Big Changes at the Islander

There are seismic shifts in the town newspaper Syracuse Islander.  First, back in January, I noticed that Syracuse had disappeared from the masthead, so it was just the Islander.  I figured that the owners would be expanding to cover other surrounding communities (more ads…).  Then I get an e-mail a week ago Friday with the news that the owner landed a full-time position and was selling the newspaper to another established newspaper firm with publications throughout Utah.  This is huge.  My immediate thought was how would this change of ownership affect the history articles for our town museum?  The e-mail invited me to a transition meeting two Mondays ago; I attended and met all (and there are more than I ever dreamed) the good folks who contributed, either salaried or pro bono (like yours truly), to the Islander content and publication.

It seems the Islander will continue in its present form and not be folded into the Davis Clipper (sort of a Delaware County Town Talk), but will pull in about 2-3 nearby communities to increase distribution.  Since those communities do not have their own local museums, I think the history articles are safe for the moment.  The new owner also wants to increase paper size from 8 pages to 16 (very good!) and add it as a link to the existing website (also good!).  So exciting changes ahead. 

As the last article for the former owners I wrote one on the museum and upcoming events as we’ll be marking the museum’s 10th anniversary this year.  Below is the article as it appeared the last Wednesday in January.  My next article, should the new owner include it in the pre-Valentine’s Day issue, will be romance appropriate, as I’m told the whole issue will be geared towards a Valentine’s theme.

The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center has a Milestone Birthday: Celebrating 10 Years of Preserving History

It’s hard to believe—especially for those who were instrumental in getting the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center from an idea to solid plans, and finally to an actual building to house community treasures and artifacts—but the museum was officially opened a full decade ago, and has been an important presence in Syracuse since then.

It was during Mayor Michael R. Garrett’s term of office that the Historical Commission approved the formation of the Syracuse Museum Foundation on December 2, 1993.  Its sole purpose was to raise funding for a future museum and cultural center.  Chaired by former mayor, DeLore W. Thurgood, the foundation registered with the State of Utah as a non-profit organization engaged in fund-raising activities, a status maintained to this day.  The current board is headed by President Phil Gooch, and along with his wife, Bev, and other faithful volunteers plan and maintain the permanent and temporary exhibits in the buildings.

The site where the museum stands today on Antelope Drive was set aside and architectural plans were drawn up for the day there were enough funds to allow completion of the building.  It took about nine years to reach the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new museum and many local families have generously donated or loaned artifacts of all sorts, from heavy iron machinery to delicate tea sets, to fill the museum.  One couple, Don and Genene Rentmeister, has generously supported, promoted, and donated to the museum.  Prior to his death in 2009, Don spear-headed many civic and local history projects, including being involved in the museum.  Today, his wife, Genene remains an ardent voice on the Museum Foundation Board, and continues Don’s twin legacies: interest in history and generosity.

The original brick building houses collections such as clothing, household goods, local military history, musical instruments, cameras, children’s toys, a corner exhibit on Japanese culture in Syracuse, Mormon-related artifacts, and a miniature replica platform display, made by Greg Gooch, which features lights and audio, informing visitors about Syracuse, circa 1910.

After the grand opening in May of 2002, the Syracuse Lions Club became involved and generously funded a second building, completed about 2004, to house the farm and home exhibits that present the history of agriculture and community development in Syracuse.  Here you’ll find a pioneer kitchen exhibit, Don Rentmeister’s extensive barbed-wire collection, a general store display, heavy farm equipment covering many eras, an older fire engine, a blacksmith shop, the Rentmeister Library and collections room, a corner area which recalls an old Syracuse gathering spot: Jim’s Sports Center, and the museum’s claim to fame, the two-headed calf.  Stand-alone buildings on the property are the historic Wilcox Cabin, the town barber shop/ice cream parlor, and even an old outhouse!

