Cottonport Museum tells the story of a town

Discover Avoyelles

 

{Editor’s Note: “Discover Avoyelles” is a series of articles about attractions in Avoyelles that could be a short, day activity for families this summer. This edition features the Cottonport Museum and Cultural Center.}  
 
By RAYMOND L. DAYE
 
   There are a few institutions that define a town -- its schools, its churches, its homes to name a few.
   When you combine these institutions and look back at how they were and how they’ve changed over the years, its called “history.”
  History is not just battles and elections and disasters and triumphs. History is the story of a people, and the Cottonport Museum and Cultural Center tells the story of Cottonport and its residents.
   At this time, the museum and its corps of volunteers are preparing for the grand reunion of Cotton-port High School’s graduates. 
Work includes sprucing up and repairing a large number of trophies won in athletic and academic competitions from the school’s creation in 1929 until its secondary grades were removed by court order in 1988.
   “This is a wonderful place for a reunion,” Museum Board President Carlene Gauthier said, surveying the interior of the museum that is housed in one of the oldest buildings in town.
   The Wildcat Reunion is set for Aug. 29 and will be quite the event -- complete with a parade, lunch and dinner, a Mass for the deceased graduates, a band and party.
 
Meetings and reunions
   “We are focusing on using the museum as a meeting place and for events such as class reunions,” Museum Board member Bob Gauthier -- Carlene’s brother-in-law -- said.
   A look around the museum might give someone the impression that they were in their great-grandmother’s attic or storage shed. There are a variety of items. If there is a theme to the museum, it would have to be, “This is life.”
   “We keep adding things,” Ms. Gauthier said. “We are trying to diversify and present a variety of exhibits.”
   In one area, visitors can see a wringer washing machine next to a 1940s era television. Those used to today’s big screen TVs and computer monitors might not recognize it as TV.
   On another wall is memorabilia from World War II. Another display has the varsity sweater of beloved girls’ coach Lucille D. Couvillon, who mentored many young female athletes at Cottonport High, as well as teaching English.
    At the front is the Bible of Baptist minister L.D. Clepper, who many residents of all faiths knew and loved.
    A display also marks the important role St. Mary’s Assumption Catholic Church has played in the community.
 
Popular displays
   Popular displays include a large cotton wagon -- which had to be disassembled and reassembled inside the museum -- and the dentist’s chair of Dr. Stanley Perrot from the 1930s-40s era and examining table of Dr. Henry Kaufman, physician and mayor of the town in the 1950s.
   The tin ceiling tiles are both attractive and rare, Bob Gauthier said. The hand-made and embossed tiles were donated by James Bernard, whom Gauthier said has been a major supporter of the museum.
   Perhaps the museum’s prized possession is the original plat for the Town of Cottonport, a pencil-drawn document protected in a glass case.
   The building was originally the Cottonport Drug Store but has served as home to several other businesses over the years.
   The museum is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-3 p.m. Admission is by donation.
   The town owns the building, but all operating costs are through donations and events sponsored by the Museum Board or the Friends of the Museum organization.
   The museum’s largest event of the year is the Quilting Festival, which will be Sept. 12. The Quilters’ Guild meets at the museum and the museum sells quilting material.
   The festival extends into the “Cotton Queen” park in front of the museum and includes typical community festival activities and vendors.
   In a place of honor is a sealed canister containing items from community businesses. This time capsule, sealed in 2012, will be opened in 2037 to let the residents at that time have a better understanding of the history of their town as reflected in items of today.
   A building doesn’t have to have mummies, dinosaurs and original Rembrandts or Picassos to be a museum. It can earn the name just by having one thing -- heart. That’s something that is present in abundance at this small community museum.

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Marksville, LA 71351
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