By Virginia Decker, 1976
In 1970, Glenn Edmonds put a notice in The Pagosa Springs SUN that there would be a meeting in the R.E.A. Building for anyone who might be interested in starting a Museum to preserve old historical records and items. A large group attended, and with much discussion, a Society was formed with Worthe Crouse as chairman, Louise Kleckner, secretary and Virginia Decker, treasurer. A committee was appointed to submit a name for the Society, which was accepted as the San Juan Historical Society.
With many meetings and discussions, trial and errors, the two most important goals were to raise money and find a location for our Museum. Daily Hott offered the “Old Cabin” on his ranch, originally part of old Fort Lewis. The Town offered us the old Water Works, to be occupied when the new water system would be finished. This was a good offer, but we needed more room.
At this time the Job Corps program of the U.S. Forest Service was phasing out, and there were lots of buildings no longer being used out there. By the time we thought of asking for one, however, they had all been given away to various concerns. The small building at one end of the gym was about the right size for us, so we contacted Rod Blacker, the Forest Supervisor, and he told us that the gym had been given to the Navajo Tribe Fair Committee at Window Rock, Arizona. With many phone calls and after much red tape, the Forest Service helped us acquire this “wash room” from the Navajo Tribe — but we had to remove it before the gym was moved to Window Rock.
Most of that summer a group of concerned, and I might add ambitious, citizens went out after working hours, night after night, to dismantle the inside walls, which were made of cement blocks. We took them down, cleaned the mortar off and stacked them to be hauled and used again after the building was moved. We acquired the bathroom and shower fixtures as well.
Worthe Crouse volunteered to move the building for us, so with him and the good help of his son George, we got the building moved to its present location. We now had to get money and donations for a foundation and floor to put the building on. This was done with our Membership Drive and donations of money and help and materials. Vic and Al Montano donated labor. Riverside Ready Mix donated cement and the County filled the Water Works Room with rock so the floor could be poured at the same time. Milton Scheining roughed in the plumbing. Rob Snow volunteered to help with welding and the lumber mills donated lumber, and we were ready for the building.
Lucille Kleckner and Virginia Decker made a trip to Durango to the State Highway Department to acquire a permit allowing us to move the building down the highway, which had to be closed to traffic while the building was en route.
Worthe and George Crouse and their crew had constructed a heavy frame on a large truck, which allowed them to drive the truck into the building, rest the building onto the frame, and then drive the truck with the building on top, right onto the highway. This process was done twice, since the building had to be cut in two — it was too large to move in one piece. After the two sections were placed on the cement platform, the building was welded back together, ready to house the Museum.
Milton Scheining did the plumbing for the bathrooms, and Ralph Phelps completed the electrical wiring after the first electrician left the job unfinished. Dennis Kleckner did some additional electrical wiring, and Bob Sivers helped with gas heaters. Now we had our Museum, but we had to fill it. Ruth Adams had a small museum in a shed, and donated the items to us to give us a good start. Some things she gave us outright and some are on loan. The Citizens Bank gave us checks with the Society’s name on them. We have had donations of money from Fred Harman, Mary Aicher, V.A. Poma, June Lynch, Harry Wisdom, Archuleta County Abstracts, Mrs. Fred Cooper, O.W. Crowley, J.W. Hershey, Archie Toner, Pagosa Boxing Club, Riverhead Telephone, San Juan Supply, Dailey Hott, Gen. G.P. Saville, and David Smith Cement.
Last, but by no means least, the Title Ten Program came to the Pagosa area and to our good fortune they put us into their program and built some wonderful things for the Museum. They moved into our building when the weather got bad, and they built shelving, room dividers, and an office, which we are so proud of.
The office includes the old “Pay Cage” from the Hersch Mercantile Building, which was donated to us by Hal Franklin, and the old Chromo Post Office fixtures donated by Fitzhugh Havens. I do hope we haven’t left anyone out as we have had so many kind people who have helped and worked all these years to put this together. Since 1970, Louise Knowlton succeeded Worthe Crouse as chairman, and at her death Earl Mullins became chairman. We were very saddened at the loss of Louise as she and Virgil were very strong supporters and did a lot to start us off on our venture. Genevieve Olson replaced Lucille Kleckner when she moved to Durango. Virginia Decker remains treasurer.
We feel we have now reached the top, and it is all taking shape. We could use a lot more interested people, items, records, pictures and anything you would like to have on display in the Museum. We hope it will last through the years to come, and hope that everyone will help to preserve the “Good Ole Days.”