Storytelling at Camp Roberts

May 31, 2012 

I love a good story when the teller supplies correct details. So I was pleased on Memorial Day when Mamie and I visited the Camp Roberts Historical Museum.

One of its exhibits includes a soldier mannequin sitting on his bunk. He wears a Korean War-era, Class-A uniform like the two issued to me in 1951. Actually he’s wearing the shoes, shirt and pants, but he has his tie and “Ike” jacket hanging on the door of his tall, metal locker.

His footlocker sits at the foot of his bunk. Its lid is tilted back so we can see what’s on the footlocker’s inner tray. His toilet articles are displayed there in a precise, formal way.

Soldiers were often given diagrams showing exactly where to place everything on the tray — soap here, toothbrush there, safety razor there, shaving brush here, shaving stick there, etc.

Officers and noncoms would inspect our “displays” to make sure we had the required toilet articles to keep ourselves clean and healthy.

But I never met a soldier who actually used those spotless toilet articles in his “display.” Their only use was to be inspected.

We each had another toothbrush, razor, shaving brush, etc., that we actually used. We kept them out of sight.

Mine were in a zippered plastic kit in the bottom of my footlocker under my winter underwear. As for the shaving stick, I still don’t know how to use one. I used shaving cream from a tube.

Every officer and noncom in the Army must have known that footlocker-tray displays were frauds, with no bearing on a soldier’s personal cleanliness and sanitation. We could actually use moldy toothbrushes and slimy razors and it wouldn’t matter as long as our never-used displays were neat and uniform.

But that doesn’t upset me; it makes me nostalgic. I’m glad the museum included that detail.

The museum boasts 50 mannequins in various military uniforms, both friendly and enemy, with and without weapons. It also illustrates Camp Roberts’ training operations during World War II, the Korean War and subsequent wars.

It’s usually open only Thursdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but it opened on Memorial Day to officially name its new library after the founder of the museum, the late Albert E. Davis of Paso Robles. He opened it in 1987.

Davis worked in the Camp Roberts post engineer’s office from 1961 to 1992 and died in 2002.

For information about the museum, you may go to www.camprobertshistoricalmuseum.com.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.

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