Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Nebraska Prairie Museum – Wow!

Even though we were just taking a quick 3 day tour of south central Nebraska, I decided that we should spend a bit of time in at least one of the larger museums recommended in our guidebook, “Off the Beaten Path – Nebraska” by Diana Lambdin Meyer.

Note: As evident per the green grass, our trip was in early September…

I chose the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege Nebraska.  To quote, this museum “is housed in a new, two-story building, with well-designed exhibits that cover every facet of the country’s development.  You can’t turn around without seeing something interesting.”

The author was right!  This museum is packed with Americana and the grounds include the church to the left of this photo, a one-room school house, an early farmhouse, a windmill, a watchtower and yes, one of those ubiquitous cabooses that are found just about everywhere across the country. (Much more about the watchtower in another posting)

There were dozens of vignettes showing how life was back whenever… This bedroom is from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  All of these scenes were carefully thought out and the detail in some cases is pretty impressive.  I’ve lived in a house where we had a 2-hole brick outhouse…but I’ve never had to use a chamber pot, have you?  

Other than the spooky looking little child in highchair, we really liked this old turn of the century kitchen scene.  Those old stoves are really works of art…and a top quality refurbished antique stove can be very expensive. Note the old rug beater on the wall to the left of the clock…

My family never cooked on a wood stove but we did have a pump in our old farmhouse kitchen!  The water was always nice and cold.   One downside to our country home was the fact that a farmer raised pigs in the field about 60 feet from the kitchen… If the wind was right, we could enjoy a ‘special fragrance’ with dinner on a hot summer day.   

No dummies in this early office layout… How many people under the age of 30 have even seen a typewriter!  No computers or electronics anywhere…

This early barbershop even came with some ugly linoleum… Since I married a former hairdresser, I haven’t personally seen the inside of a barbershop for over 30 years.  I have seen some stories on TV about country barbershops here in East Tennessee that didn’t look much different than this one.

How many people under the age of 50 have ever even taken a train?  I think that that’s a ‘mail hook’ standing against the wall.  Trains would snatch mailbags or ‘catcher pouches’ hanging from these hooks as they sped by…

Then there were the old time general stores…with mechanical cash registers.  No credit cards!  However, you might have had an running account at the store which would have been maintained by the store owner in a ledger.
I don’t remember general stores when I was young, but I do remember that we had a couple of local grocery stores that carried meat, milk and basic groceries.  As late as the 7th grade, (in the early 50s), we had a local grocer only about 2 blocks from my house. 

This scene was meaningful to Laurie… As a former hairdresser, she could relate to many of these early beauty salon items, despite the fact that they pre-dated her time in the business.  The early electric curler set on the rack to the left remind me of something you might find on death row!

This is the early farmhouse adjacent to the main display building.  Like everything else here at the Prairie Museum, the home is well maintained both inside and outside.  This home is typical for its time…

In the 4th grade, I lived in an old farmhouse in southern Michigan.  We had electricity along with that 2-hole outhouse I mentioned earlier.  Our house was all brick and it was huge…almost impossible to heat.  It was so big that we only used the downstairs.  We did love the enormous wrap-around porch that covered 2 sides of the home.  

This is an interior photo of the living room or ‘parlor’ in the farmhouse.  I wonder how common it would have been for a farmhouse parlor to include an organ among its furnishings… 

I went on-line to check out antique parlor organs.  It appears that most of these types of organs were made between the early 1890s and about 1905.  Refurbished and restored, they sell today for between $6,500 and $18,000.

And how about this early stove!  We’d never seen one like this before.  It’s a Perfection Oil Stove with Blue Metal Trim that was made by Svea Erickson.  Note that the ‘oven’ sits on top of a couple of oil burners.  I did find a couple of similar Perfection Oil Stoves for sale on eBay for between $400 and $500, but they weren’t in as nice a condition as this one.

This is the interior of the church that was visible to the left of the main exhibit building in the first photo.  The Swedish Immanuel Lutheran Church was built in the early 1880s and it was relocated to this site in 1988.

In this view, you can see the watchtower, the one room school, the farmhouse and the windmill.  It was a beautiful day as you can see!

This is the classroom in the "Snowball" school.  Like many of the other vignettes, appropriately dressed store manikins were used to add a ‘lifelike’ feel to the scenario.  You will note that the desks have cups and napkins on them.  We were lucky to be able to go inside the school because a bunch of kids were at the museum ‘experiencing’ what school used to be like.  I don't know why it was named the Snowball school. 

And look here!  Kids playing on an old time piece of playground equipment.  They were having a great time…with no electronics or fancy play things.  These rudimentary ‘merry-go-rounds’ would probably be banned from modern playgrounds as being too dangerous!

In the next postings about our visit to this museum, we will feature photos of many of the old day-to-day items on display, farm equipment as well as trucks and autos…and I’ll explain that watchtower and its history. 

The Prairie Museum of Nebraska is located at the north edge of Holdrege Nebraska on North US Highway 183.  Phone: 308-995-5015.  Website:

 Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Fun tour David. It makes us appreciate how far we've come in convenience items such as vacuum cleaners and computers.Funny, I sat in similar desks in second grade school. When I was a little girl, I was terribly frightened by the paraphernalia found in "beauty shops" such as that strange machine on the left. Most of the early beauty shops in my small town were behind the barber shop, so even as a girl, I remember them well.

  2. Hi, Haven't felt much like blogging lately--but do enjoy reading your posts. They are so interesting and educational... I was very impressed with that museum --including the manikins which looked so real... SOMEONE certainly has done a fantastic job with that museum... SO glad you all visited it and then shared it with us.

    Merry Christmas.

  3. Love this museum David, lovely! loves the old stores and the church .
    I noticed catholic and lutheran churchs are similar!
    Really beautiful!

  4. I loved this tour, Dave! It reminds me of the Old Bethpage Restoration Village here where I live. Many fun childhood memories there. The house is especially beautiful. Thanks for sharing! :)

  5. This looks like a great stop and I enjoy seeing how it used to be.

  6. I really enjoyed this tour. I like to look at old time America, as I never knew any of this. What a great place to visit.