The Shed

Family Shares Nostalgic Artifacts And Vintage Cars

Debbie Fitzsimmons stands before the old post office she displays in The Shed near Warren in Scandia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

The Shed Gift Shop and Museum should make it on the list of every local person who is looking for a scenic drive with a fun stop along the way.

It is just 30 minutes from downtown Jamestown to this interesting stop, unless you choose to drive along the waters of the Allegany Reservoir, then plan on an extra half-hour by driving on Interstate 86 to Exit 17 and then driving 19 miles south. After you visit The Shed, you may choose to drive an extra 25 minutes to the Kinzua Dam.

The Shed is easily found because of numerous small signs planted along the edge of the road near its location. The gift section of The Shed sells souvenirs, home decor, holiday accents, antiques and collectibles, maple syrup and more, but the real time-consumer is the museum because there are so many nostalgic artifacts to be seen, from the smallest pin to very large items.

As one enters they see an antique post office, which operated in Knoxdale, Pennsylvania until the early 1970s. Not only do The Shed owners, Debbie and Ken Fitzsimmons, have possession of the post office, they have the original pot belly stove and all of the old records and books.

Debbie’s parents lived across from the post office, so she knew the last post mistress, the third generation of the family to hold the position.

A campaign button collection is one of many collections that may be seen at The Shed. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

The vintage car collection will no doubt be the next area to which one’s eyes will be drawn.

“We built the Morton building 16 or 17 years ago because we knew we were inheriting the cars,” says Mrs. Fitzsimmons.

The collection includes a 1924 Model T Ford, the first car her dad Joe Miller, restored and added an electric starter. Both Mrs. Fitzsimmons and her sister used this car for their wedding transportation. She remembers her father restoring a white 1926 Model T and taking the green spokes into the house to work on them when she was 14 or 15 years old.

The nostalgic museum has other cars in its collection, including an early 30s unrestored Model A Ford and a 1936 Oldsmobile, which was restored by her father-in-law. Her husband remembers helping to lift heavy parts when he came home on leave from the Seabees. Another car, which once belonged to his father, was a 1965 Cadillac in original condition. The car was purchased after it had been pre-owned for one year.

When her son was just five-years old he showed his grandfather a picture of a car he had drawn.

Some of The Shed's vintage cars. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“He built the entire car with spare parts,” says the daughter of the car she displays along with the child’s drawing. “The seats are boat seats and he cut the glass to make the windshield.”

Set up behind the cars is a collection of hit and miss gas engines. Near these is a collection of hog oilers, which both her mother and her aunt would seek for something to do when traveling to the gas engine shows with their husbands. There are odds and ends of small and large old tools displayed near the oilers. Most of these items came from her mother’s museum in Knoxdale and were divided between Mrs. Fitzsimmons and her sister.

Evidence of the sisters’ father’s years of working for the Pittsburg and Shawmut Railroad, which was named before the city added the H at the end of its name, and interest in railroad memorabilia is seen in a collection of 50 railroad lanterns and a railroad velocipede.

The second room contains the aforementioned gift shop and my favorite part of the museum, the section where I found many of my childhood toys, some of which I had forgotten. One of the unique, if not the most unique, aspects of the museum is that many of the items on display came from the Fitzsimmons themselves or their extended family members.

Her paper dolls, a Slinky and a toy soda fountain are just a few of the toys with which she once played.

Debbie sits on the floor on Christmas morning after she had opened her new Tiny Tears doll and the metal doll house she exhibits in The Shed. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“I had fun with that soda fountain,” she says.

A metal dollhouse with rooms full of tiny, plastic furniture brought back memories of a similar one handed down by my two older sisters. A picture of a Christmas scene from the year Mrs. Fitzsimmons received the house and a Tiny Tears doll is exhibited nearby.

Many vintage sewing supplies, Putz houses, a celluloid deer, and Christmas ornaments and decorations are within this area. Her husband and his brother’s Hop-a-Long Cassidy pencil cases, a large container of marbles and the couple’s childhood record players are there as well.

