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Woman: Fashion and history go hand in hand

Susan McLain’s vintage clothing collection began as a simple decorating project.

“I started out by wanting to decorate my house with a few things and now I have a museum,” said McLain, who’s collected vintage fashions for at least 30 years.

McLain – known as “Yesterday’s Lady” — is a Humanities Nebraska speaker who has traveled the Midwest, entertaining groups with a variety of fashion programs.

This weekend, the Beatrice woman will be a featured speaker at the Christmas on the Prairie celebration. The 29th annual event is planned from 2-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Saunders County Historical Society Museum, 240 N. Walnut St., in Wahoo.

The public is invited to the two-day celebration which features a variety of musical programs, trees decorated by individuals and groups, a silent auction and treats.

Visitors also can meander through onsite buildings — decorated for Christmas – which include the old Burlington Depot, District 42 Schoolhouse and Weston Presbyterian Church. A bake sale and silent auction will be part of the celebration as well.

The theme for this year’s celebration is called “Hats Off to Christmas.”

In conjunction with that theme, McLain’s program is titled “To Top It Off — The History of Hats” and covers the years of 1837 to the 1960s.

McLain’s program starts at 2 p.m. Saturday in the church on the museum grounds.

The history buff will start by telling about hats from the Victorian time period of 1837 to 1901—named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

It was a time, McLain said, when social etiquette required that women wore hats – especially if they were going out somewhere.

Hats from that time – which ended with the queen’s death in 1901 — were smaller than those popular in the Edwardian era.

Named after Victoria’s son, Edward, that era extended to about World War I.

The Edwardian period was an elegant era and a time when women wore larger, fuller hair and big hats that required several pins to keep them in place.

With World War I came several changes. Said to be the war that changed the world, it certainly brought alterations to fashion.

Women began working outside of the home and started gaining some freedom, she said.

In the 1920s, they began cutting off their long locks and started wearing a shorter style called a bob. They gave up their large hats for the cloche — a close-fitting, bell-shaped hat.

Hollywood set the fashion trends during the economically tough times Great Depression, when hat sales soared — for one thing, because they could be made more cheaply.

What’s more, buying a hat was less costly than purchasing a whole new outfit.

Slouch hats, which were made of felt, had a small brim and could be shaped as necessary, became popular.

“You’re going to see some really — almost crazy hats — in the 1930s,” she said.

In the 1940s — when many nations were engulfed in World War II — hats were still important, but younger girls went without them in this era of Rosie the Riveter (an icon representing women who worked in factories and shipyards).

This also was an era when men wore the classic fedora, a hat with a soft brim and indented crown. The hats came in black, brown, gray and navy. Some men had their names put inside their hats so they wouldn’t get them mixed up.

The fedora became a finishing touch to a man’s outfit.

Women, who’d grown their hair longer in the 1930s and 1940s, began wearing shorter styles again in the 1950s.

“Hats are still a must in the 1950s,” McLain said. “Even to go to the grocery store, the ladies would wear hats.”

Women in that era wore smaller and larger hats.

By the 1960s, the pillbox hat had become popular. And there were what McLain calls “hat-lets” which went over the top of a bouffant hairstyle.

Women started going without hats in the 1960s.

“When hairspray and the rat-tooth comb came out — it just killed hats,” she said.

Today, McLain likes seeing royalty wear hats. Royals such as Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle are seen wearing hats at various occasions.

“Look at how fascinated people are with them,” McLain said. “It is really cool, because it really does finish off your outfit when you put a hat on.”

McLain will show examples of hats from the different eras during her presentation.

She believes people will benefit by attending.

“They will learn some history,” McLain said. “They not only get to see history with the showing of the hats, they’ll get to hear about history. I’m like a little traveling museum.

“And for some people it brings back memories of their moms or their grandmother or of them wearing hats.”

McLain noted the importance of preserving pieces of the past.

“I’m preserving history through fashion,” she said. “A lot people think fashion has nothing to do with history, when it really does. Fashion and history go hand in hand.”

McLain’s collection started more than three decades ago when she bought a pair of high-top boots, hat and a dress from the Victorian Era.

“I started with that and it (the collection) just took off,” she said.

