Discovering Rim Country History

Historical society will show off restored ranger station July 5

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Lines of time keep creasing, but the Rim Country Museum cares not to apply age-defying lotion. The wrinkles hold interesting stories. Letters and magazines. Belongings and oral histories. Photographs and old fire trucks. These things reveal time past, long after the hands that created them.

The museum has invested in renovating its buildings and organizing its archives. By using modern techniques, most notably digitization, the past and present collide to serve the future.

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Dressed in period costume, Judy Buettner, president of the Northern Gila County Historical Society, examines one of the many items for sale at the Rim Country Museum. There will be an open house at the museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 5. The museum recently underwent a facelift and one of the discoveries was the oak floor, which had been covered for many years by various layers of carpet. The floor was re-sanded, recoated and polished.

Northern Gila County Historical Society's board members restored the ranger station and the ranger's residence, removed tattered carpet and found beautiful wooden floors, repaired and repainted buildings at the Rim Country Museum in Green Valley Park.

An anonymous donation of $10,000 certainly helped. So did deals on services from local businesses.

"The contractors were very very generous with us," said Judy Buettner, the board's president.

A local window washing company even washed the museum's windows for free.

Come see the museum's upgrades at an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 5. Enjoy light refreshments, door prizes and a dollar off museum tours. Historical

author Stan Brown will sign autographs and have copies of his new book for sale.

On July 18 at 6 p.m. at the Mazatzal Casino, a benefit for the museum will feature live entertainment, a no-host bar, and a dinner buffet with beef and chicken, herb-roasted potatoes, a squash medley, green salad, cherry cheesecake and a chocolate fountain.

Tickets are $50. Buckshot Dot -- a singer, songwriter and Arizona history author -- will perform live.

DJ Fred Carpenter will play '50s music to dance to. Wear your best '50s costume and you might win a prize.

Proceeds support the museum's mission: "Our whole mission is to preserve our art and that certainly includes our buildings as well," Buettner said. "It is important for the people who come after us."

Also on display now is an exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beeline Highway. Photographs show the road from its pre-paved days to the more recent highway history.

"It's not just a road. It's so much more," said board member Lita Nicholson. During one of the more recent roadwork stints -- within the past 15 years --icholson said crews saved 4,000 cacti by relocating them.

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Carol Sigsbee, a staff archivist, is busy sorting and compiling various files and records in the new office and library on the museum grounds dedicated to preserving, updating and filing records of the history of the Rim Country.

"It was the biggest cactus relocation program that was ever done, at least in Arizona," she said. "It's kind of astounding."

The Beeline exhibit includes a diorama depicting a pioneer family's experiences traveling the road.

"There's so much more (history) than I thought when I came here (to Payson)," Buettner said. "It's incredible."

The museum's archives boast a complete collection of Arizona Highways magazines from the 1940s, original old letters between family members describing events, and various oral histories.

A new digital recorder, to replace an old cassette recorder, will serve to preserve new oral histories.

The museum's new archivist, Sandy Carson, is cataloging the museum's collections.

"We have so many (oral histories), it's just a matter of knowing what we have," Nicholson said.

"We really are trying to make it very professional," said Buettner.

One of the museum's displays includes a tape of Anna Mae Deming, a pioneer family descendent who died last spring at the age of 92. The museum acquired items from the Deming family kitchen and a dress with a matching sunbonnet.

"They can actually hear her describing the things they're seeing," Nicholson said. "I was privileged to be there when they made that recording."

Such is the pressing nature of time.

A too-long list of interesting people to interview taunts Nicholson as she manages her time. The widow of Payson's first pharmacist, for instance.

"There's so many exciting things going on there it makes your head spin. We wish we could clone ourselves and be six people," Nicholson said.

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Jim and Judy Buettner look over some of the paper work and journals in the Ranger Station office, part of the Rim Country Museum complex, at Green Valley Park. The museum is hosting an open house, Saturday, July 5. Jim Buettner publishes the historical society newsletter.

"We have lots of ways you can research something," she added. "It's just amazing how many different sources there are."

Buettner said, "We are bringing the whole thing up to where it will last a long time."

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