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For Councilwoman, History Hinges On Today


When Councilwoman Joy L. Neugebauer spends days cooking chili and baking pies for the annual Pumpkin Festival, she does so for the sake of history.

The festival, which took place Sunday, is the biggest fund-raiser for the Westminster Historical Society and its museum on Westminster Boulevard.

For 18 years, Neugebauer has baked her pies for the sake of the oddities and peculiarities preserved in the museum. She keeps baking for the doll's house, the museum's two firetrucks and for the old sugar beet wagon.

And the museum needs the proceeds from her pies, not because the director's salary weighs on the budget--Neugebauer gets the handsome sum of $1 per year--but because the upkeep of the museum, its five buildings and contents cost both time and money.

"There's never enough money; but if we need money, I go out and talk to people," she said.

On a recent afternoon, Neugebauer gave a tour of the museum, a free service she and her docents extend to local schools, Scouts and others interested in the city's history. Last year, the museum had more than 1,000 visitors.

One of the favorite stops for younger visitors is the hand-cranked phonograph that plays without electricity or batteries. The two working firetrucks are also popular, as is "Chickie" in the barn.

"Some children don't recognize where eggs come from until they see the live chicken," she said.

Neugebauer, a retired owner of an aerospace tools company and mother of seven adult sons, spends between 25 and 30 hours a week on the Historical Society.

She dutifully adds newspaper clippings to the archive on contemporary developments in the city. She also catalogs donations to the museum. Everything, from a 48-star American flag to a recently donated 1960s jukebox in mint condition, are gifts from local residents.

"That's how our museum continues to grow," she said, smiling.

Neugebauer came to the city in 1959, and in 1968 she was one of the first women in the nation to be elected to a city council. Three decades later, she has reclaimed a seat on the council, a rewarding job, she said, because it is easily combined with her interest in municipal history.

Today, Little Saigon is where the museum barn once stood, said Neugebauer, musing on the changes to the city.

"History is important because you can plot your future by looking at your past."

Louise Roug can be contacted at (714) 966-5977.

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