Orange Historical Society opens its season

  • Linda Temple of the Orange Historical Society with the coffee grinder originally used in the production of Minute Tapioca pudding in Orange. Behind her is one of the original canoes from the barroom bet that led to the annual and ongoing Athol-Orange River Rat Race. RECORDER STAFF/CHRIS CURTIS

  • Linda Temple looks at a placard on the wall of the Orange Historical Society mentioning another OHS - Orange High School - with the slogan "The future calls." Temple believes the '81 signifies 1881. The future is here. RECORDER STAFF/CHRIS CURTIS Chris Curtis—Recorder staff

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/20/2016 10:37:36 PM

ORANGE — A spring rainstorm washed the Orange Historical Society Thursday afternoon, complementing work human volunteers are doing to get the museum of local history open for the summer season.

Spring cleaning isn’t an easy task here; the museum is packed with pieces of the town’s past, and the society prefers to keep everything out in the open. Glass mars the view.

At the top of a flight of stairs watched by a portrait of Mr. McKenna, historian Linda Temple said she hid the Witty’s Funeral Home builder there because the eyes seem to follow you when you’re trying to work. Old band uniforms and instruments wait next to a room with a model school house and a collection of trophies from otherwise forgotten high school glory days. In the next room there are mess kits and uniforms from the town’s veterans in every war after the Revolution. Temple explains that while the area was settled, there was no incorporated town of Orange until after that first war. Guns hang on the walls from the early days of the Civil War, when civilians turned soldier with whatever gun they had. Double-barreled hunting pieces are well represented. In the attached barn, there is an old fire engine, from the era when firefighters pushed the engine, rather than riding in it. This engine was used in the village of Tully until the 1940s, Temple said.

There are wagons built circa 1918 to carry ammunition through the muddy fields of Europe during the First World War. Nearby, the museum houses a collection of civilian conveyances, from the kerosene and steam-powered Grout Runabout automobiles built in Orange to one of the two canoes from the barroom bet that spawned the annual Athol-Orange River Rat Race.

Temple reels off names and dates associated with almost every object she passes. Where she can’t remember an exact date or confuses siblings, she give assurances that she’ll know all of this again by the end of the summer, after she’s helped guide the museum’s 200 or so annual visitors.

The house holds items dating from before the town’s 1810 incorporation up to paintings and woodwork from the 1990s.

There are many relics of past industry, including Rodney Hunt-Fontaine, which is set to close. The New Home Sewing Machine Co. is well-represented, as is the Minute Tapioca Co., both long-gone locally.

There are also folders and folders of the thank-you letters written by third- and fourth-grade classes after the annual spring visits.

Temple hopes that visitors leave with a sense of the town’s perseverance and pride in the place.

“It’s had ups and downs. At one time, when I was a child in the 1950s, every storefront was active. There were a half-dozen restaurants you could go to at night after town meeting for coffee and pie,” Temple said. All that’s gone, but there seem to be signs of a return, she said.

“We’re gathering people from Boston, Worcester, Springfield and they’re bringing new ideas into the town, but we don’t want to lose that it’s still our town,” she said. “We welcome them and their new ideas, but sometimes they want to tear down a historic building or something and then we go a little haywire.”

The museum, at 41 North Main St., is open to the public Wednesdays and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., June through September, or by appointment. Temple’s number is by the door for those seeking an appointment.


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