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Hooked up with history

Local museum offers knowledge, expertise on all things Rocklin
By: Susan Belknap, Placer Herald Editor
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If you’re looking for a way to spend an afternoon without spending any money (and who isn’t these days), then pack a lunch and head to the Rocklin History Museum, Rocklin’s first and only public museum. What, you didn’t know Rocklin had a museum? The Rocklin History Museum has been open since 2002. Admission is free (although donations are accepted) and volunteer docents are there to offer their knowledge and expertise about everything Rocklin. The museum is a historical residence built around 1905 that was used for many years as the home and doctor’s office of Dr. Henry D. Fletcher. The home includes a doctor’s waiting room and examination area, which are now museum display areas. Fletcher was the Southern Pacific Railroad’s district surgeon and the attending physician when Marshal Sam Renaldi and saloon owner Ulysses Homes killed each other in a gunfight at Blackwell’s stable in 1914. Rocklin merchant C.A. Moon purchased the house in 1936 and converted it to a house for his family using the basement as a storage area for his grocery business that was located in the granite building across the street, which is now home to Rocklin’s city hall. Rocklin resident and founder of the Rocklin Historical Society Roy Ruhkala devotes many hours to the museum. Ruhkala said the historical society began getting together in 1988 with about a half a dozen members. Today more than 200 people have a membership with the club. Members such as Jack Schwab whose grandfather owned the general store on Railroad Avenue is one of the society’s more active members. “I’ll always be proud of my ties to Rocklin,” Schwab said. “The museum has photos of the old store and even some receipts as well.” In addition to dozens of photographs from the city’s past, many of which are from Ruhkala’s private collection, the 1,000-square-foot home and 500-square-foot basement contain items that offer a glimpse of what life was like in Rocklin in the early days. “We’ve got a stove that was used around 1900 and an iron as well,” Ruhkala said. “There are other kitchen items like pots and pans, a coffee grinder and a butter maker.” There’s even an old telephone that Ruhkala remembers. “In the old days you could call the operator and she’d tell you if someone was home or not,” he said. According to Ruhkala, the oldest item in the museum is a drilling machine that dates back to about 1870. For those not familiar with Rocklin history, a lot can be learned about the quarry facility, Union Granite Company that operated in the city for several decades. In fact, the entire basement museum area is filled with old tools and equipment from those early years. Ruhkala said the first two stories of the state capitol building and several locations in San Francisco feature granite mined from the Rocklin quarry. Roger Lokey, Rocklin Historical Society president said the museum is “a real gem.” “There is an immense amount of information here. People can learn quite a bit just by visiting here. We’d like to be able to preserve as much of Rocklin’s history as we can.” For those interested in joining the club, Lokey said the meetings are held at 7 p.m. the third Monday of each month at the Rocklin Library. Dues are $25 per year. For more information visit rocklinhistoricalsociety.com.