McLain and her husband, Mike, live in the historic 1887 Schmuck building in downtown Beatrice. Constructed in the High Victorian Eclectic style, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

During its history, the building housed a saloon where Hollywood film actor and producer Harold Lloyd made a living as a young boy selling popcorn, McLain’s website states.

The building also has housed a dry goods store, offices and apartments.

From 1918 to 1963, the building was the home of The Beatrice Daily Sun newspaper.

Today, the main floor of the renovated building houses McLain’s vintage clothing collection.

McLain opens her shop to historical tours. She and her spouse have their private residence on the building’s second and third floors.

More information about McLain’s vintage clothing museum and vintage salon can be found at

In the meantime, area residents can get a head start on celebrating the holidays with a Saturday program about hats.

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Christmas on the Prairie set this weekend

Erin Hauser hopes area residents launch their holiday season with Christmas on the Prairie.

Hauser is curator of the Saunders County Historical Society Museum where the annual celebration takes place.

This is the 29th year for the free, family event which includes music, demonstrations, about 25 trees decorated by individuals and groups, along with a silent auction and treats.

The public is invited to the celebration planned from 2-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Saunders County Historical Society Museum, 240 N. Walnut St., in Wahoo.

Visitors also can meander through onsite buildings – decorated for Christmas – which include the old Burlington Depot, District 42 Schoolhouse and Weston Presbyterian Church.

A bake sale and silent auction will be part of the celebration as well.

Last year, an estimated 3,500 people attended the two-day event.

“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season and it gives them (guests) an opportunity to go through the buildings on our grounds and have a fun time,” Hauser said.

The theme for this year’s celebration is called “Hats Off to Christmas.”

“We have lots and lots of trees decorated in hats,” Hauser said.

The event will include two Humanities Nebraska speakers.

Susan McLain of Beatrice will give a presentation called “To Top It Off – The History of Hats.” Her talk will cover the years of 1837 to the 1960s.

McLain’s program starts at 2 p.m. Saturday in Weston Presbyterian Church on the museum grounds.

Lauren Riedesel of Beatrice will give a program called “History of the Swedish in Nebraska.” Her talk is scheduled from 4-5 p.m. Sunday in the main museum.

Various musical programs are set from 2-7 p.m. Saturday and on Sunday afternoon and early evening in the main museum. Musical presentations are set from 3:15-8 p.m. Saturday and 3-5:30 p.m. Sunday in the church on the museum grounds.

Coffee, cider and cookies will be served in the small meeting room in the main museum.

More than 40 items will be part of a silent auction on the museum’s first floor main exhibit area. Bidders must be at least 18 years old. The auction ends at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Visitors also are encouraged to explore buildings on the museum grounds. Volunteers will be stationed at each building to answer questions.

The buildings include:

  • District 42 Schoolhouse. Children’s activities and take-home crafts are planned from 2-6 p.m. both days.
  • Machine building. Jeremiah and Lyndon Ochsner will provide rope-making demonstrations from 2-8 p.m. Visitors can see how ropes are made and are welcome to make their own unique ropes to take home.
  • Wahoo Burlington Depot. Volunteers will have a model train display running from 2-7:30 p.m. Guests are asked to look, but not touch the display.
  • Museum grounds. Weather permitting, guests can see Grandpa’s Old Time Chores, which include hand corn-shelling, hand sawing, corn grinding, wood sawing, gas engines, and a gas-powered washing machine. This is planned from 2 p.m. until dark.
  • Memphis Post Office. A special postal cancellation will be available. Post cards and seasonal stamps will be available for purchase. The office will be open from 2-7:30 p.m.

Across the street and north of the museum grounds, the upper level of Union Bank will have a display of vintage and modern quilts from 2-8 p.m. Five groups of fiber artists from Fremont, Lincoln and Omaha will demonstrate their crafts, including lace-making, tatting and spinning.

Due to a November accident, the Hanson House – which celebrates the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Wahoo native Howard Hanson – will not be open for Christmas on the Prairie this year.

However, repairs are underway and the house is set to be reopened in early 2019.

The Hanson House and the train depot are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hauser said hopes area residents will come to the holiday celebration.

“We have people of all ages who come and seem to enjoy themselves,” Hauser said. “To me that’s always the best part.”

Courtesy photo 

Area residents participate in a previous "Hanging of the Greens" service at St. John's Lutheran Church, Cuming County Line, Scribner. This year, the service starts at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the church at 123 County Road 16 Boulevard, Scribner. The public is invited.

