Continuing a tradition that began over three decades ago, the Aldonian puppet show entertained the youngsters while introducing them to the museum. Staged in an all-new puppet theater complete with a large flat-screen television, the puppet show featured the characters of Mama Longhorn, Prairie Dog, Rocky Raccoon, Grandpa, and Indian Princess. The Aldonian members served as puppeteers for the show titled “Just Horsin’ Around: A Tale about the Settlin’ of This Part of the Southwest.”
The new show incorporates historic photographs drawn from the museum archives and shown on the flat-screen television throughout the fifteen minute show. The script explores various types of dwellings, such as: Wichita Roundhouses and half-dugouts; solutions for the need for water, such as: wells and windmills; ways of making a living: such as farming and ranching, and much more.
Betsy Roberts served as chairperson for the committee responsible for the new puppet show. “As soon as we knew that the reopening of the museum was imminent, we completed the construction of the new puppet theater and put the finishing touches on the script,” Roberts explained. “Originally, the show was written for second graders. However, given the revised curriculum goals at the state level, we discovered that the content of the show and the museum offerings now fit better in the third grade curriculum which explores how settlers in the area met their basic needs. We are very pleased to be able to once again stage the Aldonian puppet show at the museum.”
Following the puppet show, the students were guided through a tour of selected exhibit cases, the chuckwagon, and mail hack in the McMahan Gallery; the Criswell half-dugout, the Cross S ranch house, and the windmill in the courtyard; and the farm implements, barbed wire collection, and blacksmith shop in the barn. Students were also treated to a tour of the Native American Art exhibit that will be on display through the end of the year in The First Gallery.
“We invited students to return to the museum with their families and serve as tour guides for their parents and brothers and sisters,” explained Jennie Buchanan, director of the museum. “And to help with the admission charge, we issued a half price voucher. To our delight, almost a dozen students have taken us up on the offer. Each of them seemed to walk a little taller as they assumed the role of tour guide. Interestingly, many of them began with a recitation of the top three rules governing museum manners – “Don’t touch anything!”, “Don’t talk too loud.”, and “Don’t run.”
A sampling of the thank you notes received from the students indicates that they enjoyed their visits. One wrote that it was “the best museum I ever went to.” Another wrote, “Thank you for letting us learn about the past.” One little girl liked “the campfire noise,” while another thought the puppet show was “so funny.” Perhaps the best comment was “Thank you for letting us go to your amazin (sic) museum.” The new interactive stations which use touch screen technology to present photographs and videos really caught the attention of the children, prompting one student to write, “The touch screens were real cool!”
The admission charges for the students, teachers, and aides were paid by the Aldonian Club. Third grade students from Washington Elementary School, Will Rogers Elementary School, Roosevelt Elementary School, Rivers Elementary School, and Sunset Elementary School in Altus as well as third and fourth grade students from Blair Schools were hosted at the museum.
The Museum of the Western Prairie is located at 1100 N. Memorial and is open from 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $3 for military, and $1 for children 6 to 18. A field museum of the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Museum of the Western Prairie and its activities are supported by the Western Trail Historical Society. For more information about the museum, call 580-482-1044.