Military display at Suwannee Museum is growing
The military exhibit at the Suwannee County Historical Museum has items from the Civil War all the way to Desert Storm on display and is always growing with donations from local residents that want to honor the memory of their loved ones, many who sacrificed all, by preserving them at the museum and sharing their memory with visitors. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson
By Tami Stevenson
The Suwannee County Historical Museum in Live Oak is always seeking to upgrade their existing displays and add new ones with historical significance that affected Suwannee County in years past. From ancient artifacts, local American Indian tribes, Lewis Powell and the Lincoln assassination plot to the recent addition of a military display, among many other exhibits, Curator Susan Fennell keeps very busy.
One of the newest additions to their military display is a series of articles that ran for a year in the Suwannee Valley Times. A copy of each newspaper that featured the articles has been donated to the museum. The articles chronicle local veterans that served in the South Pacific combat operations of the 155th Infantry of the 31st Infantry Division in World War II from New Guinea and other locations, by retired educator, veteran and author Wilburn Bell, of Mayo, Florida.
“We’re very happy to be able to have these newspapers on display. We love our military and are thankful for their service. This is another way we can honor them,” said Fennell during a recent interview. Admittedly, her dilemma now is how to preserve the papers.
Among the uniforms, medals and other military paraphernalia associated with veterans from the area, curiously, a Suwannee County resident was digging in his backyard a few years ago and found a civil war cannon ball buried there. He donated it to the museum and now is part of the military display. ll is trying to piece together the history of that. She is not sure whether soldiers lost it on their way to or from the battle of Olustee, or if there was some kind of skirmish here. She is looking for anyone that may have information about how that cannon ball got into Suwannee County.
Original WWII ration books are also among the military exhibits. Fennell remembers her grandmother talking about the ration books. “Sugar was one of the main things in short supply.”
Fennell is an astute researcher, “My goal here is to have every item in this building identified and know the history of it.” She has put together almost all the research and publications on display. While investigating, she found an interesting fact she enjoys sharing with visitors; the average height for the WWII men enlisted was only 5’8”.
The museum also has a wonderful telephone display with switchboards and antique phones. Fennell became a telephone operator in 1966 for what was then called North Florida Telephone. She held that position for four years and was promoted through the ranks into sales, then the commercial department, before retiring just a few years ago. She actually operated two of the switchboards on display at the museum and is a wealth of information about the history of the telephone.
Not only is the museum filled with antiques, the building itself is of great historical significance. Located at 208 North Ohio Avenue, the Atlantic Coast Line Freight Station, built in 1903, today, houses the Suwannee County Historical Museum.
Suwannee County Historical Museum Curator Susan Fennell is holding the first article published by Wilburn Bell on display. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson
Ration Books from WWII -SVT Photo
Army field cooker – A visitor to the museum said they would only cook the food about half-way. They would load the stove up to take in the field. By the time they got there, the food was cooked. It was good, but everything coming out of that aluminum pot was green, he said. -SVT Photo
Various military dog tags, medals and miscellaneous items. -SVT Photo
Union and Confederate Flags -SVT Photo