thing of interest to them and they have contributed no small part to its enlargement.

Things must not necessarily be of great age to be eligible for a museum. We find that some things which only a score of years ago were considered the last word in their line are today hard to secure and would be interesting for comparison. Some twenty-five years ago an “Edison” phonograph with the large “morning glory” horn and cylinder records were very common and the privilege of spending an evening listening to one of them was considered a treat, an excellent entertainment. Today, while there may be scores of them stored away in attics, we cannot find one for exhibition.

Likewise, ten years ago each “radio fan” was searching for brass nuts from old dry cells and empty salt cardboard containers, or having found them he was busy with soldering irons, tin snips and pliers building a one-tube radio which, when completed, promised wonderful results. When the set did work the fan was well repaid for his labor. When he called in his neighbor to listen it invariably emitted squeals and static instead of music until the neighbor went away in disgust. One would think these one-tube home-made sets would be common, but after diligent search we cannot find one, perhaps the cause for it being that they were overhauled and added to so many times that they didn’t survive or else completely lost their identity.

In the spring of 1920 Wallace Bennett, electrician at the lake, built the first radio in the town. He had it in a room by itself and was somewhat crowded at that. “B” batteries were then unknown around here and he used twenty-five old worn-out dry cells to get the required voltage for the tube, and a couple of telephone receivers for a head set. KDKA was the only broadcaster and by very strict attention to your listening you could hear the announcements and music very faintly. Even at that, with the material he had it was a real accomplishment and sufficiently interesting to set several home builders at work. After he had improved it somewhat he invited the Editor of the Gazette over. Results must have been fair for shortly after that the Gazette ran a radio column for a time. The Rochester Times-Union was our first near broadcaster. Our world moves so fast in this twentieth century that the things which are common today may in a few years be real curios.