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What’s inside the museum?
Cyclones, tooth-pullers and fight songs

by CJ Carnacchio

January 25, 2012

OPEN WIDE AND SAY ‘OW!’ — This collection of instruments was once used by Oxford dentist Dr. G.E. Meads. The tool in the center is called a dental key. Photos by CJC.
This post office cancellation stamp was found still bearing the exact date (May 25, 1896) that a tornado (or cyclone) leveled the unincorporated village of Oakwood.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of monthly articles about the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum. Each story will focus on a few unique items on display at the museum, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. We hope these stories will encourage readers to visit the museum and maybe volunteer their time there. Preserving local history is everyone's job.

There's a place in downtown Oxford where visitors can view a stamp that took a ride in a killer tornado, a set of dental tools that can make a mouth ache by just looking at them and the original, hand-written copy of the Oxford High School fight song.

It's called the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum (1 N. Washington St.) and this year, the local institution is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The museum houses and displays thousands of local artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries that tell the story of how folks lived, worked and played in the Oxford of yesteryear.

"Seeing these things helps keep people in touch with the past (and shows them) how things used to be, how things have progressed – if you want to call it that," said Carla Lambertson, who volunteers her time at the museum and serves as a guide. "Sometimes the older is better."

One of the museum's most unique treasures is a postal cancellation stamp used way back when there was a post office in the unincorporated village of Oakwood, located at the intersection of Baldwin and Oakwood roads.

The metal stamp still bears the date May 25, 1896, which is the day a tornado (or cyclone as they called it back then) twisted its way through the area and leveled the village of Oakwood along with the villages of North Oxford and Thomas. Of the 42 resulting deaths, eight were reported in Oakwood.

The stamp was found many years later by a local farmer while plowing a field. Today, it sits in a special case at the museum, a chilling reminder of what nature is capable of.

Next to the stamp is a set of various dental tools that used to belong to Dr. G.E. Meads, who once had a thriving practice in downtown Oxford.

Among the ominous-looking tools is a dental key, an instrument once used to extract diseased teeth. Prior to the advent of antibiotics, tooth extraction was often the preferred method for treating dental infections.

Modeled after a door key, the dental key was inserted into a patient's mouth so that the claw at the end of it could be tightened around the bad tooth. The key was then rotated to loosen the tooth. Unfortunately, this often resulted in the tooth breaking.

Oxford resident Darryl Lambertson, who volunteers at the museum and serves as a guide, noted these instruments are a vivid – and painful – reminder of what a trip to Meads' office could be like if you didn't take proper care of your mouth.

"He liked to pull teeth. He was rough," he said. "He'd stand on your lap to reach in and yank your teeth out. He'd pull you right out of the seat . . . He had a reputation."

"He didn't believe in anesthetic," Carla Lambertson noted. "He'd rather pull it then fix it."

Looking to the right of Dr. Meads' tools, museum visitors will see an original, handwritten copy of the Oxford High School Blue and Gold Fight Song.

The words and music were composed and arranged by Martin Kozak, a 1944 OHS graduate. He composed it during his senior year and it was approved by the school board in May 1944.

"It's all written in pencil," said Carla Lambertson.

Kozak's actual last name was Kozachik. The family, which used to own Kozak City Bakery in downtown Oxford, changed its last name for business purposes.

Kozak went on to serve in World War II. Afterwards, he received his medical degree from the University of Michigan and practiced family medicine in Portland, Michigan until his death in May 1992.

In the late 1970s, Kozak's nephew, Michael Kozachik, who became the OHS band director, changed the fight song's arrangement, so it could be played by a marching band as opposed to a concert band.

Located at northwest corner of Washington (M-24) and Burdick streets, the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Private tours (day or evening) and school field trips are available upon request by calling (248) 628-1843 or (248) 628-1140.