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Donor seeks to inspire others to give Lone Ranger items to museum



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Lapeer resident Diane Flis-Schneider donated vintage chalkware statuettes of the Lone Ranger and his horse Silver to the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum located at 1 N. Washington St. in downtown Oxford. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
April 24, 2013 - Two pieces of Lone Ranger memorabilia were added to the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum's collection Saturday thanks to the generosity of Diane Flis-Schneider.

The Lapeer resident donated two vintage statuettes depicting the Lone Ranger and his majestic horse Silver.

"I think it's important that people preserve the history of Brace Beemer and the Lone Ranger here in Oxford," Flis-Schneider said.

"I think it would be great if other people followed my lead and also donated things to create more of a presence for the Lone Ranger in this community."

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"We always welcome donations here," said Oxford resident Ron Brock, president of the Northeast Oakland Historical Society. "This is great that we're building up our Lone Ranger display."

All donations to the museum are tax deductible.

"We can put a value on it and it can become a charitable donation," Brock said.

Flis-Schneider said she would like to see "a flood of Lone Ranger items" come into the museum, located at 1 N. Washington St. in downtown Oxford.

Oxford's historical connection to the Lone Ranger is very well-established.

Brace Beemer, who portrayed the masked lawman on the radio from 1941-54, lived on W. Drahner Rd. until his death in 1965.

He performed in more than 2,000 broadcasts that reached more 80 million listeners on 129 radio stations nationwide. Beemer also made numerous public appearances and visits to schools dressed as the legendary hero.

Oxford's getting ready to celebrate its connection to Beemer and the masked lawman he played this summer with a special sneak preview of Disney's new Lone Ranger movie July 2 at the Oxford 7 Theater and a Lone Ranger parade along M-24 on Aug. 3.

Both the Lone Ranger and Silver statuettes donated by Flis-Schneider are chalkware, which is basically plaster of Paris decorated with watercolors. Chalkware figures were used as prizes at carnivals from around 1910 through the 1950s. The most well-known example is the Kewpie Doll.

To Flis-Schneider, the Lone Ranger, along with his fellow cowboy heroes such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix and Red Ryder, represented a fun era for American youth.

"I was a child of the 1950s and yes, I did watch the Lone Ranger," she said. "I had a little cowboy vest and skirt that I wore as a child. I had toy guns. We always played cowboys as a kid. It was huge. Girls and boys dressed up like cowgirls and cowboys all the time."

She admitted her favorite was Tom Mix.

Although she eventually outgrew that little cowgirl outfit, she never outgrew her passion for that bygone era as she and her now ex-husband, Chuck Schneider, spent 20 years amassing an extensive collection of western art as well as many cowboy and Indian artifacts.

"I just love the Old West," Flis-Schneider said. "I like those dusty old cowboys. It was a calmer, simpler life – living out in the country, living on the farm. In a lot of ways, it was an elegant life."

It's interesting to note that the late Mildred Schmidt, the woman who was instrumental in founding the historical society and museum back in 1971-72, was Flis-Schneider's fourth-grade teacher in Almont.

"She was a feisty gal," she said.

When Flis-Schneider was in her 40s, she encountered Schmidt in Leonard pumping gas into her car while it was "pouring rain." She offered to help and Schmidt refused.

Seeing her face, Flis-Schneider thought it was another teacher named Mary Spangler and addressed her as such.

To that, Schmidt replied, "I am not Mary Spangler. And you should know better because you were in my fourth-grade class."

"I said, 'Oh my God, Mrs. Schmidt, I'm so sorry.' She says, 'Well, Diane Flis you ought to be.' Here I am 40-some years old and she remembers me. I about flipped out."

The Northeast Oakland Historical Museum is open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 12-4 p.m. Private tours and school field trips are available.

For more information about the museum, visit www.neohs.net or call (248) 628-8413.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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