Midvale History Museum Provides a Story of Community
Nov 09, 2015 08:30AM ● Published by Amanda Butler
By Amanda Butler
Midvale residents can revisit the city’s past and learn the story of the community at the Midvale History Museum. The mission of the museum “is to collect, preserve and interpret for the public benefit, education and enjoyment, the historical heritage of Midvale City, Utah.” The museum is located at 7697 South Main Street in Midvale, and is open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
The museum has artifacts and pictures from the Midvale-Jordan area, spanning a time period of about 1851 to 1960. There is also a newspaper archive of the Midvale Sentinel from 1925 to 1987. Bill Miller, the president of the Midvale Historical Society, said of the artifacts on display in the museum: “At least 75 percent of everything in here has been donated by people from Midvale.”
Miller has been the president of the Midvale Historical Society for just over a year, but has volunteered at the museum and been a member of the board of directors for 12 years. He said his interest in Midvale’s history is “because this is the way I grew up. I was born on a farm that had no electricity. This museum reminds me of the home where I grew up. I love all history museums, and the thing I love about this museum is I call it a family history museum because so much of everything we have in here ties back to a member of a family from Midvale.”
Miller said his favorite items were in the laundry area of the museum, “because it’s things that I grew up with. It brings back memories. I still love the good old days. I would never want to go back to it and do it on a permanent basis. It would be fun to vacation in the old days, but as far as going back to those times, as much as I loved it, I love modern technology.” But in the museum, Miller said, “I can live yesterday or I can live tomorrow.”
Andy Pazell has volunteered at the museum for two years. He said his favorite thing about the museum is the collection of vintage photographs, which show a glimpse of the everyday lives of people in the community. “It’s the people. It really comes back to the people for me and thinking about how they lived.”
Pazell said he enjoys helping museum visitors learn about their family history. “It’s the personal connections that I really like. I like finding the photos and helping people find family members in photos. I get a real kick out of finding things for them they might never have seen.” Pazell has even found information about his own family members in the museum. “I found photos of my dad in the newspaper that I’ve never seen before. So just knowing that there’s something out there that I haven’t seen just keeps me hunting. It’s like solving a mystery sometimes.”
Pazell called Midvale “a wonderful place to grow up. It was like Mayberry. We just had a whole circle of places we could go and get snow cones, soda pops. There was a drive-in theater up on the corner. Everything was walking distance. It was just a fun place to grow up. Bill says he doesn’t want to go back to the old days, but I do. I wish my kids could have experienced the childhood I did.”
Pazell even remembers a time when Midvale had a 10 p.m. curfew. “There was an air raid siren on top of city hall and at 10 o’clock the sirens rang and you had to be off the streets. I have this memory of jumping behind bushes when we heard the siren. You felt like you were on a prison break because if you saw a cop on the other side of the street, you were running or hiding. But the cops would just put a little fear into you before sending you home.”
One of the lessons Pazell hopes that museum visitors will take away from the museum is the spirit of community. “I think the great lesson of Midvale is it’s a melting pot. People from all different cultures were here—the Greeks, the Yugoslavians, the Latinos, the Japanese. Everyone learned how to live together, so my goal is to get that across. That we’re all part of this human race, and we all breathe the same air, as President Kennedy said.”
During Pazell’s childhood in Midvale, “many of the business owners on the street were famous for letting people who were between paychecks from the copper mine charge their stuff until pay day. People really looked out for each other here. They had a real community here. They had celebrations—Harvest Days celebrations were huge: parades, and games and rodeos. Most of that’s been lost. But we try to keep the memories going because it’s going to be forgotten.”
“I think delving into history can open your mind up to other people—the struggles that they went through,” Pazell said. “I think history helps to teach kids that their predecessors had to struggle to get where we are right now, and they can see that here.”
If you are interested in learning more about Midvale’s history, the museum is looking for volunteers. Call (801) 569-8040 for more information.