Meet Mrs. Claus at Jack Allen Memorial Museum of Early Country Living

Barn Bulges With One Man’s Lifelong Collection
By PAT JOHNSON | Nov 29, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Louise Wagner of Little Egg Harbor enjoys being Mrs. Claus at the Jack Allen Memorial Early Country Living Museum in Vincentown.

When Louise Wagner moved to Little Egg Harbor two years ago, she didn’t leave behind her friends in Vincentown. Starting in August she helped to bring back and revitalize the Jack Allen Memorial Early Country Living Museum in that quaint town about an hour’s drive from Southern Ocean County.

During the heat of the summer, Wagner and her friends, Rick and Sharon Allen, and others began searching through the huge collection of Jack Allen, Rick’s father, that filled a barn from top to bottom with early American farming equipment, household goods and general implements needed for country living.

From that collection they chose additional artifacts to construct a 20th century Main Street that offered all the goods and services people would need on a trip to town from the farm.

All this energy toward reopening the museum has culminated at the Christmas season. But there was one hitch: They had no one willing to be Santa Claus. No problem, Wagner graciously offered to be Mrs. Santa Claus. “I tell the kids Santa is busy at the workshop making toys and I’m available to take their letters and wishes back to him,” she said.

Mrs. Claus and the mailbox is the first sight families spot as they enter the museum through the barn doors. Next is a model railroad that includes real railroad artifacts such as a mail-catcher, a rake that caught the mailbag as a train rumbled through town.

Sharon Allen, her daughter Kim DeLeon and her grandson Cristian DeLeon also volunteered to bring the museum to life. Sharon and Kim give tours of the various displays and play Christmas tunes on the player piano while Cristian drives the festive trolley back and forth between the museum and Scotia Acres Christmas tree and alpaca farm with gifts made from alpaca wool in their gift shop.

The museum itself is almost overwhelming. There is much to see and wonder at, such as how women did all that housework without electricity. An extensive collection of butter churns and washtub and wringer sets remind us to be thankful for our conveniences.

Farm implements and tractors are indicators of the hard work men did in the fields of the family farm. The Allens still operate their seventh-generation family farm that dates from 1861. The windmill still whispers over land now covered in winter wheat.

One of the gems of the farm was the 1938 UDLX tractor that was built to be a tractor and also a car. “It has a cab and the idea was when the farmer got done plowing the fields, he could take his wife into town to see a movie,” said Sharon Allen. The idea didn’t catch on; only 125 were made.

A Mobile gas station has the sign of the Pegasus, an early advertising icon predating the “Tiger in Your Tank.”

Other early gas pumps are in the collection. The Main Street section of the museum includes a 1952 Chevy ambulance donated by the Vincentown Volunteer Emergency Squad, which has gone out of business.

Also on Main Street is a replica of Margaret Allen’s Department Store in Vincentown. “It was the ‘go to’ place when you needed something,” said Allen.

And Main Street contains replicates of Irick’s woodworking shop, a tinsmith, a cobbler, a butchershop, the First National Bank of Vincentown with original wooden teller’s cages, and a post office containing original boxes from Medford’s rural post office.

Although Vincentown didn’t have an appliance shop, the Allens decided to include one on their Main Street. “We had so many appliances in the barn that we thought we should display them,” said Allen. Visitors might see their mother’s or grandmother’s Coldspot or Maytag washer.

A popular display, especially around Halloween, is the Riverside Funeral Parlor complete with straw, basket-woven casket and tools of the grisly trade.

A library and toy shop, laundry, jail and airport office fill out Main Street.

“I love it here!” said Mrs. Claus.

Hours for the museum this holiday season are Friday and Saturday 6 to 8 p.m. and Sunday 4 to 6 p.m. until Dec. 23. Visitors can ride the trolley from museum to Scotia Acres or from Scotia Acres to the museum. Scotia Acres has Christmas trees for sale as well as other items in its store. Visitors can also view the alpacas. “Everything is lit up so at night you will be able to see and enjoy,” said Wagner.

For more information, go to jackallenmemorialmuseum@aol.com. There is a small donation requested for admission.

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

 

 

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