There are a number of really sad stories told inside the two-story Fife History Museum but Julie Watts, managing director, said she’s never been frightened by any ghosts. She did, however, remove a mannequin from the kitchen because it kept scaring the guests.
“She just looked so real she would startle people,” Watts said.
Watts has since retired that display, in its flowery peasant dress, and moved it down to storage amongst other mannequins. That's where Watts also keeps other interesting artifacts and antiques that wait for a turn to be put on display.
When Watts talks about Fife’s history, it’s with obvious excitement in her voice. Her goal, since assuming the role of director in January of last year, is to help the museum become more interactive so future guests will have a more active role in discovering and learning about history.
Already Watts has put a law enforcement style black vest on display for patrons to try on and downstairs, in the mock classroom filled with historic school desks, they can see how very small the past residents must have been by comparing the desks to their own bodies.
“Can you just imagine how many butts sat here?” Watts asked, referring to a particularly shabby chic looking antique school desk. Its cast iron legs were designed with very ornate industrial shapes. The metal is now oxidized from age and all the varnish that used to protect the wooden seat has long since worn off.
Umbrellas Made From Outpouring Of Sadness
Eager to tell other stories of Fife’s past, Watts pointed toward the intricate Japanese artwork on display near the front entrance upstairs. Turns out, Mrs. T Hoshide and Mrs. Yaeko Nakano were removed from their homes in Fife during the second world war. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they were relocated to Idaho where they spent three years at the Minidoka Internment Facility. There they grew terribly bored, and now inside the museum, atop a peeled and forked tree branch, are their beautifully made tiny ornamental umbrellas that they folded out of discarded cigarette packages.
“I can recognize that that’s a Lucky Strike (cigarette package) and this one’s a Parliament,” said Watts, pointing to what now looks like beautiful works of art.
Watts said the women’s motivation for making the umbrellas was an outpouring of sadness. “When they were in the camps there was no cooking to do because they were eating MREs. There was no wash to do. There was no gardening. They didn’t have their regular routine, so this is what they did with their time and I think it is absolutely magnificent!”
Other memorabilia inside the museum also point to war times. What becomes clear from browsing is that some local families suffered more tragic experiences than others. As local citizens flew off to every war front, the enlisted served in every branch of the military and in many different capacities. Some became pilots, others medics, some construction mechanics, and still more were infantrymen. At least one Fife resident-turned-soldier became a war photographer.
Photographer Robert Tresh and his brother Albert went off to war together but Robert returned home alone after Albert was declared missing in action. He was last seen somewhere in the Philippines.
In contrast, Col. Janice Spane returned home and retired from the military safely after 33 years of service with the Army Nurse Corps. Her uniforms and photos show heroism and perseverance.
Beyond military uniforms and war stories, the museum also has props that represent Fife’s old police and fire departments. Other industries, such as Fife’s dairies and cheese factories, are also featured.
For sure, the museum speaks to the cultural diversity that Fife has always known. Among Scandinavian weaving and woodworking memorabilia, there are handwoven rugs with middle eastern influences and many varieties of kitchen utensils, as well as artifacts from a Native American heritage.
According to Watts, the museum’s past homeowner, Louis Dacca, was an original member of Fife’s City Council. The museum has pictures of her sitting on her tractor, and Watts said Dacca was known to throw many parties and loved working on the farm. The Dacca home and the land were acquired by the City of Fife in 2000. The former farmland had a zucchini field located behind the home, which is now the ball field at Dacca Park.