Carolina History Project
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North Carolina Air National Guard's (NCANG) 50th Anniversary celebration, held on Morris Field Drive, Charlotte, North Carolina back in 1999.  As that the Millennium year of 2000 was almost upon us, Dirk Allman did a history display at the 145th Airlift Wing that spanned most of the 20th Century!




Dirk Allman in an environment he loves best:  setting up a history display for the public to enjoy.  Yours truly always loves to dress the part with old vest, skinny Dacron necktie from the 1960's, wide-brim homburg hat (like the bankers and presidents used to wear) and a loud natty blazer that my late father wore back in the 1950's...along with my "circus barker" cane that I use to point with.  My wrist had been injured at the time, which is I why I had the brace on.  Do note things like the yellowed World War II newspaper:  "Japan Will Quit Tokyo Radio Says."  Note old "Rising Sun" Japanese flag that I found at a long gone antique mall that used to be on South Blvd. here in Charlotte.  (It's a tattoo parlor now.)  See the "two blue star" service flag indicating that "two members" of a household were serving in World War II (I found it nearly two decades ago at an attic sale on Scott Avenue here in Charlotte), a Jenette McDonald/Nelson Eddy LP record from 1957, part of my late father's Big Little Book collection from the 1930's/1940's in a display case...and et.al.  Let's put it this way...everybody knows that when I come with a display...I'm going to make a mess.

The North Carolina Air National Guard (NCANG) was instituted in North Carolina in 1948.  1998 was to be the 50th anniversary commemoration at the Air National Guard in Charlotte (home of the 145th Airlift Wing), complete with an air show, with the B-1 Bomber as the centerpiece...and it all was to be open to the public, but some sort of logistics with the Guard that year kept it from being celebrated here in Charlotte.  So it was postponed to the year 1999...and the B-1 Bomber was there.  (Mercy, what a loud plane!)  The public was invited...and thousands came. 

I was working at the US Census Bureau at the time, clerking and helping out with the 2000 Census.  While working there, I did a few history displays for the Census Bureau that dealt with some of the various "special history months" that the US government observed such as Black History month, Women's History month, etc.  A lady, by the name of Becky Douglas, who had worked at the local Air Guard as a secretary and was retired from there...and was then working at the local Census Bureau, let me know that this 50th anniversary of the Gaurd was coming up.  But I wanted to do more than just attend.  I wanted to do a display!  And why not?  The NCANG would be the perfect place for the kind of things that I like to exhibit.  Surly they couldn't refuse me.  The retired secretary tried to let the Guard know about me, as that she had seen what I could do at the Census, but it didn't look like it was going to be.

So I got a letter together, with a rather primitive photocopy brochure of what I could present for their 50th Anniversary, mailed it...and somehow...to my surprise...(I had just about given up)....they told me that it was OK to come!  (I was glad because I sure didn't want to wait for the 75th or 100th anniversary to try to do it!)  Well, I started going through all of my dusty corners, old sock drawers...wherever I keep these old things stacked and stuffed and trying to remember where I put it all.  (I have a filing system that only I understand...and nobody else.)  I loaded up my van to the point...it was a little hard to see out of it.  And like the Joads in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, who had all of their worldly possessions stacked up on their old Ford truck....I took off work early and drove my sagging van over to the Air Guard (which, thankfully, wasn't very far away.)  I came to their special gate where the armed guards where, told them who I was, what I was here for...and hoped to Heaven that they didn't want me take every bit of this stuff out and inspect it.  (We would have been at that gate for three weeks!)  Thankfully, they "phoned me in" and told me to head onto the hanger where the C-130's were kept.  (But the planes were parked on the tarmac so that the hanger could be used for historical displays.)

The Carolinas Aviation Museum nearby also had several exhibits set up....and when they saw me coming in with my overloaded van sinking down into the wheel wells...one of them said, "That must be Dirk!"  The Gaurd provided me seven tables, as that I told them I was going to try to recreate the whole 20th century!  Well, I only made it up to about the moon landing of 1969 when I ran out of tables!  The rest of the tables were taken up by General Outwater, a Desert Storm veteran.  He had his souviners from his time serving in what in the not-to-distnat future would be known as:  "the first Gulf War."  General Outwater was a rather amiable fellow, quite tall, with graying hair and mustache.  He looked the part of a general and was soon to retire, this commemoration being one of his last duties.  I think even the General was a bit taken aback when I started pulling all of this old stuff out of my van and setting it up.  And the photos you see here was how it all came together.  And really, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to turn out, but turn out it did.  (It is important for me to mention that I wasn't the only historical display in this hanger.  The Navarros of Tara Airbase in Mocksville, North Carolina, who own an actual airbase made to look like a World War II-era airfield, had the other half of the hanger filled with things like their old, still running, olive drab 1940 Dodge staff car and other World War II-era equipment and memorabila.  But I never had the time to take pictures of it, which is quite understandable as that I had my hands full.)          



