The Tustin Area Historical Society began as a result of Tustin' s celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. Planning for the celebration solidified in 1974 with the incorporation of the Tustin Area U.S. Bicentennial Foundation. With the close of the festivities in 1976, the Heritage Section of the Foundation became the Tustin Area Historical Society, keeping the incorporation as a non-profit organization.
The Heritage Section established the Tustin Area Museum in 1975 when the City offered the empty police building on Third Street for a temporary museum. There were three of us on that first museum committee: Vivien Owen, who went to all the meetings and spearheaded the painting and refurbishing of the police building, while Mary Etzold and I shared the museum work. We visited local museums, gathered sample forms, read books on procedures, and talked to experts in the field. We adopted the standard registration and catalog procedures outlined by the American Association for State and Local History. We established the policy of confining the collection to items pertaining to Tustin History.
Our first donor was Frances Adams Plumb, a native of Tustin who was then about 90 and preparing to move into a retirement home. From her we received many old photographs, tax and property documents, kitchen items, her little box of treasures and sewing cards from her kindergarten days, and four gingham dresses made for her in the early 1890's. With her stamp of approval on our efforts, we had no trouble building our collection.
By the close of 1976, the Society had an interim board of directors, which drafted the bylaws and set up the organization. The first elected board of directors, headed by Bob Hill, established a meeting pattern that is still maintained: the Society presents historical programs five times a year and holds some kind of picnic or pot-luck each summer. The Society conducts its business at board meetings; general meetings are programs. Most of our programs have been recorded and form the basis of our oral history collection. In 1978, the City - alas - sold the police building and it was demolished. The Knights of Pythias let us store the museum collection in their basement. When the two storefronts of the building became available a year later, we rented one and the Chamber of Commerce the other.
There followed six months of hard work as volunteers unpacked, fumigated, and moved the collection upstairs, built the storage shelves, planned and prepared the first exhibit, constructed and painted the display cases, and installed the exhibit. The City placed Tustin 's first fire truck on permanent loan and moved it into the building. The truck, a 1912 Buick which had been Sam Tustin s first automobile, had been lovingly restored by the Tustin Volunteer Fire Department and was a popular feature in many Tustin Tiller Days parades. Now, of course, they cannot get it out of the building. With the Chamber, we held another grand opening on September 28, 1979.
The Museum is THE project of the Tustin Area Historical Society and is supported by membership dues, donations, fund-raisers like the annual home and garden tour, book sales, and an annual grant from the City, which pays the rent.
Since 1985, we have had a paid part-time Registrar/ Office Manager who keeps us up-to-date on all the paper work involved in registering each item in the museum collection and who keeps things running smoothly. Our current manager is Marsha Lundin (pronounced Lundeen). All other work is done by volunteers.
Over the years, the museum has become a real community resource. Boy and Girl Scout groups, senior citizen classes, school classes, Japanese exchange students, researchers and history buffs are frequent visitors - as well as the curious who are just killing time while their cars are being lubed. Each visitor to the museum receives a free walking tour brochure, "Take Main Street to Tustin History," which was printed for us in 1983 by First American Title Company.
For me, one of the most challenging of our museum tours was for the Braille Institute. How do you show a museum to blind people? I never will forget the big grin on the face of a blind man as he "looked" at the engine of our fire truck with his fingers. He had been a mechanic and knew exactly what everything was. Another challenge was a group of exchange students from Japan. How do you explain Tustin history to people who do not speak much English? Lots of gestures and body language, that's how!
The Society has long encouraged the study of local history in our elementary schools. In 1977, the Tustin Unified School District published my "Tustin History, Facts, and Folklore" for use by the teachers. In 1988, in a joint effort, . both the school district and the Society published "Tustin is My Hometown," a coloring book for third-graders. Our latest project is "History in a Box." We have seven boxes which go out to third grade classrooms on a rotating basis. In the boxes are samples of period clothing, tools, books, and study prints that tell of life here around the turn of the century.
Recent publications also make the study of Tustin history accessible: Tustin: A City of Trees An Illustrated History of Tustin and The Landmark Trees of Tustin, both by Carol Jordan.
The purpose of the Society has been to stimulate pride in Tustin history, to maintain a museum, to present historical programs, to identify historical structures, and to promote historical research. We are proud of our accomplishments in these areas.
As we look to the future, we hope to improve and build on our past performance and to achieve solutions to some rather tough problems. We are already making progress: a new corps of docents will help with handling the increased public interest in visiting the museum and a new computer will help us organize the growing museum collection and membership.
The Tustin Area Museum is located at 395 El Camino Real in Old Town Tustin and is open from 9am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 12pm to 3pm the First and Third Saturdays of the month. The telephone number is (714) 731-5701.