Editor's Note: The following feature is a welcome new addition to the Corrigan Times' cache of regular features. Sheila Kirkland's column will expound upon the goings-on of the Corrigan Area Heritage Center and will work to enlighten readers on aspects of local history on a bi-weekly basis. Enjoy.
By Shelia Kirkland
When people think of hidden treasure an image comes to mind of pirates, sunken ships and chests filled with gold, jewels and other valuables. Well, we have a treasure trove right here in our neck of the woods that is just as exciting and valuable as gold and jewels...our own heritage.
The Corrigan Area Heritage Center (CAHC) is becoming a reality with a Grand Opening planned for Saturday, May 23. At the heart of this is our treasures, artifacts if you will, of our lives in areas around Corrigan Moscow, Camden and dozens of small communities such as Stryker, Carmona, Skinnertown and many others.
When I first became actively involved in the Corrigan Area Heritage Center I was hesitant, thinking, "What can I bring to the table? I don't really have anything of historical value."
After helping sift through and documenting boxes of memorabilia area citizens have already donated I now realize that EVERYTHING has value. Everything has a story behind it that links itself to our area and our people. A church bulletin reminds us of a revival or somebody's baptism. A school report card reminds us of how important the "3R's" were and gives us a flashback to a favorite teacher. An old dress pattern recalls clothes lovingly sewed for special occasions, or costumes created for school plays. A story told orally and passed down to another generation gives us a personal tie to an event in our area.
This is our treasure and we must preserve it. Twenty years from now our children or grandchildren will ask us to tell them a story about "the old days"—which differs from one generation to another. They will be amazed at what we take for granted today.
A free drink coupon at a local fast food place for making the honor roll will become part of the "treasure". Its value is not monetary, but is intrinsic. In perusing the CAHC inventory, I see reward coupons from yesteryear and remember the old Freezette and Dairy Queen. I remember walking (from the old school) to Sirman's Drugstore for a scoop of ice-cream, courtesy of our teacher, for a job well done. Although these establishments have long since vanished, the memories remain. The upcoming generation will one day be the guardians of these memories and will have the Heritage Center to preserve these treasures.
As an example, while going through a donation box recently, I happened upon some old movie theater guides for the Corrigan Movie Theater. Wow! I had to giggle at some of the famous movie stars of that era such as Claudette Colbert, Doris Day, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando. The list goes on and on. I quickly sobered when I realized if I asked any 12 year old today if they had ever seen a movie starring Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Demi Moore, Ryan O'Neal, Angelica Huston or Michelle Pfeiffer, they would say, "WHO?".
Corrigan was home to a movie house, theater or "show" for over 40 years. Occupying three different locations and several different owners before finally closing its doors in the early 70's, this form of entertainment was a huge part of the social life in Corrigan. The theater, or "show", as many of us called it, had a nightly feature movie from 7-9:30. There was also a weekend "Midnight Show" from 9:30 to midnight, if you were of an age to stay up late or were the proud owner of a driver's license. This was considered "Date Night". (The theater was closed on Sunday.) The small concession stand had a brisk business offering popcorn, soft drinks and candy. A number of young teenagers made extra money working in the concession stand.
Teenage angst was often played out during a movie intermission or if the film projector had a glitch. Many Saturday nights my friends and I would pay admission for a ticket to watch a movie, when in fact, all we really did was talk and see who sat by who. It was an unspoken rule that 3 week-ends of consecutively sitting by the same member of the opposite sex constituted a serious relationship. If said boy or girl was caught conversing in the lobby with another boy or girl, the inevitable "break-up" drama was played out right there in the lobby for all by-standers to see. The accusations flew, the denial repeated until the climax when the girl was rushed to the restroom to be consoled by her girlfriend's claims that the boy was "not good enough for her". Meanwhile, the boy--with his dutiful sidekicks--sought refuge across the street at Essie's Café, easing his sorrows with a cheeseburger and Cherry Coke.
Fortunately the theater's audience was spared having their movie interrupted by this on-going cycle thanks to "movie monitors". Adults or "responsible" high school students removed you from the auditorium if you were too loud or disruptive. Your parents were called to retrieve you, or if you were of an age to drive, you were escorted to your—actually your parent's—vehicle and asked to depart the premises.
This memory was all the result of seeing an old movie guide. When people are encouraged to share their memorabilia with the Corrigan Area Heritage Center they usually ask, "What do you want?"
There is no answer to that except, "If it relates to the Corrigan area we want it ALL!"
Something you think is of little significance, or just a "doo-dad" is of interest merely because you have it and it has a local story or is part of the local story. Kelly Shadix refers to these as "puzzle pieces". You may have a small piece that fits in with another item or story which will then connect to another topic of interest. Will our puzzle ever be finished? No. Each generation adds to it. Each part of Corrigan and its 10 mile radius need representation in this puzzle.
I ran across a Johnson School yearbook. Who can tell us about or bring items that represent this school? Our local churches have a history of their own. How will we know when, or how, they were founded? Etcetera, etcetera. Plenty of questions in need of answers.
Your connection to this area is important. It is your heritage. Pictures, school programs, church bulletins, recipes, quilt patterns with a local tie, etc., would add to our treasure. An interesting story could be written, or recorded, and paired with some other person's account or picture to expound on the same event. I foresee our treasure chest growing. Again, this is not just about the town of Corrigan, or a certain handful of people. All surrounding areas and citizens need to be represented in this effort.
I plan to periodically write an article to keep the community updated on events and the "jewels" of the CAHC. I urge you to get involved with the Corrigan Area Heritage Center. Join us on Facebook "Corrigan Happenings Between 1900 and 1980 and weigh in on some of the discussions that take place. (That is not to suggest that our treasure gathering stops at 1980. It is hard to imagine that 1980 was 35 years ago, and to a young person today, that was the old days!)
[Shelia Kirkland is a native Corriganite, the daughter of Maxine (Loving) and Henry Kirkland, and retired Corrigan-Camden ISD Texas History Teacher.]