WWII Comes To Life at Rochelle Center

By: Yvonne Nachtigal

Volunteer State Community College was treated to a World War II Display at the Rochelle Center in Thigpen Library Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

The exhibit featured Vol State History Faculty Member Peter Johnson’s extensive World War II memorabilia collection.

The sound of Peggy Lee’s “Waiting For The Train” 1945 added to the ambiance as students viewed the exhibit of World War II uniforms, guns, swords, flags and newspapers and more.

Johnson, who was dressed in a World War II uniform, said he started his World War II when he was eight-years-old.

“My dad bought me a helmet. That was my first helmet. My dad was a World War II veteran,” said Johnson.

Johnson mentioned that many men in his neighborhood and all of his male teachers were veterans too, which added to his interest.

Johnson said that some items in the collection were given to him by veterans, some who were neighbors. He found many other items at military shows, antique stores, and garage sales.

Johnson enthusiastically answered student’s questions and shared the stories behind several of the items in his collection.

He said the memorabilia brings history to life, and that he likes imagining what the people associated with each of the items saw.

His favorite item is a bomber coat.

“You can’t find those anymore. I’ve been offered a lot of money for it. If my house was burning down I’d run upstairs and grab that thing. Of course, I’d grab my wife too,” said Johnson.

Asked about the value of the collection Johnson said that at some point he needs to create an itemized list.

“I can tell you this much, that there is one box worth $3000. Now you’re probably all wondering which box it is,” said Johnson.

The exhibit was well received by students.

“I’m really not that interested in history, but Professor Johnson’s presentation, and being able to see the collection makes it a lot cooler. The swords were my favorite part,” said Vol State General Sciences major Brenton Kennedy.

“It gives a perspective of what it was actually like,” said student Alex Winkler.