From pictures of law enforcement officers confiscating illegal bottles of liquor to former fire stations and service stations to kids riding in a wagon filled with newspapers, each can be seen adorning the walls at the downtown diner. Of course, it isn’t the only place with these historical gems.
The Old Depot Museum, 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa, reopened this weekend with a new exhibit highlighting Franklin County’s photographic innovators of yesteryear. Those early shutterbugs include A.W. Barker, E.H. Corwin, Bert and Elmer Underwood, Gregory Smith, Maude Frink and W.H. “Dad” Martin. These dreamers didn’t settle for status quo and instead pushed the limits on technology and helped revolutionize the industry. Their work ran the gamut from historical photos of community events, such as the Hallowesta, to images of the city’s large swimming pool complete with a merry-go-round, diverse industries, stores and residences.
Hundreds of photos from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, accompanied by period music, can be viewed on a video featuring a collection of J.B. Muecke photo negatives loaned by former Ottawan Morgan Williams. Ottawa historically has been a bustling place, and the photos show some of the best parts of the idyllic life in the area. They tell an important story of where the city and county have been, as compared to where we are today.
One example is a photo of seized bottles of liquor being auctioned on the porch of the Franklin County Courthouse in 1957. Though Kansas allowed liquor sales after 1948, it would be another 46 years before Franklin County changed from being a dry county to a wet one. Other examples include parades and circuses, as well as a series of photos of one woman trading in her oil lamp as her family converted to electric lights. That’s a real transformational moment in history, as were construction of I-35 and the area’s flood protection project at Pomona Lake.
The exhibit also traces the various devices used to shoot and view photos from stereocards — developed by the Underwood brothers — which were viewed on stereopticon viewers of cameras.
Though the cars, clothing and news events of the day differed, the community pride always has been evident. Smoked Creations, which soon is moving from downtown Ottawa to 222 E. Logan St., and planning to take its décor with it, provides a nice appetizer of historical photos, but the Old Depot exhibit can offer the full meal deal.
editor and publisher