Preserving the Past
Officially formed in 1964, the Poway Historical and Memorial Society (PHMS) has been dedicated to preserving the artifacts and collections of Poway’s history for fifty years. And like any milestone birthday, the society is planning a big party to celebrate the occasion. We all know and love Old Poway Park, and it’s the PHMS that helps visitors and residents travel back in time through the Heritage Museum and the iconic Nelson House. Read along as we talk with PHMS President Jeff Frye and Vice President Mary Shepardson about the origin of the organization, 92064’s history and what to expect for the next fifty years.
Q&A with PHMS President Jeff Frye and Vice President Mary Shepardson
HOW WAS THE POWAY HISTORICAL & MEMORIAL SOCIETY (PHMS) FORMED?
Mary Shepardson: Poway of the early 1950s was not that much different from how the town had been at the turn of the century. A small, close-knit group of farming families grew and sold a wide variety of crops — depending on annual rainfall for their success. When water was scarce, times were hard. In the middle years of the twentieth century water was very scarce. Farmers and even homeowners struggled to get water for their needs.
The arrival of a municipal water supply in 1954 changed everything. Yes, there was water to irrigate farmland, but there was rapid growth, changing the character of the town from rural to suburban.
In 1962, a group of self-styled “Old Timers,” residents who had come to Poway in 1953 and before, began having annual picnics to get together and share recollections. They wanted to preserve the memories of Poway as they had known it. From these picnics, came the germ of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society.
The society formed officially in 1964. That summer, Ray Stock organized the first meeting at the annual Old Timers’ picnic at Felicita Park in Escondido. Stock was elected president that September. The Constitution and by-laws were adopted the following November. Charter membership numbered fifty-three, of whom five are still living.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH THE PHMS?
Mary: My family moved to Poway in 1949, when I was 3. My parents were very involved in civic life and I developed an early interest in Poway’s history, becoming one of the charter members of PHMS and writing articles about Poway for the local paper when I was still in school.
Recently retired, I’ve become very involved in working with digitizing the society’s archives and photo files and have now joined the board as vice president.
WHAT KIND OF SERVICES DOES THE SOCIETY PROVIDE TO POWAY RESIDENTS?
Jeff Frye: The museum is open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors include local residents, former residents and visitors to the area.
We provide the textures and the sights of Old Poway for younger generations to appreciate and a look at vintage Poway and for older generations to recall and reflect upon. History is a good foundation for processing current events.
WHAT TYPE OF EXHIBITS DOES THE MUSEUM HAVE?
Jeff: The museum has an extensive collection of photographs dating back to the founding of Poway in the late 1800s, including many of Poway’s bountiful agricultural heritage and of early settlers, homes and schools.
Artifacts range from the grinding stones of the Native Americans who lived here for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived, to period agricultural implements, housewares and clothing. In addition to the standing collection, specialized displays from our archives or outside collectors and sources are set up six or more times a year.
Popular exhibits include the re-creation of a one-room school circa 1895 and a combination post office/general store representative of offerings in the early 1900s.
The youngest visitors particularly enjoy our working model train set and a player piano.
WHAT IS THE MUSEUM’S MOST PRIZED OR IMPORTANT POSSESSION/ARTIFACT?
Jeff: Photographs and writings from Poway’s pioneer family are probably our most valued assets.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE NELSON HOUSE AND ITS IMPORTANCE TO POWAY’S HISTORY?
Jeff: The Nelson house was built early in the twentieth century by Niles Nelson, the head of one of Poway’s pioneer families, on property he homesteaded south of what is now Garden Road. It is a good example of the farmhouses of the era. When the property on which it sat was developed in 1990, the City of Poway was able to acquire the house and move it to its current location in Old Poway Park.
In the park, it provides the ideal setting for displays of photographs and artifacts of Poway’s past and of the historical era. It is open to the public the same hours of the museum and is also popular for tours and photo shoots.
HOW HAS THE PHMS MODERNIZED IN RECENT YEARS?
Mary: One of the earliest goals of PHMS, dating back to before the group was officially organized, was to establish a museum to store and display the artifacts they were collecting. After many false starts, they finally reached an agreement with the City of Poway in 1992 to make use of a 2,300-square-foot space in Old Poway Park, adjacent to the Hamburger Factory. The displays and collections are constantly being upgraded.
