A slow and steady crowd made its way through the Museum of the Island during its annual Christmas Open House Saturday morning and early afternoon.
About a half dozen vendors were set up outside MOTI to give individuals an opportunity to purchase some holiday gifts. The museum was also open with free admission to give individuals the opportunity to stroll around and check out some of the displays.
Sharon Traylor, president of MOTI, said the slow crowd was fine because it was easier for her and the volunteers to handle, along with providing visitors with the opportunity to see all the displays.
A new exhibit is now featured at the Museum of the Island. Two boards depict the early days of the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Department.
"It's been good," she said.
One of the big gift items that caught people's attention, Traylor said, was the afghan, tote bag and pillow, which all match. She said the collection, which depicts Pine Island birds, the Matlacha Bridge, fruit stands and fishermen, shares the history and tells the story of what Pine Island is all about.
The trio of items will continue to be 10 percent off through Christmas.
In light of the holiday season, MOTI has many items individuals can purchase as gifts. Traylor said the biggest seller in the gift shop is books.
"It's a good place to come and shop and it helps the museum," she said.
Individuals also had the opportunity to check out the new Matlacha/Pine Island Volunteer Fire Department display during the open house.
Gladys Schneider, one of the founding members of MOTI, said she was able to shoot digital photographs of everything that has been stored in a suitcase regarding the volunteer fire department. From her copies, she created a display for individuals.
Martin Slater began the volunteer fire department in the 1950s for Matlacha and Pine Island. Sunset Tackle Shop, which is now Great Licks in Matlacha, was the hub of the fire department, Schneider said, because that was where all the phone calls were taken from those that needed service.
The group of volunteers built their own fire trucks at Cliff's Garage, so they could fight fires.
Schneider said the funeral homes drove the ambulances until the 1960s when the feds mandated that funeral homes pay certain taxes. A hearse was donated to the fire department and the volunteers then took over the service.
She said residents of the island paid between $5-$7 for an ambulance ticket, which gave them fire department service for a year.
In the 1960s the volunteers for the fire department were required to be trained and certified in the field, which turned it into a professional career. Schneider said by the 1970s volunteer firemen could not fight fires anymore and taxes began to support the fire department.
She said the volunteer fire department made the island into a community and bonded everyone together.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
Traylor said they are looking for more volunteers to man the museum.
"We always need more and we can work with people's schedules," she said, adding that they can also pair two people up, so they are not alone during the museum hours.
The next MOTI fund-raiser, Rhythm and Rummage Sale, will be held Feb. 9.