One of the smallest cities in Thurston County is about to get a taste of the big time.
The Train Depot Museum in Tenino will be featured in an episode of “Mysteries at the Museum” on the Travel Channel at 10 p.m. Thursday, July 12. Tenino’s wooden money dating back to the Great Depression will be featured alongside a segment on Jack the Ripper.
Local resident Loren Ackerman, who operates the original press to produce commemorative currency notes during the annual Oregon Trail Days festival in Tenino, was interviewed by a producer for the show when a camera crew shot footage earlier this year.
Tenino Historian Rich Edwards helped facilitate communication between museum workers and show staff after the film crew departed.
“I thought it was more important to have (Ackerman) up front than me since he’s the one who does the printing of the wooden dollars,” said John O'Callahan, president of the Train Depot Museum. “It was pretty interesting to see how they moved cameras around on rails and to watch a whole lot of the stuff from behind the scenes. It’s going to be great to get this exposure for the museum.”
The backstory of Tenino’s wooden money fits well within the scope of “Mysteries of the Museum,” which spotlights historical oddities and artifacts.
The city began printing the unusual currency after its bank closed in December 1931. Initially, it was meant as an IOU of sorts, but it soon became a sought-after financial alternative during the Depression.
Bills were printed in denominations of 25 cents, 50 cents and $1. Collectors today value the wooden sheets at a much higher value. An early version recently sold for more than $4,000, according to O'Callahan.
“It’s going to expose people to something they’ve probably never thought of before,” O'Callahan said.
The museum has original examples of the wooden money, and continues to print replicas at the museum with a period press.
The wooden money can still be redeemed for goods at some area businesses.