We are now moving to digitize more of our files, allowing both museum guests and visitors on the internet to enjoy written records, audio and video files about Poway’s past. Our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/powayhistoricalandmemorialsociety) is especially popular with current and former residents of Poway.
WHAT KIND OF UPKEEP TAKES PLACE FOR THE ARTIFACTS AND HISTORICAL RECORDS?
Mary: We’ve recently completed the archiving of documents from the collection for permanent storage in a climate-controlled environment being provided by the City of Poway. The objects put in storage have also been scanned to create a digital archive. Physical items in the museum are inventoried regularly and maintained with great care. Members and volunteers have a variety of skills needed to clean, maintain and repair items in our collection.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE UPCOMING 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION.
Jeff: The event is going to be huge. The museum, Nelson house and Templar’s Hall will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be guest speakers, music, entertainment and presentations, a special lunch menu at the Hamburger Factory and fiftieth anniversary exhibits in the museum. A huge rummage sale behind the museum will feature both vintage and modern treasures. Special diversions for children will also be offered.
Also being celebrated at the park on the same day are the twentieth anniversary of Poway and Midland Railroad Society’s operation as well as of the Apache Canyon Gang, a Western reenactment group. Train rides and mock holdups will take place during the day.
Celebrating their fifteenth anniversary will be the Poway Station Model Railroad Club with an exhibit on the grounds.
DOES THE SOCIETY HAVE ANY OTHER UPCOMING OR MAJOR ANNUAL EVENTS?
Jeff: The next big park event PHMS will be involved in is Christmas in the Park, which will be on Dec. 13. The society presents depictions of Christmas celebrations in times gone by. The Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration is also a big annual event for us.
ARE RESIDENTS ABLE TO SUBMIT PHOTOS OR ARTIFACTS TO THE MUSEUM?
Mary: The society welcomes photos and artifacts that are relevant to Poway and its history.
IF SOMEONE WANTED TO BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE PHMS, WHAT IS AVAILABLE?
Jeff: Our volunteers are our greatest asset. We always welcome individuals who feel Poway in their hearts. Docents who can be available in the museum and Nelson House to answer questions and point out items of interest are always needed. A number of them enjoy dressing in period costumes.
Also, we are always in demand of individuals with skills to help maintain and improve our exhibits. Anyone, including students and writers, who want to research Poway’s past in our archives is encouraged to do so. Of special interest at the moment is locating interns or volunteers with an eye for web development to help us improve our online presence and make the society more approachable and available to the public.
POWAY HISTORICAL & MEMORIAL SOCIETY 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Date: Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014
Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.*
Event Highlights: Photo booth with Charles Keith, caricatures with John Wismont, antique cars, Vista farm equipment, Folk Circle music with Jeff Bertino, Costumes from the NCL and San Diego Costume Society, Rummage Sale, face painting, on-site photographer, special lunch at the Hamburger Factory
Speakers: Proclamation in the gazebo with anniversary cake and coffee
*The Museum and Nelson House will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be closed during the proclamation
ARE THERE ANY LESSER-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT POWAY’S HISTORY THAT YOU CAN SHARE?
Mary: Long before European settlers arrived, Poway was very popular for hundreds of years with Native Americans, who regularly traveled through the area as they migrated seasonally back and forth from the desert to the sea. Valleys with oak-tree-studded streams provided an ideal environment. Samples of the stone used to grind acorn meal are on display in the museum.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME A MEMBER OF THE PHMS AND WHAT DOES MEMBERSHIP ENTAIL?
Jeff: Celebrating our fiftieth anniversary, we’re offering a special deal for new members, five years for $50. Otherwise, annual membership is $15 per person, $10 for students/junior members and $17 for a family membership. Business, organization and life memberships are also available. Members who live in the area are encouraged to get involved in museum activities.
Applications may be picked up at the museum or may be downloaded in Microsoft Word or PDF format at www.powayhistoricalsociety.org/membership/membership.htm. Members receive the society’s quarterly newsletter, Poway Echoes.
Organization Name: Poway Historical and Memorial Society (PHMS)
PHMS President: Jeff Frye
PHMS Vice President: Mary Shepardson
Address: Old Poway Park 14114 Midland Rd., Poway, CA 92064
Mailing Address: Poway Historical and Memorial Society P.O. Box 19, Poway, CA 92074
Hours: Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sundays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Closed second Sunday of the month