The newest exhibit at the Boundary County Museum is the White Caribou Bar, dedicated in a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 18th 2013
It took a lot of people to bring back to life the old White Caribou Bar, founded more than 100 years ago in Bonners Ferry.
Fred Fisher opened the bar, which featured the iconic Bonners Ferry white caribou, on Main Street in 1905, and ran it until it closed four years later in 1909.At its dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Fisher was among many receiving thanks, not only for opening the bar, but for bringing in the mounted white caribou back in the 1890s that has graced the museum for years.
“Most likely he was thinking that ‘those Bonners Ferry citizens in 2013 are going to cherish this white caribou,'” Museum curator Sue Kemmis said in her dedication speech.In addition to Fisher, she also thanked his great-great nephew, Hartley King, and the families of Tot Smith and Paul Flinn, who brought the white caribou home.It took over 600 hours of volunteer labor and love to create the exhibit, made possible in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council and Rick Ardinger and Cindy Wang, who helped the Historical Society Board; Jill Nystrom, Don Morice, Cal Russell, Stephanie Tucker, Dave and Dottie Gray and John Standal, through the process.
The White Caribou on Main Street
“Now to get something like this started,” Kemmis said, “there has to be an idea, and then someone like Dottie Gray, who will write for the grant money, then eagerly wait to see if you get it. Dottie, as the project director, keeps everyone moving forward so we can meet the grant deadline. We thank Dottie. She’s not done, because now comes the final report.”
Once the project started coming together, Society historian Howard Kent began his research on the White Caribou Bar, and writing the draft narratives and interpretive boards gracing the exhibit, a process that took considerable time and many re-writes.
Next, Don Morice was asked how to go about building a bar in a museum. With his plans in hand, Terry Howe, Gene Andrews and Rod LePoidevin went in just after Christmas, began making chalk lines all over the museum floor and stocked the back room with lumber from Idaho Forest Group, who donated all the 2x4s, Pro X and Home Depot. It wasn’t long before the walls were up and sheetrocked, windows in and painting done. Gene and his wife, Pat, added shelves, window frames and corbels.
While the work in the museum was going apace, Terry and Andy Howe braved the snows of a Boundary County winter to go out and gather the barn wood needed for the project. Bonners Ferry Glass worked to cut the glass for the bar front and windows looking in. After the main work was done came the detail: Marianne Duarte donated wallpaper border and beaded curtains from the Heath Estate and hung them with Dottie’s help; Caroline McNeill sewed the awning fabric purchased at Sater’s Auction and put them up with the able help of Dave, Dottie and Howard.
The white caribou was a bit too dusty to grace the new display; Debby Ackley tended to the sprucing up, and Darlene Young set about cleaning and/or repainting the bases of the other mounted animals, picture frames and more.
Fred Nystrom, North Idaho Iron Works, painted the windows with the proud name of the old bar, and the crew realized that a bar wouldn’t be a bar unless it had a bar.
Raven Hawks, Roundheels Gun and Pawn, said the business was closing and invited the crew to come see if they had anything that could help the exhibit. John Standal went to take a look, and came back to report that the bar had been found; Raven and owner Bill Munson graciously donated the counter they’d used for years.
Don Morice and two young helpers were soon wheeling it down the street to its new home, where it was raised to be tall enough to belly up to, stripped and stained, and fitted with a brass foot-rail.
Back now to Howard Kent. While all the work was underway, he and Mary Ann Kruger, Dottie and Sue, along with project scholar Nancy Renk and editor John O’Connor were busy converting the raw research into exhibit graphics, the plaques, interpretive boards, brochures and more. Once the editing was done, Mary Ann created the layout and Fleet Graphics printed the finished products.
Even a poem from the back of Fred Fisher’s business card was incorporated, available at the museum on postcards.
After thanking all these people and more, Sue stepped aside as Hartley King cut the ribbon, an image of his great-great uncle peering proudly out the door at him.
The exhibit officially opened, everyone then enjoyed a round of beer on the house … root beer, of course.