Become a museum member!
We're setting up new exhibits, so our our doors won't re-open until May 3, 2024. But we have special events planned for this winter, including our monthly "First Thursday" ZOOM program series.
To become a member:
Mail a check made out to TROTOM to
PO Box 121, Three Oaks MI 49128
Individual memberships are $15, family memberships $25
Be sure to include a note with your email address on it
so that we can alert you to upcoming programs.
Museum screens latest documentary
"Small Town, Big Ride"
On Apple Cider Century weekend in September, the museum screened its latest documentary film, which covers the ACC's history of nearly 50 years. The film is the sixth produced for TROTOM by museum board member Nick Bogert. Showings were at the Three Oaks Heritage Hall, which is owned by the museum.
The 100-mile "century" ride was the brainchild of the Three Oaks Spokes Bicycle Club President Bryan Volstorf, who has been organizing the event since its inception in 1974. Volstorf sat for a 2-hour interview and provided hundreds of photos and even some videos taken over the last 50 years of biking fun on Michiana roads.
Volstorf and his children, Marcia and Tim, recall mishaps and "rookie mistakes" made in the early years, but also talk about some of the actions that helped the ride grow. Within five years, the ACC became the nation's biggest one-day century event. It eventually grew to include more than 7000 riders, providing a big boost to the area's economy and exposure that contributed to an economic rebirth for the region of Three Oaks.
DVD copies of "Small Town, Big Ride" are available at the museum and by mail. Cost for in-person purchase is $10 per disc. Those ordering by mail should add $5 for shipping and
Museum Open House puts artifacts
newly-arrived from MSU on display
handling. Other TROTOM documentaries are available for the same price. Available titles include:
E. K. Warren: Father of Featherbone-- The story of Edward Kirk Warren, whose invention of Featherbone in the 1880's transformed Three Oaks into a manufacturing center and fashion capital.
The Pokagon Band: More than Just a Casino-- The history of the local band of Pototwatomi, whose chief, Leopold Pokagon, successfully defied attempts by the US government to remove them from their lands (other Potowatomi suffered heavy loss of life during forced marches to lands west of the Mississippi)..
Gridder, Grappler, Hustler, Spy: The Incredible Life of Joe Savoldi-- Born in Italy, raised in Three Oaks, Joe Savoldi was a multi-sport star at Three Oaks High, a brilliant running back under Knute Rockne at Notre Dame and for George Halas and the Chicago Bears, a globe-trotting pro wrestler who briefly held a world championship (though the match was probably fixed). Savoldi was also a US spy during World War II. A saga worthy of a Hollywood screenplay-- but it's true!
Lights! Camera! Three Oaks!: The Making of Prancer-- A look back to the winter of 1989, when the Three Oaks area became a film set for the Christmas movie "Prancer". This film features interviews with director John Hancock, the film's young star, Rebecca Harrell, and some of the locals who appeared in the film and saw their town transformed into a soundstage.
Lifestyles of the Mich(iana) and Famous-- Profiles of some of the celebrated folks who have had second homes in Michiana, including social work pioneer Jane Addams, poet Carl Sandburg, Olympic hero Jesse Owens, and TV personalities Oprahe Winfrey and Roger Ebert.
On Labor Day weekend, TROTOM opened up its newly-completed storage annex and let the public in to see some fascinating artifacts just returned to the museum collection.
Among the items just arrived from storage at Michigan State: a horse-drawn hearse used in turn-of-the-century Three Oaks, an elegant Studebaker Brougham carriage, two sleighs, an ornate parlor mirror, and a giant blacksmith's bellows.
These remarkable artifacts will remain in TROTOM's collections. Because of their size, they can only go on display periodically. The Open House event was the first, but not the last opportunity to see them.
Attendees also got to check out new archival shelving units being donated to TROTOM, shelving that will maximize use of the new and badly-needed storage space.
"110 years of Driers-- the Straight Baloney"
an entertaining history
Carolyn Drier and Garry Lange laid out the very entertaining history of Three Oaks oldest business, Drier's Meat Market, on the evening of July 3rd. The pews of St. John's Church— where generations of Driers worshipped in German— were well-populated with fans of the meat market run by Drier family members for 110 years now. Many members of the extended Drier family were in attendance.
Carolyn is the third generation of Driers to run the shop, and Garry spent several years as a teen working alongside Edward Drier, Jr., whose wit and wisdom produced lots of laughs and nods of recognition in the audience. Our thanks to Carolyn and Garry, and also to Pastor Rich Zeiger of the Real Life Community Church for allowing us to present the program in the beautiful sanctuary of St. John's, where stained glass windows bear the names of Three Oaks' earliest German immigrants. One of them, is Theodore Drier, whose descendants have created a beloved local institution.
Exhibits that debuted this year include:
Beauty salons and barber shops of yesteryear, highlighting the haircutting Covert family-- Chuck Covert and his sisters Kathy, Cecil, Blanche, Babe, and Helen-- all owned salons and barber shops in Michiana.
The great immigration wave from Germany and Holland that transformed our region, bringing some well-known extended families-- think Driers, Hellengas, Klutes. They faced great hardship, moving to Michigan, but very quickly became a potent economic and political force in their new home.
Girl and Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls. If you remember outings to Soni Springs, Lake Madron, or Dr. Valentiejus' place in New Buffalo, you may have been a scout. If not, you'll enjoy learning about those iconic scouting sites.
Our focus on local road names highlights the Gowdys of Union Pier, who prospered by first logging, then farming, and then developing Union Pier, once known as "Gowdytown". Gowdy Parkway and several other streets in Union Pier bear names from the Gowdy family tree.
2023 museum season underway
Museum agriculture display
named for Sen. Ron Jelinek
State Senator Ron Jelinek was a driving force behind the effort to bring a history museum back to the region of Three Oaks (The Chamberlain-Warren Museum closed in 1952, after 36 years in existence).
Ron and his wife Dianne have been faithful supporters of the museum ever since, and many of the artifacts in our farming exhibit were donated by Ron. No surprise-- before he was elected to office, Ron had taught agriculture and science at River Valley High School.
On Thursday, May 4-- at our Volunteers and Members preview-- the museum unveiled a plaque naming the agricultural display after Ron Jelinek. Thanks for all the support over the decades, Senator!
Becoming a museum member--the basics
Want to help us preserve the history of our area, continue offering exhibits and programs, and tell stories of Michiana through social media? Becoming a member is easy. Just send a check-- $15 for an individual membership, $25 for a family membership-- to PO Box 121 in Three Oaks MI 49128. Be sure to add a note giving us your address, phone number, and especially email, so we can keep you informed of what's going on at the museum.
Three Oaks' First Plane