That was a question that had been asked 6 times that same day by people touring through the county,stopping to ask what we were all about. I ask myself this same questions many times.
An old company store, antique shop,restaurant,theater,falling down building, what EXACTLY is this place. What purpose do we serve in this time?
The Coal Camp of Whipple has been gone since the late 1950's but the history of that time is interesting and one that sparks much emotion and feeling. The architecture of the beautiful artful structure is explained on our tours in as much detail as time will allow. The building has been a source of many memories depicting family closeness, happiness, loving memories intertwined with moments of struggles and hard times. These difficult times did not seem to dominate the structure of the American dream, as most folks state they would go back to those times given the choice.
"Id like to take the 30 minute tour," she finally said. I don't know much about coal mining but the place looks interesting."
I picked up a few items for my tour and headed to the other side of the building to introduce them to this beautiful place.
A brief introduction of the porch,and how volunteers were working hard to preserve the building was received well, the 2 girls about middle school age were intrigued that a woman, Lucy Collins influenced this artful building, and the tour wasn't all about men mining coal. Lucy became the topic of conversation for the next few minutes and then we moved on inside. Hubby changed almost immediately, wandering,looking touching and asking questions. The little children felt comfortable holding historical items, and hearing about how they were used as they demonstrated using them. Stories along the way about real people that had lived there, buying candy, playing baseball, hopscotch,going to school , enjoying church and having neighbors that played together seemed to be most interesting to them. Lots of smiles.
The 30 minute tour turned into about and hour and a half. As they were leaving the girls gave me a hug and said it was the best tour they ever had, the little ones were happy with their moon pies in hand and hubby said, " This is an Oral Tradition, best place I've ever been." I simply smiled.
He continued to say, "I have to admit I wasn't to thrilled about a tour, but everybody needs to visit here and take this tour, this is a fabulous place. He dropped a donation in our donation box and smiled as he continued out the door, "you keep up the good work, this is a treasure for sure."
His wife leaned over the counter and gave me a little hug and whispered, "thank you for a wonderful time, my family needed this. We now have a new topic of conversation that will include all of us."
I watched them wander slowly down the steps, the kids arm in arm, smiling to myself and thinking,
"Yes, but what is this place?"