The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Centenarian’s memories add to museum lore, exhibits


November 29, 2016

Mrs. Peter Rapp

On a dreary day with the wind outside pushing rain against its walls, the East Linn Museum begins to feel like it is more than just a refuge from the weather.

While walking among the displays one’s mind may wander as scattered items assume auras of the past.

“Who used this and what is its history?” you ask yourself. You look for explanations on labels, but often there are none.

Unfortunately, although the history of an article can add to its enjoyment, donated items frequently come with none, aside from what can be scratched from a special reference book or a reproduced Sears Roebuck catalog.

But often, who cherished an object or how it was found, as with a pair of shoes worn on a wedding day or an old rifle barrel found holding up part of a fence corner, adds greatly to the viewer’s appreciation.

Thinking of this, I began to recall snippets I’d read or heard regarding various items in the museum and it popped into mind that for some I had a reliable, often amusing and certainly unique source of information – Lucille Rapp.

Lucille was on hand at the museum’s founding and she and her husband, Lloyd, have been among the donors of goods on display. Moreover, for years she served as a dependable volunteer, having retired only a couple of years ago.

This makes her the museum’s centenarian volunteer emeritus now that she’s reached 100 years of age. Not many museums have these, so the East Linn Museum is indeed fortunate.

I could think of a number of things Lucille and her family have added to the museum, but the story she told me of a “pig” platter comes to mind, plus hints regarding a wheelchair, a wall telephone, and an arthritis cure – an electric one at that.

So I called Lucille and what follows are her memories, sometimes abetted here and there with a bit of history or data found in one of those Sears Roebuck catalogs.

Much of it concerns the Peter Rapp family, Peter’s second wife and their twins, Lloyd and Floyd.

In the picture gallery, a photograph of Mrs. Rapp hangs on the front wall and Peter’s hangs on the back wall. Somehow they’ve gotten separated as they were not in life.

Peter Rapp is often recalled as the man who wrote his own funeral service and saw it rehearsed. As Lucille told me previously, he had three services: the rehearsal, a second when he died here, and a third after he was shipped back to near Broken Bow, Neb., where he had once homesteaded.

From Nebraska, too, came the wheelchair in question. It arrived in Oregon, along with Peter and his second wife, their very young twin sons, and perhaps other children.

They emigrated by train, a convenient way to relocate after railroads began connecting the west with points east. The family rode as passengers while their possessions and even stock, occupied a rented freight car.

Now, with newer upholstery, the wheelchair sits in the doctor’s office at the Museum. I had heard the twins were born in it, piquing my curiosity.

Yes, Lucille told me. It was a difficult birth, a breech one. The first baby, likely Lloyd, got a foot out and stopped. It took a while, and the unfortunate mother rested and no doubt suffered while waiting in the wheelchair. It then served as a crib, for their mother put the babies to bed in its seat.

The wheelchair led a varied existence, serving both of the Rapp wives, the first in Nebraska where she died, and other family members. It also served members of the community in the area between Crawfordsville and Holley – for Peter Rapp owned land near Crescent Hill Drive.

When Lucille and Lloyd inherited the chair, they loaned it freely to others, only requesting the borrower take good care of it as it was made of oak.

Over time, the caning on the back and the seat wore out so then Lloyd had it reupholstered, but it certainly holds memories.

With humor Lucille admitted to teasing her husband about the number of children his parents had.

Fourteen she would tell him.

No, he would argue, his father had five when he remarried after his first wife’s death to a widow who also had five. The twins only made two more, so five and five, plus two equaled 12. Then Lucille did her math.

Peter Rapp and the widow each had five children. Add the twins. Now each parent had seven children. Fourteen when seven was put with seven.

The wall telephone, like the wheel hair, was also inherited by Lucille and Lloyd and he had to be the lineman to keep it working. It hangs among other phones in the museum’s second room. A broken speaker marks the Rapp phone. The missing cone of the mouthpiece could be replaced for $1.50 back in the day from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

The phone certainly linked the Rapps with the community.

As Lucille said, everyone on the farm line answered the phone whether it was their rings or not. Edna Slavens, a jolly lady who knew everything, operated the switchboard in Crawfordsville and was Buss Robnett’s aunt.

One day Lloyd stepped into the house after working outside, Lucille recalled, and the phones started to ring along the party line. Answering theirs, he discovered the house of Buss and Elsie Robnett was on fire. He and others quickly went to fight it and managed to save the outside structure.

Elsie’s mother received a bad burn on one of her legs. They thought she had been mopping and accidentally tipped over a heater.

The telephone served as a community warning system in that case.

Children used to be often told, “Telephones are not toys.” As Lucille would say, neither was Peter Rapp’s Davis-Kidder Patent Magneto Electric machine, now located in a bottom shelf of a cabinet in the doctor’s office.

This looks like an innocuous boxed contraption with hand grips, but according to Sears Roebuck the electric current it produced could treat nervous troubles, partial paralysis, rheumatism, neuralgia and nervous disorders (seemingly different from nervous problems).

Parlor games don’t feature on the list.

LUCILLE RAPP, right, chats with Elsie Robnett Brown, also a descendent of local pioneers, at East Linn Museum.

You turned a crank on the machine, which worked a magneto, building up an electrical charge.

By taking hold of the grips, you got a jolt of electricity, but not one strong enough to do damage, the claim held.

Peter Rapp felt using the machine helped his arthritis. Older children, on the other hand, discovered that they could hold hands and send an electric charge zapping around their circle.

Lucille believed the machine served better as a museum piece.


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