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History on a Shoestring

Historical society puts together Fairview's centennial exhibit with coupons, spit and hard work
by: John Klicker, President Dodi Davies and vice president Twila Mysinger do some of the heavy lifting at the Heslin House.

Fairview's centennial history exhibit - built with coupons, spit and bravado - opens Sunday, May 18, in the city's 1893 Heslin House.

As the city nears its centennial - depending on when you start counting it could be the April 20, 1908, vote to incorporate, or the first council meeting May 14, 1908 - volunteers of the Fairview Rockwood Wilkes Historical Society are racing to finish their first museum display to tell the city's story. They throw open the doors at Heslin House, 60 Main St., at 4 p.m. May 18.

'Fairview, The Early Years,' is the product of midnight oil burned over a Macintosh computer, dozens of trips with coupons in hand to Lowe's and Home Depot and a learn-by-doing, seat-of-the-pants approach with just about the lowest budget ever.

'We started not knowing squat about building exhibits,' says President Dodi Davies. 'Well, I'm not stupid. We did know that exhibits cost thousands and thousands of dollars, but we were between a rock and a hard spot.'

So the historians, who restore and maintain two historic homes in the community, budgeted $500 for a centennial exhibit in the two main floor rooms of Heslin House, hoping they could get more money from other sources.

They have since received an additional $200 donation from committee member Linda Adams, in memory of her mother Betty Shaw. It will be a squeaker and every donated light bulb is welcome, but it looks like the city's 100th birthday exhibit will come in near budget at a thrifty and miraculous $700.

'We look at every museum differently now,' says volunteer Judy Lenhart while tucking muslin and cotton batting on a sawhorse to display a sidesaddle.

Fortunately, the society has a roof over its exhibit. Though plans for the use of the Heslin House changed many times over its 15 years of renovation, it became clear when it was completed in 2006 that the main floor would provide exhibit space.

'We couldn't punch holes in these new walls,' agonized Davies, so she began looking at wall display systems, all financially out of reach. Walking through Home Depot one day, Davies spotted the closet storage systems and the light bulb over her head blinked an inspiration.

She relied on Wal-Mart to print images through its photo systems - Davies sent maps and photos to them by e-mail from her computer. Mounting the material on foam core board, volunteers are building a story of Fairview. Once known as Cleone, the tale begins with its earliest citizens, the Donation Land Claim system that shaped the first communities along the Columbia River and the story of the Heslins, who played a large part in early Fairview. Graphic designer Ryan Dickman donated his time to do subject banners.

The J.P. and Drusilla Heslin portraits in fancy frames are on the wall. The frames and contents had been scattered over the years.

'We gathered them all from different places and got them all together,' says Nancy Hoover. Hoover has a genetic code for Fairview history. Her father, W.E. Stone, wrote the city's first history book. She carries it everywhere to hunt up dates and cite facts.

But the idea that holds the exhibit together was the midnight revelation of Pat Reardon, who rose up in bed shouting 'Velcro™.'

'We had all these little hooks and wires to mount the photos and text,' Davies said. 'We fussed for an hour and got just one up. And then in the middle of the night, she thought of Velcro™.'

The next problem, Davies told the assembled volunteers at a Saturday work party, is the mannequin they will use to display a baseball uniform. Fairview 's all-male baseball teams were legendary.

'What's wrong with the mannequin? ' someone asked.

'It's got boobs,' Davies said. 'Maybe we can turn her to the wall.'

The exhibit will tell the story of the dairy farms that lined Sandy Boulevard on the city's outskirts. It will touch on Blue Lake and the early country club that was started there. Piece by piece, history is coming together.

'We're going to have an exhibit that people can enjoy,' Davies says. 'And it won't cost a whole lot of money.'

Centennial committee members, in addition to Davies, Hoover, Reardon and Adams, are Tom Dooley, Curator Stephanie Graves, Delores Backus and Jan Hall. Pitching in are Roy Hoover, Dave Reardon and Twila Mysinger. George Riley and Lael Larger and others are finishing work on the Heslin House before the May 18 party. Jason Whitaker and Aubrey Savage are volunteers working on sheet rocking the new Heslin House garage, built by the late Jim Raze, which will be used for social festivities after the grand opening.

Fairview historical facts

The first meeting of the city of Fairview, May 14, 1908, was held in C.E. Cree's home and those present for installation were as follows:

Mayor: Geo. E. Shaver

Recorder: Wm. Butler

Treasurer: A.T. Axtel

Marshal: J.H. Schram

Alderman: C.E. Cree

D.S. Dunbar

Wm. Ellison

G.H. Shaw (Grant Hayes)

Fairview paid the Beaver State Herald $22 for the advertisement and other legal expenses regarding the incorporation. (The Outlook was not then in publication.)

Linda Shaw Adams

Fairview Rockwood Wilkes Historical Society