OK, let's take a tour shall we of where my "20th Century display" started.  One of the oldest pieces was the Edison Gem cylinder record phonograph from 1905.  And yes, "it plays."  The 2-minute cylinder I had on it was titled "Beautiful Garden of Roses (Touched By The Morning Dew) as sung by the every-popular turn-of the-the-20th century tenor, Mr. Henry Burr.  (The other two records were a US Everlasting cylinder with a military band number and a Columbia Indestructible cylinder with the French National Anthem, "The Marsailles.")  You will note the cylinder boxes immeadiately to the left of it.  Just behind the phonograph, though you probably can't make it out, is a 1906 copy of The San Fransico Earthquake and Fire.  Again, if you look to the left of the phonograph, you will see a 1912 book about the Titantic sinking, published just months after the great sea tragedy happened.  If you look just above the Edison phonograph horn, you will see a Spanish-American War era piece of sheet music titled:  "Your Dad Gave His Life For His Country."  To the far left of the photo, you will see sheet music from World War I such as "Over There," with Ensign Reilly in his U.S. Naval uniform pictured on the cover, "We're Going Over," and "You Lips Are No Mans Land But Mine!"  (Shew, what a titled!  Also, all of the sheet music was mounted on "science project" boards...as that I used them as "backdrops" throughout the exhibit.)  You will also see an old rumpled felt pennant for Camp Edwards.  (That camp may have been somewhere in New England during World war I as that it was given to me by a flea market dealer from Hyannis, Massachusetts.)  To the left of the Edison phono...the small yellow box is a 1960's-era "Super 8" film of "Sgt. York" with Gary Cooper.  (Just had to sneak that one in there!  It's one of my favorite movies...and probably one of the best films ever made about World War I.)  And you will also notice in one of the display cases a small felt German "Iron Cross" flag from World War I as well.

OK, moving slowly to your right, we get into the 1920's or "Roaring Twenties."  (Fun period to study.)  The "science board" I have in the background depicts Charles A. Lindbergh's famous 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic.  In front of it it is an early 1920's era Crosley "battery-operated" radio, showing two kinds of radio speakers from the time:  a tall black paper mache "mega-phone" speaker horn from the early 1920's, and a latter 1920's round metal Crosley radio speaker, with original blue cone paper still inside of it.  (For the record, I found the Crosley radio, complete with two of it's original speakers...with cone paper still intact, for all of twenty dollars at a local attic sale behind Avondale Presbyterian Church in Myer's Park here in Charlotte back in the 1990's.  I found them late in the day, too.  The yard sale vendors knew that they were old, but I guess they didn't know what they were.  I've displayed them many times.  Continuing....)  Moving to the right, we have another science project board with items from the 1930's or Great Depression years.  You see sheet music for a very young Bing Crosby singing "Too Late," which I think came out in 1932.  The sheet music above it depicts Hollywood star Jack Oakie.  There are early 1930's magazine advertisements...and just the bearest hint of a Franklin Roosevelt picture.  Sitting on the table is a mid-1920's Victor Talking Machine portable "wind-up" Victrola, which is a kind of "suitcase" phonograph that was taken on car trips and played at picnics.  I still have it and it still works, too.  The record of the songs that I had playing on it was a mid-1920's Brunswick record of Carl Fenton and his Orchestra doing "What Has Become of Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo" (a funny nostalgic post-World War I song) and "A Thousand Miles From Here."  (Both were fox trots.)  They lyrics of the latter song went like this:

I know a gal who lived down the lane
People used to say she was insane
Then she sprinkled wiffle dust all around her bed
Woke up one morning found her ownself dead

A Thousand Miles
(A Thousand Miles)
A Thousand Miles
(A Thousand Miles)
Oh sister ain't that hot!

Mercy, the Air Guard didn't know what they were gettin' with me!  (I have owned that record since I was 14!)  Oh by the way, "wiffle dust" was insect powder that was used to kill such household pests as bed bugs.   