Several events at the museum to help mark this anniversary are being planned.  First, a new winter-spring feature exhibit will be completed and open starting in February.  “From The Earth to the Harvest” will present the almost forgotten planting to harvesting agricultural and food preservation history of Syracuse.  We’ll have artifacts that inform about farming, home canning, and commercial canning.  These items record the beginnings of Syracuse before all the houses, when it was fields and orchards and, eventually, some commercial canneries—now long gone.  Onions have become the commercial crop in the Syracuse area, but did you know that once Syracuse supplied a lot of vegetables like canned tomatoes, peas, pumpkins, and a variety of preserved fruits for the growing nation?  Sugar beets, when other natural sources of sugar were more expensive to grow and refine, were also a major commercial crop.  So before Syracuse built houses, it produced food.  Was where your house is now once a sugar beet field?  Plan on stopping by and seeing what life in Syracuse was like 100 years ago.

Another event planned is the second annual essay contest for high school, middle school, and 5th & 6th grade elementary school-aged students.  They will again be invited to submit essays in a judged competition for First, Second, and Third place cash prizes funded by the Rentmeister family.  The challenge for this year’s topic: “A Treasure Hunt at the Museum” will be to visit the museum, find a “treasure” that interests a student, investigate it, research it, and create an original essay that is fun to read, informational, and highlights the connection to Syracuse history.  The inaugural competition on “Pathfinding” was last year and we hope to entice more essay entries this year to make it even more successful.  Specific details will be made available in February as to essay format, length, and submission details for the late spring deadline, actual date to be determined.  For additional information, please contact the museum at 801/825-3633.

And in May, the museum will officially mark its 10th anniversary with a celebration worthy of the milestone.  So watch for more information on that event once spring is here.  And if you happen to know where the museum can obtain a covered wagon or a Conestoga wagon frame, please contact us.  The Museum Foundation Board is interested in owning one.  Check your barns; you just might find one tucked in a back corner you don’t use anymore!

Oh, and one more thing, if all this sounds interesting to you, do more than stop by for a visit.  Look into becoming involved with YOUR town museum.  Volunteers are always welcome and the more we have, the more hours we could be open.  Even if you only could spare an hour or two a week, we have a place for you.  It’s fun, you’d meet nice people, and you would be supporting your community.  The museum fills the important role of preserving local history.  Join us!

Plan on swinging by to wish us a Happy Anniversary!  We’re open Tuesday-Thursday afternoons from 2:00-5:00 (801-825-3633).  We welcome scout and church groups, and history buffs of all kinds to arrange for tours.  The museum is located on the south side of 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just east of 2000 West.

Published in: on January 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

The News You (Probably) Missed–Vol. 6

First, an update on the big snowstorm of last posting; after all of the hoohah, it didn’t play out quite as advertised.  Oh, the mountains got their several feet of snow, so the ski resorts are happy; however, down in the valley, warm Pacific winds came in and all we got was a lot of rain.  It finally turned cold at the end of the bad weather and we did get a few inches of snow, with another inch last night.  But, we were spared shoveling snow.

Now, on to the next batch of oddball news from these parts.  I guess things slow down in the cold weather, as it’s taken me a while to gather four news items, but the fourth one appeared last week or so, and now I can share them with you.  This time calendars, birds, a blimp (again), and a mascot figure in the news that more than likely never reached you.

2012 Edition of the LDS Missionary Pin-up Calendar is Last in Series

The 2012 pin-up calendar featuring bare-chested former hunky Mormon missionaries will bring an end to the controversial 5-year project.  “Men on a Mission” calendar debuted in 2008 showing photos of modestly posed young newly-returned missionaries minus their trademark white shirts, dark ties, and black-plastic namebadges.  The creator, Chad Hardy, not one to side-step controversy, produced a 2010 version entitled “Mormon Muffins, A Taste of Motherhood,” featuring young LDS homemakers dressed in 19402-era pin-up styles.  The fall-out for Hardy in 2007 was being excommunicated from the Mormon church by non-too-pleased head church authorities and, if that weren’t punishment enough, his diploma from the church-owned Brigham Young University (yes, that BYU) revoked his diploma (but let him walk through graduation!).  Over 4 years he’s sold over 25,000 calendars–mostly in Mormon Utah!–and has donated $3000.00 to charity.  They’ll be collectors’ items someday, so get your calendar today on his website:

Thousands of Birds Crash Land in Utah

In the “this is really sad category,” thousands of migratory birds flying over St. George (extreme southwest Utah city) mistook a Wal-mart parking lot and a nearby field, both partially snow-covered, for a body of water and plummeted to the ground, killing over a thousand and injuring many more.  Though not rare, one wildlife expert remarked this was the worse mass bird crash she had ever heard of.  Three thousand birds were rescued and transferred to a nearby pond.  Cloudy skies and the reflection of city lights at dusk apparently fooled the lead birds and, as they started plunging to what they thought was a watery landing, the rest of the flock followed them, slamming into the pavement and frozen field.  Wildlife management teams were working hard to save and treat as many fowl as possible.

Ogden Deflates Blimp Idea

Apparently, the powers to be finally came to their senses and decides that a 54′ dirigible that would move at a somewhat slow speed above Ogden, was just not practical and worth the expenditure of tax-payers’ funds.  Mayor-elect Mike Caldwell commented recently that it “was a curious idea, but it got more and more expensive” as the whole picture was considered.  So no “sausage” in the sky for the top of Utah.  [To read about the original idea, refer to blog posting “The News You (Probably) Missed, Vol. 3,” March 9, 2011.]

School Mascot Causes Controversy

The newly built Canyons High School south of Salt Lake City recently polled the student body as to what the new mascot should be.  Overwhelmingly, the vote was for a cougar.  Now cougars, or mountain lions, one time roamed the southwest and several other schools and universities in Utah (and across the nation) have the cougar as a mascot.  In fact, one of the biggest schools in Utah that uses the cougar mascot is Brigham Young University.  Squeaky-clean BYU, nearly a 100% Mormon-student body/faculty university is proud of its mascot and uses the saying: “Once a cougar, always a cougar” in its TV ads.  So, one can understand that a high school–which probably has a large LDS student population–would want to emulate BYU.  Where’s the controversy, you ask?  It’s not that others already are using the animal.  The Caynons School Board decided that cougar has an “alternate” connotation: that of a 40-something year old woman who prowls after younger men, so they threw out the vote preference and instead imposed “The Chargers” as the mascot choice.  Everyone is holding their breath to see what a charger looks like.  The students and their parents are livid with the change and are screaming unfair.  The students are pretty sure that no one would confuse the two and that they’d end up with a mascot dressed as a 40-year-old femme fatale.


Published in: on January 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  


There’s not much more disconcerting than to see the evening weather report with nothing but snow graphics for the next 5 days! 

After a November and December and half of January without appreciable snow, the top half of Utah is finally bracing for a whopper of a storm.  Winter has pretty much been written off out here: Ogden cancelled its annual city Winterfest event this weekend due to no snow and not even enough to truck in from elsewhere.  I guess something this big, like Winterfest, has to be planned (or cancelled) well in advance of the date so vendors can make alternate plans.

The ski areas have been bemoaning the lack of snow.  Last year folks skied through July 4th with an eventual base of over 800 inches of snow.  This year, the resorts just have a 30-40 inch base and a lot of the trails aren’t even open yet, as they only have snow-making equipment on the more popular runs.  And besides, skiers enjoy the famous Utah powder (“Greatest snow on earth”) and it isn’t here and can’t be man-made.  I’m told the trails are icy–sort of like Pocono or New England mountain skiing often is and what I remember from my eastern skiing days.

So, the weather gods have adjusted the jet stream from well north of us in Canada and dropped it south over northern Utah.  This will now bring in Pacific storms, one after another, aptly called the Pineapple Express, as they originate out near Hawaii. 

The folks who will really get slammed are in the Northwest, Washington and Oregon.  They’re bracing for 2 feet of snow in the lower elevations alone, plus hurricane force winds along the coast.  It’s supposed to start snowing today in Utah around noon our time (that’s 2:00pm on the east coast) and we’ll see about 6-8 inches.  I guess we’ll have to shovel the sidewalks this time around.  Then for the next 4 days we’re going to get precipitation of some sort: snow, freezing rain, rain.  In the valley, where we live, I doubt we’ll get snowed in a la Cordova, Alaska; it will probably change over to rain due to higher temperatures.  However, the ski areas in the Wasatch Front and Back are literally doing hand springs; 2-3 feet of fresh powder (lake-effect snow) is predicted for them.  If the jet stream doesn’t slide north again, winter will have finally set in.

