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Museum opens shop
The new Ceres Historical Museum hasn't been available for viewing since its debut at a Sept. 15 ice cream social. But the Ceres Historical Society has set hours of 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month as its operating hours.

Docents will be scheduled to keep the museum open on Nov. 10 and Dec. 8, along with the Daniel Whitmore Home on the same property at 2732 Fifth Street.

A 24' x 60' double-wide prefabricated structure purchased by the Ceres Historical Society and donated to the city houses historical treasures. While some were critical of the use of a modern structure next to Ceres' first home, nobody has criticized the interior presentation of historical photos, documents and artifacts.

"We've had such a good comments and compliments on it so we're all very very happy with the way it turned out," said Phil Reynders, who's been a driving force behind the museum.

The museum has been a labor of love for many people, but notably Reynders and his wife, Donna. Others have helped, including David and Steven Holm who built platforms which displays are resting. The Holms have been interested in history since their aunt, the late Myrtle Price, inherited historical items from Allura Ulch, an early-day Ceres historian and author.

Reynders' daughter, Sheryl Trout - also the president of the Ceres Historical Society - also helped build some of the displays, including the first one seen by visitors - a display honoring Ceres' farming roots. An early flour sack from the 1800s is on display along with photos of mules pulling harvesting equipment through the fields of grain, the primary crop in the area before irrigation was introduced in 1900 from La Grange Dam.

Her husband, Steve Trout, built shutters that adorn the outside of the museum.

Fran Welsh, the former principal of Ceres High School, helped assemble displays.

Photos, both large and small, give visitors a glimpse of early-day Ceres. A large photo blow-up on the wall shows Fourth Street back in the days when Clinton Whitmore had an insurance office.

Other treasures on display include:

• The grade book used by Mae Hensley in her first year teaching seventh and eighth grade in 1925 and 1926;

• A collection of matchbooks from Ceres businesses long since gone, seed packets from Ceres and old city bike license tags stamped with Ceres;

• A formal chair belonging to the late Jenny Whitmore Caswell, once owner of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion;

• A section dedicated to the historic Bank of Ceres, which features a large photo of the bank's interior and an actual accounting desk, signature card drawers and coin tray from the bank donated by Eldreth MacElrath.

• Copies of early CHS yearbooks, including the 1912 "the Echo" before it was renamed "the Cereal."

• Tools from the William Roscoe Service Ranch are displayed before a large photo of an early Ceres blacksmith shop.

Pictures on display include the first graduating class (1912) at Ceres High School. The class attended school in a building that sat where Whitmore Park is today, but graduated in the Collins Warner Hall on Fourth Street, which was located where A&H Floor Covering is today.

The center of the museum has a display of home furnishing and appliances from the early 1900s.

One of the neatest sections of the museum is a small mock turn-of-the-century classroom complete with desk, antique wainscoating and portrait of George Washington. Reynders said his group borrowed ideas during visits to museums in Modesto, Turlock, Escalon, Martinez, Sonora and Mariposa. The curator of the Gustine museum, Pat Snopes, helped with suggestions.

"We compared how they look and what we wanted to portray in our town," said Reynders. "The main introducton was the harvest befre the irrigation came in."

Reynders said the society may alter the 2008 schedule for the museum, which will not charge admission. His group will be sending out notices to local school teachers to notify them that the museum will be open to students by appointment. He said a visitor could spend under an hour at the museum, depending on their level of interest.

The modular structure cost approximately $95,000 and was purchased with funds from the Ceres Community Foundation collected in the 1990s from donors for historical preservation efforts. The city originally proposed that an existing garage behind the two-story Daniel Whitmore Home - built in 1870 - be replaced with a new building. But the project was scrapped due to costs.

The Society is making plans to modify the garage for the display of larger items, including an old surrey once belonging to Hardy Fowler, who died in 2004. Reynders plans to put on exhibit the iron bars that once kept prisoners in their place at the Fourth Street jail. The old jail is today the Sole Saver Shoe Repair shop.

Approximately 80 individuals belong to Ceres Historical Society, not including the special membership of the Soroptimists and Ceres Women's Club. The Society meets the second Saturday of each month at 9:30 a.m. in the Ceres City Council Chambers, 2220 Magnolia Street. Typically meetings start with refreshments and then a talk by a featured speaker. Those who would like to become a member may write the Ceres Historical Society, P.O. Box 2585, Ceres, CA 95307. Annual dues are just $10 per individual, $5 for students, and $25 per family. Business or service club organizations can become members for $125 per year.