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Ellinwood museum preps for spring
Ellinwood Museum project
Joyce Schulte, director of the Museum of Ellinwood and John Billinger, a junior video production major at Fort Hays State University, look over photographs with potential to be used in Billinger’s current class project of a documentary on the history of his hometown of Ellinwood.
Ellinwood Museum CAP uni
This uniform of the Civil Air Patrol was worn by Joyce Schulte’s father in the 1950s, when the Ellinwood community had two CAP units operating there.

ELLINWOOD — Joyce Schulte’s receptionist table at the Ellinwood Museum can resemble a mini-display itself some days — especially during the weeks prior to the Museum’s annual season-opening day in April.

There’s a fair bit of tweaking that needs to be done ahead of time, and the table is a good place for keeping the odds and ends needed for readying the Museum’s permanent and new exhibits.

The Museum’s opening day this year is Thursday, April 20, at 10 a.m. It’s usually a low-key affair, as visitors come for coffee, see what’s new, and talk about Ellinwood’s older days. A typical season runs from April to November, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, or by appointment.

The season prep usually begins around the March meeting of the Ellinwood Historical Society, the non-profit group that runs the operation at 104 N. Main St. Schulte is the Society’s president.

In the days leading up to the season opener, amidst the labeling, arranging and fine-tuning the exhibits, Schulte notes that some days have an unexpected bonus. Friday was a day of give and receive.

The afternoon opened with helping a college student with a project. John Billinger, a 2019 graduate of Ellinwood High School, is currently a junior at Fort Hays State University majoring in digital communications and multimedia production. 

He was in Ellinwood Friday gathering images and information regarding his latest class project, which is a documentary on the history of his hometown.

As he and Ellinwood Museum Director Joyce Schulte pored over digital images of Ellinwood’s early days, another Ellinwood resident walked in with a pair of thread spools that belonged to her grandmother. As it turned out, they were a perfect addition to an exhibit Schulte was working on, showing how hand-crafted items necessary during the early days of the Santa Fe Trail became reasons to stay and open up a local business. Over time, factories produced the same items which were then shipped to local stores for sale.

As the items, such as children’s clothing, became merchandise, the hand-crafting continued as a hobby passed on to family members. Some then chose to fund their hobbies by then opening a business of their own.

“It shows that things go around in a circle; what’s new gets old and then becomes new again,” Schulte said. “I thought it would be interesting to show the cycle from a historical perspective.”

Sometimes, assistance comes from unexpected quarters.

Schulte explained that while the Museum usually has a military uniform aside of the permanent exhibits on the impact of the Santa Fe Trail in Ellinwood, the Native American tribal culture and the first Ellinwood Post Office and the historic Wolf Hotel, she and the Society are continually looking for something unique and different. After displaying uniforms from the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy, Schulte chose to feature a uniform from the Civil Air Patrol. 

The CAP was established in the 1940s as a military partner to patrol home soil, while providing various flight services to the Army. Schulte’s research uncovered information that there were two such units operating in Ellinwood in the postwar period, but beyond that, information was scarce.

“So, I called the Civil Air Patrol in Topeka and left a message,” she said. She was surprised when a Lieutenant Colonel called her back to ask what she wanted. “He volunteered to search out the basement and let me know what he found,” she said. 

So far, she has confirmed six persons that served in the CAP in Ellinwood. The centerpiece is the uniform that belonged to her father.

“It’s still a work in progress,” she said of the exhibit.

The Museum also takes part in special programs involving Ellinwood residents throughout the season.

On May 2, Rick Casagrande, owner of the Ellinwood Emporium and Ellinwood Underground, is the featured speaker for the EHS’s evening of “Ellinwood’s Hidden Treasures.”

The program is interactive in nature and begins at 7 p.m. at the Ellinwood Heritage Senior Center, 103 N. Main St. Residents are being asked to submit unique, surprising and historical articles to Casagrande for presentation. They ask that no weapons, jewelry or stamps be submitted.

A photo of the article or the article itself must be taken to the Emporium, with a write-up submitted to before April 19. 

All articles will be evaluated, but only 12-15 will be used in the presentation. For more information, call 620-564-2400.

Ellinwood Museum 1950s
A 1950s smoking room pattered after one in a residence in Ellinwood is being planned as a new exhibit for the Museum of Ellinwood, which opens for the season on Thursday, April 20.