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History on the move in new exhibit at Beltrami County History Center

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Canoes, horses, automobiles, sleighs, trains and planes -- the new "Paddle, Ride or Fly" exhibit at the Beltrami County History Center celebrates modes of transportation.

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"We've partnered with a lot of people on the project," said Wanda Hoyum, History Center director.

The exhibit will open with extended hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, continuing with regular hours 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The cost is $5 for non-members of the Beltrami County Historical Society.

Jean Parkin designed the display and Bemidji State University students in Barbara Hanus and Mark Schmitt's technical studies classes built a Fabric Images screen and a touch screen electronic feature on Henry Ford and the first automobile in Beltrami County, a Model T driven in by Chad Jewett. Tom Murphy's history students at BSU also helped with taking down the last exhibit, scraping and painting.

"They did the grunt work," Hoyum said.

Members of the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area decorated the exhibit passageway with papier maché vehicles from a hot air balloon, to a school bus and jets.

Volunteers from the Paul Bunyan Vintage Auto Club moved in an un-restored, lichen-frosted 1917 Model T from Kermit Anderson's collection.

"We want to show what happens to a car when it sits around for 80 years," Hoyum said.

Anderson also loaned much of his antique car knowledge and memorabilia for the exhibit, she said.

Water borne

Visitors start their tour of the exhibit with Shay-Now-Ish-Kung and a pair of birch bark canoes. "He was one of the first people to paddle into the area," Hoyum said.

A dugout canoe dredged from the bottom of Anderson Lake near Blackduck is also on display.

Automobiles figure strongly in the exhibit from Jewett's Model T to a Dagmar bumper, a pair of chrome bullet-point bulges on the front bumpers of Cadillacs, Buicks and Lincolns built during the 1950s.

Special displays honor early mail carriers on horseback and in wagons, early road builders, and Capt. McLaughlin of the touring steamboat, City of Bemidji. Parkin's father, Dan Paulsen, a Greyhound bus driver during the 1940s, represents the bus service to Bemidji before Jefferson Bus Lines took over.

"He drove during the War, up from the Cities," Parkin said. She recalled a blizzard during the winter of 1940 when her father was stranded at the Markham Hotel, which also housed a beauty parlor. She said her father and other travelers had a few drinks and he came home with his hair done up in permanent curls.

Road music

The exhibit also features an entertainment section with popular music through the decades on transportation themes, as well as an interactive children's area where kids can practice virtual reality flying planes from the Wright Brothers' model to jets.

The airplane section also features models from the donation of Jim Miller, as well as planes from the collections of Don Clay and Omar Forberg. Especially interesting is a delicate wooden model made in 1921 by William Barkley of the NC-4 sea plane. Four of the planes were made, but the first three crashed and sank. The NC-4 started out on May 8, 1919, and crossed the Atlantic in 23 days.

The air transportation exhibit also displays photos and history about the first plane to fly into Bemidji, piloted by Katherine Stinson, who barnstormed at the Beltrami County Fair in 1915.

Whistle stop

To recognize the importance of rail travel, the exhibit honors Al Salvaag, a local conductor who worked out of the Union Station and later the Great Northern Depot. Along with his photo, the museum holds his conductor's suitcase, which was handed down to conductors generation after generation since 1915. The Northern Iron Horse Railroad Society model layout will remain in place with some added photos of rail transportation.

Hoyum said the exhibit is so packed with information, local curiosities and historical details, visitors will probably need to make more than one trip through to absorb everything from floor to ceiling.

"This is not that big a museum, so we've tried to go up as much as possible, so you have to look everywhere," she said.

"Paddle, Ride or Fly" is the third major exhibit at the Beltrami County History Center in the six years it has been open in the former Great Northern Depot, 130 Minnesota Ave. S.W.

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