Take me out to the Blue Lake Museum

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

BLUE LAKE – The Blue Lake Museum has always had something for everyone. Housed in the former Arcata and Mad River railroad depot, the museum is overflowing with logging artifacts, quilts, lumber camp kitchenware, and so much more. It closes every winter so that Curator Cynthia Gourley-Bagwell and her team of volunteers can document and accession lots of cool new (old) artifacts.

And this year, when they reopen on Sunday, April 8 baseball fans will have a chance to see the very bat, a Louisville Slugger, that local boy-made-good, Dane Iorg, wielded in the 1985 World Series, when he played for the Royals.

Not only that, but he and his brother Garth made big league history as the first brothers to play against each other in the American League Championship Series. Garth played for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Iorg brothers are part of a Blue Lake family known for baseball. Their father, Charlie, played ball in high school, when he was a Marine, and in the Blue Lake Chicks, part of the Redwood League.

A Chicks shirt is part of the new display.

Sean Kearns, sports editor of the old Union, quoted Charlie on his training methods for his sons (Union, July 25, 1986). "When they were real small, I used to cut a broom handle, then teach them how to throw rocks up in the air and hit 'em," he said.

A third brother, Lee, also spent several years in the New York Mets organization, according to Kearns' article.

The baseball display has game winning balls and old photos of local teams from 1900 to 1985. It's a treasure trove of sport and family. The baseball case is one of three new displays that the museum has mounted for the annual reopening.

The other two will be equally fascinating for local history buffs and collectors alike.

A captivating collection of old electric kitchen appliances is laid out on an appropriate blue kitchen tablecloth. Strange looking toasters, a popcorn popper that might cut off your finger, a 1940 Sunbeam egg cooker, and various other implements connected to those fuzzy electrical cords are grouped around the piece de resistance, a wicked looking set of electric hair rollers that attached to your hair might give you more than a little buzz. It's another era from the coffee makers of today with their environmentally frightening plastic one-use containers of coffee grounds. These appliances are heavy metal and built to last. Gourley-Bagwell just laughed when asked if the popcorn popper still worked. "I'd be afraid to plug it in," she said.

The third new exhibit features photographs, report cards, yearbooks, diplomas and shoes from such early schools as the Blue Lake School (1890), Glendale School (1926), Essex School (1910) and, of course, Arcata High, where Blue Lakers went.

Ben Spini's letterman sweater from Arcata High (circa 1941) is in perfect condition.  Families will search photos for their relatives as unrecognizable students. Speaking of family research, the museum staff and volunteers are glad to assist folks doing genealogy. The museum has extensive files and a full run of the Blue Lake Advocate and many oral histories.

"Our microfilm reader is obsolete and toner and parts are hard to find," Gourley-Bagwell said. "We're raising money to digitize the entire run of the Advocate."

She envisions a computer terminal set up in the lobby where folks could easily search the old copies of the newspaper.  "It's our summer project," she said.

The museum will start its summer hours at the opening, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Docents and volunteers are welcome.  The opening, Gourley-Bagwell noted, is from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., "following the Mad River Grange monthly breakfast." Not only do those Blue Lakers watch out for each other, they all seem to be active members of every possible organization in Blue Lake.  As Gourley-Bagwell gave the tour of the new exhibits, members of the Wha-Nika Women's Club were busy cleaning and tidying the museum for the opening.




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