Keepers of the past

Most school kids focus their attention on the present and future, not the past. Not that you can blame them — too many droning history classes require memorization of dates such as bygone wars or naming all the U.S. presidents in order.

While the Battle of Hastings (Oct. 14, 1066, for you history buffs) or who became our 19th president (Rutherford B. Hayes) bear importance and in varying degrees affect life as we know it today, most of us don’t start appreciating the relevance of past events until well beyond our school years.

I forever kick myself for not pulling more details about our family tree out of Mom and Dad before they died. And topics such as World War II history now fascinate me. So do old photographs. For example, I cannot take the escalator next to Sears in the Westfield Countryside Mall without spending time gazing at the images on the wall of Clearwater past; same at Angie’s Diner on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Cleveland Street.

You therefore can imagine my excitement when visiting the Plumb House Museum in Ed C. Wright Park, which also serves as headquarters for the Clearwater Historical Society. My wife and I recently met CHS board member Chuck McPherson to tour the Plumb House and to view some of the relics, artifacts, documents and images of Clearwater’s past.

The house was built in 1896 to serve as a paint and hardware store with living quarters upstairs. Schoolteachers Ralph and Florence Plumb acquired the structure in the early 1900s and switched it to a single-family home. When their two daughters became elderly and went into nursing homes, Charles Nach purchased the property in 1982 and donated it a year later to the CHS. The Plumb House became a museum for the City of Clearwater in 1985.

Notable antiques in the Plumb House include 100-year-old kitchen appliances, turn-of-the-century relics like a Singer sewing machine, an Ark typewriter patented in 1894 and wooden steamer trunks. A Civil War-era bed was elevated so a covered tray of coals could be slid under it to keep sleepers comfy on cold nights.

Each room displays rare photographs, while showcases and wall units overflow with fascinating mementos of Clearwater’s legacy. Original uniforms are on display for the Clearwater Bombers, a fast-pitch softball team that won 10 national championships between 1945 and 1965.

In one room we thumbed through class yearbooks dating back to 1917, while in another we examined old maps of the city and admired a huge collection of postcards, brochures, and newspaper and magazine clippings.

“We have about 300 members, and while a good many of them have deep roots in the community, others simply feel a strong interest and connection with Clearwater’s history,” said the affable McPherson, who has been a CHS member for 20 years.

“People donate items to us when rummaging through the attic or often after a parent has passed away. Our members also research the whereabouts of artifacts and documents we can acquire.”

Because of the burgeoning volumes of records, McPherson said, talks are under way with the city to move into a larger facility.

The Plumb House Museum at 1380 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. is open year-round the first and third Thursday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon and, from November to May, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Annual historical society membership is $1 for students and $10 per individual. My wife and I joined on the spot.

For more information, call (727) 446-4250 or visit

In addition to actively supporting the CHS, on our next visit we’ll peruse those old newspaper clippings and let our minds time warp through Clearwater’s intriguing history and lore.

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