Published June 12, 2014
By Annie Wilson, Journal reporter
Celebrating the adoption of the American Flag, Historic Downtown Belton held a 3-day observation. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, local business, conducted sidewalk sales, gave out flags on Saturday and the Bell County Museum opened their exhibit “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation.”
With a group of approximately 17 people Thursday evening, Stephanie Turnham, Director of The Bell County Museum, conducted a National Historic District Walking Tour beginning at the Bell County Courthouse.
The group toured a several block radius learning about the Belton of past.
“We were under tornado watch, but I asked everybody that gathered there and they did want to take the tour,” Turnham said. “It ended up being a great time. The walking tour is something different for people to do. There are a lot of interesting buried things that we touch upon during the walking tour.”
Turnhm talked about how the original idea of G.I. Joe was based on a man from Belton.
“Henry Wascow was a young man from Belton, he got his college degree and was a teacher. When the war broke out, he joined the Army,” Turnham said. “He died in combat during World War II in the Italian campaign.”
“Ernie Pyle, the famous journalist was embeded with Henry and his men. Ernie Pyle reported on the death and the reaction of his men in the Washington Daily News on Jan. 10, 1944 and earned a Pulitizer Prize for his moving tribute to Wascow,” she said. “Henry Wascom is the prototype for G.I. Joe, Robert Mitchum character in the movie Ernie Pyle’s Story of G.I. Joe is based on Wascow.”
Friday evening, Miller’s BBQ hosted Kyle Heitmiller, a popular local entertainer.
“We always love having him come in because we always have a great time. Kyle is one of those people that never meets a stranger. Flag Day is awesome,” Dusty Miller of Miller’s BBQ said. “I think it is perfect beer and BBQ and some good ole music on Flag Day just seems to make sense.”
Saturday, downtown Belton businesses handed out free flags and encouraged shoppers to visit the Bell County Museum’s newest exhibit, “Our Lives, Our Stories” America’s Greatest Generation.”
“We decided to promote downtown Belton, the Bell County Museum sponsored flags, directing them over to the Bell County Museum,” Diana Myers of Real Deal on Home Decor said. “We’re also doing the clearance sales along with the sidewalk sale along with other downtown business stores trying to just get things happening in downtown business. When people come in today we give them a free flag and send them to the museum and send them to other stores in downtown Belton.”
“Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation” is an interactive exhibition complied by the Minnesota Historical Society depicting certain aspects of life of the “greatest generation” from birth to the 1960s.
“There are all of these interactives coming of age stories about growing up in the great depression and a Hooverville shack,” Turnham said. “Then we get into World War II, Pearl Harbor and we have a touch screen that talks about being inducted into the army.”
“All of this information is so beautifully done. After the war is over and now you are in the 1950’s. There is a 1950’s kitchen complete with Tupperware. It shows you what a kitchen would have looked like in the 1950s.”
Turnham opened one of the cabinet drawers and a book The Feminine Mystique appeared.
“Unhappy housewives after they had to go back home from being Rosy the Riviters because all the men came back,” Turnham said. “Thousands of men got the GI Bill and went to school and all of those men who looked at the horror of war came back home and started families, joined the Kiwanas Club and founded the Lions Club.”
The exhibit contains displays of African Americans and the begining of the Civil Rights movement, the idea of the family vacation like touring Route 66 and the beginning of the Vietnam War.
The “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation” exibit held its opening reception with special guest speaker, Jeremi Suri, Ph.D., Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, the University of Texas at Austin.
“History is about looking into the past, to understand the lives of other people, to get some understanding and to learn something from it,” Suri said.
According to usflag.org, inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day – the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 – was officially established by the proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until Aug. 3, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
For more information about the “Our Lives, Our Stories America’s Greatest Generation” exihibit or the history of Belton, visit www.bellcountymuseum.mviso.com. The Bell County Museum is located at 201 N. Main Street in Belton.