Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
It’s a labor of love meant to give Bullard residents a glimpse into the city’s past through photos and mementos collected by long-time local physician Marjorie Ferrell Roper.
“I love to see the people, it’s just good to see them – I’ve delivered some, and I’ve had to see some of them die and be buried, but they’re just like family,” she said, describing the townsfolk who are close to her heart. “My dream is to have it as a community resource, and my family, I hope, will continue (running it).”
The grand opening of the Bullard Historical Museum is slated for 11 a.m. today, following the local Red, White and Blue Festival parade. The museum is located downtown at 105 N. Phillips, in the former O.L. Ferrell Drug Store.
Her father purchased the store in 1919, and three generations of family – including 91-year-old Roper – have operated a business there, said family friend and retired school teacher Jan Berry.
Today, Roper's son, Tom Roper, and his wife Linda, who served as her mother-in-law's nurse-practitioner at one time, own the store.
Counters and shelves line the walls at the front half of the store, reflecting different bits of Roper's collection. On the left-hand side of the room, photos and military memorabilia make up a large section of a display.
Pointing toward a section of photos featuring young men in military uniforms, Roper focused on a particular group of youths.
“These eight boys right here in these pictures were graduates of Bullard School during WWII and they all got killed. I knew everyone of them,” she said quietly. “I knew them all.”
Looking across the room, she spied the store's former soda fountain, the focal point of her earliest recollection: “One of my oldest memories was to sell ice cream, and my brother built fires in the stove that was right over there, and it made us feel like we were part of (the business),” she said, pointing toward the back of the drug store. It was just my second home, I lived in the house right behind it, and I was just back and forth (between the two buildings). My mother and dad both worked here – she was a great mother, she kept house, but she helped Dad, too.
“We just grew up here,” she said. “It was home.”
As visitors move toward the back half of the building, they will notice an elaborate carved wooden wall that partitions off the original pharmacy, as well as a wall telephone nearby, with well-used phone numbers scribbled in ink on the door jamb below.
Beyond that area are a warren of examining rooms set up for display of Roper's various collections. There's a room featuring her beloved dolls, and another with books both collected by the doctor and donated by residents; yet another room features music-related paraphernalia, such as old radios.
“I had so much stuff, I never threw anything away. I inherited from parents and my in-laws and my sibling – they were going to throw everything away, so I’ve kept it in boxes all these years,” she said. “There are boxes and boxes (of memorabilia that) I still haven’t unpacked all of it – we've got some of it in rooms that I said I wasn't going to open yet, because I've got to (go through) the boxes and get rid some of this.”
Chuckling, she added, “And I really am going to get rid of some things, but as I’m going through these boxes, I find things like notes ... I’ve kept everything.”
Roper had her practice here. “When I came back in 1947 that part back there” -- points to a fire extinguisher down the hallway -- “it was all just storage. So my dad extended it to the back door, so I’ve always been here.”
Her dad's drug store holds lots of memories for her, like working alongside her younger brother, Dr. Oran “Bud” Ferrell for eight years during her 50-year stint as a small-town doctor, and treating four generations of patients during that time.
“Four generations of same families. And that’s been so good, because you know about the family, where they come from,” giving her insight whenever she treated them.
By setting up the museum in the family's building, Roper is able to combine two things very dear to her heart: Local history and a love of the people she's served for so long.
“They've been hearing me talk about it for two years, and people have been coming by, wanting to know what's going on and we tell them 'Saturday, we'll let you come in,'” she said. “We wanted to do it last year (in time for the town's Red, White and Blue Festival), but we didn't quite get around to it.”
Berry, who is helping her friend set up the museum displays, said people “seem to be excited, and they share some memory of coming here as a patient or a customer of the drug store.”
The museum will be free to the public, but will have no set hours. Instead, Roper encourages people to come by appointment and “stay as long as they want to.”