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Norman and Betty Ryle collect Columbus memorabilia.
Their collection includes items from the now-closed Irwin Union Bank, where Betty had her first savings account, and from Cosco, where Norman worked for 46 years.
“I got my wedding dress at The White House,” Betty Ryle said as she held an old box printed with the name of the former Washington Street store.
She also had a box from the old Melton Hat Shop, also on Washington Street years ago.
The Ryles were among the passionate collectors, authors of history books, the Bartholomew County Historical Society and other organizations who gathered Friday at the Columbus branch of the Bartholomew County Public Library. It was the opening day of a two-day event to provide a fun, education-filled experience.
About 330 local students attended the “159 Years of Bartholomew County History” exhibit. The free, public event continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.
Exhibitors on Friday enjoyed reminiscing about when people listened to music on Arvin transistor radios, had milk delivered to their homes from Thompson’s Dairy, sat in chairs made at Cosco or attended classes in a one-room schoolhouse.
This is the fifth year for the event, presented by the library and Historic Columbus.
Coordinator Michele Bottorff, a reference librarian, said the event has something for all ages.
“We have such a diverse group of exhibitors who are very passionate about their collections,” Bottorff said.
Many items, from antique to vintage to simply collectible, come from private collections, she said, so they are not items the public has a chance to see very often.
On the library plaza, visitors can see old Reeves and Cummins engines, a 1926 Model TT Ford used by Reeves Pulley Co. and a 1937 Stutz Diesel Engine used by the Columbus Fire
Inside exhibits include displays on racing memorabilia, postcards, political history, genealogy and Hope history.
Jim and and Gayle Loesch have a wide-ranging collection dating back 159 years, helping give the entire exhibit its name.
Jim Loesch, 74, whose family owns and operates Loesch’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Columbus, said he started collecting when he was 6.
He brought a portion of his collection to the library, including old license plates and wall calendars, sports photos and programs, and interesting odds and ends he’s picked up at auctions and garage sales and from friends’ attics and
He has a 1923 photo of the Columbus High School “Bull Pups,” a 1942 library card and a 1937 Columbus High basketball schedule.
“I’m never worried about how much something is worth,” Loesch said. “It’s more about just finding things.”
Collector John Rondot completely agreed. He doubted if many of his items had much, if any, monetary value.
He especially likes to collect area matchbooks. At the library he had ones printed with “The Columbus Hotel, Rates $1 and up,” “The Swan Restaurant, 607
Washington St.” and “Hollywood Cafe, 433 Seventh St.”
“It’s just not worth anything,” he said with a laugh.
Rondot also likes to point out that history can cover a wide range. He kept on his table an empty bag of Hostess Donettes from the now-closed Dolly Madison factory in Columbus.
“History doesn’t have to be 60 years old,” Rondot said.
Former Indiana State Rep. and Columbus resident David Yount, who now lives in Carmel, displayed a table of political and Columbus historical items.
“I’ve just always been a collector and loved old Columbus stuff,” Yount said. “And I love coming to events like this and talking to kindred spirits.”
Collecting has become easier these days with online auction sites, Yount said. He still finds his items in a variety of more traditional locations and from friends who know he’s a collector.
Next to his table was Dr. Tamara Stone Iorio of Columbus, who collects historical postcards of Bartholomew County and has had three books published about Columbus and its residents.
She explained to students how postcards have changed over the years and how the practice of sending postcards also is less common with the ease of email and text messaging today.
Central Middle School seventh-grader Nathan Fairchild, who visited the event Friday, said he enjoyed learning about the county’s history and believes remembering the past is important.
“If you’re going to live here, it’s kind of like respecting your elder city,” Nathan said. “You learn you’re privileged to have what you have.”
Nathan, who has lived in Columbus only two years, was especially interested to see a photo of the old Central Middle School that was torn down.
Jackie Fry, also a Central seventh-grader, said by knowing the past, people can compare and contrast to help them better understand where they live today.
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