Photos by Debbie Burtnett.
0614 Folklore center
Local children take a trip back in time at the Folklore Center.
For nearly 20 years, the Hoover Historical Society’s Folklore Center has helped guests step back in time — way, way back — to the late 1800s, and learn about the sharp contrast between the conveniences of modern day living and the old ways.
The facility, located directly behind Bluff Park Elementary School, operates with support from the city of Hoover, the Hoover Historical Society and a plethora of volunteers with a devotion to this period in history. The Folklore Center includes Stinson Ole Place, smoke house, corn crib and outhouse.
During tours of the property, it is customary for guests to meet with individuals that are roleplaying as craftspeople from the era. Dressed from head to toe in period costume, these people bring the period to life as they demonstrate everything from making soap to spinning yarn to churning butter. Members of Hoover’s own Quilter’s Guild are also on hand to give guests the experience of threading a needle and sewing scrap pieces of fabric.
Volunteers educate guests about how perishable food was stored long before the dawn of the refrigerator and how clothing was washed, then in a black wash pot.
Inez McCollum, immediate past-president and a longtime member of the Hoover Historical Society, is one such volunteer.
“I am typically in the kitchen for our tours, and there, I describe to guests the way my grandmother’s generation prepared and kept food,” she said. McCollum’s costume is a long, flowing apron-style dress, indicative of the period’s fashion. After selecting the fabric and pattern, she asked the wife of a former coworker to sew it together. Many of the tour guests are elementary age schoolchildren, who have no concept of what it was like to live without electricity or virtually any of the modern-day conveniences people enjoy today.
“I do recall this one occasion when I was describing how soap makers at the time were known to use pig parts in their soap-making when a young child raised her hand and asked me, just horrified, if doing so hurt the pig. Of course, that led to a whole other conversation,” McCollum said.
The idea to create the Folklore Center came from the late Jack Crouch, a former member of the Historical Society and an individual with a great passion for the living nostalgia these facilities provide. Shortly after Crouch helped create one on the corporate campus of Kimberly Clarke, he set to work to do the same in his native city of Hoover.
Crouch died shortly after the Folklore Center was assembled in Bluff Park. In his memory, the Historical Society created the Jack Crouch Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding member of the organization.
Even after McCollum passed the leadership torch to 2014-15 Historical Society President Pam Thompson, she remains an active face at the Folklore Center.
“I love seeing the smiling faces of these children,” she said, citing her husband’s career as a bi-vocational minister and their collective work with many area churches, including First Baptist Church of Hoover.
The Folklore Center offers tours to the public nine months out of the year, aligned with the Hoover City Schools calendar. Programming, while geared to children in the first through fourth grades, is adaptable and has accommodated other groups, including various civic and faith-based organizations. For more information about the center or to schedule an event, contact Doug Harkness, Folklore Tours, at email@example.com.