PACIFIC JUNCTION - Pacific Junction resident Gary Williams has a lot of pride for his small town. His pride extends to his personal collection, and this collection has recently become part of the new Pacific Junction Historical Museum across the street from the post office.
“I graduated from high school here, and I’m so interested in the town that I just started getting stuff. Then I started going to the library. It gets real habit-forming,” Williams said.
He started with newspaper clippings and photographs, and keeps these items in three-ring binders that fill one shelving unit along the wall of the museum, which has been open about six months.
“It seems like I get a binder full of this, and a binder full of that,” Williams said. “P.J. was the only town around that doesn’t have a library. We don’t have a library, and we don’t have a big museum, but this is a start.”
For many years, Williams had wanted a building in which to house and showcase his collection. Last year, carpenter Andy Young purchased the building.
“When he found out we were interested in it, he (Young) said ‘Oh. I’ll take my stuff out and you can use it,’” Williams said.
The building was not in any condition to be a museum at that time. Once Young moved out his belongings, Williams, his wife Phyllis, and some friends on the Pacific Junction Historical Society Board had to roll up their sleeves. New carpeting was laid and the ceiling was replaced. Walls were painted and a bathroom was remodeled.
In total, the renovations cost about $2,000, about 90 percent of which was donated. The eight people on the historical board each gave $100 to the historical society, which was used for renovation.
When the building was renovated, the collection began coming in. The museum highlights the fact that although Pacific Junction has always been a small town, the townspeople have a lot of pride, and a lot of memories.
Pacific Junction used to be the stopping point for 125 trains per day. Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the U.S., stopped there twice - once on May 8, 1950 and once on Oct. 8, 1952.
“You know, I was here on my 66th birthday, back in May 1950. And I received a fine birthday cake,” Truman said during his 1952 stop, according to trumanlibrary.org.
The last train stopped in March 1976, but the historical museum is keeping the history of the town alive. A mural, featuring a train, is being painted by Judy (Greg) Lanum of Council Bluffs. Dean and Barb Anderson of Council Bluffs are producing a train set that includes a replica of the town in 1960, a popular feature.
Williams said. “When visitors come in, they want to see that.”
Pacific Junction has historically been a town of about 500 to 600 residents. Today there are 469 residents according to the U.S. Census, and the downtown businesses consist of a bank, a post office and a bar.
The 1950 census showed 550 people, and Williams remembers many more businesses at that time.
“At one point we had two groceries and one meat market,” Williams said. “We had five gas stations and four or five cafes.” There was an actual hotel, and I know of three rooming houses.”
Pacific Junction also had a school, which is a particular source of pride for Williams and many other alumni. Williams, who graduated in a class of 13 people in 1954, has fond memories of being at Pacific Junction High School.
“My senior year we had seven people play basketball. If two fouled out, we were in trouble,” Williams said. “I remember games where enough people fouled out that we only played with four players.”
The biennial school reunion, held this past June, included a tour of the museum. The alumni were so pleased they gave the society $4,000.
The collection at the historical museum at this time features photos of the school choir, a letter jacket and a girl’s basketball uniform.
The historical board would like to obtain a boy’s basketball uniform, and Williams thinks there may be one out there to be found.
“The whole town is sharing things with us,” Williams said. “These things just please people to no end.”
The collection keeps growing, and Williams has more photos and memorabilia of his own to share. The historical board hopes to be able to use more of the building some day, but they are willing to be patient.
“We have a promise that he’s going to clean out the back part of the building. New sidewalks have been promised,” Williams said. “He (Young) is a very giving guy.”
Also giving to the cause is Butch Green. Green owns The Junction bar and is involved in the historical society.
“I was born right outside of town,” Green said. “My birth certificate actually says Pacific Junction. It’s a good town to live in.”
Green is hosting a benefit for the historical society on Saturday, Sept. 29. The event is $15 per person, or $20 per couple. A poker run will take place from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Food will be served starting at 6 p.m. and a band will begin playing at 7 p.m. for the street dance.
The historical museum is presently open by appointment only. To view the collection, contact Gary or Phyllis Williams at 402-203-1232.
Expect to see something different at this work-in-progress at each visit.
“This is a lot of fun,” Williams said. “It’s going to continue to be fun. We have a lot of plans and a lot of dreams.”