If you recall the lighted bells strung above Garden City’s Main Street intersections each December, a giant Santa Claus standing atop the old post office on Seventh Street or a live St. Nick arriving by helicopter to greet eager children in Stevens Park, you can count on seeing some familiar scenes as part of the latest exhibit in the Front Door Gallery at the Finney County Historical Museum.
We recently opened “Garden City Christmas Past,” and there’s a great opportunity to come in and share some seasonal memories by viewing the exhibit Saturday, since we’re hosting our holiday open house from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The exhibit includes 17 large-format scenes photographed between 1939 and 1985 in the community’s downtown area and other locations. You’ll find Santa Claus hand in hand with local children during a Christmas celebration in 1948; the giant Santa statue being installed with a crane in 1945, atop what is now High Plains Public Radio; and 1950 holiday decorations in the Nolan Motor Company showroom, where the Family Bookhouse is located today. We’re also displaying scenes of shoppers along south Main Street in December 1952, a wheeled dog sled conveying Santa before the crowd at a 1948 parade, seasonal displays at homes in the community during the late 1940s and nearly a dozen other black and white scenes.
In addition, you can see a striking 1950 image of Main Street at night, with those familiar bells that “rang in” the southwest Kansas holiday season for decades. The images are flanked by a traditional Christmas tree and a weathered nativity set from the old St. Mary Catholic Church.
Antique car rides, holiday shopping
Admission is free and the open house includes refreshments, as long as they last; antique car rides; and a chance to shop for gifts in our Museum Store. Saturday’s event is taking place the same day as Lee Richardson Zoo’s Tales in Tinseltown, so you can take in both with a single trip.
While our open house runs 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the antique car rides are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the museum, weather and capacity permitting, with 1920s and 1930s vehicles provided by Kyle Miller, Kim and Deb Robinson, and Doyle and Anita McGraw. The cost for a short excursion is $1 per child or adult, with proceeds benefiting our nonprofit museum. Car ride tickets will be offered free to shoppers with Museum Store receipts.
The store is located inside the museum, and we’re featuring lots of gift and holiday items, historic Finney County calendars, toys from past times, the nostalgic 1953 Garden City DVD, “This is Our Town,” and Jumpy Monkey ground coffees in flavors inspired by people and places from Finney County history.
In addition, we’re stocked with Twisted Creations iron and horseshow art, rustic wooden Christmas signs by Brian Watkins, and many other items by southwest Kansas artists and artisans, as well as the recently published Hometown Memories books, “Sod Houses and the Dirty Thirties,” and “Dust Storm Days and Two-Holers.”
Other local creations include cotton purses by Doris Walker, Color Kansas landscape images by photographer Shirley Creeden, original sketches by Robert Meyer, pottery by Brian McCallum, handcrafted puppies by Synthia Preston, Kansas scenes by Images on Stone, Fair Game Taxidermy by Daniel Hahn and photo greeting cards featuring landmark Finney County locations, photographed by Curtis Perez, plus others.
While you’re here, you can see our other exhibits too, such as “Under Water – The Flood of 1965,” “Garden City Then and Now,” “Buffalo Jones – Last of the Plainsmen,” “My Place in Time,” “Finney County Agriculture,” our recently expanded Santa Fe Trail display and an interactive children’s area called “Celebrate Kansas.” The museum also includes the Spirit of the Plains Gallery, incorporating the renovated “Natives of Southwest Kansas” exhibit; an old-time dress-up area styled like a room of the historic Windsor Hotel; and “Finney County Pioneers.”
The museum is at 403 S. Fourth in Finnup Park, adjacent to the Lee Richardson Zoo pedestrian entrance arches, and we hope to see you Saturday during our holiday open house. If not, our regular exhibit hours run from 1 to 5 p.m. seven days weekly, and you’re welcome to come and re-live Christmas memories all season long.