By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon Historical Society members are welcoming visitors as they celebrate a “re-grand opening” of their Main Street museums.
“We have rebranded as the Yukon, Oklahoma Historical Museum Complex,” Historical Society President Alan Ridgeway said.
The Yukon Historical Society Museum, Yukon’s Best Railroad Museum and E.R. Berousek Farm Museum showcase historic artifacts about Yukon stretching back to the town’s early years in the late 1800s.
Featured displays occupy several buildings, converted train cars and a caboose at Third and Cedar – just north of Main Street near to the railroad tracks.
“We’re all right here together,” Ridgeway said. “Give us a call or stop by during our open hours.”
State Sen. Jack Stewart (R-Yukon) and City of Yukon officials joined Yukon Historical Society representatives to mark the official reopening May 12 at a Yukon Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony.
Attendees toured the museum complex after Ridgeway sliced the red ribbon.
Highlights include Oklahoma Czech and Yukon Post Office displays, Yukon school yearbooks and photos, Yukon Miller and Garth Brooks memorabilia, old farm machinery, railroad ticket booth and signal lights, model train layout, historic newspaper and magazine articles, and plenty more.
“The people of Yukon need to learn about their history,” President Ridgeway said. “My favorite saying is, ‘If you don’t learn from your past, you’re doomed to repeat it’. My dad used to say it. My grandfather used to say it.”
A 1978 Yukon High School graduate, Ridgeway became involved in the Yukon Historical Society when it was led by John and Carol Knuppel.
“They were charter members when the historical society was founded in 1991,” he pointed out.
“My father- and mother-in-law, Roy and Gloria West, were members when I moved back and retired from the Navy. I minored in history in college, and I was a history ‘nut’. Everywhere I went around the world with the Navy, I was picking up historical stuff.”
For several decades, the Yukon Historical Society Museum was housed inside the Yukon Museum and Arts Center (Old Central School) at 601 Oak.
When that building closed, the Yukon “Wall of Fame” and many of the history museum’s displays were moved to the Main Street railroad and farm museums.
PRIVATE TOURS, PARTY RENTALS
The Yukon, Oklahoma Historical Museum Complex is open from 1-4 p.m. Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
“We are available for party rentals,” said Yukon Historical Society Treasurer Melinda Rushing. “This is a way for us to raise some money for expenses.”
Rushing’s father, Ernest Berousek, founded the Yukon Farm Museum. He was a longtime member and supporter of the Oklahoma Czechs and Yukon Historical Society.
In the 1990s, Berousek raised the funds needed to construct the farm museum’s two buildings and collected farming implements donated by area farmers.
“The south building has a 1945 cotton picker in it that they had to bring in and build around it,” Ridgeway shared.
A non-profit, the Yukon Historical Society accepts donations to support its endeavors.
“We allow people to give from their heart,” Ridgeway pointed out.
Monetary gifts may be mailed to the Yukon Historical Society at 110 N 3rd Street, Yukon, OK 73099.
Donation boxes are inside all three museums.
Several school classes have already come to tour the newly reopened Yukon museums.
These were the first field trips the Yukon Historical Society hosted since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ridgeway and Rushing, who are now integral to the Yukon Historical Society’s success, rode the bus together to school growing up.
Other Yukon Historical Society board members are Vice President Doug Barnes and Secretary Christine Sorrels. Directors are Debbie Ridgeway, Gary Henry, Mark Miller, Yukon Chamber CEO Pam Shelton, and Mayor Shelli Selby.
To support the Yukon, Oklahoma Historical Society Complex or to schedule a private tour, call (405) 902-8785.