by Cori Hilsgen
Darol Studer and Marlin Eich encourage people to join the St. Joseph Area Historical Society. They especially would like to see younger people join.
Studer is the St. Joseph Historical Museum curator and one of the founding members. Eich is the current president. Studer, with a twinkle in his eye, said his age is between 75 and 80 whereas Eich freely admits he was born in 1943.
“We are always looking for new membership,” Studer said.
Both men enjoy giving tours of the many implements, artifacts and other items that are on display at the museum. Recently, they gave a tour to a Newsleader reporter.
In a display case of childhood toys, Studer pointed to a game of “Old Maid” cards that he used to play as a child.
“I enjoyed playing that game,” he said.
Eich pointed to the many military uniforms hanging on the wall and said Studer wore one of them.
Studer was a Korean War veteran in the Easy Company, 2nd BN, 7th Reg., 1st Marine Division. He enlisted right out of high school and served for three years.
There is a service trunk filled with items that belonged to past St. Joseph resident Walter Mayer, who fought in World War II and went missing in action over the North Atlantic Ocean. His body was never recovered.
Studer and Eich pointed to a typewriter that belonged to J.C. Crever in 1910. Crever was a banker at the St. Joseph Bank. The typewriter has a pencil attached that could draw a line on the paper for bookkeeping purposes.
Other items on display at the museum include a still that was used to produce a brand of illegal liquor – “moonshine” – during the Prohibition years (1920-1933), an old doll buggy, a wedding dress, pieces of embroidery, a grotto altar hand-carved in 1920 by John Stich and many other items of historical interest.
The historical society has photos and records that date back to 1860.
“We are always looking for photos that tell the stories,” Eich said. “We want pictures to duplicate, and then we return them to the owner.”
“The photos are a snapshot of the community at that time,” Studer said.
Studer pointed to a 1927 photo of people dedicating the new school. Most of the women are dressed in dresses and most of the men are wearing ties. There are no children in the photo.
“The children were at home doing the work,” Studer said.
“We have audio interviews of people who have family histories tied to this town,” Eich said. “People like Pfannenstein, Zimmer, Loso and others.”
As curator, Studer usually changes one or two museum displays each month.
The museum is open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the first Friday of every month; and from 4-7 p.m. on the third Friday of each month. Studer will also open the museum upon special request.
Eich said the museum is crunched for space.
“It would be nice if St. Joseph residents would consider a senior center similar to the one in St. Cloud,” Eich said. “I think the old Kennedy school building would make a good senior building.”
The St. Joseph Area Historical Society, which has about 35 members, was founded in 2002. Some of the original founders include Studer and his wife, Ellie Studer; Ellen Wahlstrom; Tillie Wasner and her son, Bill Wasner. Bill Wasner is also a past president.
Eich will soon be handing over his position as president to a newly elected person.
Monthly meetings for the society are held at 7 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of every month. Sometimes the organization does not meet during November and December because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
For more information call Studer at 363-8428 or Eich at 363-8291 or visit the Historical Society at 400 4th Ave. N.E. in St. Joseph.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.