Are people panicking?  Are they running to the store and stocking up on bread, milk, hot chocolate mix, and eggs?  Why, no.  That’s because if you’re a good Mormon, you’ll already have 6 months to a year’s worth of food stockpiled in your basement, including Morning Moos (powdered milk drink), powdered eggs, powdered butter (yes, butter!), even powdered honey.  (Not sure why one has to powder honey when the real thing lasts for millennia.  Perfectly good honey has been found in Egyptian tombs!)  That’s in addition to other dried, packaged soups, stews, and just about anything you can think of.  It’s a big business out here, so no one should have to race to the store if your food storage racks are filled.  We have extra peanut butter, pasta, tuna, ramen noodle packets, and cookies; you know, the essentials.  A lot of our summer veggies are frozen and it has been pointed out to me that we might have a problem is the electricity goes out.  My daughter says that’s a remote possibility and if it happens, she can’t see it staying out for more than a day.  (Note: in over 10 years, they’ve never lost the power, so, statistically, I guess we’re due.)

Anyway, Old Man Winter is finally coming to the desert for a visit.  We’ll see how bad this gets.  The evening commute is supposed to be a dilly.

Snow in the Wasatch

Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

They’ve Returned! The Fall-Winter Obits

They’re finally back, folks: the obituaries in all their quirky glory.  I had almost given up on them as the death notices were becoming pretty standardized and normal.  However, starting in the late fall, the authors of them (whomever they are) have sharpened their pencils and words and have resurfaced.  Read on:

D.L…. “Passions were cooking, gardening, and looking for arrowheads.  She spent her spare change in Wendover [closest casino to the west in Nevada].  Country dancing was another passion…she can finally honky-tonk to Conway Twitty.  She also wanted to be an astronaut, and we expect she is finally flying among the stars.”

P.R…. “It must be true; it can’t be wrong.  If you’re reading this I must be gone….”

V.C…. “a.k.a. Seymour Butts.  They didn’t even bother to make a mold when this guy was created…he lived without boundaries or rules….He bought his first Harley with his Viet Nam service pay and began running amok across the western U.S.   V. was a biker before  being a biker was cool and had the road rash to prove it….He had friends in places you can’t even imagine: pulling into a small town watering hole in the middle of nowhere and knowing everyone in the place like long-lost friends.  He enjoyed snowmobiling with Spanky and the Secrist boys and riding off with his biker pals to the nearest wet T-shirt contest.  Living without rules caught up with him in the end and was the cause of his early death at the age of 63.”

S.B…. “S was raised in Georgetown, Idaho.  ‘It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.'”

C.M…. After losing a late round TKO decision to kidney failure and its dastardly minions, C. was greeted at the ‘Bridge’ by Herald, Bailey, and Georgie.  Survived by eight children, 14 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren: the misbegotten and the woebegone.  C.’s tenure as Empress III, ‘The Conscience of the Spike,’ over the Walking Tall Court of the RCGSE [I have no idea]. was C.’s time in the sun.  Please join us at ______ on ______ for the San Antonio Stroll.  Cowboy hats and boots required.  Post  Script: I wanted to die Saturday, but knew C. [a daughter] would take it personally.

R.H…. “R.H., our Superman, is gone.  Able to squish bugs in his bare hands, talk to cats–even lions at the zoo!–and get them to answer, and charm every waitress he ever met.  Another of the Greatest Generation has slipped away and we are all the richer for having known him….He enjoyed playing marbles, boxing (for money, of course!), target shooting (with the gun his brother bought him for honoring his promise to never take up smoking), playing baseball (semi-pro!), roller skating, and all other sports.”

