04/20/06 — Nostalgia revived by museum exhibit

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Nostalgia revived by museum exhibit

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 20, 2006 1:46 PM

Memories flooded back as Mary Johnstone gazed at the USO sign in the new exhibit at the Wayne County Museum.

She met her husband at the USO, she said, back in 1942 when she was a hostess and he was among the first wave of airmen assigned to Johnson Field, as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was then called. They courted on the steps outside the building and were married two years later.

The USO sign was part of the new Wars of Wayne County exhibit unveiled Wednesday night at the museum. The William Street building that today houses the museum was used for the USO during the 1940s.

Barbara Hatch was another attendee at Wednesday's opening. She said her mother was glad she was too young to date when the war brought the throngs of young airmen to Goldsboro. She would go to the USO dances with her mother, she said, but the war was over before she reached dating age.

Another exhibit held special interest for Ms. Hatch. Her uncle, David Prince, served in World War I and his photograph hung as part of that exhibit. Her family donated the photo and a number of artifacts from his war experience to the museum for display in the exhibit, which details the contributions of Wayne County soldiers, sailors and airmen in America's wars, from the Revolution to World War II.

Museum President Louis Marriner said the exhibit will be changed periodically to display new artifacts from later wars.

"This exhibit is still a work in progress," Marriner said.

"The hardest part was deciding what to include and what to leave out," he said. "We had planned to add Korea and Vietnam, but we ran out of space."

The exhibit will continue to change, he said, and memorabilia from other wars will be rotated into the exhibit.

Museum Director Janet Clayton thanked the families of service men and women for donating many of the artifacts that make up the exhibit.

"What a terrific night this is," she said. "The nay-sayers said it wouldn't be done in time to open tonight."

Steve Bryan, a member of the museum's board of directors, praised Clayton, Marriner, and state historian Jeff Bockert on the job they did to put the exhibit together. He said the county should be proud of its military heritage and the exhibit that rivals those in larger museums.