Highland News Leader

Final steps being taken for Highland Home Museum

Highland Home is the “Good Old Days,” better yet, it is the “Good Days.”

The Highland Home, at 1600 Walnut St., has been my wife Lorna’s and my home for just over a year, and we do love the “good days” here, just as much — no, even more — than when we moved into our apartment.

All of the home’s personnel are great. Brenda Presmeyer’s kitchen crew is exceptional, making a nice breakfast of what you order. Dinners are served family style and are on a three-week rotation of excellent meals in the evening, and lunch is more than adequate. Rick Embry, the manager and his crew, supply the 24-hour service to the residents. They are so kind and considerate, plus keep the afternoons busy. Sue Cunningham and Crystal do the best laundry, ironing, folding and returning to our rooms. Jim Gifford and his maintenance crew keep the home in great shape and now have three of the four rooms of plexiglass cabinets almost ready to start shelving additional memorabilia for the museum.

Highland Home has a special treat each month. The birthday dinner is fried chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, ice cream and cake. Then, “Happy Birthday” is sung for all who have birthdays that month. This month there was Evelyn Gelly Willmann, Willis Draper, Jr., who will be 102, and Celeste Weis Jenny, who is now at Faith Countryside Nursing Home but had been at our table, since she came last year.

Evelyn’s husband Dick Willmann and I were distant cousins. (We know that thanks to Roy Worstell’s genealogy). Evelyn has told me that after she graduated from high school, she worked at Basler Electric, when they were in the original Dumbeck Saloon brick building, then later Spengel Funeral Parlor, on the southeast corner of Main and Olive, where the west part of St. Paul Grade School is today. Then, after her children were all in school, she worked part-time, then later full-time at Freight Salvage on Broadway. She was there for 30 years.

Willis Kuhnen Draper, soundman 2/C, was “Out of Service and Welcome Home” by the Highland Journal. Willis had 13 months of Atlantic sea duty on his destroyer escort and was awarded the Bronze Star for the sinking of a German submarine. Willis had over 20 months of Navy service when he was honorably discharged at Great Lakes, Ill., on Monday, Dec. 17, 1945. He came home and went back to his carpenter trade and worked Saturdays in his grandpa’s Kunhen-Siegrist Hardware Store, then called Kuhnen Seed Store, which was located at the northwest corner of Broadway and Laurel. Grandpa Fremont Kuhnen died in 1952, and Willis took over operation of the store. The big fire on Thanksgiving Day, 1953 burned the building, and he moved the Kuhnen Store to the west part of the Highland Store building. (Where Sam’s Pizza is today. How about a birthday card for Willis as on Jan. 24, he will celebrate his 102nd birthday.)

Celeste Weis Jenny was born on a farm in Marine Township. They had a St. Jacob telephone and a Highland address on Sportsman Road. Celeste worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital for two years, then to Basler Electric on Olive Street. When Danches Egg Factory opened in the old Hug Truck building at 6th and Zschokke streets, she worked there until the war was over. She then worked at Moulton-Bartley Shoe Factory on Broadway until the Highland Box Co. opened, which later became Alton Box Co., and she worked in the plant. In 1955, Evelyn married Bruce Jenny, who was an upholsterer. In 1959, they built their Indiana limestone home and their first shop where Country Financial, Rachael Crow, at 12358 State Route 143, is today. Then in 1965, they built their new building, and they had the shop and residence at 2768 Troxler Way. (Today, it’s the office of Blake Schrumpf State Farm Insurance.)

I am so thankful to the Highland Home Board for asking me to start a museum in the 1912 original building. It is a dream come true to be able to bring my collection of 98 boxes of Highland memorabilia, plus framed paintings, picture frames and upright shelving to the Highland Home. It is a joy — but a lot of work getting — the museum started, unpacking, sorting, removing the duplications, reboxing alphabetically and now getting the probably over 3,000 items on display for everyone to see.

Now we will be able to display in the museum my collection, plus recognizing over 360 people, who have donated items to me over the last 60 years. We will also have genealogy by Roy Worstell of all of the families he has supplied me over the years. We will also have the Highland, Highland area, and Madison County books, the Highland High School Iris, and the St. Paul Viking year books available for reading in our museum office. You may be able to add to your genealogy or history, as the Highland Home has a copy machine available at a minimal cost. It is truly a Highland Area museum, as we have items from all the towns that are around Highland.

Some people will say, “You love the Highland Home because they let you start a Museum, Art Hall and North Farm Room.” Yes, this is true, but we loved the Highland Home before the museum and also love the Highland Home for all of the reasons listed above. Lorna, and I have worked harder these past eight months than any other time since we both retired from our work places.

Will you have some time to volunteer to sort memorabilia on shelves, arrange the shelves alphabetical, or prepare the frames, with photos and paper memorabilia, that will be hung on the west walls of the museum, the North Farm Room, and other locations here on the first floor of the 1912 building. If you are available, call my cell phone at 618-303-0082, as I have this phone with me at all times. Thanks for all of the memories.

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