Oriental's History Museum
One year old today
August 24, 2006

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Oriental History Museum. It is not housed in a grand building like the Smithsonian - you will find the museum in a tiny shopping center on Broad Street (Highway 55) in Oriental. Prior to being a museum, this same space was "Jill's Clip n Curl", and the original location for Town & Country grocery. If you haven't yet visited, its time to see what replaced the salon chair and scissors.

"Think of the museum as the new 'Ol Store" says Marsha Shirk, referring to the local store that belonged to Billy and Lucille Truitt.  Marsha is the museum's curator.  Mr. Truitt was a local waterman whose store amassed a legendary collection of things nautical and everyday.

From the Ol' Store

Memories of Billy Truit

On display from the "Ol Store Collection" you'll see model skiffs, oyster scoops, a net pole, a ceramic Chihuahua and Lucille Truitt’s paintings of the Oriental area. And if you want to try and pretend your visiting the Ol Store, sit in the rocker on the porch with fishing nets nearby.

The signs that graced the front of Red Lee’s Oriental grill – “HOT DOGS 25¢ - hang above the wood lathe screen that, before the museum moving in, was a partition in Jill’s Beauty shop.  Original copies of August 1995 Enquirer exclaim how the “78-YEAR-OLD SELLS BURGERS IN THE SAME PLACE FOR 50 YEAR … and they’re still only 25 cents!”  A menu from Lee’s grill describes how to get around Oriental – “Our local police, Jim Bunn is helpful with directions.”

Not may years ago Oriental was famous for Red Lee's 25 cent hamburgers.

The town of Oriental was named after the sailing steamer "Oriental", used as a Federal transport ship in the Civil War. She shipwrecked in 1862 off Bodie Island 33 miles north of Cape Hatteras. The nameplate from that wreck is said to have inspired the name of the village of oriental. While the fate of the "Oriental" nameplate is unknown, another piece of the shipwreck survives - in Oriental. A bronze porthole from the "Oriental" can be viewed by visiting Oriental’s History Museum.

Marsha Shirk shows a drawing of the sailing steamer Oriental, in front of the porthole that was recovered from the wreck.

Also on display at the museum is the head from the first Oriental duck pond dragon.  Launched on Halloween 1991, the dragon “survived groundings, other hurricanes … and teenager taking.” until Hurricane Dennis claimed it in 1999.  Its head hangs beside another local relic that may have visited the duck pond – a centuries-old section of a dugout canoe.

A quick look into the “Artifact Accession and Loans” book, a log of items on loan and display, reveals items from slightly farther afield - a pink egg-sizing cards from the “Whorton’s Poultry Farm” (circa 1910) and a ten-inch woven basket that “Mamie Alcock used to pick up eggs in.”

Marsha says the museum is currently raising money through its annual membership drive, plus a special fundraising effort (see below).

Items for sale in the gift section include bags of “History Pecans” picked by 92 year-old Ruth Mason ($5.00 per bag), original copies of the Enquirer featuring Red Lee’s 25-cent hamburgers ($10.00) and prints of the doomed steamer Oriental.

Come on down for a look.

Oriental Museum Info
Location: Village Square off Highway 55 – next to Scoot’s
Admission: Free
Operation hours:
Friday: 11 – 3, Saturday: 12 – 4, Sunday: 1 – 4
Marsha Shirk: 252-249-2493
Grace Evans: 252-249-1748
Museum email: museum@dockline.net

Museum Fundraising
The museum staff are all nonpaid volunteers, but the museum still finds itself struggling for funds. They have to pay rent on the building, utilities, storage - in all Marsha Shirk says it takes at least $7,000 a year just to keep the doors open. This all comes from donations. Here is how you can help:

Marsha Shirk says two couples have agreed to each provide a $1,000 donation in matching funds.
Jim & Barbara Goodmon
Keith Smith & Melinda Penkava

So Marsha needs to get $2,000 in donations to happen, in order to make sure she gets the above matching funds. Marsha reports she allready has $1,000 from Sherrill & Phyllis Styron.

You can help make sure all the matchuing funds are received by donating to the museum too. Any donation is welcome - $10, $20, $50 - whatever you would like to give to keep this unique museum going.

Make checks out to:

Friends Of Oriental History
P.O. Box 103
Oriental, NC 28571

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