Floyd Creek’s impeccable WWII uniform hangs smartly from a mannequin’s shoulders in the Military Room at what is hoped to be a new museum in New Castle.
The 87-year-old Eminence resident was proud to contribute to Barbara Ann Callahan’s new enterprise — in New Castle’s historic Heritage House — that displays historic clothes and memorabilia. “It was the first thing he did when he found out I was opening the museum,” she said.
The museum is not yet open, though Callahan said she hopes to have it open by Christmas.
Her extensive military collection — in a room Callahan said is her favorite and would make “a great educational opportunity” — includes uniforms and related objects from many sources. “This is my passion,” she said. “I’ve had so many family and friends in the military and I believe in honoring them.”
An 1860s Civil War era dress of confederate stars on a red, white and blue field was purchased from the estate of Kentuckian D.W. Griffith. A glass frame enshrines a piece of parachute silk inscribed with the Flying Tigers parachute message in 18 Asian languages.
Another display features the personal effects of WWII’s Admiral Ehrdman. The centerpiece is a meticulously hand carved model airplane made by the men in his command. It was an exact replica of the planes flown from the deck of an aircraft carrier. The base of the model is a smooth-sanded piece of wood from the runway.
Everything from a Russian Mig pilot’s helmet to a Bible distributed to members of the armed forces by President Franklin Roosevelt is displayed in a way that keeps the museum-goer interested, and Callahan’s knowledge of the subject matter is vast.
It all began innocently enough. When Callahan met Bonnie Bloom at a backyard cookout in the 1970s, both wore vintage clothing. The two became fast friends and soon pooled their resources to open a vintage clothing shop in the Louisville Highlands neighborhood. They called it Park Place. “It was not quite Boardwalk,” Callahan said. A year-and-a-half later vintage went out of style and Bloom took off to be a flight attendant, but the partnership and shop laid the foundation for what was to come. “I give her all the credit in the world,” Callahan said.
Callahan went on to parlay an education in theater and her ever-growing collection of historical clothing and costumes into shows of a most original nature. She would dress models in themed costumes for corporate as well as charitable events. She was tapped to produce “100 Years of Derby Fashion” at the posh Barnstable Derby Party, and later produced a kick-off event for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Run using 20 volunteers from Henry County.
When Callahan and husband, James, moved to Eminence four years ago, she quickly assimilated into the community. She lent her clothes and expertise to a number of local events. At the New Castle Spring Fling, she dressed Henry Countians in Victorian clothing. They ambled about the courthouse grounds lending an air of bygone splendor to the festivities. As New Castle Main Street manager, Callahan put together shows for a variety of holidays and events. From “Christmas in London” to a Memorial Day tribute, she enjoyed participation in the civic life of Henry County.
Callahan was active with Henry County schools as well. She co-coached and costumed student participants in three consecutive Odyssey of the Mind competitions. She also created all the costumes for the Henry County High School production of “The Little Shop of Horrors.”
Callahan still creates window dressings for Eminence Cleaners and Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant. “I saw an empty window in Eminence, it was the Hong Kong Restaurant,” she said. “I’ve been doing it now for three-and-a-half years.” The restaurant owner’s daughter, Jenny, 7, began helping with decorations two years ago. “Last time we did it, Jenny did the whole left side by herself,” she said.
Callahan was temporarily slowed down earlier this year after a stroke affected her left side. “I still have trouble using my left hand,” she said. Determined to improve quickly, Callahan underwent rigorous rehabilitation three days a week for several months.
Her motivation was a planned trip to visit both of her daughters and granddaughters this summer. Daughter, Stephanie, 37, is a marine biologist residing in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her granddaughter, born Oct. 4, 2007, is Callahan’s namesake, Brynn Ann. Younger daughter, Lokelani, 34, nicknamed “Loki” after the Norse God of Mischief lives in London, England. Granddaughter, Lillian was born June 30, 2007.
Back from her visits, Callahan has now harnessed most of her energy to create the museum, a permanent home for all her accumulated treasures. “I want it all under one roof in my lifetime,” she said.
The rooms have designations such as the Russian Room and Aunt Martha’s Bridal Room (where the bridal gowns and veils can be bought or rented). There’s also the South American Room, Oriental Room and Baby Room.
The Baby Room has a three-tier shelf that is home to a collection of Callahan’s dolls, as well as her children’s and her mother, Elaine Richardson’s dolls.
One room is all shoes. Another is filled with the fashions of the 1920’s. Every room, including the closets, is full to overflowing. It’s a work in progress. “I’ve only been in the building for two months,” she said.
Artwork and photos clamor for wall space. Callahan painted “Dad’s Red Barn” which garnered First Place at the 2008 Shelby County Homemakers competition. Her father Errol Richardson’s oil portraits of his mother, Laura D. Richardson, and one of President John F. Kennedy also are displayed. The last photo taken of Marilyn Monroe is there along with a portrait of Clark Gable painted by famed Greenwich Village artist Papa John.
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