Two classes consisting of 61 fourth grade students from Belleview Elementary School visited the Porterville Historical Museum and had a tour through the various fascinating farm, business and Blacksmith implements
from the late 1800's.
Long time board member Don Wheeler demonstrated how some of the Victorian gadgets worked, showing the kids the mechanisms to “Oohs and Ahs.” The kids got to see hand-blacksmithed traps used to catch wild animals, an antique fire engine from after the turn of the century, a horse-drawn milkman's delivery wagon, and more.
“This guy used to deliver milk and ice cream to everyone in town,” said Wheeler, “and he was just about three blocks down the road.”
Wheeler also said he remembered seeing the Hell's Angels come into town in the 1960's and the antique fire truck being used with its fire hose filled with water to drive them out of town.
Porterville historian Bill Horst gave the second part of the tour that took place in the main waiting room of the museum which was formerly a Santa Fe Train Depot more than 100 years agos.
The kids were amazed by all the taxidermied animals that are on display. A great horned owl, red-tailed eagle, a golden eagle, barn owl, deer, elk, mountain lion and more. All the animals, Horst said, have been long dead, and stuffed, since before he was born, probably 89 years ago. They originally came from an old hardware store in town. There was also a taxidermied bald eagle, California Condor, and a peacock, amongst other animals throughout the museum.
Students asked why all the animals are at the museum, and Horst explained , “People caught them, and stuffed them, and put them on display.” They also asked about the rugs in the back of the displays, and Horst said, “Those are Navajo rugs made by the Navajo, or Dine people. Dine mean “Human beings,”
like Yokut means “Human beings.”
There are all kinds of Yokut made baskets that are at least 130 years old in the museum collection. They're astounding. Cooking baskets, baby baskets, small and large baskets. Horst explained how Yokut women would hand-make the baskets. He knows about the basket patterns and much more.
Children in the audience asked about buffalo, and Horst explained here in California, the Yokut weren't a Buffalo culture.
They saw horses for the first time 300 years ago. They ate deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels and hunted with arrows. And they also ate horse, because it was another four-legged animal. The Europeans brought horses to California and surrounding areas, and the local Indian tribes did learn until years later killing horses made people mad. Because they used them for transportation, and other uses.
“Thousand of years ago the Yokut lived here and there was Tulare Lake,” said Horst as he showed the students the bunch of Tules, or reeds from the lake. The Yokut used the reeds to make boats and fished on the lake.
The Yokut heated soapstone to cook in their baskets and used soapstone to make all clubs and all kinds of tools. Soapstone can be found around Success Lake.
The students moved on to another part of the tour, looking at the room where all ranching tools, ancient guns, saddles, brands, barbed wire collection, as well as more taxidermied animals were located. There's a giant bear also. Volunteer Doris Hosfeldt explained about the tools and what they were used for.
The students gasped again when they entered next room, which is elegant. There's a beautiful old fashioned bed with a quilt, and light filters in from the giant arched windows in the depot building. There are elegant mannequins dressed in women's clothing from the late 1900's up until the 1930's or a little later. There's a gorgeous traveling women's dressing set, with all the brushes, manicure set, and bottles. It was from the Norris family.
The students were overwhelmed, and even the boys were interested in the doll house, baby carriages, and more.
Frankie Feldman explained in the old days when women went shopping they didn't wear jeans like nowadays. They'd get dressed up. Women wore dresses all the time. They wore hats, jewelry, nice shoes, handbags, even gloves.
Feldman said years ago it was stylish to smoke, and she showed the kids a cigarette holder from the 1920's-30's and a matching cigarette case that was lined with aromatic wood, and the outside was beautiful with a marquesite inlaid design.
It was time for the two classes to return to school from their field trip, so all the kids and teachers thanked the museum and returned to Belleview.
“We always enjoy having the students here at the museum,” said Hosfeldt. She remarked she's always amazed there are people who have never been to the museum before.
It's a marvelous small town museum and full of fabulous information, fun, and will amaze anyone, Hosfeldt said.
“The train exhibit is also getting better, and better every year,” she said.