Wire and Threads

Pioneer Museum has been a local attraction for 50 years and, with each passing year, it receives more acclaim on its quest to cement the title of Best of the West. With 5,000 annual visitors and 6,000 local artifacts, one might think they’ve seen it all. Funded solely by donations and maintained and staffed by volunteers, the museum board of directors put together an event to say “Thank you.”
Wire and Thread — don’t seem like they go together do they? Matter of fact, they seem like two things you’d want to keep apart from one another. Normally, yes, but in this case the museum is showcasing these two crafts that began as necessities as our area was developing.
On Thursday, March 8, from 5 to 7 p.m., there will be simultaneous shows of these two skills: a quilt display and the official opening of the revamped barbed wire collection. There’s the connection of ‘wire and thread.’ Last year’s quilt display event was so popular, it was decided to host it again. Some 30 or so locally-made quilts will be on display throughout the museum’s halls.
Everyone knows about quilts, but a barbed wire collection — hmmm, that’s a new thought.
F.W. “Swift” Jewell was known as Mr. Paso Robles because of his tremendous contributions throughout Paso’s organizations. After serving in the military during and after WWII, he moved to Paso where he became the Executive Manager of The Chamber of Commerce from 1968 to 1985. As a collector across many different subjects, antique barbed wire was one of them. In 1970, Swift donated his collection of almost 1,000 pieces to Pioneer Museum. They’ve been there all these 47 years, against a back wall mostly unnoticed. In 2017, the California Barbed Wire Collectors Association became interested in the collection and offered to help turn it into a formidable display.
Under the leadership of Mark Nelson, a small team of members did the researching, identifying, categorizing and labeling each piece. Meanwhile, Rick Heim, a museum construction volunteer, built display racks and added lighting for a proper display area in Transportation Hall in the museum. While barbed wire may be just a passing thought and something “not to get your shirt or pants caught on,” it’s really quite an eye-opener to see all the various samples of barbed wire in an organized and easy-to-view open setting.
Where was it first made? Why so many types? Who first came up with the idea? Well, come on down to the event and get these and other answers!
Last year, the 1/3 scale replica of the original Paso Robles Hotel was finished after being a two-year project. It occupies most of the north wall in the upper hall and certainly is a sight to behold. It’s easy to wonder about who stayed there, what the rooms were like and of course, how did it actually catch on fire. This was the Museum’s largest project ever and seeing it finished brings out three words – wow, it’s fabulous!
Many other displays and enhancements have been finished and there is a continual list of projects on the ‘to do’ list.
Visit Pioneer Museum. Take a look. Get reacquainted. Be amazed. On March 8, get thanked for your patronage! Pioneer Museum is no longer “the best kept secret in town” but rather, it’s a gathering spot, a local treasure, a destination location, and the best darn possible way to learn our local history through the medium of artifacts. Enjoy free appetizers, wine, water and sodas. Members of the Barbed Wire Association will also be on hand to explain and answer questions about the collection and what their organization does. Quilters will be in attendance to discuss their craft and Museum members will be happy to answer all sorts of questions.
Even though this is an evening event in the middle of the week, parents are definitely encouraged to bring the children. These displays are as great a learning experience as they’ll get in any classroom and it just might be their opportunity to teach the teachers! The quilts will be on display throughout March and the barbed wire remains a permanent display.