The owner thinks she has about 100 Riker display cases, although not all are exhibited at the same time. Those currently on display are filled with various collections such as buttons, skeleton keys, bottle openers advertising various businesses of the past, pocket watches, campaign buttons and arrowheads.

One such box is dedicated to trinkets and memorabilia from her early life, including her sorority pin. Her Nancy Drew books, Little Golden Books about Huckleberry Hound, Goofy and some forgotten cartoon characters are on display as well as the tin Cocoa Puffs train she got from collecting box tops and a little red cabinet her dad made to hold the dishes still found on its shelves.

A small break may be taken from the visual overload, by stepping inside a one-room hunting camp that is sided with depression siding. The little building was moved to the museum from a short distance down the road. The cabin was actually an early modular model made in four-foot sections in Ohio and then reconstructed in Onoville, Pa., before being moved to a field in Scandia.

“They walked out intending to come back the next year,” points out the latest owner as she tells how they found it with the bar of soap next to the wash basin, a mirror for shaving and a medicine cabinet. The table, pot belly stove and bed all on display, as they were found, along with the hunters’ dishes.

Outside the building that stands in the corner of the large room is Ken’s grandmother’s highchair, his wife’s grandparents’ butter churn, her mother’s silver twisted handle butter knife collection and her great-grandmother’s white apron with cutwork, all perfectly preserved. Pennants, a few local pieces, including dishes from Scandia Grange and tiny, decorated sugar cubes, which were saved by some family member are located within. More collections, including fans, white gloves, powder compacts, belt buckles and perfume bottles, miniature trinkets, metal tab pins, jack knives and lighters are there. Collections of old car vases, plumb bobs, license plate badges and handkerchiefs have been saved.

Tiny sea shells found by her mom on a Florida beach, one of the cigars her father gave out when she was born and her husband’s oil can collection are more items that give a glimpse into the interests and hobbies the family had. Books filled with a variety of trading stamps, including S & H Green Stamps and Plaid Stamps, a doll sold by Tastee-Freez and her husband’s Seabee memorabilia from two tours in Viet Nam are among the massive collection. A candy scale from a store in Mrs. Fitzsimmons’ hometown, her father’s railroad lock collection, games played by either her or her husband during their childhood and a collection of various sizes of turkeys belonging to her neighbor, Laura take up space in the room. A spinning wheel is on the back wall near the pot belly stove that was once in the couple’s farm house when they first moved to Scandia, as well as a Victrola from her parents’ hunting camp.

“We used to crank it up and play “She’s Too Fat for Me,” she shares with a grin.

“I thought this transistor radio was the cat’s meow when I had that,” she says as she points to a white one lying with a few other radios.

Numerous medicine bottles are displayed near a collection of old first aid items, many still in their original small boxes. In this area is found the ice cream scoop from her grandfather’s candy and ice cream shop in Knoxdale.

“This is a labor of love. I like talking to people and I like sharing what I have.”

It comes naturally, as her mother was an antique dealer who owned a gift shop and enjoyed working with the public.

Mrs. Fitzsimmons worked as a speech therapist and was a partner in a business endeavor.

Her husband is a retired school administrator turned gentleman farmer who raises beef cattle. Their son lives next door to them and their daughters live in Clarion, Pa. and Kentucky.

“We have seven of the best grandchildren in the world,” says a proud grandmother.

The location of The Shed is 7159 Scandia Road, Russell, Pa. 16345. Their hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and they are only open May-October, but appointments may be made by calling (814) 757-4443. for more information, visit www.theshedscandia.com.

The museum owner shares recipes from both of the couple’s mothers, her grandmothers and her friend Laura Brainard.

“Grandma Knisley’s Lemon Ammonia Cookies are good unique cookies that she made often. The Pot Pie Noodles was one of my favorite meals she would make for me when I came home on school breaks. Her Grapevine Pickles are unusual pickles, but there is nothing like them. I remember well washing mold off the pickles before eating them. They are very tasty.”

