It was the party of the century and Porterville Historical Museum Archivist John McWilliams is making sure it's remembered.
McWilliams is putting together an exhibit to honor the 60th anniversary of Porterville's Centennial Celebration in 1961. The community spent spent the entire year in 1961 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Porterville which was founded in 1861.
McWilliams is now accepted donations of any items from that celebration including costumes, souvenirs and photographs. McWilliams said the response as far as items being donated to the museum has been outstanding. “We've been able to get some amazing things donated recently,” he said.
Among the nicest donations that have come in is the original time capsule for the celebration donated by Vernon Martin. The original 1961 wood sign from the celebration has also been donated.
“Their sign is in amazing shape considering it's 60 years old,” said McWilliams, adding the sign is in great shape since it's spent time outside.
It's planned for the exhibit to open with a reception on Saturday, July 10. McWilliams said he hopes to have film of the celebrations from that time ready in time to be part of the exhibit by its opening day as well.
“It's coming together,” said McWilliams about the exhibit. “It's amazing.” McWilliams said there are still many from the community still here who participated in the celebration “who remember the Centennial very well.”
McWilliams added he wanted to have this exhibit while there were still many from the community who participated in that celebration still around.
Porterville's Centennial Celebration was a year-long event. “It was legendary,” McWilliams said. And the man who spearheaded the event, Bill Rodgers, who was the mayor at the time, was a legendary figure in this community in his own right.
And the Centennial Celebration wasn't just held in Porterville as community members traveled to such places as Nevada and San Francisco to celebrate. Community members held a “Porterville” day in San Francisco and paraded down Market Street.
“It was a wonderful event,” said McWilliams about the year-long celebration. “The whole town was behind it. There was so much pride of our town. That carried on for decades.”
McWilliams said the Centennial Celebration led to the establishment of another Porterville tradition, the Jackass Mail Run, along with a local chapter of E Clampus Vitus, the Clampers, and the museum itself.
One man who played a prominent role in the Centennial Celebration was museum historian Bill Horst, also a member of the Clampers. Horst will present a lecture on the Centennial Celebration at the museum at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 17. “He was an active member that year,” McWilliams said.
McWilliams added he hopes the exhibit will bring many of those who participated in the Centennial Celebration together. “I would like to see a reunion of those folks come together,” he said.
McWilliams will be at the museum from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, July 1 for anyone who would like to make a donation to the exhibit. Those interested in making a donation can also send McWilliams a private message on Facebook. Or they can call him at 310-7270.
The museum is currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.