CLEARWATER TRIBUNE HOME
MARCH 25, 2010
These items represent just part of the old barbershop that began as Walter Sewell’s shop and later was owned by Bob Bray. The location is at 233 Johnson Avenue where Clearwater Realty is housed today.
“Hey Bob,” the sign says, “Just a shave today, I don’t have time to listen to a haircut!” This and other signs, photographs of barbershop patrons and oil paintings make up the interesting art work on loan to the Clearwater Historical Museum’s special exhibit dedicated to the old-time barbershop.
Orofino, a history to tell (Part I)
By Alannah Allbrett
While hippies were converging on San Francisco by the thousands in 1967’s Summer of Love, and the counter-culture was in full swing and warming up for Woodstock, a tiny town in north, central Idaho, was forming its first historical museum to remember the past, write their history, and honor all that had come before. Clearwater County remembers a colorful history that included Indian battles, lumberjacks, old time barbershops, houses of ill-repute, homesteaders, and people building a town – not necessarily as seen in movies, but as it happened in real life.
The Clearwater Historical Society purchased the former home of photographer Paul and Bertha Seiffert who built the house in 1929. Mr. Seiffert used the front of the building for his studio and developed pictures in the basement. The building itself is unique with antique lighting and interesting architectural features – a fitting place to house the county’s treasures.
I asked Bernice Pullen, Museum Curator, what the oldest item in the museum is. She believes it is a powder horn reputed to be from America’s Revolutionary War. Housed in the same cabinet, is a saddle given to Meriwether Lewis by Sacagawea’s brother, Cameahwait. Oddly enough these items represent a period in history roughly only thirty years apart.
The museum houses several interesting collections representing the tribal history of the Nez Perce, the loggers, farmers and homesteaders, and a history of the schools – many of them now long gone, Copies of the first newspapers still exist – The Orofino Courier (May 18, 1895) and The Optimist (December 18, 1905).
Bernice Pullen said she was the only one who applied for the job of Director in 1997, and has been there ever since. She has put together many of the collections and carries around enough dates in her head to confound a normal person. She can tell you all about how the original Nez Perce Reservation once covered parts of Oregon, Washington and Montana. After gold was discovered in the west, the government reduced the reservation to about a tenth of its original size. The land was platted into parcels for the Indian people, and the rest was opened for homesteading in 1895.
A woman once called the museum, requesting a birthday card postmarked from Orofino be mailed to her great uncle who grew up on Upper Fords Creek; he was born in 1897 and was turning 105 years old. Bernice printed historical photos onto index cards. She found a newspaper article where he was honored at school; it said, “Little Frankie Jenkenson was being recognized for not being tardy or missing any school in the month of November.” Bernice included the article, punched holes in the cards, and tied them with a ribbon. The great niece said that her uncle was so proud of the gift that he made every visitor sit down and look at them. He died the following year at age 106.
The old town
The original town of Oro Fino (two words), located near Pierce, Idaho, burned down in 1867 and was not rebuilt on that site. In 1898, a man named C.C. Fuller owned the land where part of Orofino now stands. Oro Fino later grew up into the town it is today along the Clearwater River. Bernice maintains that the U.S. Post Office objected to having the name split up into two words and requested it be changed to Orofino, its present spelling. Apparently they had no problem with Coeur d’Alene.
Most of the early businesses were below Canada Hill, on the south side of Orofino Creek – the land formerly owned by Fuller. The land situated along Michigan Avenue, eastward towards IGA Grocery, was not available at that time. The town across the creek was largely destroyed by a fire in September of 1906.
Artist, Norman Rockwell memorialized, as he did with many parts of Americana, the hometown barbershop. The museum has, on loan from Carolyn Bray, a nostalgic collection from her husband Bob Bray’s Barbershop (formerly Walter Sewell’s shop). The collection has unique artwork, barbershop signs and memorabilia, one of the original barbershop chairs, and of course, the red and white spiral, barber pole sign. That shop was located at 233 Johnson Avenue where Clearwater Realty is today. The building still has the original ceiling.
In 1960, a historical walk was created for the town. The board of the historical society would like to reinstate and enlarge upon that concept today. Recently, a historical plaque was created for the museum with the intention and hope that others will be made for businesses now located in old, historical sites as well as markers for little-known historical sites. People would be able to learn of and enjoy the rich history of the area.
The museum’s budget for 2009/10 was cut by 21%. It operates on that limited budget, through customer membership, and good will contributions. Many local history books and books by local authors are available for sale. These books are put there on consignment but also help fund the museum.
This article is part of a series to further explore the treasure The Clearwater Historical Museum represents. Be sure to check future issues as we cover The Nez Perce; the loggers, the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and life in the early town.
As many New Yorkers report they have never been to visit the Statue of Liberty in person, many Orofino residents have not yet visited their own museum.
The museum is located at 315 College Avenue, next to the Methodist Church. The hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Pictured: Bernice Pullen, Director of the Clearwater Historical Museum since 1997, has a wealth of information to share and is passionate about her work. She enjoys learning the history of the area, answering questions for people, and putting together unique exhibits such as a story-board of all the schools the area has known.