Friday, April 9, 2010

The Frontlines at Penn State Altoona

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Calum Munro of Monessen, wearing a Berdan’s sharpshooter uniform, smokes a pipe Friday afternoon at Penn State Al­toona for the history society’s third annual history encampment. (Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)

Living History Lesson
War Encampment sets up on campus
By Amanda Clegg,
Penn State Altoona students stirred up memories for World War II veteran Don Hollows.
Part of the campus near the Hawthorne Building was set up to look like Civil War and World War II camps Friday for the Penn State Altoona History Society's third annual history encampment.
Twenty Civil War and six World War II re-enactors portrayed soldiers and other historical figures to give an intimate glimpse into the wartime experience.
"He told us about his experiences in the war and that it was good to see young people remember his generation's efforts in such a way," society President Jared Frederick, 22, said in an e-mail.
The 84-year-old Altoona man served in the Navy from 1944-46 in the Pacific Theater, covering Guam to Japan, he said.
"It wasn't a pleasure cruise," Hollows, who escaped the war without injury, said of his time serving. "I didn't like it a bit."
Even though Hollows said he signed up when he was 18 because he wanted to, he was afraid of getting killed and was thankful to return to Altoona alive.
Hollows said he never knew a good night's sleep while serving, and he could only share limited information with his family.
He still talks on the phone to some of his war buddies and they reminisce about how hot it was on the ship with no air conditioning, he said.
All the memories weren't bad, though.
"The meals were great," he said, remembering how the Navy gave them three square meals a day.
He said the Army wasn't so lucky because they lacked the ability to carry supplies like the belly of the Navy ships could, so they didn't eat as well.
The purpose of the re-enactment was to "help bring history alive for students," Frederick said.
History goes beyond what students can learn in a textbook, said Frederick, a history major and Gettysburg National Military park ranger.
"[History is] not only a story of where we've been, but where we're going," he said of how one can look to the past to "see mistakes and triumphs."
"It also gives the students a new perspective on history," he said.
WWII re-enactor Chuck Lynch, 24, a history major who has participated in reenactments since he was a teenager, said bringing the experience of a World War II soldier to life shows students what their grandfathers or older uncles may have experienced.
Hollows said the re-enactors were knowledgeable.
"I enjoyed it," he said of the encampment he called realistic.

Throughout the day on Friday, dozens of reenactors took part in the encampment, including a realistic depiction of a Civil War surgeon's tent with the Keystone Regiment.

Dr. Steven Andrews relaxing in his accurate depiction of true Southern Comfort.

History Department head Marc Harris poses in a Union uniform for an authentic portrait (minus the modern building in the background).

Berdan Sharpshooter Calum Munro displays his marksman's greens and carbine.

On the 145th anniversary of Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox, Dr. Steven Andrews and instructor Joe Petrulionis demonstrate the importance of reconciliation!

History Bluffs cartoonist Cory Geishauser joined the encampment in his Old Tyme baseball jersey for the Altoona Curve.

Cory drew hilarious and creative historical caricatures for much of the afternoon.

But all was much more serious with student Justin Shope, who is seen here doing his best impersonation of General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell.

Reenactor Eric Sral displays his brand new uniform and the carbine he does not even know how to properly hold. Just wait until he muddies up that uniform a bit for accuracy's sake.  Special thanks to all of those living historians who braved the chilled weather and came out for a truly great event! 

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