Southam's volunteer fire brigade would rally to the sound of a hunting horn in days gone by - but businesses have failed to heed its guardians' call for help.
The horn is just one of 2,500 fascinating objects that form the Cardall Collection currently housed in Beech Loft in Warwick Road.
But the pieces - amassed by the late Jack and Renee Cardall - look set to be dispersed after only three businesses responded to 187 letters asking for financial support.
Cardall Collection 'Friend' Bernard Cadogan said: "The response was very disappointing. We were asking for money to help us find somewhere to keep the collection together as a museum.
"But it looks unlikely we will be able to do that now."
So far, 520 has been donated to the cause and Southam Lions have just pledged 1,500 over the next three years.
Lion Peter Guy said: "It is a unique part of the town's heritage and we felt that we wanted to show the rest of the business community that it's very important that it stays as one unit rather than being split up and sent to various places across the county."
Mr Cadogan added: "We want to thank the Lions for their generous support and hope others will follow their lead.
"But unless we get around 10,000 - half of the rental costs for the next three years - the collection will probably be split up and items sold."
Jackie Graham and her brothers Trevor and Robert are the beneficiaries of Mrs Cardall's will and have postponed putting Beech Loft up for sale.
She said: "My father was always a hoarder and the collection built up over the years and when he died my step-mother carried it on.
"They would be very sad that it wasn't going to be kept together and made use of.
"The house has been empty since June and we are still having to heat and run it.
"The Friends have been marvellous. We can hang on for a bit, but it's difficult when there are other people involved."
Mrs Graham's favourite piece is a bugle which her father - a talented musician in The Blue Ping dance band - would play at concerts in and around the town.
Her husband Ken, the collection trustee and a Friend, said: "The fire brigade horn was used up until 1940 then again in 1975 when it was blown by Mr Cardall on the Radio 4 programme Down Your Way.
"Now it stands for the last call in the sense that action must be taken now or it could be too late."
l The Friends are planning a What is a museum? exhibition in the library in March to let residents decide which objects they would like displayed if premises are found.
To help the Friends, call Mr Cadogan on 613503 or visit www.southamonline.co.uk
Donations can be sent to Mr GB Cadogan, 41 Vicarage Lane, Harbury, Leamington, CV33 9HB. Cheques should be made payable to the Friends of the Cardall Collection.
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