GARDNER – Several years ago, the Gardner Archives collection consisted of a few scrapbooks and a part of a banister from the former school building
“One man took the banister and put it together,” said Ida Schopp, of Gardner, chairman of the Gardner Archives Committee. “It made a nice piece of display.”
Four years ago, Schopp and “three of us girls” approached Mayor Tom Wise and the Gardner Village Board and asked for several cabinets. Through “word of mouth,” they asked to borrow Gardner-related artifacts and memorabilia.
The result is 18 catalogued scrapbooks full of articles and photos on such topics as the fire department, the 1954 Centennial Celebration, Gardner’s 125th birthday and the former Gardner Days celebrations.
The community is invited to view those items Saturday.
“We’ve got some really, really nice things, all in a cabinet, locked up,” Schopp said. Some items are part of the permanent collection, others are loaned and that is fine with Schopp, too. “Anytime people want to redeem them,” she added, “they can.”
Additional items include “stacks” of the former Gardner Chronicle that Patty Swisher, of Godley, daughter of the newspaper’s owner, the late Burt Parkinson, gave to the Gardner Archives Committee.
“In the 1940s, he would send all the boys in the service a newspaper, and they would write back to him,” Schopp said. “He kept every single letter, and we put them in the scrapbooks.”
Time had faded the ink of many of those letters but one committee member fixed that.
“She rewrote every letter,” Schopp said.
Other archive items include an attaché case from the former Junior Women’s Club – everything from the minutes to the gavel, photos of nine mayors and memorabilia from the former Royal Neighbors, “Where you could be a lady, dress up and have nice teas,” Schopp said.
“The pictures were in bad shape, so I sold flowers,” Schopp said. “With the profit I made from the flowers, I had those pictures redone and put in the archives.”
Anyone who knows Schopp knows about her flowers. She grows 200 varieties in her yard and distributes seeds during parades so others can enjoy their beauty, too. But that’s just part of Schopp and her love for Gardner.
The former village clerk moved to Gardner in 1950 and has lived in her bright yellow Victorian home for 61 years. From one window, Schopp can see the gazebo she, along with other members of a beautification committee, helped install in the park.
“It was a dream of mine to have a gazebo on that corner,” Schopp said.
That project, as well as working hard to preserve Gardner’s history for future generations, was the least Schopp could do for a village that has brought her so much happiness – and convenience. Her church is a block away from her, and the post office is half a block away.
“Gardner has been good to me,” Schopp said, “and it has been good to my family.”
Schopp’s favorite historical figure from Gardner’s past is Walter Peck, owner of a jewelry store at the turn of the 20th century. Schopp said she wrote about 10 articles on Peck and created a booklet of them for a Gardner Days celebration.
Peck dressed completely in black, Schopp said, from his top hat to his long tailcoat. He owned a telescope and in the evenings, he would set it up in his backyard and invite village children to peer through it.
“He was a wonderful person,” Schopp said. “I wish I had known him.”
One of the hand-painted plates Peck had sold in his shop is now part of the archive collection, Schopp said. Items like these are important, she feels, for residents to enjoy and for posterity.
“People should appreciate their history,” Schopp said.
Anyone wishing to lend or donate items, as well as view the scrapbooks and displays after Saturday’s event, need only call Schopp or Village Hall and make an appointment. Schopp is happy to oblige.
“Anytime,” she said. “I just live a block away.”
IF YOU GO
What: Gardner archives display
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gardner Village Hall, 302 N. Center St., Gardner
Contact: 815- 237-2592 (village hall) or 815-237-2287 (Ida Schopp)