Media Life: Placer Museums set to show off county’s weird, wondrous side

By: Gus Thomson Media Life
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AUBURN CA - When you have 15,000-plus objects stored or displayed in your collection, there just has to be some oddballs. For Placer County Museums, those are the weird and wonderful “Weird Auburn” bits of this county’s historical past that rarely see the light of the display case. That changes March 18, when the museums division shares the sometimes-creepy, sometimes-just-plain-weird side of Placer County’s past. Media Life was given a sneak preview of some of the objects on the short list for the March 18 program, dubbed “What the Heck is That?” And without giving too much away, attendees are in for a treat. This is dark-chocolate territory though, with some objects that have some intensity to them and harsh back stories. But it’s history nonetheless. One of the gems of the collection is a pair of tiny, silk shoes used as part of the bone-breaking practice of binding Chinese women’s feet. If you’ve never seen an animal hobbler or a pear sizer, this is your opportunity to delve into real but seldom-seen objects from Placer County’s proud agricultural past. A giant club – similar in shape to a bowling pin on steroids – is another treasure from the museums collection. Back in the day, it would be used in another farming endeavor. But Media Life doesn’t want to give away too much on this one. The art of Chinese laundering will be part of the show. But don’t expect a modern iron to be displayed. The laundry in Old Town Auburn the museum’s iron came from had a much more basic way of smoothing out wrinkles on the shirts of the city’s pioneers. The museum collection was bolstered a few years back by a collection of what the donor family called “Dad’s War Booty” and the objects can be seen as both a trove of souvenirs by one victorious Yank or as a chilling reminder of a time in history we never want repeated. It’s a stash of Nazi collectibles – including a full service of cutlery emblazoned with Nazi symbols. From World War I, the program will provide an up-close look at a gas mask issued to American doughboys during World War I. Like a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum that’s been sitting under tarps in our collective backyard for a few decades, the museums division’s historical stash is about to reveal some surprises. Call it “Weird Placer,” if you will. The free program starts at 1 p.m. March 18 at Auburn’s Bernhard Museum Winery, 291 Auburn Folsom Road. Curator of Collections Kasia Woroniecka will introduce objects handpicked from the North Auburn storehouse. With limited seating, it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. Foresthill’s Cowboys link Placer High football great Ola Murchison is the subject of a nice write-up by longtime Dallas Morning News columnist Sam Blair in this month’s edition of the Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Murchison, who grew up in Foresthill and starred as a Hillman in football, basketball and track, was wide receiver for the Cowboys during the 1961 season. Murchison reminisces in the article about earning $7,500 a year to play the pro game after a stellar college career at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Murchison was drafted in the sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers in 1960. After being released, he was picked up by the Cowboys and Coach Tom Landry. It was Landry who would later provide some guidance when Murchison had to choose between staying in pro football or taking teaching and choir directing posts in Stockton. It turned out to be a good choice, with Murchison earning a PhD in school administration and even having a Stockton school named in honor of his accomplishments. Murchison muses in Blair’s “Back Forty” column what might have been. “Personally, I think I could have been one of the best wide receivers to ever play the game, with my speed of 9.6 (seconds) in the 100-yard dash,” Murchison said. “I ran against Bobby Morrow of Abilene Christian and Ray Norton of San Jose State in photo finishes.” Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at (530) 852-0232 or