Bellingham was founded in 1854, then Lynden was established in 1874 by Holden and Phoebe Judson. Ferndale was incorporated in 1907. History is all around us and it’s surprisingly not that old. The pioneers who settled in this area undoubtedly enjoyed the splendor of the Pacific Northwest but even the Evergreen branches couldn’t shield these newcomers from world events like The Great War. November 2018 marks the centennial of World War I ending when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies.

To honor the lives of those affected in WWI and remember how their extraordinary courage helped shape the city of Lynden, the Lynden Pioneer Museum has partnered with Talking to Crows in presenting “Homecoming” written by Talking to Crows’ company member Laura Baker. The play has been rewritten and is being staged as “Almost Home” specifically for the Lynden Pioneer Museum on November 10, 2018.

The City Drug Store was owned by Ed Edson, who stopped speaking to his son after he returned from The Great War. Photo courtesy: Lynden Pioneer Museum.

The museum generously donated their space to the film, and the play is intended to pay them back for their generosity say the play’s producers, Stacy Reynolds and Cassidy Brooks. The Museum’s director, Troy Luginbill, came up with the idea to stage an original play to commemorate their year-long WWI Centennial exhibit and the veterans from Lynden and the surrounding areas.

The story of “Almost Home” is inspired by the lives of real veterans who lived in Lynden. The play follows two soldiers and a nurse who have returned after serving their country. One soldier, Gale Edson, tries to reconnect with his father, Ed Edson, while working in their family-owned City Drug Store in Lynden. Another soldier, John Cooper, seeks help with his post-traumatic stress disorder commonly known back then as Shell Shock, while Nancy Smith, a nurse, struggles to find her place due to the lack of opportunities available to her. Through their eyes, we see how the war affected them personally both abroad and back home.

Talking to Crows filming “Just Like The Men” at the Lynden Pioneer Museum; the beginning of their collaboration to create the play “Homecoming”. Photo courtesy: Talking to Crows.

These creative spirits and keepers of history came together after remembering another figure who had been lost to time: Ella Higginson. “Homecoming” came to life through the feature film, Just Like the Men, which explores another prolific local’s story through the discovery of her forgotten documents. Past stories are sparking connections among the storytellers of today.

Reynolds and Brooks love work that casts the spotlight on our area. The joy here is two-fold as the narrative of Almost Home is derived from Whatcom County history, and brought to life by its modern-day residents (and some descents!) of the same community. The pair find meaning in supporting the museum’s fundraising efforts in this way.

From the discovery of Ella’s work to creating Almost Home, the women at Talking to Crows have been a part of every step. The play’s director, Ashton Lundy, another member of Talking to Crows, has enjoyed the creative challenge of staging a play within a museum’s exhibits.

The set of “Almost Home” takes place inside the Lynden Pioneer Museum’s exhibits. Photo courtesy: Talking to Crows.

“At the museum, there are location facades used to display their artifacts that correlate to scenes in our play,” Lundy says. “Which gives us some great backdrops to make the scenes come to life.”

The Lynden Pioneer Museum has recreated over 18 buildings. The Lynden Department store stands tall decorated with its stained-glass sign. The Clock Shop is frozen in time. A personal favorite is the Cozy Café, with it’s red and white tiled floor, delicious sounding menu and tasty treats on display.

The inside of the City Drug Store exhibit. Each of the 18 buildings that have been recreated within the Museum are filled with historical items and details. Photo courtesy: Lynden Pioneer Museum.

Each exhibit is rich in detail, design and history, giving anyone who enters the museum a feast of stories to enjoy as they wander through the lives of past Lynden residents. That is only half of what the museum has to offer. The rest of the museum is filled with tools, cars and technology of days gone by. Memories abound. The Museum is dedicated to offering excellent educational and historic resources to the surrounding community.

The collaboration between the museum and Talking to Crows has developed into a one-night fundraising event to mark the WWI Centennial and the ending of their exhibition on the war. The evening will include drinks and a light dinner, live and silent auction, as well as the performance. Tickets are $25 if purchased ahead by calling the museum or $30 at the door.

The story of “Almost Home” is based on real Lynden residents’ and veterans’ experiences after WWI. Photo courtesy: Talking to Crows.

Remembering the past helps shape communities. As our world shifts and changes and the Evergreen trees continue to grow proud and strong, we must recall that history allows us to exercise our imagination. When we all connect, share stories and engage with the past, we discover who we really are. History shows us how to build a successful future.

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