T’s “JoePa and Memaw” (AKA my dad) lives in Hemet, CA. Those of you who’ve been following RMT since the beginning might already know this from posts like this one (which I’ve recently updated, by the way) or even this. Because we find ourselves visiting with a much older T now and about four-to-six times a year or so, it’s become important that we find new kid-friendly and fun, family spots to check out during our day trips.
One new place we discovered last Saturday was the Hemet Museum. Located in Downtown Hemet in the former Santa Fe Depot, the museum is on the surface a seemingly small but quite deep and extensive historical collection of all things Hemet and the broader surrounding San Jacinto Valley. The freight house portion of the depot was built in 1898 and is one of the oldest structures in the downtown area. Lovingly restored by Save Our Station, the depot has been Hemet Museum’s home since 1998.
Established by the Hemet Heritage Foundation, the museum’s mission is “to preserve, restore, protect, and maintain the historical heritage of the area for the benefit, education, and enjoyment of present and future generations.” The foundation and its volunteers meet expectations with this mission, both artistically and historically, through a wide variety of displays.
There’s one wall devoted to the history and service of California National Guard in this area, but just around the corner is an old dentist’s chair and work station from approximately 50 years ago that was used in town locally. Another area of the museum showcases an old scoreboard from the local high school; at another turn is an exhibit on the history of the telephone, including an old switchboard used by local operators back in time. While the telephone timeline could use an update (ending in 1976), visitors get the general idea of just how far we’ve come with technology (and so many other necessities and luxuries) over the years.
The Hemet Museum also appeared to boast a wonderful historical library, including such documents as local posters, books, newspapers, and other communications from Hemet’s past. This caught my eye as it brought me back to a time in my youth when I could have used and abused such an awesome resource when compiling my California History project in junior high school. While I didn’t focus on Hemet with that project, I can only imagine the projects that remain concealed within this collection, combined with the other available dioramas and exhibits on the museum floor.
Despite the museum’s location in an old train depot, there’s not much inside the museum related to trains per se. However, we did find a few train things that caught T’s eye, along with C and my dad’s. Choo choo!
We also were somewhat amused by many of the gift shop offerings, including the above sign. Long story short, recently T asked C if “when he got older was he going to Hemet?” C told him he didn’t think so, but the conversation didn’t end there. T brought the topic up again a week or two later when a dear neighbor of ours passed away earlier this year; he asked if she was going to Hemet. C replied, “No, T, she died,” to which T quickly responded, “Yeah, so like Grandma Mary Ann, is she going to Hemet?” (Grandma Mary Ann passed in August 2010.) C and I finally realized that T was asking if C, the neighbor, and Grandma Mary Ann were GOING TO HEAVEN once they got older and then died.
Ah! So as T and the old bumper sticker proclaims – along with this Facebook page – maybe on some level it’s true that “Hemet is Heaven.” Well, OK, perhaps that’s going too far for some, but I will tell you that the Hemet Museum is a cozy and complete shrine to all things Hemet-related, past and present, with wonderful offerings for future generations to come.
The Hemet Heritage Foundation and the Hemet Museum are located at the corner of Florida Avenue and State Street in Downtown Hemet. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-to-3 p.m., September-July (closed August); admission is free. You can also follow the museum on Facebook for special events and other news and announcements. You can purchase tickets for the 90th Anniversary performances of “Ramona” here.
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