And, finally, this sad write-up.  I’m not sure what was going on here: someone getting even, naive innocence, or the newspaper copy editor failing to at least question the submitter of this one (and I’ve pared it down considerably):

J.R.S.G…. “Born in 1948, she was the seventh of eight children of a hardworking, but overwhelmed mother and a paranoid schizophrenic father.  As a child she had moments of freedom and joy, but with undercurrents of anxiety and fear.  She married D.G. at age 20 and had 3 children and was divorced by age 23.  She moved to Utah and quickly had another baby.  [Meanwhile, to her credit], she somehow put herself through nursing school, fought alcohol addiction, supported her kids, and after a bout with insanity, came out the other side recovered.”  She also earned a BS degree in Social Work at some point.  As part of her recovery, “she built a healing crystal labyrinth maze, fire pit and teepee in her backyard.  She drummed in drum circles.  Last week, she took too many narcotic pain pills and drowned in her hot tub.  J. is survived by her four dim-witted children [yes, you read that correctly], her 11 little doo-dahs [grandchildren], and family members.  She did not want a solemn service or grim tribute, so a drum circle is planned, bring something to pound on.  There will be an open mic to share stories of J.”

Published in: on January 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Some “Helpful” Advice for 2012

It’s here…

2012.  The year it’s supposed to end, go south, apocalypse time.

If we buy into certain theories continuing to swirl around the airwaves, something bad–very bad–is going to happen on December 21, 2012.  That’s the infamous date on the Mayan calendar–which has been slowly grinding along like a large Mesoamerican wheel for an amazing 5,126 years–when the world abruptly ends.  Unless other doomsday prophets, like that “Been Wrong at Least Twice” Harold Camping hits the right date first.  And then what happens?  No one really knows, and if no one is left on December 22nd, no one will really care!

So now–out here in Utah–there’s a amped-up stress on emergency-preparedness (no lie!), apparently based, in part, on a faultline running along the mountains and on a civilization that expired 1,100 years before its calendar did.

There’s a rumor going around that the world’s governments are secretly developing and building high-tech arks, a la Noah, and I’m betting, if it’s true, most of us peons won’t be aboard when the time comes.  The end won’t be pretty: super volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, asteroids flinging themselves at the earth.  Even more television shows featuring the Kardashians.

But let’s look on the bright side; there may be a silver lining to all of this gloom and doom.  As the old saying goes: we should all live each day as if it were our last.  With the impending disasters awaiting us, we should take that sage advise to heart, so here are some bits of helpful advice for living this year:

1. Diet and exercise are a waste of time.  TV shows, magazines, and many websites are offering the usual array of January suggestions for getting healthier and into shape: exercise, more fiber, avoid carbs.  Why bother?  That presupposes one is in for the long haul.  What long haul?  Cash in those gym memberships, regift the new walking sneakers, stop eyeing the new flavors of ice cream and indulge.  Dr. Oz can go pound sand.  Go ahead and watch the Star Wars marathon while eating a whole box of Hostess Twinkies or Ding Dongs.  It doesn’t matter, if the Mayans are right.  From this point on, self-improvement efforts are like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

2. Ditto uncomfortable procedures or events like root canals or Justin Bieber concerts.  If I had heard his “All I Want for Christmas Is You” duet with Mariah Carey one more time during the holidays I just might have opted for root canal work.  My point is, if you’ve been putting off something potentially uncomfortable, like a colonoscopy or tightening the belt and paying off a credit card or student loan, this might not be the year to tackle it.  Taxes?  What taxes?  What’s the IRS?

3. Break the rules.  Don’t worry about doing something illegal like exceeding the speed limit or crossing the double line alone in your car to get in the HOV lane.  When the police officer pulls you over, tell him the law is outdated or that it doesn’t apply to you, so you’re ignoring it.  With the backlog of cases, by the time your docket number comes up in court, it will be well past December 21, 2012.

4. Live life on the edge and like what you do is important.  No, I don’t mean go do something dangerous like jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle or riding a bull named Bruce Lee.  But how important is the laundry, the dishes, snow shoveling, or cleaning up the doggie diamonds in the backyard?  Celebrate being sedentary.  You’ve got more important things to do, like playing Angry Birds.

And now, in case you’re curious, the real reason:

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm  Comments (1)