'Obscure' household items capture Penryn's history

Artifacts from Kennedy collection on display at library
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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If history repeats itself, all those ordinary gadgets and household objects that fill your home could one day be someone’s treasure. For Cliff Kennedy, yesterday’s common household goods are worth holding on to. Kennedy is a history buff with an extensive historical collection and a wealth of knowledge of the area, especially of Penryn where he lives. Through special arrangements with the Penryn Library, Kennedy has agreed to loan them a case and fill it with some of his artifacts. The installations will focus on the history of Penryn, or history in general, as seen from a local perspective. “I see the library as a perfect place to showcase and share our rich local history,” Kennedy said. The first display, installed last October, centered on the history of Penryn's Japantown and included several photographs and pieces from his collection. Currently on view is an assortment of goods that were once considered common, everyday household necessities. The items are “now rather obscure, and in some cases, obsolete,” Kennedy said. “Each item is numbered, and the object is to guess what it was, or what it might have been used for.” Kennedy has assembled a binder identifying the objects and a brief description of how each item was used. The binder is placed on top of the display case for those needing a clue to the answers. “The local tie-in is that these were all items that could have been found in any Penryn home of 100 years ago,” Kennedy explained. A tall, wooden cylinder turns out to be a butter mold, used anytime from about 1880 to 1910. It was more common in the country where people had cows and made their own butter. “People in rural areas would sell their butter, just like they sold eggs,” Kennedy explained. To use the butter mold, Kennedy said, “You would soak it in cold water, pack the butter and clamp it closed. It’s hinged, so when you would open it up you would have a big round of butter.” The butter could be sliced and placed in round glass butter dishes that people often had sitting on their table. There’s also an octagonal mousetrap in the case. “It has four openings and would catch four mice at one time,” he said. The wooden device, which Kennedy estimates to be from about 1910, was also disposable. “Once you were done,” he said, “you’d toss it.” It was used, Kennedy said wryly, “until someone built a better mousetrap.” Librarian Kristine Brady said many patrons who visit the library make it a point to view the displays. “There’s a little boy who comes in with his grandparents and the first thing he asks for is the display,” Brady said. The boy, who appears to be 7 or 8 years old, she said, always asks, “Did he put in the new one yet?” Kennedy’s next installation will be about communications, primarily the telephone and its place in Penryn's history. Each display will run for three or four months. The current artifacts can be seen through June. The Penryn Library is located at the corner of English Colony and Rippey roads, next to the historic Masonic Hall and the post office. Hours are Tuesdays, 2 to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Thursdays and Fridays, 1 to 5 p.m. It is closed Sundays and Mondays.