“Virginia is for history lovers”

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laini

Sorry for the wait for a new post, everyone. It’s been a busy summer! Other than writing like the wind, which I always do better when I have a day job, I was actually able to make a quick trip to Virginia for some book research. And Virginia is for history lovers like me.

I know, you’re asking, “Virginia? But don’t you write about old Hollywood?” Yes, I do, BUT I started looking up where I might be able to find information about military things, since I now have two subjects with heavy military content in them. I’ll let you guess a while longer as to who they are, but those of you who REALLY love silent movies may be able to figure out one of them based on one of the places I visited.

So how do you write a novel? For me, I headed to Richmond, Virginia. As a history maven, I’d forgotten just how much of what I’d read about the Civil War years ago pertained to Richmond! SO much history there. I’d forgotten about the burning of the city, and it being the capital of the Confederacy, and I’d never known about Edgar Allan Poe’s connection to the city. Did you know there’s a Poe museum there? If you haven’t been, check it out. It’s SUPER cool!

Fort Lee

My main reason for visiting was to head to nearby Fort Lee (Virginia, not New Jersey, flicker lovers…). There are two fabulous museums for military content:

And also to Fort Eustis/Langley not far away, to the Transportation Museum.

Before I left, I also found out about a man named Lee Holland, who has built a garage exactly to the specs of real motor pool buildings, where he has created a small museum of his own. Here, he lovingly restores old military vehicles and donates them to museums. Unfortunately, I was not able to connect with him before I left, but I hoped I still might be able to find him.

Women’s Museum

It was amazing to see how far we ladies have come in the 200-something years since the revolution, or since the Civil War, since many women simply followed their husband’s unit, cooking and laundering for the troops.

Here are some great photographs from the Women’s Museum:

A bathing suit sewn by a WAC (out of a uniform) for South Pacific duty
alt=parachute silk wedding dress
A WAC’s wedding dress, sewn from a silk parachute
alt=WAAC housecoat
A WAC’s housecoat, with various unit patches on it. Notice the German eagle around the posterior area. This was so Hitler could kiss her butt.

I visited the WACs first, and spent quite a while in their small library, making note of more books that I needed to buy and making jottings from some of the books they had on hand.

Before I went to the Quartermaster Museum right next door, I had the bright idea to ask one of the fellows in the office if he was familiar with Mr. Holland. “Oh, he volunteers next door. He was just there on Tuesday,” the man told me. “He may be there now.”

“Ooh!” I said. I thanked him then flew down the sidewalk to the Quartermasters next door. And wouldn’t you know it, here comes Mr. Holland out of the museum, making a beeline for his car. I recognized him from his picture in the article linked above.

I greeted him and said I had come ALL THE WAY from Canada to visit his museum. He was quite pleased. And he was headed to an appointment, but said he could meet me there in another hour or so, since I still wanted to tour the Quartermasters.

Quartermaster Museum

I had no idea of the scope of quartermaster duties– from wardrobe laundering (imagine trying to do that in a New Guinea jungle during World War II!) to wardrobe repair, to transporting supplies, to identifying war dead. Pretty fascinating stuff.

Here are some photos from the Quartermaster Museum:

A bamboo storage container that would have been dropped in the Pacific campaign during WWII
A completely jarring image from WWI- a horse or a mule forced to wear a gas mask. As an animal lover, this exhibit broke my heart. Especially the tombstone for Applejack, a war horse.
A WWI era Model-T truck
Some World War I-era rations. They also had cases with rations from various other conflicts.

These don’t even scratch the surface of all the amazing exhibits I saw and made note of!

When I visited with Lee, he showed me around his garage, the vehicles he has underway, and he even gifted me with a few spare magazines that he had on military vehicles which are fantastic reading! I also have contact information, in case I have any questions. Thank you, Lee for sharing your time and expertise with me!

Lee’s Motor Pool Museum

Here are some pictures of what he’s working on right now:

A 1942 Dodge Carry-all in progress
The interior of a WC56 Dodge Command Car

He calls this guy his desk sergeant. He sits at a little desk that looks just like one would have looked in a real motor pool:

After getting caught in a massive hurricane deluge driving back north to Richmond, I was EXTREMELY excited but extremely exhausted!

That weekend, I planned a trip to Newport News to visit the Transportation Museum, and to have a late lunch with one of my old college friends who now lives in Virginia Beach. As a Canadian resident (but an American citizen), I had to laugh at my attempt to get on base. My father even worked at Langley when I was about 4 years old, but no matter what I gave them, the guys with the shoulder mikes weren’t having any luck with my information from the guys at home base ID. I gave them my Alberta drivers license, my social security number, mentioned that I’d most recently lived in Wisconsin in the United States, and nothing doing. FINALLY, I offered up my Texas drivers license number (thank God I still remembered it, having had the same one for 20-something years!) and got the nod. I was good to go.

Fort Eustis

Transportation Museum

The Transportation Museum is super cool too. Lots of vehicles from jeeps to trucks to boats to rail cars and everything in between (Higgins boats, for the win!). Here are some photos from there:

An old Plymouth that had been bought in Guam, grabbed by the Japanese during the Pacific conflict, then repainted and made American once more. Thus the “She’s Back Among Friends Again” sign.
A 4-Ton Wrecker Truck, WWII vintage
One of the informational signs in the great exhibit about the Red Ball Express. They helped us win the war, and don’t get half the credit they should. These guys literally drove AROUND the clock, ferrying gas and supplies from the landing beaches at Normandy to the soldiers far inland.

I had such a great time. In addition to all the research, I finally got to eat a Potbelly sandwich again for the first time in TEN YEARS, y’all (A Wreck with hot peppers is like a party in your mouth). In the name of research, I also tried scrapple for the first time. How I wish Edmonton would get hip to this. But I guess it’s better if we don’t. I’d weigh 400 pounds, and my arteries would be shot.

In addition to the aforementioned Poe Museum, I also visited Owens & Ramsey Booksellers (where I got to meet the friendly owner, Mark, and the friendly store cat, Star), and also Fountain Bookstore, where I bought these very cool socks!

I had so much fun, I’d love to go back to Richmond for another visit!

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