Initially, Coletta Bailey collected letters. She was fascinated with the letters her uncles had sent home from the front lines of World War I. They were windows into history and the personal …
Initially, Coletta Bailey collected letters. She was fascinated with the letters her uncles had sent home from the front lines of World War I. They were windows into history and the personal experiences of family members who spoke little of that time.
Now, Bailey holds an annual exhibit at the Baldwin County Heritage Museum to honor all the men and women who served overseas and on the home front. The first exhibit was held at the Baldwin County fair. Bailey said it grew from there.
Today, there are display boards for every Baldwin County service member Bailey can locate. She uses the discharge papers, provided by family members, to track their military history and gather photos and information about their time in service.
Barbara Boyington Driver, Frances Boyington Sherman and Pat Boyington, three of the 12 children of Emory Boyington, came to the opening day to see their father’s display. Boyington, they said, quit high school to join the war effort.
He didn’t speak much about his time in the Pacific, said Pat Boyington, a Vietnam veteran. After the younger Boyington returned from his tour in southeast Asia he said his father spoke with him about their shared war experience, just a little.
Their father was more apt to talk about his love of being an assistant football coach at Robertsdale High School.
Emory Boyington’s display board sits across the room from his uncle’s board, also a veteran.
Families have driven in from other states to see the boards of their fathers and grandfathers. Bailey said she is honored by each visit. Her goal is to tell the story of each veteran who enlisted from Baldwin County.
“People tell the story of the war but not of the individuals,” she said. “I want the individual story told. I want people to know what they sacrificed.”
This year Bailey added more displays focused on the homefront. There is special attention paid to the feed sacks that featured patriotic designs and were used as clothing material since factories were busy producing military uniforms.
There are also displays that focus on Baldwin County’s role in the wars. Navy pilots trained on nearby fields, Operation Ivory Soap took over the Grand Hotel and two satellite prisoner of war camps operated inside county lines.
Want to know more? Visit the exhibit at the Baldwin County Heritage Museum now through Dec. 7. Admission is free.