Annual barbecue a chance for Selmians to give to the Old Depot

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 29, 2003

Several times each year the officers, trustees and staff of The Old Depot Museum appeal for assistance to maintain this treasure trove of Black Belt history and heritage. Each time you respond, generously.

Next on the agenda of fund-raising activities is the annual barbecue, scheduled this year on October 15, and at Memorial Stadium, of course. The price is $6 per pound and tickets are available from any board member or at the museum, which is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Drive-up service is available at Memorial Stadium, as is purchase, but on occasion the barbecue has been a sell-out, so advance ticket purchase is advised.

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But this column is about more than our barbecue. Many of you are familiar with the museum, through your own visits, when you bring out-of-town guests or your Scout troops or your classroom or to do some genealogical research. You linger over the Keipp Collection of plantation photographs in our Black Heritage Room, are saddened at the Good Samaritan Hospital emergency room journal, dated March 7, 1965, reminisce about your Civil War ancestors in the Civil War Room, marvel at the pre-1840 quilts and even earlier documents in the Founders Room. You recall your own classroom days in the School Room and find mind-boggling the age of the Indian Artifacts, only one of the fascinating exhibits in the Commerce and Transportation Room.

Each of the more than 1,500 artifacts on display is catalogued, with a brief history and the name of the giver.

Most of you take the elevator (that blessed addition) to the second floor where we discuss the hardships endured by the earliest settlers here and admire their ingenuity and self-sacrifice in surviving in the Mississippi Territory wilderness. Military veterans often become misty-eyed as they view the uniforms, the photographs and the memorabilia of America’s wars in the Military Room.

Meanwhile, their wives touch gently antique furniture, the handsome gowns and slippers worn by Victorian ladies with feet almost too small to walk upon &045; and recall their own grandmothers, great-grandmothers and maiden aunts.

The Medical Room appeals to all, even as they give devout thanks for the advances made in medicine today, and shudder at the thought of having surgery or dental work with the instruments on display.

Back on the first floor, tourists turn left, walk past a display of railway memorabilia and through the back door to the museum’s landscaped backyard.

At hand is a hand-packed bale of cotton, a plantation bell, a railway boxcar and the little red caboose, fully restored and a favorite with all. To the right an open-front farm shed contains items of antique farm equipment &045; the larger pieces are adjacent to it.

Directly ahead is a so-called pole barn, sheltering one of the city’s retired fire trucks, this one much too large to fit into its next-door neighbor, the Firefighters Museum.

This handsome building is probably the favorite place of school tours.

Equally popular with those who recall following on foot and bike, in their youth, the siren call of fire trucks. Two antique fire trucks are housed inside, one an 1856 pump-type vehicle &045; the kind pulled by a team of horses &045; and the other a beautiful 1926 American LaFrance. The bell and siren on the latter still clang and wail, loudly, and children are allowed to climb on and work them.

(The museum has finally learned to decide which children may do so by choosing those whose birthday is nearest the tour date.

Incidentally, each child visiting The Old Depot is allowed to choose an authentic arrowhead to take home. We are not above bribery, states the board.)

Selma has four other museums: National Voting Rights, Slavery and Civil War, Vaughan-Smitherman and Sturdivant Hall. A visit to each and all is an education in Black Belt history.