Volunteers to do jail time
The couple stepped into one of the Truckee Jail cells and Chelsea Walterscheid shut the latticed iron door behind them. Walterscheid slid a long deadbolt into place, and lowered a clasp where a padlock once would have been fastened to secure the cell.The sound of the metal slamming into place echoed in the small room.Once youre in there, youre not coming out, Walterscheid observed.The Rev. Jerry Burks and his wife Lynda didnt look like the desperadoes who spent a night or more in the town jail during the many decades of its operation. The Burks, who founded the Truckee Christian Center after moving to Truckee in 1973, were among a dozen or so area residents who turned out Saturday to train as docents with the Truckee-Donner Historical Society.The historical society opens the Old Jail Museum to the public on weekends during the summer months, beginning on Memorial Day weekend, and then from mid-June through September. Staffing the museum for a weekend is no simple matter, requiring eight volunteers to serve in pairs over four shifts.In continuous service from 1875 to 1964, the Truckee Jail housed drunks, prostitutes, gamblers, assorted crooks, and the occasional down-on-his-luck vagrant in search of a safe place to bunk down. According to one story, Baby Faced Nelson once spent a night in the Truckee Jail when he was on the run from federal authorities. He gave local law enforcement a false name, and left the following day.Long-time docent Don Colclough recalled hearing from another of the jails ex-inmates, whose story was no doubt more typical. A couple called and then visited the jail. As it turned out, as a runaway from Utah in 1947, the man had hitched a ride and was dropped off in Truckee. After a minor altercation at Donner Lake in which he damaged a boat, the youth was taken to the jail. He was just 11 years old at the time, he told Colclough.After Nevada County closed the jail, the Truckee Historical Society was allowed to operate the facility as a public museum. Admission is free, although the society welcomes contributions to defray the cost of utilities and upkeep of the building and memorial garden. Regional history books are available for purchase, as well as society memberships.Since acquiring the Truckee Jail, the society has installed educational exhibits that cover various facets of Truckee-area history, including photos, documents and artifacts of the lumber industry, construction of the intercontinental railroad, ice harvesting (praised for its purity and taste), the role of women, alpine skiing, and even skates and photos from the ice palace that was built during Truckees annual winter carnivals.In one room is a portion of the butterfly collection of C.F. McGlashan, the 19th century editor of the Truckee Republican, a distant relative of todays Sierra Sun.The Truckee-Donner Historical Society hopes to keep the Old Jail Museum open on weekends throughout the summer. Those who would like to volunteer as docents should call Walterscheid at 305-4231.
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