Tucked into the downtown core of the city of Winlock and guarded by a beady-eyed oversized rooster, the red and white facade of the 1914-era Winlock firehouse and jail now houses a well-displayed collection of Winlock history.
But this isn’t the only historical collection in town, and members of the Winlock Historical Museum soon realized they were in danger of losing a large chunk of irreplaceable Winlock history with the death of a beloved Winlock historian.
The community lost Roy Richards, the venerable and beloved curator of the Renegade Rooster Winlock History Collection, in October 2020. Since that time, the estate has been inventoried and working toward its inevitable dispersal. This loss, closure and looming dispersal of the entire contents of the Renegade Rooster in Winlock led members of the Winlock Historical Museum to the realization that many artifacts were one of a kind and irreplaceable and needed to be preserved in, and for, the community.
New museum member Lesa Givens immediately started a GoFundMe.com crowdfunding campaign to raise money to purchase as much of the collection as possible. She painted a thermometer sign and prominently displayed it in town to show current efforts in hopes of motivating the rest of the community into a desire to help with the purchase of the collection. Her hopes and efforts have paid off handsomely in a short amount of time.
The GoFundMe campaign, which was started in March, has taken off by leaps and bounds as the community rallies together with museum volunteers to save their history. Current fundraising efforts stand at around $25,000 between the GoFundMe account and checks mailed in to the museum address. The total continues to grow through daily donations, with anything welcomed and accepted from small to large amounts.
“We are trying to buy as much as we can get,” Givens said. “The more we raise, the more we can do.”
Richards’ Renegade Rooster collection is massive, filling two buildings and featuring items of particular interest to Winlock as well as items of general historical interest.
“We have a priority list that includes items of the most significant historical value to Winlock, irreplaceable items including decades of high school yearbooks and decades of one of a kind issues of bound Winlock News,” Givens said.
A recent Saturday found volunteer members of the museum on location in the Winlock Firehouse across from city hall in downtown Winlock, cleaning, vacuuming, dusting and rearranging and preparing for the annual opening of the museum and, in particular, for the 100th anniversary of Winlock Egg Day, which is slated to take place on Saturday, June 19.
The museum has long been a beloved destination for visitors and residents of the community. The historic structure and collection is a big draw to the city for visitors from far away, according to volunteer Tim Clarke, who frequently hosts the opening hours of the museum in the afternoons (once normal operation resumes).
“A lot of people come here in the summertime,” Clarke said.
Visitors hail from far and wide to visit the small town community known for its giant egg, including from Oklahoma, Montana and overseas locations such as Germany.
“They come off the freeway traveling through and when they see it’s open, they want to see what we have, the history,” Clarke said.
Creating displays has been a labor of love for museum secretary Dave Rubert, who has been a member of the museum since 2007 and contributed significantly to the reorganization of the museum in 2014.
Last Saturday found Rubert accepting a donation of 1930s-era business ledgers of the Veness lumber mill and also toting around a shop vacuum to clean carpet. He took a few minutes to point out various interesting displays, and to note the importance of the museum to visitors as well as members of the community.
“By far, the class photos draw the largest crowds,” he said. “Patrons love finding their relatives, standing around and reminiscing.”
Other collections in the Winlock Historical Museum feature logging apparatus and large animal veterinarian tool displays, local bygone business signage, vintage tools, and photographs.
Rubert, with a background and love of photography and history, dug through old photos and memorabilia to create framed displays and spent hours digitizing the museum’s photo collection.
He, like other museum members, is working to create a space to house any purchased collection items from the Richards estate. How many items can be purchased will solely depend on how much is raised.
“As many of the items from Winlock history as we possibly can and be able to afford a space to display it all for the community to enjoy,” Rubert said.
To that future end of creating adequate housing for additional collections, museum president Tommy Thompson is hopeful they can obtain grant funding.
“My big hope is to get an annex built off the back of the building,” said Thompson, who was a volunteer ambulance driver out of the firehouse in the 1980s and early 1990s.
“This place was never meant to be archival,” Thompson said, noting the need for the installation of climate control for the museum. A 900-square-foot climate controlled addition is in the early planning stages.
In the meantime, donations to purchase collection items are still being welcomed, according to Givens.
“If we had a million-dollar donation we would do something cool with it … There is no cap,” she said.
Time is of the essence, she said.
“They (Richard’s estate executor) are doing everything they can to allow us the time to raise funds,” Givens said. “But at some point, they have to close the estate.”
To donate funds, go to the GoFundMe campaign organized by Lesa Givens and titled “Help Preserve our Town’s History, Winlock, WA”
Checks may also be mailed to Winlock Historical Museum, P.O. BOX 632, Winlock, WA, 98596.
For more information about the Winlock Historical Museum, donate items of interest to the museum or to find out about joining the museum, send an email to WinlockHM@gmail.com.
For more information, call Dave Rubert at: 360-880-6895 or Tommy Thompson at 360-880-8668.