OK, here is another view of the same corner.  If you look close to the paper-mache 1920's radio horn, you will see an old leather flying cap, which is is shown in honor of early pioneer aviation and Charles Lindbergh.  Moving past the portable wind-up phonograph, if you can barely make it out, is a Dr. W. B. Caldwell's medicine bottle (still full) from 1942.  (It was for constipatioin.)  There is a 1934 Crosley "cathedral-style" radio.  (I found it for ten dollars at the local flea market.  I polished the veneer with brown Kiwi shoe polish.)  To the left of it is an RCA Victor radio tube still in the box.  To the right of it is a gallon milk bottle that milkmen used to leave on people's porches every morning.  Just above that is a framed 1920 Halloween Mazola Corn Oil ad.  Above the ad on the "project board" are some black family snapshots that came from Marion, North Carolina back in the 1920's.  And behind the radio is a piece of sheet music depicting the Mills Brothers.  (By the way, I always use old quilts, bedsheets and wool G. I. blankets for tablecloths.  It gives the artifacts a "homey" touch.)



Here we are pretty much in the 1930's Great Depression-era.  (These are the years when my mother and father were growing up as Depression-era children...hence why I know so much about that time.  Yes, Daddy made sure that I relived it with him...for I would see how he would go about saving everything from wads of rubber bands to then stocking up on six-year supplies of foot powder, etc.  (Yes, after Daddy died....it took us six years to go through all of the foot powder he had stashed away.  You just can never have too much foot powder on hand!  Daddy would have made a great quartermaster.)  And well folks, it's how I learned to save old stuff, too!  No Depression-era parents; no historical displays today!  Depression-era folks were "savers."  I came by it honestly.)  OK, the two display cases here contain my late father's "Big Little Books" which were the precursors to modern-day comic books.  Back then they sold for ten cents each, marketed primarily to young boys.  They were approximately 3 inches long by about two inches wide and about an inch and a half thick; just the right size to fit into a boy's coat pocket.  My Daddy, when a little boy, just loved to buy 'em, read 'em and save 'em.  When my father was serving in Occupied Japan, his mother (my grandmother) was putting all of his old Life magazines out in the chicken coop, which didn't make my Daddy too happy when he got back from the war.  But back in the 1970's, my grandmother gave my brothers and I two full grocery bags of these Big Little Books to enjoy and read.  And oh what titles:  Flash Gordon, The Phantom, The Shadow, Mr. District Attorney, Don Winslow of the Navy, Joe Palooka, Tom Mix, Tim McCoy, The Lone Ranger, Inspector Wade of the Scotland Yard, Tarzan of the Apes, Dick Tracy, Radio Patrol, Railroad Detective, Dan O' Dare Finds War and....Lightnin' Jim, U.S. Marshall, Brings Law To the West!  Yes!  (I'm glad those didn't end up in the chicken coop!)

On the "project board" are some mounted 1930's auto ads and a movie lobby card.  World War II is coming up as seen by the old Air Raid Warden helmet, based similar in design to the older World War I US helmets.  In fact, often times World War I veterans became the Air Raid Wardens of World War II.     



Yes, you still see the Big Little Books, the Jenette McDonald and Nelson Eddy LP record from 1957 and a modern transistor radio jukebox.  The next project board is dedicated to the December 7th, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.  In front of it, I hooked up my 1970's 3-speed BSR turntable that plays 33 1/3, 45 and 78rpm records.  Here it's hooked up to a small 1970's amplifier...and then hooked up to the speaker of a fake 1930's-style "Thomas" cathedral model radio.  That way, it looked like the radio was "broadcasting" my old 78's.  Folks really liked that.  It was a nice touch.  Behind the record player I had a 1960's aluminum Christmas tree "colorwheel" rotating behind it...so that while the records were playing, it would sort of make it look like  they were being played in a Wurlitzer jukebox!  Well, sort of.  (78rpm Wurlitzer jukeboxes in working condition cost thousands of dollars today.  Needless to say, I can't afford one.  The Christmas color wheel was cheaper to use.  It's one we had with our aluminum Christmas tree when I and my brothers were children.  Folks, I've lived in a house where stuff has stayed around for decades!  I mean I can just go into a forgotten corner...and pull out an aluminum Christmas tree colorwheel.  I mean how many people can do that in their home today?  Ho-ho-ho!)  And on top of the radio is a World War II, wool "G.I. brown" Army Air Corps cap.  The edges on the side of the cap are soft, so that radio earphones could easily be placed across it when worn.  Incidentally, the comforter I used for a tablecloth...is from the 1970's.  (Can't you tell?  And we've had it since the '70's!) 



