HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Stanley and Jean Thomas are avid collectors. Stanley’s interest is antique cars and Jean leans toward vintage clothing.

Their shared interest in history led them to the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, where Stanley has been a board member for a year or two.

To encourage visitors to return often, they want to spread the word that the displays at the Rural Heritage Museum change seasonally. Most recently, a replica of a one-room schoolhouse was created, as well as a display of vintage clothing featuring many items from Jean’s collection.

The schoolhouse includes pictures of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, a 48-star United States flag and a printed copy of the Pledge of Allegiance, with most items coming from various members.

The clothing collection features babies’, women’s and men’s items, including a raccoon fur coat with a “23 Skidoo” button on it. Stanley’s 1924 Velie automobile also is on display.

“It was the car I was running when I met Jean and her parents,” said Stanley, 70.

The Thomas’ have been married 41 years. Jean’s father also had an antique car, so while he and Stanley would shop for car parts, Jean and her mother shopped for antique clothing.

The museum, at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike, also has recreations of rooms in a rural home at the turn of the century.

To kick off the holiday season, Rural Heritage Village, which includes the museum and surrounding historic village, recently hosted its first Rural Heritage Village by Candlelight event.

Holiday traditions from early Washington County will come alive through storytellers, caroling, wagon rides and a walking candlelight tour of the village. Period decorations from the 1800s, the warmth of the fire from the cabin’s hearth and refreshments will add to the evening.

The museum has one paid employee, Erin Overdorff, 293 members of the Friends of the Rural Heritage Museum, about 50 of whom serve as volunteers, a 10-member Friends board and a 15-member board for the museum.

It was Stanley Thomas’ friendship with Doug Bast, a lifelong Boonsboro resident who is an active historian in the county and Rural Heritage Museum board member, that led to Stanley joining the museum board.

“We are both retired and interested in history. It’s a good fit in that way,” said Jean Thomas, who adds that she just works in a supporting role at the museum.

The museum opens the first Sunday in April and closes after the Holiday Open House, the second weekend in December. Group tours can be arranged at other times by calling the museum office.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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