KHS 2002 Exhibits:
A Tribute to our Veterans:
Often the most popular exhibits are collaborative efforts between the Society and the townspeople. In the summer of 2002, we gathered wartime memorabilia from soldiers of many wars and presented “A Tribute to Our Veterans and Those Who Stayed Behind.” With war in Iraq looming, poignant memories welled up in our town’s veterans, and we broke all attendance records. We were able to mount an incredible exhibit showcasing uniforms and other military equipment from all branches of the service through many wars.
A WWI doughboy uniform was displayed next to a Nelson portrait of an unknown WWI soldier and a photograph of long time Kent resident James Humphreys, who fought in WWI and then organized Kent’s Civilian Defense in WWII. The exhibit was rich with photographs, medals, diaries, scrapbooks and magazine articles from WWII, including the February, 1943, issue of LIFE magazine with Kent’s plane spotters on the front cover.
Interspersed among these donated treasures were copies of a remarkable collection of letters written by the Kent townspeople to their soldiers all over the world during WWII. Organized by F. Maurice Childs and the Kent Volunteer Fire Department, the letter writers threw a life line to Kent’s homesick servicemen in those days before the internet shrank the globe. In many cases, our visitors returned two or three times in order to carefully read these clear glimpses into life in wartime Kent.
As a result of our visitors’ response to these letters, we have now published a book, One Small Town in WWII, Kent, Connecticut, which includes the military histories of servicemen and women, a chapter on the home front of Kent as well as the letters.
While WWII dominated the exhibit, the offerings from the Korean and Vietnam wars often stopped people in their tracks. On Veterans Day, the Kent Center School eighth grade spent a sobering hour examining the display and then listening to the Rev. Thomas Berberich describe the gravity and horror of war.
Father Berberich, who served as chaplain on the front lines in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, strongly encouraged the spell-bound children to fulfill their duty to become responsible peace loving adults, and on that note we closed the doors on a timeless exhibit at Seven Hearths.