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Book gives peek into ’20s teen life

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Museum gets donation of scrapbook kept by Denton High student

The Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum has a new view into the life of a 1920s teenage girl.

Thanks to a scrapbook created by Alma Neatha Gerlach and donated by her daughter Peggy Jean O’Neal, visitors to the museum can get a feel for some of the events that went on at the time.

Gerlach grew up in Denton and was a student at Denton High School in the early 1920s. Her weathered green book, labeled “Stunt Book,” includes descriptions of days spent with friends and events, autographs from classmates, hair clips, and even gum wrappers with details about friends written on them.

“It’s just an interesting kind of scrapbooking and what a young woman and her friends did on a daily basis,” said Peggy Riddle, Denton County Museums director.

“The main reason I wanted to donate it was there were so many names from the Denton [Record] Chronicle in that book — I thought someone over there would enjoy just looking at it just to see what they were doing,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal, an only child, wanted her mother’s scrapbook to be preserved because she didn’t think her children would be interested in it. She said her children were still young when Gerlach died, so they didn’t get to know their grandmother.

The book was brought to the museum by Joel Alexander.

Riddle said county museum officials are in the process of tweaking other existing exhibits to make them more appealing, such as some of the displays at the Bayless-Selby House Museum.

“What we’re going to be doing is make the house focus more on life in Denton County during the period of the house in the late 1890s to early 1900s and trying to make the rooms more visitor-friendly,” Riddle said.

She said her staff might move some of the more fragile and breakable objects and display some items that museum visitors can touch.

She mentioned a recent visit from a Grand Prairie church group of elementary school-age children. The kids were able to pass around items like a butter mold and cast iron and hear a Victrola play an old record.

“By touching something, especially for a young child, they will remember that tour so much better than if they are being spoken to the whole time,” Riddle said.

She said these tweaks will happen regularly as part of the museum upkeep.

“It’s good every three to five years to sort of revamp things to keep it fresh and introduce new technologies and things like that,” she said.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is .