Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 14, 2013

Open house for Museum for East Texas Culture

Cheril Vernon
The Athens Review

Athens — PALESTINE – The Museum for East Texas Culture will hold an open house Sunday to celebrate being opened for more than 30 years, honoring longtime volunteers and debuting author and historian Carl Avera’s new book on Palestine.

The open house will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum, located at 400 Micheaux St. during the first weekend of the Dogwood Trails Celebration. Refreshments will be served.

Avera, who now lives in Waco, is known for his historical books on Palestine. He will debut his new book, “My Journey’s End” and will autograph copies.

“This book is very informative and contains a lot of history of Palestine and a lot of old photos,” museum board president Joy Phillips told the Herald-Press Tuesday. “It’s around 500 pages, a good hardback, coffee table book. There’s a lot of history of Palestine about many of the old houses and historic buildings here, as well as the people who lived here.”

Proceeds from the book, which will cost $49, will benefit the museum.

“This book has been in the works for five years,” Phillips said. “Carl did a lot of research for this book.”

Avera is the author of several other books about Palestine’s history that are available for purchase at the museum, including “Steamboats to Spaceships,” as well as a small book on the old Temple Opera House and the Jewish community in Palestine.

Another book he wrote in the past, “One Good Memory,” also is available. It was published in memory of longtime museum board member, the late Don Harris.

Longtime museum volunteer Lizz Langenkamp and former volunteer Beth Gragg will be honored during the event. Palestine Mayor Bob Herrington will give a short talk and presentation at 1 p.m.

“Lizzi has been volunteering at the museum for 33 years, two years before the museum opened. She’s in charge of all of the archives,” Phillips said. “Beth Gragg is a longtime volunteer too. She was one of the people instrumental in saving the building, and opening it up as a museum. She volunteered up until four to five years ago.”

During the open house, there will be no charge for the public to tour the museum, although donations will be accepted.

The museum was originally used as a school that opened in 1916. It served as a high school, becoming a junior high in 1939. In 1955, the school was named for John H. Reagan, and served as an elementary school from 1966 to 1976, when it was closed. The building was to be demolished because of its condition, but was saved by a group of citizens who did not want to lose such a historical part of the city.  The building was renovated and turned into a museum, which opened its doors in 1982 for the first weekend of the Dogwood Trails Celebration.

“We have several exhibits people might be interested in from the John H. Reagan Room, the John H. Reagan historic papers, the Railroad Room, Black History Room, Fire Department Room, an exhibit set up like an old school room, the Indian exhibit featuring arrowheads and exhibits featuring an old doctor’s office, an old optometrist office and an old barber shop. We also have a log cabin and farming elements set up in the basement of the old school gym,” Phillips said.

In addition, the museum’s upstairs art gallery currently features the exhibit of Palestine digital pop artist Michael Yanez.

For the second weekend of the Dogwood Trails Celebration, the museum will be home to the 12th annual Dulcimer & Old Time Music Festival set March 21-23.

Tours of the museum also will be available. For more information about the upcoming open house or other events, call the museum at 903-723-1914.