By Guest author JOHN P. EVANS III
FEDERALSBURG, MD. -- When the Smithsonian exhibition Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America came to Federalsburg, Maryland, for seven weeks during April and May, the local historical society’s heritage museum took it as an opportunity to promote its own sports history, asking the town’s residents to come forward with their own momentos and memories of how sports had shaped the town of just over 2,000 people on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Through the efforts of the Maryland Humanities Council, the Federalsburg Area Heritage Museum was one of only five locales in Maryland selected to display the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street program.
“We were very excited to get a chance to have the Smithsonian exhibit be displayed in our museum (which is less than five years old). Though it is still in its early years, the museum is a source of great pride to the town,” said Wendy Garner, who co-chaired the event. “We took it as a real feather in our cap that we were just one of only five locations selected throughout the state."
“To take advantage of the opportunity, we wanted to build our own historical exhibit promoting our local sports teams and events. Through word of mouth and from discussions at historical society meetings and with the help of other town clubs, we were able to put the word out that we needed memorabilia.”
Dickie Wheatley, co-chair of the project and a longtime youth sports coach, said the community overwhelmingly came forth in putting together the exhibit.
“It truly became a community project,” said Wheatley. “We asked the community to bring us their keepsakes and memories, and they responded in a way we could not have even imagined.”
Federalsburg’s sports history includes its distinction as the one-time home to a Class-D minor league baseball team for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. One of the Federalsburg As stars, Robert “Ducky” Detweiler, even made it to the majors for two short “call ups” around World War II. Like many of the team’s players, Detweiler made Federalsburg his permanent home. In more recent years, the youth baseball team won the hearts of the locals by winning its way all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Additionally, the town hosts annual qualifying races for the National Soap Box Derby, the winners earning a trip to the national race in Akron, Ohio. A huge mural paid homage to the place that qualifier holds in the town’s sports lore.
Altogether, the donations of the townspeople filled both rooms of the old service station garage-turned-museum, and complemented the general perspective offered by the Smithsonian’s Hometown Teams.
“It was a very well attended event, and there was a great turnout throughout the seven weeks (of the exhibit). Those that came got not just the great Smithsonian exhibit, but the chance to relive the successes o the town’s hometown teams,” said Garner. “None of it would have taken place without the Smithsonian’s interest in hometown teams.”
Joe Glime, whose wife Gloria is president of the historical society, said the sports exhibit allowed for the community to undertake as a group a project it might not otherwise have attempted. He said he sensed a strong “pride of ownership” from community members. He said he hoped that future exhibits would be as successful as this one.
As for the museum itself, it stays open year round through the volunteer efforts of a devoted staff which is made up primarily of historical society members.
“We are always brainstorming to put together local exhibits that showcase the town’s history, which has always been Norman Rockwell-esque in its small-town way of life. We think we successfully captured the essence of what hometown teams are all about,” said Garner.
For a deeper look at the Federalsburg exhibition, watch this great video from Delmarva Life.