In this picture, I can't remember who this gentleman's name was, but he really liked my display.  It seems that during the Korean War era, he had served in the United States Marine Corp....and was stationed at one point on Iwo Jima.  He wanted to know if I had with me the recording, "When The Yanks Raised The Flag On Iwo Jima" by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.  You know, so help me, I had the 78 record sitting in the blue crate stashed under the turntable.  (Synchronicty like this happens to me quite often.)  So, I played it for him on the record player quite a few many times since the phonograph had a "repeater tone arm" that would pick up and play the record over and over again.  As you can tell on the man's face....he was simply delighted!

Behind him was my 48-star flag, ensconced in an old school house, cast iron, three legged flag holder.  Behind him on the other tables, covered by a vintage white chenelle spread with tassled ends, is the rest of my World War II-era display, along with the beginning of the 1950's with an early 1950's wooden cabinet Philco television set.  (I don't know what that "white flash" on the right was.)  Might have been a metal railing nearby.)  



OK, here is the World War II display with 1945 newspaper touting "Japan Will Quit, Tokyo Radio Says."  Next to it on the project board is even a child's World War II-era Weekly Reader showing America's generals Eisenhower and Patton.   The other project board is dedicated to North Carolina state history with Carolina postcards...and even some North Carolina Confederate money.  The display cases are full of World War II-era paper ephemera, such as old wartime comic books my father read when he was a child, Red Cross and War Bond decals, aircraft postcards, soldier photographs, etc.  There is even an autographed picture of two of the crew members of the Enola Gay, navigator Dutch van Kirk and bombadier Tom Ferrebee (from when they were signing them at the Charlotte Air Museum at an open house once).  And that sepia-toned 8 X 10 photograph showing a man in a flight outfit...is my late father, Boyce Samuel Allman, Jr. who was 16 when he went into the Army Air Corps in 1944.  (His mother had to sign permission for him to enlist.)  I still have the picture hanging up on the wall in my computer room.  

My Daddy passed away on July 2nd, 1994 (sixty years after he enlisted) and he was laid to rest in a mausoleum in Landis, North Carolina on July 4th....while people were out celebrating Independence Day with picnics and fireworks.  I was singing "Amazing Grace" over his flag-draped coffin.  He was age 68 and died of congestive heart failure.  Sometimes, for obvious reasons, it's been hard for me to get that holiday back.  Which leads me to another dimension as to why I keep and display all of this stuff:  to help me remember.  This exhibit of mine went on for about three days at the Air Guard, which was tiring to be sure, but then I was approached by an air force officer.  And the conversation, as best as I can remember, went something like this:  "Is this all of your stuff?  "Yes," I said.  "I've been at it for a long time."  And then he said, "I want to tell you something.  I have been watching how people react to your display.  And I've seen people getting all teary-eyed.  This is an excellent display.  Thank you so much for bringing it."  It was humbling to hear that.  For a truth, there is a lot of sentimental emotion that goes into what I do....It's kind of my way of remembering all of the relatives that I've lost....and who went through the times that I depict.  If folks who see it, are so blessed, then I feel that I've done God's will.



Yes, here are some of the Air Guardsmen checking out my exhibit.  Post 9-11, 1999 looks like the "good-old-days."  Guardsmen don't normally wear olive drab camo fatigues now...it's "desert-ops" today.  Some of the Guardsmen I saw out there during the Air Show probably have long since seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  People who were children at the time I did this....are adults now.  I don't think there has a been an air show in Charlotte of this caliber since then.  There's been a lot of changes at the 145th Airlift Wing since the 1990's.  The place is bigger now.  New buildings have been erected.  And they're very busy with the war going on.  With security measures like they are now, I doubt that I would ever be allowed to bring such a heavy laden van full of antiques to display there again.  I'm glad I got to do this display with this venerable organization...when the skies were calm enough to do so.  They're turbulent now.  And have been for nearly a decade.  For those of you who didn't make it to this Air Show back in 1999, I hope that these pictures will at least give you some idea of what one portion of this program was like.  Do remember the men and women of the 145th Airlift Wing as that they have a very tough job to do.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and do enjoy perusing some of my other interesting pages on my website.---Dirk Allman 

Just a note here:  Many of the items found on this website are now, due to age, in the public domain and are from my private collection.  Items of a more recent vintage, that are used here in part for commentary and/or educational purposes are covered under the Fair Use Act of the US Copyright Office

dirkallman@carolinahistoryproject.com                         
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