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Historical Society 'Roadshow' values memories
Members show off favorite local heirlooms
Roadshow
Martha Wells, right, and Bonnie Howard chat about two butter churns during the Bulloch County Historical Society's Roadshow event.

Unlike “Antiques Roadshow” on television, a Bulloch County Historical Society Roadshow does not offer monetary appraisals.

But then, who could put a cash value on skates from the Skate-R-Bowl, a hammer from a Hopeulikit blacksmith shop or a doggy bag from Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen? Well, eBay bidders or certain professional appraisers probably could, but money was not the object at the Historical Society’s recent show, held during the Oct. 22 meeting.

“It’s always great to invite our own members to bring things in, and the stories that go with them, and make connections with other folks when they bring them in,” said Bulloch County Historical Society President Brent Tharp, Ph.D. “It has  always been really successful. We’ve always had some really unusual and different and fun pieces come in.”

The Roadshow is not an annual event, but this is at least the third time the Historical Society has held one, roughly once every two years. This time 22 individuals presented items, and some brought more than one thing. The lunchtime show was held in the society’s usual meeting place, the Pittman Park United Methodist Church social hall.

All of the items were set out on long tables at first for everyone to see. But in this show-and-tell for history buffs, the owners carried their treasures one-by-one to a front table, where Tharp zoomed in on the object with a digital camera so that a close-up image was projected on a screen.


Railroading

The local society’s own railroading enthusiast Gary Witte, also a member of the National Railroad Historical Society, brought a switch lantern of a type once used in freight yards. Previously property of the Georgia Railroad, the lantern was a mess when he bought it years ago for $5, but cleaned and polished, it now looks almost new, its red and green glass lenses with matching funnel-shaped reflectors facing four directions.

He also brought a book of train orders, part of his collection, from the early 20th century.

“Railroads used to run – this is pre-computer – on train orders,” Witte said. “The engineer would stop and get, or pick up on the run, train orders that were telegraphed station-to-station, telling the engineer what conditions lay ahead or what speeds they had to go on certain sections of track.”


Blacksmith’s hammer

Patricia “Pat” Beasley Hutcheson brought items found at the historic home of her grandparents in the Hopeulikit community. Mary Ann Akins Beasley and Dan Beasley were married in 1904.

“Dan farmed some, but he also started a blacksmith shop,” Hutcheson said, displaying a blacksmith’s hammer found in the old house.

She also had records, the earliest from 1919, of Dan Beasley’s business activities, such as shoeing horses and working on plows. Farmers were carried on credit until their crops came in, and sometimes paid in produce or seeds for planting. He also owned a small store at one point, so there are also recorded purchases of things such as lard, coffee and chewing tobacco. These things often went for 5 cents or 10 cents.


Sawmill heirlooms

Arthur Howard of Howard Lumber also brought business-related family heirlooms.

First, he showed a Pringle cup, made of fired clay, which was used for catching rosin from pine trees for turpentine production. Unlike the round, flowerpot-like Herty cup, designed by researcher Charles H. Herty who is remembered in the naming of things around Georgia Southern University, the Pringle cup, invented by Lee Vernon Pringle in Mississippi and in use around 1910, was rectangular with a concave side to fit the tree.

“My grandfather and his brothers moved to Bulloch County in 1898 and went into the lumber business, and we’re still in the lumber business today, and so I’m kind of interested in things like that,” Howard said.

He also brought the U.S. Forest Service compass his grandfather used for cruising timber and an invoice for a truckload of scraps from his father’s sawmill that was sold as stove wood.

 “A truckload was $1,” Howard said, getting laughs when he added, “So, a high-profit item!”


Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen

Virginia Anne Waters, the Bulloch County Historical Society’s executive director, was the first of several 2018 Roadshow participants to announce that they were donating their items to the Georgia Southern University Museum. Tharp, who became president of the society this year, is a history professor employed by the university as the museum’s director, and Waters has long served on the museum’s board.

With the items Waters presented, the museum has the start of a potential Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen collection, commemorating the landmark Statesboro eatery from U.S. Highway 301’s heyday as a tourist route.

The objects included four Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen postcards from the 1950s and a souvenir peppershaker. But the doggy bag, with a printed message from a family’s pet, drew the most attention.

“It is a true doggy bag,” said Waters, who upon request read aloud the message:  “Don’t forget to bring us something good for our dinner from Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen, Statesboro, Georgia…. Seafood, chicken, steaks. We enjoy Mrs. Bryant’s finer foods as much as you folks do.”


Skate-R-Bowl

City of Statesboro Streets and Parks Superintendent Robert Seamans presented several pairs of roller skates from the Skate-R-Bowl. Opened in the 1946, the Skate-R-Bowl operated for several decades, offering the indoor sports the name suggests, where the new Military Science Building now stands on the Georgia Southern campus.

Seamans explained that when the university bought the Skate-R-Bowl, its previous owners, the Foss family, donated many items it contained to the Parks and Recreation Department, which moved them to the old Grady Street gym. Later, when the city took the gym down to build the new Police Department headquarters, he stored the skates at the city’s Public Works facility to prevent them from being destroyed.

These now also belong to the Georgia Southern University Museum. Since the Roadshow, Tharp has obtained some Skate-R-Bowl skate decals via eBay. 

Jeff Johnson, from Brooklet, gave the museum a Mid-South Airways pamphlet from 1960. Mid-South, a small airline based at Statesboro’s airport, offered flights to destinations as far as Americus, Columbus, Atlanta, and nearer, and is only known to have existed in 1959-60. Johnson’s wife found the pamphlet at a yard sale or estate sale.


Toothy gift

Although 20th century items seemed to dominate, historical society membership chair Bill Waters reached much farther back with his presentation.

“This is no doubt the oldest thing that will ever show up in this auditorium,” he said, holding a shark’s tooth about the size of his hand.

Even this had a 20th century connection, since the tooth, obtained by Waters’ father, was found during excavations for the construction of Interstate 16 five decades or more ago. But the tooth is from a megalodon, estimated to have lived between 5 million and 20 million years ago, when the area that is now Georgia’s Coastal Plain was beneath the ocean. One of the largest predators that ever lived, a megalodon could grow to 75 feet long and had a mouth about 12 feet wide, Waters said.

Tharp also showed off a fossilized whale’s tooth. The Georgia Southern University Museum, which has long exhibited a mosasaur skeleton and a replica of the ancient Vogtle whale as central attractions, is currently closed for extensive renovations. But when the museum reopens, it will display a full-sized megalodon jaw reconstruction, Tharp announced.

Of course this is just a sampling of the larger variety of items in the Roadshow.

“We had a little bit of everything,” Tharp said, “some things that would be fairly expensive and other things that are valuable because of the memories and the story behind them.”


Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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