At the Museum of the Albemarle, sharing our local history through the items on display gives us that unique opportunity to remind us of our past.
We often hear comments like, “that was interesting”, or “this was very nice”, and while rewarding to hear, it’s the comments like “Grandpa used one like that and, my granny had one of those,” or “I remember using this, but I was very young mind you,” that are said with a wink, that really makes me smile. Visitors, lost in the moment with a smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye as they recall those precious memories of their past, make my job so great.
I am lucky to have a piece of my own family history on display, giving me a connection to my past that never fails to make me smile when I see it. The “it” is a hand-operated printing press that was owned by my Grandfather, Willard Mac Jennings, owner of Carolina Printing Company.
Granddaddy died when I was 10, and many of my memories are of going to the shop when I was younger and helping him work. I was a skinny little kid, with long, waist length hair, following him everywhere he went. I thought I was helping, but in reality I was probably in the way but he just smiled and let me help.
On one of my helpful visits, I forgot to pull my long hair back in a ponytail and while walking past this press I got my hair stuck in the large spinning wheel on its side. Some patience, a pair of scissors and a lot of shampoo later, all was better, and I always pulled my hair back after that day.
Years later, right after I started working at the museum, the press was being cleaned to go on display and wouldn’t you know some of my hair was found still wrapped around that wheelbase. While a great memory, my favorite is of Granddaddy holding me as he walked around the shop teaching me the ABCs. We stopped at the press for a lesson and with his pocket knife in his hand he said, “Princess, you are a Jennings too and this is how you make a “J” for Jennings, and he carved that “J” into the wooden work surface of this press.
Being able to see these reminders of our history, I get to be that visitor, with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, and for that moment it’s like he’s still with me and I can almost feel his arms holding me, and I am once again his little princess.
Lisa Doepker is the public information assistant for Museum of the Albemarle.