If you remember shopping at Duckwall's and Ben Franklin, sipping soda through a straw at Woolworth's lunch counter, or spending 25 cents for a Saturday matinee at the State Theater, you've made an investment in Finney County history.

That's also true if you've shared a meal at the Coffee Ann, the Elite or Downing's, not to mention placing a take-out order at the Buzz In or Frosty Fox, and waiting for the car hop to bring your cherry Coke at the Cre-Mee.

You've made an equal investment if you recall driving through Holcomb, boat or tackle in tow, to get to Lake McKinney; lacing up a pair of skates at the old rink on East Fulton, or hearing the locomotive whistle at the Little America amusement park on a Sunday afternoon.

At the Finney County Historical Society, we're in the business of preserving the past to enlighten the future, and while the past we look to stretches back to our founders, Buffalo Jones, John Stevens, James and William Fulton in the late 1870s, it also includes times before and after that the Native American cultures that preceded Finney County, the immigrants who have shaped Garden City and Sherlock (now Holcomb) for more than 130 years, and the development of irrigation, cattle and beef production that fuel our prosperity today.

In addition, it encompasses memories from the flood of 1965, the tornado of 1967, summer afternoons at the Big Pool, hamburgers sizzling on the grill at Herb's Carryout, band concerts in Stevens Park, coins dropping into parking meters along Main Street, vegetables waiting in the outdoor bins at Laughlin's Market, go-carts racing on the dirt track west of the river bridge, and football games at Memorial Stadium or Penrose Field.

You can play a role

Well, people who become Finney County Historical Society members play an important role in maintaining those recollections, as well as the photographs, records and artifacts that bring them to life. In fact, approximately 300 individual, family and other members belong to the organization right now, along with over a dozen businesses, and you're invited to join them.

FCHS members can become as active as they like in programs at the Finney County Museum, as well as in events that we conduct throughout the year. But whether they chose to get directly involved or not, our members all can count on receiving:

* Our quarterly newsletter, The Sequoyan;

* A listing in our annual report;

* A 20 percent discount in the Museum Store;

* Invitations to our special events, program and activities.

Those include our yearly Brown Bag Lunch series of historic presentations, our annual banquet, our Flea Market antique and craft festival on Independence Day weekend, the Historic Homes and Buildings Tour we conduct with the Garden City Women's Chamber, our fall picnic and others.

One of the newest is our Antique Appraisal Fair, a gathering similar to Public Broadcasting's Antiques Road Show, which we recently rescheduled from Oct. 26 to next Feb. 8.

Historically affordable

Through their dues, each member also draws the satisfaction of knowing that he or she is supporting exhibits at the museum, which draw more than 22,000 visitors annually; the growing collection of more than 16,000 artifacts and records we maintain; and our education outreach program, which serves nearly 7,000 children and adults.

The support of our membership also helps maintain the Leola Howard Blanchard Research Library, where hundreds of visitors come for assistance from January through December; the Jean Hands Historic Clothing Room, housing quilts and garments dating back to the 1860s; and our ongoing efforts to preserve everything from tools, dishes, housewares, weapons, implements and photographs to the Pleasant Valley one-room school, the 1884 William Fulton house, horse-drawn vehicles, furniture, signage, fossils, stone tools and other artifacts representative of our southwest Kansas heritage.

Annual membership dues, by the way, are historically affordable:

* Individual, $15

* Family, $25

* Business, $50

* Donor, sponsor, patron and benefactor memberships, beginning at $50.

If you would like to join your friends and neighbors in the FCHS, please stop by the museum at 403 S. Fourth in Finnup Park, or call us at 272-3664. Exhibit hours are 1 to 5 p.m. seven days weekly, and office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. We would be glad to hand or send you a membership brochure, which you can return with a check in the amount appropriate for your chosen level.

We'll look forward to hearing from you, and maybe to sharing a few memories of Woolworth's, the skating rink, Lake McKinney, the Cre-Mee, Laughlin's Market or those 25-cent matinees.