Five residents of Collins have come together to preserve their community’s history.


The five of them make up the new Collins Historical Society, and each has taken a position as an officer in the group. Cliff Dalbey is president, Chuck Struthers is vice president, Doug Klemme is treasurer, Charlene Mullihan is secretary and Chris Huntrods is the historian.


Last week, Mullihan and Huntrods sat down to visit inside the Collins Community Center, where the group’s displays are being kept and showcased. The two discussed how the group came about and what the group hopes to achieve.


The Collins Historical Society held its first meeting back in March, with the five members all coming together because they had a shared interest in the community’s history.


“Chris and I both have families that go clear back through the 1800s,” Mullihan said, and the other members of the society also have family history in the area.


Huntrods said her kids always pressure her to get rid of some of the things sitting around, like lots of old Collins advertising/promotional items. But she could never bring herself to throw things away. “I wanted to preserve some of what is out there,” she said.


At one time, Collins had a betterment committee and Huntrods served on it. Her job with that group was to put together a book of information on the history of the schools and some other things in the community. Overall, however, the betterment committee wasn’t focused on history, but more on current efforts to better the community.


Still, working on a binder full of history, was a start for Huntrods in that area, helping her to see there were some interesting things about the community’s past. Her mother had loved history, she said. Huntrods admitted that she never really cared that much about history in her younger years.


“After my mom died a few years ago, she left all of her genealogy … and it’s become important to me… My mom would be shocked to know how much I like [history] now,” Huntrods said.


She and Mullihan agree that the older they get, the more they love looking back. “History is permanent,” Mullihan said. Being a history buff, she noted, “it’s just in my blood. My grandmother helped write Collins’ history books. I just love history.”


Huntrods agreed. “It’s been fun to remember back to when we were young … I sound just like my mom reminiscing.”


As it is getting started this year, the Collins Historical Society has pulled together items that its members have collected from their families, and other items of interest that have been contributed.


Mullihan said one of the most important things they’ve done so far is to secure six display cases and a set of swing panels that can be used to showcase the historic items they have.


Two of the glass display cases were donated by the beauty shop, as the current owner was no longer using them. One of the cases was donated by Chuck Struthers. The other three display cases were purchased for a reasonable price from someone wanting to sell them. Some of the cases have been painted since being acquired, so they will look nicer in the community center.


A variety of items are already on display. They include a pencil/pen collection from many former businesses and organizations in Collins; a mannequin wearing a Collins High School baseball suit from the late ’50s or early ’60s; items from the community’s centennial celebration in 1982; school items; and other old business items.


Huntrods and Mullihan admit their favorite case is one right inside the door, which has really antique items in it from businesses and organizations. One thing in that case is a Collins Schools lunch plate and spoon. Who knew that the school had an official plate and spoon?


In addition to these things, there are other items that have been collected and still need to be prepared for display, like an old postcard collection, advertising pieces, school programs and commencement programs, etc. “We need to get them all together and sort them out,” Mullihan said.


They also have many old newspapers that they need to decide how to display and preserve, as some have pages that are brittle and starting to crumble.


On the walls of the community center, there are already a number of framed historic pictures, and the Collins Historical Society has researched each one and added typed information on it.


Huntrods said she has also started work on a binder, where she’s trying to collect history information on every family that has been part of the community.


There’s a lot of work that will continue for this group. Its present membership also hopes to add more community members who have an interest in history. They have set $25 yearly membership dues, and those funds will help with the group’s work. In fact, they say, membership is open to anyone who wants to support the work of the group, including residents who may no longer live in Collins, but who feel strongly about the preservation of the community’s history.


It should be noted that there has been interest by former Collins residents in the history of the community. In fact, several Collins residents were active when the Maxwell history community and museums were first established. That was an area history endeavor in the early years for both communities, which have been closely tied together as neighbors.


As they look forward to the work they plan to do, Mullihan and Huntrods are excited about learning more about the place they call home — this town that began a mile northeast of its present location in about 1875 — and then in 1881 moved a bit when the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway line passed through the southern half of the township. It’s these interesting things about the town, and the people who have formed it throughout the years, that make history worth preserving, and have this group poised to be an advocate of historic preservation efforts in the town.


Even though they don’t have a museum or center like some communities do, they aren’t bothered by that.


The displays they are able to showcase in the town’s community center make the history available to everyone who uses that facility. “I like to see that when the community center is used for any type of gathering,” said Mullihan, “people can walk around and look at the history that we have in here.”