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A trip through the sights and sounds of yesteryear

Old-time music, dances, plays at Heritage Museum

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LAYTON — The city's Heritage Museum in Commons Park has gotten away from the static structure it used to have and is now featuring a new major exhibit every six months. The current exhibit, "That Was Entertainment," highlights bands, dances, operas, theatrical productions and other recreational events from the past.

Exhibits start in the 1860s and span almost 100 years. Local boxing, wrestling, movies and even LDS Church Relief Society socials are all featured in this display that opened July 12 and continues until Dec. 22.

According to museum director and curator Bill Sanders, the new display shows how a party in past eras was a party for everyone around.

"They really had a sense of community in past times," he said, recognizing that the high populations of Layton and Kaysville today probably make such ties difficult. "They were much closer-knit then."

He said the exhibit is a fun one and shows how people made do in simpler times with in-home theatrical productions.

"Kids are especially amazed at all this," Sanders said, comparing old-fashioned amusements with today's computer games and multimedia entertainment opportunities.

Part of the exhibit shows an early radio set and another keys in on Layton's first silent movie screens. Aside from those more familiar forms of entertainment, young people will be surprised at what early residents did for amusement.

It was a common practice in the early 20th century for dances to be held as send-offs and fund-raisers for departing LDS missionaries. The exhibit has several dance cards for such events on display.

Other than these fund-raisers, Sanders said it's plain to see that old-time entertainment was primarily done for recreation and not for making money.

"Athletic Smokers" is an intriguing title given to boxing from about 1910 to 1940. The events were actually smoke-free and usually held in LDS Church buildings. Many local boxers would commonly fight to benefit families whose houses had burned down or who had been involved in other tragedies, charging 75 cents to $1.50 a seat.

The display also shows some locally drawn newspaper cartoons from 1914 that highlight area baseball players and their nicknames. Originally published in the Kaysville Weekly Reflex, the cartoons have been enlarged to make them easily readable.

The Hillbilly Band, Webster's Grove and Pavilion, Kaysville Opera House, Layton Opera House, Kaysville Brass Band and Fiddler's Creek are all entertainment-based features included in the Heritage display. Some antique musical instruments are also included.

Admission is free to the museum, but Sanders said the sad fact is only 40 to 50 people visit per day. Since Kaysville included Layton until the early 20th century, that city's history is intertwined with Layton's.

"A Woman's Work Is Never Done" will be the next exhibit at the Heritage Museum, opening at the end of the year. A display of local hobbies will follow that exhibit next summer.

The museum is located in the center of Commons Park, just south of City Hall and adjacent to the amphitheater. Hours are Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. The museum is usually closed Sunday and Monday.

The Heritage Museum will also feature another special exhibit in its art gallery that will run six weeks — a display featuring photographs of the first 36 pioneer families who settled in the Layton-Kaysville area.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com