Vicky Rogers was in high school when she first read Margaret Mitchell’s tale of the Civil War South, Gone with the Wind. It changed her life forever.
After 30 years of amassing a 6,000-piece collection including a rare signed first printing of the novel, Rogers began to share her treasures this month with the grand opening of the Gone with the Wind Remembered Museum and gift shop.
Rogers said she wasn’t sure what to expect when her museum opened two weeks ago, but people have been coming in a steady stream.
“People kept asking, ‘Why Cleburne?’ ” she said. “We live here, and we wanted this to be in the community.”
Over the years, Rogers’ collection outgrew her house, and she began planning and designing the nonprofit museum, which is housed in a 3,000-square-foot building.
“When I read the book, I fell in love with Tara. The theme was survival from the woman’s point of view. That intrigued me,” she said. Tara was the fictional plantation where the novel was set and home of the main character, Scarlett O’Hara.
Rogers bought her first Scarlett O’Hara doll after she read the book, and the collection grew over the years.
Her husband, Mike, said he always gave his wife gifts related to the novel for Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries.
Rogers and her husband, an attorney in Cleburne, converted the former Givens Grocery Store on East Second Street into the climate-controlled museum.
The journey back in time begins outside the building, where visitors see three large murals painted by Stylle Read showing the burning of Atlanta, Tara after the Civil War, and various characters from the movie. Read has also painted murals in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
The entrance to the museum is a replica of Tara’s front door. Inside, visitors are surrounded by floor-to-ceiling exhibits of costumes from the movie, programs from the film’s 1939 premiere in Atlanta and products that were licensed for sale after the film was released.
Among the highlights are 600 dolls and the riding outfit worn by Bonnie Blue, the daughter of Scarlett O’Hara and one of her husbands, Rhett Butler.
Rogers also owns a replica of the wedding dress that Scarlett O’Hara wore when she married her first husband, Charles Hamilton.
But her prize possession is the ornate armchair O’Hara stood near when Rhett Butler said probably the most famous words in the movie, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Rogers’ knowledge of Gone with the Wind is vast. She spent years visiting other museums and building relationships with other fans, who are called “windies,” and other collectors.
Rogers said she is grateful she got to meet some of the original cast members and Gone with the Wind experts before they died.
Besides Gone with the Wind artifacts, the museum showcases Civil War memorability, including a rare signature from Confederate Gen. Pat Cleburne and documents signed by Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln.
IF YOU GO
Gone with the Wind Remembered Museum, 305 E. Second Street
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Cost: general admission, $7; students with ID, $5; seniors 65 and older, and military, $5; children in strollers, free. An audio tour costs an additional $3.