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WWII memorabilia and memories: presented by former Vol State professor Pete Johnson

By Ryan Hanna

Volunteer State Community College is hosting a World War II exhibit in the Thigpen Library Tues. 10 am in the Rochelle Center. 

The exhibit will feature artifacts from the war such as uniforms, soldiers’ personal items and other assorted items. Former Vol State history professor Pete Johnson will present his collection.

“When I was about eight years old my dad bought me a helmet from an army surplus store and that was my first piece,” said Johnson, who taught at Vol State for 14 years.

Over the years Johnson has collected pieces and artifacts ranging from family heirlooms to old items picked up in antique shops and flea markets. “Most of the time I get my items in military shows,” he said.

Johnson estimates that he’s put on around 15 exhibits since his retirement from Vol State in December of 2018, after doing it every semester of his VSCC career.

As for the main takeaway that he wants his audience to get from his exhibit, Johnson said, “When there is definite difference between good and evil that the sacrifice that these men and women made for our liberty and the liberty of those that they set free, that’s to be learned.”

For current Vol State history professor Grady Eades, the exhibit encapsulates more than just the wartime efforts.

“The primary takeaway here is that the collection is an excellent example of what we call material culture. The collection is made up of actual artifacts from the period—uniforms, music, various paper sources and photos—and these artifacts allow us to see how people lived. History is not just the political decisions made by governments; it is the story of people’s lives. These sorts of material culture exhibits allow us to get a better idea of what life for regular people was like,” said Eades. 

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