Museum of memories
Roy McDaniel, 84, has an office in the back of his West Orange house where clocks tick and chime on the hour.
His drawing board and model cars surround him, as do the papers he’s written about old sawmill towns.
Nearby is a small museum he built with old glass bottles, pocket watches, hacksaws, radios, telephones, cameras and car horns.
When asked if he describes himself as a collector or historian, he says, “I don’t know what I am.” The museum’s name is “Sawmill Daze.”
He was attracted to many of these items from Elizabeth, Oakdale and Mab, La., because he’s from that area – the small community of Fullerton.
In 1974 McDaniel began writing histories such as “Kurthwood: The Town That Refused to Die,” “Early Days in Vernon Parish” and “The Buckley Lumber Co. in Mab, La.”
He’s also written about friends and family such as Harry Ready and his uncle Earl Mathews. One photograph collection donated by Lillian Manley, daughter of Charles Adams, a barber who took the pictures; shows pre-1916 Orange historical figures/places like Edgar Brown and Willie Adams; and churches such as First Presbyterian.
Retired from Polysar, McDaniel lists himself in a book called “Projects” as an artist, house builder, clock builder, plumber, violin player and “yard man” along with about 60 other jobs.
“These are all the things I’ve done in my lifetime,” he says. “That doesn’t mean I was a crackerjack at everything, but I’ve done them all.”
Since 1966, McDaniel has helped Orange businessman Jim Gunter build several offices and a home on Pleasure Island. As a teenager, he built bird houses and was a janitor in the Mab sawmill office.
Then he worked in the paper mill at Elizabeth.
He spent 30 months in the service from 1943-46, in the Galapagos Islands and Panama. He worked in a supply room and says nothing he did in the Army trained him to “do or build anything.”
“I’ve worked a lot of years and I’m still working,” he says. “I have a buddy who’s an electrical contractor and he calls me now and then.”
Some of the clocks he builds are framed in the wood from old houses such as the Ochiltree house in Orange and some of his relatives’ homes in Fullerton. He tried to get a small piece of wood from the Thomen Center (once Orange City Hospital) after it was razed in 2008 to make way for Shangri La’s parking lot, but police kept him away.
Other things in the museum include “Script Books” from when sawmill workers were paid in paper to buy food at “the company store”; the sign that hung above the old Fullerton post office; the last log out of the Elizabeth sawmill, an antique pants presser; and cannon ball from a Civil War battle.
Some items are marked with tags McDaniel had made at the Orange County Association of Retarded Citizens. “I’ve got hundreds of tags in here,” he says. “Stories about the museum have been in the paper twice. One time one woman came to look at it and later she invited me to dinner. I don’t know if that’s why she came by or not.”
Old rusty farm implements make up the rest of the museum, and McDaniel points to them with fondness, however, he admits some items are hard to keep track of.
“I’ve got so much stuff I just can’t remember it all,” he says.