Courtesy photo 

A crew from Christensen Lumber helps put the framing up for a Habitat for Humanity house.

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Elections in progress for FSA County Commission

Elections are officially underway for the Dodge-Sarpy/Douglas County Farm Service Agency County Committee, the agency announced in a press release on Monday.

County committee members “provide a link between the agricultural community and the United States Department of Agriculture,” the press release states.

Members of the county committee are farmers and ranchers who are elected to help the Farm Services Agency, which is under the direction of the Department of Agriculture, to deliver programs at the local level.

“The county committee member gives direction to the (Farm Services Agency) office staff and also the manager on farm programs and in difficult situations,” said Bryan Ralston, executive director for the Dodge-Sarpy/Douglas County Farm Service Agency. “If there’s a farmer that has an issue with a program, the county committee is there to meet with the farmer, and that’s where you get actual hands-on people dealing with farmers if they have an issue.”

The county committee is a “sounding board” that can act as a liaison between the farmers and the agency.

The election officially began on Nov. 5, when ballots were mailed to the eligible voters in Local Administrative Area (LAA) 3, which consists of 989 eligible voters in Dodge County and 724 eligible voters in the Omaha LAA 3 region.

The LAA 3 in Dodge County consists of Union, Cotterell, Platte and Elkhorn Townships.

To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program, Ralston said.

The deadline to return the ballots is Dec. 3. Any eligible voter who did not receive a ballot can get one at the county FSA office, which, in Dodge County, is located at 2450 Business Park Drive in Fremont.

Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than the Dec. 3 deadline.

This year’s election features one candidate running unopposed in Dodge County: Rhet Mehaffey is on the ballot seeking re-election to what would be his last three-year term. He is a North Bend native who produces corn, soybeans and livestock. Voters also may write in candidates.

Newly elected committee members will take office Jan. 1, 2019. More information on county committees can be found at or at the county FSA office.

Ralston said some of the big issues facing Dodge County farmers are declining grain prices, as well as the roll out of the federal government’s tariff assistance program, which is meant to help farmers offset the costs associated with the effects of the ongoing tariff and trade tensions that have impacted the agricultural community.

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NCEF seeks public input on local water conservation

Community members are invited to provide their input on local water conservation issues during an event that will also feature a free screening of the NET Documentary “The Price of Water” at Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.

The free screening and discussion will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in the large meeting room in the library at 1030 N. Broad St. The event is being hosted by AmeriCorps members currently serving the Common Ground program run by the Nebraska Conservation Educational Fund. The latter is a nonprofit organization working toward building a conservation movement that transcends ideological and political boundaries.

Members joined the organization in September 2017 to expand the program’s geographic reach to empower Nebraskans to address their local conservation concerns, according to the NCEF official website.

“Our hope is that people come out inspired,” said Hannah Deblauwe, conservation director and AmeriCorps member for NCEF. “We know that change comes in small steps.”

During the event, a free screening of the NET Documentary “The Price of Water,” which focuses on water conservation in Nebraska specifically, will be shown at 6 p.m.

Following the documentary screening, there will be an opportunity for public discussion regarding local water conservation, usages and other issues.

“The Price of Water” includes a variety of stories from around Nebraska and focuses on where water comes from, where it goes, who uses it, and why it is important to protect Nebraska’s fresh water resources including the Ogallala Aquifer and the state’s many rivers.

“It’s a pretty unique documentary just because it’s not just about water conservation — but water conservation in Nebraska specifically,” Deblauwe said. “It just helps start the conversation about why it’s important to protect our resources.”

The hourlong documentary screening will be followed by an open discussion which will allow attendees the opportunity to share their opinions about local water conservation issues as well as issues regarding storm water runoff, FEMA floodplain requirements and any other issues surrounding water quality and conservation in the Fremont area.

“None of us are water conservation experts by any means, but we are going to try and be prepared to answer any questions anyone might have,” Deblauwe said. “We really just want to hear the community’s input about what is important to them regarding water conservation locally.”

Those interested in attending the free screening and discussion can RSVP for the event by emailing or registering online at: More information about Common Ground and its upcoming events can be found on the organization’s Facebook page; search commongroundNE.