Archive for Monday, December 21, 2015

1950s all-electric house nears end of time in Shawnee

Bette Ahrens gives one of her last tours as a volunteer for the 1950s all-electric house at the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee.

Bette Ahrens gives one of her last tours as a volunteer for the 1950s all-electric house at the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee.

December 21, 2015

Bette Ahrens has been guiding tours around the 1950 all-electric house in Shawnee for 15 years and on Saturday, she and the staff at the museum celebrated her last day.

The aluminum Christmas tree stands in the 1950s all-electric house as the last rounds of tours are given at the museum's current Shawnee location.

The aluminum Christmas tree stands in the 1950s all-electric house as the last rounds of tours are given at the museum's current Shawnee location.

Since 2000, Ahrens has dedicated almost every Friday to the Johnson County Museum exhibit. She has only missed her designated tour day for holidays and rare personal vacations.

"Gotta stay busy," she says with a smile.

She has dedicated a lot to the museum and she says she will miss giving tours at the museum.

The Johnson County Museum, along with the 1950s all-electric house, is picking up and moving to the King Louie building on Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park in 2016. The 1950s house, which was originally moved to Shawnee in 1998 from Prairie Village, will be moved in its entirety inside the King Louie building in March or April.

Tours will continue and people will be able to see virtually the same exhibit at the new location, but Ahrens will take other volunteer responsibilities for the museum.

Christmas is a particularly special time around the 1950s all-electric house as all of the retro Christmas decorations come out for the "A Very 50s Christmas" tour events. The aluminum Christmas tree in the house, the same one that has been used for 15 years, goes up next to an old doll house and popular toys from 1950.

Ahrens said she loves meeting people from across the region who come to the house to experience a glimpse of their past. There have been an estimated 55,000 visitors to the all-electric house since 1998.

"Some of them are so excited," Ahrens said. "It gives a sense of nostalgia for the older folks and is more educational for the younger."

Ahrens has led people through every room of the house, reciting 1950s trivia and educating them on how the all-electric house worked. All-electric houses became popular following World War II as a house of the future for the expanding middle class in America.

Anne Jones, the curator of collections for the Johnson County Museum, said the mission of the museum will remain the same in its new location and should give people the same sense of nostalgia as it does in Shawnee. And, because the house will be strategically placed in the new county museum, she hopes even more people will get to experience it.

"We hope that more people will see it because everything will be all together," Jones said.

Jones said that the museum has welcomed more guests since the announcement of the move because people feel inclined to see it before it leaves Shawnee. Ahrens said she has been surprised by the amount of people who live in Shawnee but had yet to visit the house.

"Now people are realizing that they really need to come in if they want to see it in this format," Jones said.

The house at the new museum will shift the focus the emphasis on the 1950s all-electric amenities of the house to a message that encompasses post-war development in America and trends in home ownership at the time.

Though Ahrens will no longer be giving tours, she plans to continue volunteering for the museum.

Through Jan. 2, tours will continue Monday through Friday every half hour from 1 to 4 p.m. On Saturdays, tours begin every half hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children age 5 to 12. Museum members and children under 5 are admitted free. Group tours may be scheduled by calling 913-715-2570 for advanced reservations on weekday morning tours. For more information, call the Johnson County Museum at 913-715-2575 or visit the Museum’s website at www.jocogov.org/museum.

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