Built and maintained by local citizens without benefit of state or federal funding
The sign says the museum is open Sundays from 3-5 p.m.
Inside is 83-year-old Carol DuBois, the curator, who may sometimes wish she could take advantage of government funds, however politically incorrect.
“We need a new sign,” she says. “We’re not very well organized.”
The museum, started in the mid-1970s, is surviving through the generosity of visitor donations and support from a local family foundation.
It is housed in a home donated to the historical society by Mary Catherine Rendleman.
With her gift was a stipulation that makes the museum unique. One room is a chapel mostly unused: no church services, no weddings, but pews and stained-glass windows.
TO WANDER through the museum is akin to visiting the home of a distant and ancient relative.
In the living room, photographs and newspapers becoming brittle and faded with age and, of all things, a teletype, used by the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad when Skidmore was a railroad town. And, a piano — one of two, the other is in the chapel, along with a pump organ.
In the kitchen, an ancient ice box and wood-burning stove. A kerosene lamp catches the window light. On the opposite wall, crumbling cookbooks and a collection of pre-electric irons, so heavy that some require both hands to lift.
In the bedroom, a wicker bassinet, a metal-frame bed and a tread-driven Singer sewing machine. On the wall, a calendar from December 1923.
The adjoining bathroom has the original wallpaper and a lion-claw bathtub any antique dealer would envy.
What once must have been a linen closet holds shelves of books, their covers long ago a gourmet dinner for mice.
THE MUSEUM is in a race with time. But, it’s still active. It recently acquired an arrowhead collection and a china collection.
“Is this a sugar bowl?” asks Keith Petrus, one of museum’s volunteers.
He says the museum’s greatest need is funding to allow the air conditioners to run all the time, to maintain a constant temperature.
“A lot of the photographs here are fading because of the heat,” he says.
Another kind of heat is his greatest fear, however. “I worry about the building catching fire. We would lose so much.”
DuBois has a longer list.
“We need funding for upkeep, utilities, cleaning and yard work,” she lists.
“But, as long as we have people wanting to hang out, we’ll go forward,” she says, but admits that the museum is not attracting as many young people anymore.
THE HISTORICAL society has a membership of 10 or so. None of the museum’s founders is alive.
“I suppose you could call me the president,” DuBoise says, “but, we’re not really that formal a group.”
Her gray hair still shows hints of the strawberry blond days, but the years have not dimmed her blue eyes or her enthusiasm. But she knows that, like the museum, she too is becoming susceptible to the demands of age.
“In a way, I worry, because I may have to move from here,” she says, making a polite reference to a nursing home.
On her desk, a substantial book: “Trail Drives of Texas.” It is well-thumbed and bookmarked.
“I was reading this just the other day,” DuBois says. “I found a family in there I know.
DuBois, not a native of Skidmore, moved there in 1989. But, she often visited the town as a child with her parents.
She has reached the age when history is measured not so much in time but by the names of those long gone and those remembered.
I’ve known so many families who have been involved in Skidmore,” she says. “Here, I feel connected.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.