By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about efforts to preserve the history of small towns in Navarro County.
After collecting hundreds of historic photographs, and printing a 400-page book about Frost’s history, the residents of Frost are looking at another goal — a Frost history museum.
Danny Gillespie, who is the city secretary and one of a series of informal historians for Frost, began collecting photos last year for what he envisioned as a booklet for local folks in honor of the city’s 125th anniversary celebration. When it was finished, they had a large-scale book with photos that ranged from the sweet and endearing family shots that could be anyone’s grandparents, to the photos of a devastated town in the aftermath of a killer tornado.
“Reception has been wonderful,” Gillespie said. “We’ve sold 175 and we’re doing our second printing.”
Each copy of the book costs $65, and after taking out the printing costs, the rest is going into a the budding museum. Gillespie has mailed copies of the book all over the U.S. to former Frost residents. The charming photos include a “pin-up” photo sent by Sammie Armstrong, one leg bared and hand on hip, that she sent to her husband, Arnold, in the Navy during World War II, and dozens of houses, farmers, kids, horses and dogs from every decade since 1890.
“Even if they’re not from here, it’s fun to look through for the pictures,” Gillespie said.
Although the museum is following the book, there has always been interest in a museum in Frost, said David Malone, chairman of the society.
“There’s always been interest from a few individuals to start a museum,” he said. “We look at the book as a starting point because we got a lot of interest stirred from collecting those images and the brief history that was put in, but it did exist in a few people’s minds to do it.”
Location was part of the initial challenge, Gillespie said.
“At first, we looked at the second floor of City Hall, which after the 1930 tornado housed the First National Bank and Masonic Lodge, but we knew that with the current ADA requirements, it would be cost prohibitive,” Gillespie said. Larry and Debe Kern then offered up an alternative — the former Frost movie theater at 116 N. Garrity.
The first business in that site was Beene Bros. Furniture and Undertakers, which sold caskets 24-hours a day, and was converted into the theater in the 1940s. When that closed in the 1960s, it housed “The Purple Radish,” a kind of dance hang-out for the high school crowd. It has since been an antique store, a video rental store, and a private home.
“It’s been so many things over the years. Now it’s going to be a museum,” Malone said.
A donation allowed the city to reroof the building, and with the help of county community service workers and jail trustees, they’ve taken out the raised floor and stripped out some of the weird additions that were made in the last three or four decades.
Except for the roof, they’ve spent only about $200 on the building so far.
“Even though it’s a department of the city, we’re trying to operate off private donations,” Gillespie explained.
The relatively new Historical Society, made up of Malone, Jimmy Mitchell, Gillespie, Ken Reed, Cheryl Tatum, Theresa Martin, and Robert Ballew held a meeting just last week to vote on the name of the museum, which will be the Frost Heritage Center. They chose not to call it a museum because they want it to be more than a place to house remnants of Frost’s past.
The center will have a full kitchen, ADA bathrooms, and a meeting space. The organizers admit it’s a work in progress, and they’re far from opening the doors to the public, but working with donated space, donated labor and donated funds means taking a little time.
“It’s still kind of loosey-goosey right now, but we’re getting more formalized,” Malone said. “We’re just so shocked that it’s moving along. It’s been kind of refreshing.”
Civic-minded Frost residents have been donating things to the city for years, things like great-grandma’s bonnet, letter jackets and yearbooks, and there are promises of World War II materials, even parts of buildings and businesses that were once proud parts of Frost’s commercial district. The anticipation is that there will finally be a place to display it all.
“We’ve got stuff, and people need to see this stuff,” Gillespie said. “It doesn’t belong in a storeroom.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com