“My mother, Louise Miller, always made Persian sandwiches when we traveled,” says the daughter.

Her mother-in-law, Eleanor Fitzsimmons, made the Barbecued Ham Sandwiches for her son’s wedding rehearsal dinner and served at many family gatherings.

“It is just as good or better the next day.”

Both Eleanor and Laura Brainard are known for their Candy Strawberries recipe.

“Grandma Miller’s Date Pudding is a Christmas tradition. It was often said she steamed the pudding in old pillowcases. Her scones are very good, especially with homemade strawberry jam.

Lemon Ammonia Cookies

2 c sugar

1 c lard or 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c shortening

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp – 4 tsp oil of lemon

™ tsp salt

2 heaping T baking ammonia

1 c milk

Approximately 8-10 c flour

In a large bowl, combine sugar and shortening. Add eggs and mix until creamy. Mix in lemon oil and salt. Combine baking ammonia with milk in a small pan and heat over low heat. Stir until ammonia dissolves, but do not boil. Set aside to cool Add milk and flour alternately to other ingredients, adding enough flour to make a stiff dough that is easy to work with hands. Knead until of rolling consistency. Roll out to desired thickness. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Pot Pie Noodles

1 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 c milk

Beef or chicken broth containing pieces of meat

Sift flour and salt together in a medium size bowl. Using fingers, mix egg into flour. Add milk and knead until it becomes a soft ball of dough. Roll on floured board to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into two squares. Cook chunks of meat with celery, onions, salt, pepper and water until meat is done and a rich broth has developed. Remove meat. Strain broth. Add meat to broth. Bring to a boil. Drop dough squares into broth, one piece at a time. Stir gently to prevent sticking. Return to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer about 45 minutes. Good served over mashed potatoes.

Grapevine Pickles

Wash and sterilize 1/2 gallon jars. Wash medium size cucumbers. Pack into cold jars with washed grapevine leaves. Add 1 T pickling salt. Fill jar with untreated spring water. Seal. Let sit for several weeks before eating. Can be made in a crock by layering pickles, leaves and salt according to size of crock. Add water. Cover well and let cure.

Persian Sandwiches

16 oz tomato sauce

2 beaten eggs

1 c or more dried beef, chopped

1 c or more cheddar cheese, cubed

Combine sauce and eggs in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Stir in beef and cheese. Refrigerate. Spread on bread.

Date Pudding

2 c sugar

1 c chopped suet or other shortening

1 tsp baking powder

1 c dates, chopped

1 c raisins

Pinch of salt

3 c flour

1 tsp soda

1 c walnuts, chopped

1/2 c coconut

2 eggs

1 c buttermilk

Combine all ingredients, except eggs and buttermilk, until crumbly. Add eggs and buttermilk. Steam for 3 hours. Serve with a white sauce made with butter, sugar and vanilla.

Scones

2 c flour

1/4 tsp soda

1/4 c sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/3c lard

1 egg

1/2 c buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in lard. Beat together egg and milk. Add all at once to dry mixture. Mix like for pie dough. Roll on floured board to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into squares and bake on a griddle.

Barbecued Ham

Sandwiches

3 onions or one large, chopped

1 1/2 c water

3 T brown sugar

1 c ketchup

3 whole cloves

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp celery seed

1 tsp dry mustard

1/8 c vinegar

1 lb chipped chopped ham, torn into pieces

Simmer onions and water for 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except ham. Simmer 20 minutes. Add ham and simmer 10 minutes more. Serve on buns. May be made in crockpot.

Candy Strawberries

2 boxes strawberry-flavored gelatin

3/4 c sweetened condensed milk

1 c finely shredded coconut

1 c finely chopped pecans

Red sugar

Green sugar

Mix all ingredients and form into strawberries. Dip pointed end into red sugar and the stem end into green sugar. Place on wax paper and set in refrigerator for several hours. A green toothpick or green tinted almond may be inserted into stem end. Color granulated sugar by placing in a jar. Add a small amount of food coloring. Shake.

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