Who do you connect with?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 7, 2002

Do you belong? Do you belong to a church, a bridge club, a birthday club, the community band, a mid-morning coffee group, the Girl Scouts, a ham radio club, a theatre group or an art center, the Audubon Society, a volleyball team, a writer’s group, a retired teacher’s organization, a rifle club, the Sons of Norway, AA, the Freeborn County Historical Museum? Who do you connect with, and why?

The first club that I remember joining was Brownies. It was so much fun when we lined up all around the edge of the lunchroom at Ramsey School and playing &uot;Telephone.&uot; Oh, how we giggled when the message we whispered ended up completely different than it started. That was exciting stuff.

Then in Girl Scouts we learned how to fold hospital corners on sheets when we made the bed. I wonder how many of us still do that?

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Our children’s choir was able to attend a church camp near Alexandria one summer and that was of my first trips away from home and the watchful eye of my parents.

In high school we took the train to Minneapolis and stayed at the Curtis Hotel during a journalism convention on the campus of the U. Wow, that too was exciting stuff.

I have rung the bell for The Salvation Army, made countless hotdishes, magic marked my name on endless name tags at sometimes endless meetings, and stood in the rain in the ruins of a cathedral in Coventry, England watching the passion play, all because I was a member of a special group.

There have been benefits with each organization that I have belonged to, for me &045; in the adventures I’ve had and the things I’ve learned, and hopefully for the organization &045; in the skills that I have contributed. It wasn’t until recently that I began analyzing the value of these various groups and their longevity.

In the museum’s archives, there are shelves of scrapbooks, reminders of school groups, women’s groups, organizations present and past and some with no future. All that is left of some of these organizations are newspaper clippings and name tags. What this tells me is a loud and forceful LIFE CHANGES. No matter how important the mission statement, how active the members, how long the life of the group &045; it was only worthwhile during its time in history. And while many organizations evolve into a similar group, nothing stays exactly the same from generation to generation, except … the group of people in your community whose goal it is to preserve history.

There may no longer be a Ku Klux Klan in Albert Lea, but the uniform found in the attic of a home and donated to the museum proves that the group was a part of our history.

There may no longer be more than a hundred one-room country schools in Freeborn County, but the photographs and records in the archives prove how important that system of education was and how valuable to the children who learned their social skills there.

While the Danish Brotherhood is still an active organization in our community, their records and mementos of earlier days are preserved in the museum and available to researchers.

The military uniforms and artifacts on display from the Civil War to World War II attest to just how much one will give when he is a part of a special group.

Belonging to the Freeborn County Historical Museum is a membership in the past, the present, and the future. It is your opportunity to preserve our history so we can learn from the mistakes and the successes of the past, it is your chance to become involved in the present through helping to pay the phone bill or buying the disinfectant for the bathrooms or even paying the staff that is there to help you with all of your preservation needs. By volunteering your time to help in the library, or as a tour guide, or baking cookies for a party, you are ensuring that the future residents of our county will know who we are and why we do what we do.

How will they understand what makes us tick, if there is no record of our existence?

I’m truly glad that you belong to all or any one or several of the organizations that I mentioned in the opening paragraph, BUT a $20 family membership in the Freeborn County Historical Museum will insure the preservation of YOUR STORIES. Please call the museum at (507) 373-8003 or stop at 1031 Bridge Ave. in Albert Lea and ask for a membership form. Pick up one for your neighbor, too.

There aren’t very many groups who can claim to touch the past, the present, and the future. We not only make the claim, we know it is true.

Bev Jackson is executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.