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Fox Family Gets History Lesson in Southern Missouri
This past weekend, the Mrs. and I along with the kids made a long weekend trip to Branson, Missouri. It wasn’t really a long weekend – we only started it early on Friday and drove back home on Sunday. We had planned on renewing our wedding vows on Valentine’s Day on the grand staircase in the Titanic Museum, but a huge snow and ice storm in Branson cancelled those plans, so we changed the date and went down this past weekend. Friday saw us driving in Branson looking for our hotel before we took in the “Jesus” production at the Sight and Sound Theater.
About two blocks from our hotel, we passed The History of Fishing Museum building. Intrigued by what it contained, the next morning we took the museum in after going to the nearby aquarium. We were there when it opened up and were the only people in it, so the curator Bill Bramsch gave us a tour. It was unreal with fishing equipment dating back to Native Americans up into the 1970’s. The museum includes over 40,000 pieces valued at more than $5 million. On display are rods, reels, lures, and even the first Skeeter bass boat, as well as early motors. The collectors of all this memorabilia are Karl and Beverly White. I mentioned the first Skeeter bass boat, Mr. White also has on display the #2 boat to come off the line, as well as the fiberglass #3 and #5 boat to come out.
The number and style of lures is simply unreal, and among them is the Haskell Fish Hook made by Riley Haskell in 1859. It was the first American plug type bodied bait. The lures were made of either silver, copper, brass, or bronze and were used for bass fishing. The oldest patented item in the collection dates back to 1852 and is a Buel trolling spoon, but there are rods and reels from all over, including England. We learned that early fishing reels were created by watchmakers since they had the tools, as well as gears. It is impossible to tell you what all the museum contains, you just have to see it to believe it. The Museum is located at 225 North Wildwood Drive and is very easy to find. Even the kids will enjoy it as new additions include dinosaur bones and fish fossils!
That night, as I stated, we went to the Titanic Museum and although it’s hard to say we had a good time, it was a fascinating place. After the captain had us exchange vows and pictures were taken, we toured the museum which includes a great many artifacts from the great ship, including such things as plates and flatware. But also included were personal accounts from survivors and communications from the radio operator to other ships. Perhaps the saddest item, or the starkest, was a life jacket. Once the victims were recovered the life jackets were removed from the bodies and stacked up on the deck of one of the recovery ships. This life jacket came from that pile! Another sad realization came when you saw the list of names and numbers of those in each life boat. Most were far below what capacity should have been meaning that more should have survived than the 1490 to 1635 that perished.
On our drive back Sunday, we stopped at Bass Pro Shop in Springfield. While no one really needed anything we looked at boats and fishing gear and then headed upstairs to the museums. The first was the NRA Museum, which has firearms from the 1600s up until modern day. It also contains artwork from the Remington Arms Company, as well as a multi-million dollar collection of United States military weapons. There was also a Winchester 21 owned by President Dwight Eisenhower. There was a fascinating display of weapons and artifacts from Teddy Roosevelt, as well as a recreation of the African camp site he had while on safari in the “Dark Continent.” Other firearms with famous owners included Annie Oakley and Jesse James. The Hollywood section of the museum featured guns used by Tom Selleck, Charlton Heston, and John Wayne.
Our final stop was the Archery Hall of Fame and Museum with over 1,500 items of artifacts and memorabilia relating to members of the Hall of Fame. Among the bows on display is a handmade bow and quiver belonging to Geronimo. The museum features the first compound bow prototype. Of greatest interest to me was the Fred Bear display that was once part of the Fred Bear Museum in Gainesville, Florida. It includes Bear’s former record bear taken by Fred with a bow. Other items included in the display are some of his bows, camping and hunting gear and his recognizable fedora. There are other well-known names in archery with displays including Howard Hill, Ben Pearson, Art Young, and Saxton Pope just to name a few.
I know that there is much more to see, and the family is already looking for a time when we can go back to Branson and Springfield.