By Steve Quakenbush

If you remember sipping soda at Woolworth’s lunch counter, shopping at Ted’s Market or paying 25 cents for a matinee at the State Theater, you’re part of Finney County’s history.

That’s also true if you’ve shared a meal at the Coffee Ann, waited for the car hop at the Cre-Mee or taken a dip at the Big Pool. For that matter, you’ve lived local history if you’ve laced up a pair of skates at the old rink on East Fulton or listened for the locomotive whistle at the Little America amusement park on a Sunday afternoon.

Maybe you’re a little young – or too new in town – to remember any of these once familiar experiences. But whether you are or not, you have a chance right now to join in an ongoing effort that helps in maintaining many of the fond recollections that made up our community’s past. It’s as simple as joining the Finney County Historical Society.

People who become FCHS members play an important role in maintaining the photographs, records and artifacts that keep such memories alive. Some of our members also serve as volunteers and many attend events we conduct that celebrate Southwest Kansas heritage and history. Others, simply through their membership dues, provide the support necessary to stage ongoing and changing exhibits, offer year-round historical research services, care for a large and growing collection of artifacts, and create numerous educational experiences in history for children and adults.

You can join anytime, but our 22-member board of directors is presently conducting a campaign to add to our membership ranks, and if you respond you can become as active as you like in programs at the Finney County Historical Museum. This annual recruiting endeavor got under way in January and it will continue through the end of April, under the leadership of Mary Eves, a member of the board who heads our Membership Committee.


Those who join will receive a subscription to our quarterly newsletter, a listing in the FCHS annual report, a 20 percent discount on most purchases at the museum gift shop and voting rights in annual board elections.

Members can also count on advance invitations to events, programs and activities that recall history throughout the year, such as the Flea Market Festival of Antiques, Collectibles, Art and Crafts in July; our history picnic and Historic Walking Tours of Valley View Cemetery in October; and our Holiday Open House in December. There are also our History at High Noon and Evening at the Museum presentations, providing twice-monthly programs about the past each January, February, March, April, September, October and November.

We’ll also be conducting our Finney County Pioneer Awards Banquet, usually in April but rescheduled this year for November; and in 2022 as Coronavirus conditions recede we’ll resume hosting the annual Southwest Kansas Antiques Appraisal Fair in March; the Evening in the Past history reenactment dinner during May; and the Garden City Historic Homes Tour, with the Finney County Women’s Chamber of Commerce, in June.


Equally important is that through your membership support, you earn the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to preserve some of those memories noted earlier, as well as others. Among them are the day the first Cannonball stagecoach rolled into town in 1885, the night the Stevens Opera House opened in 1886, the morning A.J. Roggenbuck first fired up the Old Two Bits locomotive in 1916, the first splash at the Big Pool in 1922, the first Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta in 1926 and the opening of Lee Richardson Zoo in 1927.

Those memories also include the U.S. Army’s placement of a base here in 1942 that trained many of the American bomber pilots whose heroism would help win World War II; and the way local residents came together to overcome the blizzards of 1886 and 1957, the floods of 1965 and earlier, and the tornado of 1967.

Annual dues are just $15 for individual memberships, $25 for families and $50 for businesses. There are also donor memberships of $50 to any greater amount.

Membership forms are available at the museum, where exhibit hours are 1-5 p.m. seven days weekly via our main entrance, located near the zoo’s walk-through arches at 403 S. Fourth Street; and office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with access at the north side of our building.

You’re also welcome to contact our Membership Committee leader, or any other member of our board. Just call at 620-272-3664 and we’ll put you in touch or sign you up. Maybe you can’t take a seat at Woolworth’s anymore, or duck into the State Theater. But you can join the Finney County Historical Society, and that’s the next best thing.

Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society. He can be contacted at HYPERLINK "mailto:squakenbush@finneycounty.org" or at squakenbush@finneycounty.org .