story and photos by Debbie Miller, special to The City Wire
It was the post-World War II era, and business leaders in Rogers knew they wanted to attract more industry to their town.
So photographer Hubert Musteen and Chamber of Commerce executive director Noel Boulware set out to make a film that would entice company leaders across the nation to bring their factories and their business to Rogers. The result was “America’s Heartland,” a 1954 film that highlighted offerings like recreational choices, educational opportunities and attractive, well-maintained homes. The film was used as part of the presentation when local businessmen went to Plymouth, Mich., to recruit Daisy Manufacturing to Rogers.
Those local leaders succeeded, and the rest, as they say, is history. That bit of history took center stage Friday night (Oct. 25) at the Rogers by the Reel gala, a fundraising event benefiting the Rogers Historical Museum Foundation.
Guests attending the dinner had the opportunity to relive some moments in the area’s colorful history and contemplate the future.
Pat Harris, chairman of the Rogers Historical Museum Foundation, talked to the audience briefly about a $4 million capital campaign that will finance a significant museum expansion. According to the museum’s website, the new Rogers Historical Museum “will offer more of what we’re already known for — real objects, true stories, and family fun and life-long learning.” The new facility, which will be directly west of the current museum structure on Second Street, will be 27,000 square feet in two stories.
Harris used the community’s history to explain his confidence that the fundraising drive will be a successful one. He noted that in the 1800s, residents of the area demonstrated their resolve and their commitment when officials with the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad sought to develop a route for the railroad from Missouri to Fort Smith, Ark. The residents of an area that wasn’t yet a town came together and made a successful pitch.
The outcome of the film “America’s Heartland” represents another example of what happens when people with a passion and commitment come together for a common cause, he said. Harris suggested the same would be true for the museum expansion. “We want to carry this dream on,” he said.
Channing Barker from television station KNWA introduced the film by first telling the audience that she had developed a special affinity for Rogers, its thriving downtown businesses and its connection to its railroad roots.
“I love the history that is here,” she said.
“America’s Heartland” showed such scenes as the Hillcrest Motel, vegetables and fruits being harvested from the fields, a milking operation on a dairy farm, people fishing on the White River and swimmers enjoying the water at Monte Ne. The concluding tagline was “Rogers: a place to live, a place to work, a place to play.” Following the presentation, members of the audience discussed their recollection of individuals and places depicted in the film, including Monte Ne.
The Oct. 25 event was the final gala for Gaye Bland as museum director. She planned to work Oct. 26 helping lead ghost walks in the Rogers historic district as her last official act in that role.
Bland said almost 70 people attended the fundraiser, conducted on the anniversary of the museum’s founding — Oct. 25, 1975. A tally of how much the event raised wasn’t immediately available.
John Burroughs, who has served as assistant director, will become the new museum director. Terrilyn Wendling will be the assistant director.