More than 40 years have passed since Tehachapi Heritage League volunteers opened the first museum. Early volunteers at the Museum were Del Troy, Ed and Jeanette Sense, and Shirley Dye. Soon Jerrie Cowan and her mother, Dottie Newton, joined the group. Of our present docents, Del Troy and Pat Gracey have the most seniority. Del was there from the beginning and Pat became active in the early 1980’s.
Del Troy remembers: “Since the opening of the Tehachapi Museum on July 4, 1973 I have been a docent. The word docent wasn’t used until recent years. We were all just volunteers.
“While we were still in the Chamber of Commerce building on G Street (now Tehachapi Blvd.), in 1975 the Senior Citizens Group and Delta Eta Theta Sorority agreed to be responsible to have a volunteer work at the museum one weekend a month. This worked well, but not for long, as some of the volunteers did not like being there with no telephone.
“By the second year we had decided to be open only on Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. I think we tried to be open during the week the first summer, but realized we didn’t have enough volunteers to be open that often.
“In 1984 Dottie Newton and Jerrie Cowan added Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 to 12 noon as days open as well as Saturday and Sunday. They and other volunteers would be there to not only have the museum open, but do whatever work was needed to be done.
“Through the years, the days and time we were open was changed until more recent years Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12 noon to 4 pm seems to work well.”
Pat Gracey remembers: “Jerrie Cowan and her mother, Dottie Newton, had encouraged me to volunteer. Having grown up in Tehachapi I knew a bit about this and that concerning the area, but what I did not know about the actual history of the area was astounding. The Museum building, to me, was the old public library where I had gone as a child.
“The four-hour docent shift I spent working there went by quickly as I was kept busy learning what I did not know and telling what I did know. I recall phoning Jerrie Cowan one day and asked, ‘Where in the heck is Mormon Canyon?’ It had been there all along, but I had never known that.
“Sometimes I was glad to impart some facts that others did not know and that helped me hang in there. I grew up in the ‘pre-earthquake’ town of Tehachapi and people continually ask me where a certain old business was actually located. That makes me feel good!
“There is so much to share and if it is not shared it’s forgotten, forever. It would be a shame not to pass on the history of one’s community and keep alive the memories and hard work of those long ago settlers. Instead of being a name on a genealogy chart we can say, ‘Oh yes, that person was not only the Constable for many years, but his father built the first home in Tehachapi.’ I feel a great responsibility to tell about those people and their contributions to our community. It helps keep the spirit of camaraderie and friendliness that Tehachapi has always been known for, alive.”
Del and Pat continue to work multiple days each month. When I started as a docent, about 2005, we had only about 8-10 volunteers. Our group has grown to 35 volunteers, some working only one or two days a year, and others working as many as 37 days. Every volunteer is important to the success of the Museum and every volunteer makes a significant contribution.