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Archive for Monday, September 4, 1995

WWII EXHIBIT OPENS

September 4, 1995

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A new museum exhibit highlights Lawrence's efforts in support of World War II.

In 1941, Fred N. Six was sitting on the floor playing a game of Monopoly with neighbors when he heard the first reports describing the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Six, who is a state Supreme Court Judge, has vivid memories of what it was like growing up in Lawrence during World War II.

The Lawrence resident made a presentation Sunday during the opening of a World War II exhibit at the Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.

The exhibit, "Douglas County, Kansas, and World War II: The Home Front and Beyond," focuses on local activities during the war in Europe and Asia.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Japanese surrender.

William Tuttle, professor of history at Kansas University, and Patricia Michaelis, a director from the Kansas State Historical Society, also spoke Sunday.

Tunes by Nat King Cole and other wartime musicians played as exhibit viewers shuffled through the exhibit Sunday, some pointing at pictures of friends and neighbors in military service during the war.

A photograph, enlarged for the display, shows a group of National Guard soldiers marching north on Massachusetts Street toward the train depot on a snowy Jan. 3, 1941.

The exhibit includes a list of the 1,200 men and women from Lawrence who served in the war and the 100 residents who died in the war.

Much of the memorabilia -- including uniforms, ration stamps, letters, posters and photographs -- was donated by longtime Lawrence residents.

From 1939 to 1945, everyone had a role in the war effort, Six said.

Most families made rooms available to the 3,000 workers who moved to the area to work at the Sunflower Ordnance Ammunition Plant, and women took jobs as factory or farm workers. All "free time" was spent making clothing and assembling supplies for service personnel, he said.

The exhibit features photographs of groups of Red Cross volunteers making sweaters in the basement of Central Junior High School.

Employees were in demand because many local men were overseas in the military. Teen-agers, women and even German prisoners of war being held locally were recruited to become a part of the local work force.

Six said he used to get up before sunrise and ride his bicycle, with a flashlight tied to the handlebars, to the food cannery in Lawrence to help with extra food production needed because of the war.

"I felt I was important and needed," Six said in his speech to a crowd of about 70 museum visitors. "I was making a contribution. Everyone was needed during this time."

The museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, will sponsor the exhibit for a year.

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