WESTON, Conn. — Bayard Dodge Jr. was a promising student at Deerfield Academy headed for Princeton University in the spring of 1944.
But by November of that year, the 20-year old — then-Private First Class Dodge — found himself leading a group of men up a hill in the south of France.
“Bang, he was shot. And that was the end of him,” said Reg Bowden, shaking his head at the sad memory.
Dodge’s is one of hundreds of stories collected by the Weston Historical Society for “Memories of World War II,” a fascinating exhibition running now through April 1 at the Weston Road site.
“This is a very small space to tell a very large story,” said Executive Director Susan Gunn Bromley. “We tried to show the human side.”
In fact, the exhibit, which fills two stories, depicts Westonites and their families both on the battlefield and battleships and back at home supporting the troops with victory gardens and ration tickets.
“One hundred and fifty five joined (the military) of a population of little over 1,000,” said Bowden, who chaired the exhibit committee. “You have a group of patriots here.”
The exhibition features dozens of photos of Weston servicemen and women. Local school students volunteered to help hunt down stories of those who served, which have been collected in a booklet to go with the photos. There is also a series of medals and badges from local residents and their families and an interesting grouping of military uniforms and gear, including a motorcycle and sidecar.
The Weston Historical Society puts the war in context by showing how it changed local manufacturing, which had to begin turning out guns and munitions for the war effort.
Even the food world helped out, inventing M&Ms and Cheerioats (later Cheerios) to provide a burst of energy for troops on the go, Bromley said.
Drawings and watercolors by David George Van Vliet and evocative images by Life photographer George Silk add to visitors’ understanding of the hardships service people endured during the conflict.
The historical society presents graphic images of the Holocaust in a brochure, so parents can decide whether visiting children are mature enough to view them, Bromley said.
Many images show scenes of daily life in Weston. Primarily a farming community, families had to make due while Mom or Dad was away, said Society President Dallas Kersey.
“It’s just a small community, but you still had to work the farm and Dad was still gone,” he said.
Several related events will take place in conjunction with the exhibition. Next up is a Jan. 25 lecture by Captains Kyle Ratzinger and Gregory Hope of the U.S. Military Academy entitled “The War in the Pacific.” The 7:30 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public.
The Weston Historical Society is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. For private tours, call Bromley at 203-226-1804 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.westonhistoricalsociety.org .
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