At a recent meeting of the Hamburg Area Historical Society, its president, Elmer Schrack, voiced his concern that the organization was losing its momentum. This feeling was echoed by many in the audience, who have noticed falling attendance at the meetings and programs, and the need for more and younger members.
When it organized in 2001, there was a large group of enthusiastic people who were always ready to put their energies and ideas to work. In just the first few years of its existence, the Historical Society bought a building to house its museum, and quickly paid off the mortgage; began a quarterly newsletter that has never failed to include articles and photos of local focus; wrote and published several history books, two of which have completely sold out; and established a schedule of monthly meetings which always feature programs of local historical interest.
As of the end of 2001, there were at least 130 charter members. Membership has more than doubled since then. But many of the original members who were always willing to roll up their sleeves and get things done are now in their 70s and 80s. Some have died, and many others have moved away. While they still lend financial and moral support, they feel that the reins should be picked up by younger people now. In talking with people, it becomes evident that just about every organization is in the same boat. The spirit, the zeal, the enjoyment of socialization seems to have dried up like a spring in a drought.
The people who do take part in the Historical Society activities certainly enjoy them. There is the annual summer picnic, great field trips, and the Koffee Klatch group who gathers each morning to keep the world straight. And those who do the work involved with the museum, or tend the stands at Hamburger Day, or bring baked goods when called for, or work at the annual Chicken BBQ, certainly go home with a sense of accomplishment. The officers, committee people, and board members do not consider any of this a burden. Still, there comes a time when some younger hands manning the oars are needed. Who will answer the call?
A list of what the Hamburg Area Historical Society has accomplished in its 12-year history would fill many paragraphs. Each effort began with an idea, and progressed through planning, work, and management. The members did not just pay their dues and sit back. They took seriously the organization’s motto “preserving our past for the future,” and their work speaks for itself. The Memorial Brick Sidewalk in front of 102 State Street is one example. The museum, now bursting at the seams with donations of very precious items from many families, is taken care of by all-volunteer help. On the back of the building a World War II Memorial is preserved, and a flag flies above it. The organization’s four published books keep our local history available to all who would read them, and in addition, the library in the museum contains dozens of albums and notebooks, photos and newspaper accounts, and yearbooks. Tucked away on the walls and shelves are many little surprises and gems of local interest. All of these were not available a dozen years ago.
Every part of our big country has a unique heritage. This is where our own is preserved.