Historical group selling items

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Oak Creek's local historian Mike Yurich collects one thing that he's not sure anyone else collects: dog tags.

Not military tags, but tags issued by the town that residents buy to register their pets.

He started collecting the tags in the 1970s, when he found one dating back to 1918 while digging through the remains of an old building that had been torn down. With that, he was hooked, and started asking neighbors and anyone else that would listen for their old dog tags.

Now, anyone in Oak Creek can look through a large jar of tags, most of which are made into keychains, and buy one from a special year -- for instance, the year a friend or child was born, the year of a marriage, and so on.

The Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg has various handmade and historic items for sale, all of which make great gifts for the holidays, Yurich said.

The items are displayed in the old town hall building on Main Street and include the dog tags, copies of old photographs, Christmas tree ornaments, colorful pillows featuring historic photos, books of historic stories and more.

For sale are copies of two photos of the town's historic Christmas tree tradition. For years, as many longtime residents remember fondly, a large tree was placed in the middle of Main Street each December. On Christmas Eve, according to tradition, all of the children in town would line up, finger tip to finger tip, from the tree. The line would reach the old stone building blocks away, and the children would stay in place until "Santa" would come down from the hill and give away bags of candy, Yurich said.

This year's calendars feature historic photos from across Routt County. As with past calendars, they are handmade and hand-tied, giving them a more rustic look, Yurich said.

There is half a table full of paper weights made of chunks of coal and old railroad ties, a reminder of the area's history of mining and railroading. The coal pieces each have an old chip with a mine's name. The chips were thrown into each railroad car of coal to show from where the coal came. Junior volunteers for the historical society, a class of students who met three times a week, made the items.

The items are for sale whenever a volunteer is in the building. Yurich is there almost every day, but the society has scheduled meetings every Wednesday morning and has added a few extra Saturdays before the holidays to sell the items.

All proceeds go to the historical society.

"We hope (people) come by and just see what we're doing," historical society secretary Carol Villa said.

The funds help the society pay for its long list of projects, which includes repairing and renovating the old town hall. The society expects to learn within the next few weeks whether it will receive a grant for that project.

Additional donations would help the group move forward with its proposed railroad historical display and memorial for Phippsburg, to reprint historical booklets about the area of which there are no longer copies, and to move a historic log home on to the bucket park property. The home was donated to the society, but the group has to move it.

The historical society also is always looking for more volunteers -- especially young ones, the members said -- and for stories and other historical items from all residents.

"A lot of people, they just don't tell the stories to anybody, but we sure would like to know," Villa said.

Volunteer Joann Lombardi encouraged all residents to come into the old town hall, if not to buy items then at least to look through the society's collections of photographs and other items.

"Some people get so excited when they come in, and they find some pictures," Lombardi said.

And anyone who stops in can take a peek at Yurich's dog tag collection.

In his collection, there are tags for almost every year from 1941 on, as well as a few tags from earlier years.

There are a few from the early 1940s, when supplies were scarce because of the war. On those, the original year was struck over with a new year so extras could be reused. The tag from 1944 is made of leather.

Yurich doesn't have dogs -- "That's why it's hard, I have to go around begging people for their old dog tags," he said -- but collecting dog tags can be fun for anyone. They're often found in old cans with nuts and bolts, or forgotten in the back of a closet of an old home.

People can collect the tags by year, by town, by shape (tags may be shaped into dog houses, fire hydrants, dog heads, bones, balls and more).

Anyone who has questions or wants copies of specific photos can stop by the old town hall, or contact town historian Mike Yurich at P.O. Box 1, Oak Creek, CO 80467 or at 736-1010.

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