KRUM — The sound of footsteps clatter through the old building that once served as Krum’s only bank. Years after it gave up that life, the brass teller cages, antique wooden signs and bank vault all remain, but have been given a new purpose.
The building now serves as the home of the Krum Heritage Museum. Instead of being visited by adults ready to make deposits and withdrawals, excited third-graders have come to get a taste of Krum’s 125-year past.
The children spread out across the building, eager to see the old photos on the walls, the flat-screen television showing movies about the city’s past, the scale model of the town circa 1940, the hand-cranked record player and the box grand piano. The children avoid the vintage sawdust-stuffed dolls resting in a crib because of their strange expressions and half-closed glass eyes.
Della Davis, the 70-year-old mind behind the Krum Heritage Museum, feels a tug on her sleeve as she takes a moment to rest at the museum’s worn front desk. Davis looks down at the boy with a bright smile, ready to answer any question he might have.
“Miss Della, how did the people carry those phones in their pockets?” he asks, pointing to one of the vintage wooden crank phones leaning against the wall.
More than a century after its founding, Krum is moving away from its past as a ranching and agricultural center and is becoming what some have called a “bedroom community. As the city is reborn, much like the bank building, the heritage and history of the community are at risk of being forgotten as the population gradually loses its ties to the past.
Davis is not quite sure why she started collecting the trinkets that would later become museum pieces. However, she can still remember starting her collection at the age of 16 in 1958.
Her first piece was an old steel box of vintage glass negatives from a local photographer who was moving out. The negatives showed Krum at the turn of the 20th century, with images of wooden storefronts, horse-drawn carriages and dirt roads that flooded when it rained. The photos continue up until the 1930s, showing the transition from the horse and carriage to the automobile and the growth of Krum.
Although she doesn’t know why she started her collection, Davis knows why she continues to work into her retirement.
“I do this now for my kids, for all of the kids,” she said. “I want them to know the history of their home.”
In the years since, she has put together a massive collection of photo albums, obituaries, newspaper articles, school yearbooks and local business letters along with trinkets and relics from estate sales as members of the community passed away. These days, many people simply donate pieces ranging from dresses to flour sacks when the time comes to empty a home. Janice Callarman, a volunteer at the museum, jokes that Davis would sometimes get annoyed if someone cleared out a home without letting her know first.
The museum opened in 2010, when the former bank and the other buildings in the complex were donated to the Krum Historical Society, the city and its police department. The museum kept the original bank teller cages and restored them to their previous shine, while the vault serves as an impromptu office and safe house for some of the museum’s more fragile pieces, including Davis’ glass negatives.
“We know we are not the only museum with teller cages,” Callarman said. “But we laugh when they ask where we found ours.”
The museum is supported by donations and fundraising by the Krum Society for Historical Preservation, to which Davis belongs. Many of the officers, such as Callarman, give up their Saturdays to volunteer at the museum and offer their take on the history of the city.
Davis cuts costs where she can. While working during the week, she will often give up air conditioning and fluorescent lighting in exchange for free natural lighting through the museum’s front glass windows.
Davis has been trying to educate the newer residents of Krum, starting with the youngsters. She has worked with Bonnie Barthold, a third-grade teacher, to make Krum’s history a part of the curriculum. Barthold was one of only a few teachers to include local history as a part of their lessons.
In this push, Davis donated copies of two of her four books written on the city’s history to the third-grade classes and invited the students to visit the museum each year around May. Many times, the children will return to the museum, bringing their parents with them.
“History establishes identity, so the history of a town determines its identity,” said Mike Campbell, chief historian with the Texas State Historical Association. “If the people do not know what their town has been, they do not know what it is now, and they have less of a basis for knowing what they should try to do next for their town.”
Davis has a special collection among other documents in the museum. In a folder tucked away in the front desk, she keeps every thank-you letter she has received from the third-graders. While the art is different on each, with the student’s favorite part of the museum, the same message is scrawled: “Thank you.”
Her most prized piece is the personal diary of Hattie Dyer, a teacher who was a key part of the community for more than 30 years. The diary describes Dyer’s trip across North America in the late 1920s. She wrote on her visits to upstate New York, Cuba and Florida, which she described as large and completely empty.
Dyer was Davis’ teacher in elementary school.
The museum has an entire wall dedicated to Dyer and her contributions to the city and the school system.
There is also a model of the town, and Callarman cannot help but critique some of the inaccuracies in the layout.
“It isn’t very accurate,” she said. “These windmills were not here, and these houses were a bit further down.”
She remembered that the town had only one windmill on its main road. As a child in the 1940s, she used to explore the town, memorizing the features.
Included in the museum are photos dating to the 1900s, a railroad switch and rafter from the long-extinct Santa Fe rail depot, sickles, scythes and cattle yokes from when Krum was a big grain and livestock producer, and finally, basketball trophies from Krum’s recent history as a powerhouse in Class 2A.
With the donations of photos, part of Davis’ work becomes piecing together the tattered pictures into a full picture of the community from one generation to the next. One mystery she is investigating to this day is a picture of a family outside one of the houses in the town. The house sports two front doors and twin sets of steps with potted plants sitting at the base.
“We think this might be the Lang house,” she said. “But anyone who would know is gone.”
Many times Davis will spend some evenings driving down the well-traveled and familiar streets of her hometown trying to match clues from the photos to current locations, but decades of wear and repair make the job impossible in some cases.
“The places I knew as a kid are gone,” she said. “I mean, the building is there, but the name and the face have changed.”
The museum caretakers hope to expand into the second floor of the building, but Davis only works the ground floor; the set of stairs leading up to the top is a bit too much for her heart.
Still, she isn’t worried about the future of the museum she helped create. She believes that the history of Krum will have a future, even after she ends her work. The historical society will pick up where she leaves off, and hopefully, the city of Krum will keep the building as it is.
“There will always be someone to come along,” Davis said. “Some kid might come around and pick up my work where it stopped.”