Trailheads presents information and details about the exhibits, events and programs hosted by the historic sites and museums on PHMC's Pennsylvania Trails of History.
Dancers of all ages jump and jive to live music at the 1940s swing dance held amid the historic trains in Rolling Stock Hall at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania during its annual Trains & Troops tribute weekend.

Dancers of all ages jump and jive to live music at the 1940s swing dance held amid the historic trains in Rolling Stock Hall at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania during its annual Trains & Troops tribute weekend.
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania/Photo by Mike Marino

For the past few years we have been commemorating anniversaries of two major geopolitical and military conflicts, World War I and World War II. The Pennsylvania Trails of History sites have been focusing attention on the commonwealth’s role in these global events as part of PHMC’s Pennsylvania at War initiative. As the centennial of the end of World War I approaches, the 75th anniversary of World War II is ongoing.

At Eckley Miners’ Village, an annual summer event explores life on the home front in a typical anthracite coal patch town. Although the site’s interpretation focuses primarily on the lives of 19th-century families, one of the houses open for tours is always furnished in the 1940s to help visitors understand that life and work continued in Eckley beyond the height of anthracite mining. The 1940s Weekend event sheds even more light on this period, bringing together military and civilian reenactors, other living historians, local historical groups, and vendors. Eckley’s website, eckleyminersvillage.com, and Facebook page will have dates for the 2019 event as well as photos from 2018 and previous years.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s Trains & Troops event, scheduled for November 3-4, 2018, draws attention to the role of rail transportation of military personnel and equipment during World War II and explores life on the home front. Exhibitors, reenactors and museum staff provide visitors with opportunities to consider 1940s-era object collections and archival materials to gain insights into military and civilian life during World War II. Always scheduled close to Veterans Day, Trains & Troops also includes tributes to members of the U.S. Armed Forces past and present. For more information or to purchase tickets for this year’s event, visit rrmuseumpa.org.

Eckley’s 1940s Weekend and the Railroad Museum’s Trains & Troops both include swing dance events in the evening. Eckley’s is held off-site in the local community and the Railroad Museum’s takes place in its Rolling Stock Hall among the locomotives and other equipment. Swing music and dancers in period dress (and many in modern clothes) help to recreate the USO dances and socials offered to raise the wartime morale of troops overseas and at home. Refreshments similar to those offered by the USO or at American Red Cross or Salvation Army canteens carry out the World War II theme. They also highlight one of the roles played by women in supporting the war effort, in addition to those who worked in factories and other industrial settings or who joined the Armed Forces themselves.

The Pennsylvania Military Museum’s annual World War II Revisited event takes place near Memorial Day and includes a wide range of activities. Reenactors portray soldiers from various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as members of the German Army and French Resistance fighters. Visitors are free to wander through the encampments to learn about how soldiers lived in the field and to see examples of military vehicles from the era. Demonstrations of military engagements are also part of the program. Photos of past events and information on the 2019 program can be found at pamilmuseum.org.

Throughout the 75th Anniversary observance, the Pennsylvania Military Museum has been sharing with its Facebook followers how various Pennsylvania newspapers covered the war in Europe and the Pacific. It’s an interesting chronicle of the times and a timely resource as the anniversary continues. You can find them at facebook.com/PAMilMuseum.

 

Amy Killpatrick Fox is a museum educator in PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. She writes a weekly blog also called Trailheads at patrailheads.blogspot.com.