Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Washingtons go to Washington

For Connecticut Open House Museum Day, George choose to go to the Gunn Museum in Washington, CT. It was a lovely ride along the country roads. Neither of us remember having been to Washington before.

What made George choose this place was the special exhibit they had for World War I. Not only was it about the war worldly but locally too. George's father was from Salisbury when he served in the war, George believes as an ambulance driver.

I had preconceived notions about what a little country museum would be like. I was wrong. We were pleasantly surprised by this small museum's high quality presentation that had to take hundreds of hours to create. What struck me is the fact that these presentations have a limited life span and that it will be taken down in several months and a new theme created. Like working on a play or concert, that you pour your heart into, it must be sad to take it down. Yet, like play dough, you have the opportunity to create again and that must be rewarding.


The first thing you see when you walk in the building is this huge wall mural by John Singer Sargent. He was commissioned to create a memorial painting of the war. He went to the western front wanting to paint something of epic proportions. This scene at La Bac-du Sad was the aftermath of an attack where mustard gas was used. It shows the men with painful, bandaged eyes being led.

I realized I really knew very little about World War I. It was the first war with gas warfare, tanks and aerial attacks. Mustard gas attacked the senses, eyes, lungs and formed blisters. It was extremely painful and the effects lasted for weeks if it did not kill the person. The gas itself, also lasted for weeks in a trench or in the ground.

This room also had a professionally done video about the town of Washington during World War I. We suggest you take the time to watch it if you visit this exhibit.

From there you walk through a re-created trench bunker. They used great detail in creating this--down to the spiders and rats.

I believe these were called pig tail screws. They screwed them into the ground and put up the barbed wire for protection.
Being a letter writer (thanks to my Mom), I was interested in the display of copies of letters written from the men of Washington to their loved ones at home. Little did they know that their letters would become a representative of history. I am sad that this type of historic treasures are fading away with the advancement of technology. 

This is the uniform of an ambulance driver. George does not know if this is like the uniform his father wore. The ambulance in the picture is motorized. George remembers his father saying that he drove the ones with horses and that he was in the supply unit. Sadly, we cannot verify these facts now.
The following pictures are part of their wonderful exhibit of the women's involvement from Ruth Heline, enlisted, to Frances Hickox, volunteer. The latter was 53 years old when the town raised the $1,000. to send her to France as secretary in the Young Man's Christian Association. We did not know about this organization's involvement in the war.
The museum also has exhibits of the women on the home front. From the Red Cross to Sister Susie's Society and the Farmerettes. The Farmerettes was a national organization with 20,000 women across the United States who lived in camps. The one in Washington included twelve recruits from Vassar College. They grew food and tobacco. There is more information about these organizations, however, I don't want to share it all for those who wish to visit it.

It was interesting reading the excerpts of Francis Hickox's writings:

 I found the exhibit on the music of these war times interesting:

Here are some more random photos.

The Gunn Memorial Museum is open Thursday through Saturday 10-4 and Sundays 12-4. There is no admission fee but donations are appreciated. This exhibit runs through January 18, 2015. When we visited, there was an extremely knowledgeable docent who enhanced our visit greatly. She was able to answer all our questions enthusiastically.
Our time in Washington did not end there. Having fed our minds with knowledge, it was time to feed our stomachs and who can resist a sign saying Café on the Green.
To double the fun for me, we were amused by the layout of the building. On the left is the Washington Post Office. The café is on the right and you can walk from one to the other inside. There is a door between them that slides and is locked when one of them is closed. I probably would have gained a lot of weight had my post office been attached to a café!
This is the view from the post office to the café.

This is inside the café.
The café served sandwiches, Panini's, salads and breakfast choices.
The Washingtons ended up with good memories of Washington and enjoyed a lovely day there.

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