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Museum honors WWII home front

By Gary McCullough
Correspondent

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  • Details

    The Home Front Museum is not open on a regular schedule; tours can be scheduled by calling the Haw River Historical Museum, 336-578-0784. Admission is free; donations accepted.



An unassuming brick house on Haw River’s Main Street pays tribute to the sacrifice, sorrow, pride, and patriotism of the “folks back home” who did so much to help America and its allies achieve victory in World War II.

Distance

Haw River, just east of Burlington, is about 120 miles from Charlotte, a two-hour drive.

To see and do

Guests to the Home Front Museum – Childrey House – will have a sense that they are visiting a typical family home while the owners are away. The living room, dining room, children’s bedroom, and master bedroom are all clean and tidy, yet they look very much lived in. Easily-recognized items and more than a few antiquated artifacts are causally displayed in every room. Unlike most museums, visitors are encouraged to make use of the living room sofa and chairs, adding to the charming ambiance. Sitting in the comfortable chair near the radio – the centerpiece of the living room – it’s easy to feel transported back 70 years, to a time when the world was at war and everyone felt it. While only 15 percent of the population actually wore uniforms, almost everyone else did his or her part to aid the war effort.

The museum provides insight into these daily sacrifices. Almost every “luxury” seemed to be in short supply: gasoline, rubber, sugar, cloth, meat, even coffee. A sign in a butcher shop read, “Please be nice to our employees! They are harder to come by than customers and meat is harder to get than either one.” The OPC – the Office of Price Control – issued such detailed instructions about how meat was to be cut that butchers complained they needed rulers as well as cleavers! Beef, pork, and chicken, purchased in large quantities by the government for the armed forces, were in such limited supply stateside that folks considered it unpatriotic to eat meat more than once a week.

In the 1940s, the highway now designated U.S. 70 was the only direct east-west road in North Carolina, and with an ordinance camp nearby in Greensboro, Haw River saw war convoys passing through town on a regular basis. Teachers took advantage of their students’ natural interest in the convoys to help teach math. Count the trucks and jeeps; how many more or less are in this convoy than the previous one?

Many homes had a small flag hanging in the living room window, with one or more stars indicating the number of family members serving in the armed forces. The most sobering artifact in the museum is the slightly-browned Western Union telegram conveying the message everyone on the home front feared to receive: “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regrets that your (loved one) was killed in action. ...”

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