The story of the Slidell museum...
A Museum Behind Bars: an article from 1987
The yellowed pages of an old school playbill, a sewing basket, and the jacket of a World War I uniform are displayed in one cabinet. In another are old newspapers and family photograph albums. An antique pump organ and gramophone stand in a corner. These items are now a museum collection housed in Slidell, Louisiana's, old city jail and town hall that was built in 1907.
"We're a local-history museum. We tell about the place and the people," says Director Dale Tidrick.
The objects in the museum are far less valuable than those found in many larger and more well-endowed Louisiana repositories. But for the people who live in Slidell or whose families once called the town home, the eclectic collection is priceless.
Genealogists may discover valuable pieces of history from the papers of several founding fathers. The tax receipts from a former boardinghouse reveal that the owners received an astounding $8.15 bill for property taxes in 1909. A photograph taken in the early 1940's shows Lions Club members installing street signs.
Slidell grew up as a railroad stop on the line between Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans. The town was not chartered until 1888, even though a post office was established four years earlier. The museum displays the 1884 certificate presented to Jacob F. Hufft commissioning him as a postmaster at Slidell Station.
Tidrick says there was plenty of excitement in the museum building during the four decades that it was used as a jail. He repeats a favorite local tale about the man who got intoxicated every Friday. "They would haul him in, and he would get out on Saturday morning. Then he would show up before the judge on Monday to be fined.
"Finally the judge decided to try and teach him a lesson, so the man was kept in jail all weekend," continues Tidrick. "But when he went before the judge on Monday morning, he was still drunk. A buddy finally owned up to going up the street to a drugstore and buying a bottle of whiskey. He also got a straw from the soda fountain and let his jailed pal drink through the bars of the window."