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OC museum honors 100th anniversary of World War I

Through May, all are invited to attend “The War to End All Wars — WWI Centennial,” a free exhibit at the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House museum, 603 Sixth St., Oregon City.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: CCHS - A World War I soldier's Kodak camera, with knife-etched record of travels and military engagements, is on display at the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House museum.Throughout the historic home, displays commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, including personal souvenirs, ammunition, uniforms, models, medals and relics of combat brought home by the soldiers of Clackamas County.

Some items are from the Stevens-Crawford collection itself, owned and operated by the Clackamas County Historical Society. Medorum Crawford of Oregon City was the patriarch of a military family that included great-grandson Robert Mac-Arthur Crawford, author of the 1938 Army Air Corps theme song commonly known as “Wild Blue Yonder.”

by: PHOTO COURTESY: CCHS - Paul S. Mason served in France before coming to Oregon to build a career in the lumber and sawmill industries.Other exhibit pieces were loaned and arranged by traveling-museum proprietor Burt Darnielle of Welches, collectors Marge and Rolla Harding, and the families of volunteers of the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House.

Several docents who guide complimentary tours of the home-museum are daughters of WWI soldiers themselves. One, Nadene Duffield, is pleased to have the opportunity to display a portrait of her father, the young Paul S. Mason, who served in France before coming to Oregon during the Great Depression to build a career in the lumber and sawmill industries.

“My father was never much of a letter writer,” said Duffield, who has offered her collection of her father’s 1918-era postcards from the front to the exhibit. “But the men were ordered to send word home on a regular basis, so he did. Sometimes, he just signed his name,” she said. “Some of his more interesting postcards were snapshots taken by enterprising Europeans, who photographed the fresh battlefields and downed aeroplanes, and the like, and sold the images to American soldiers, like my dad.”

Historians Rolla and Marge Harding, exhibit contributors, are quick to point out that they do not wish to glorify WWI.

“It was an awful, awful war,” said Marge Harding, who cited cruelly lethal mustard gas and flamethrowers as examples.

Most of the men who returned went on to live full lives and support families, but many suffered from post-traumatic combat stress.

“Back then, they called it battle fatigue, or shell-shock,” she added, “but it was just a different name.”

“In modern wars, new technologies have always outpaced the tactics and strategies of the older generation of military leaders and generals, leaving the troops unprepared,” added her husband, Rolla, who set up a showcase of trench warfare miniatures to illustrate the mazelike military earthwork employed all the way from the English Channel to the border of the Mediterranean. “It truly was a world war,” he said.

The Hardings also present an action figure clad in an interesting and archaic WWI uniform, women’s nautical clothing worn in support of Navy men, a model tank and a plane simulating the one flown by the German “Red Baron.”

The Hardings invite fans of the Charles Schulz “Snoopy” character to contemplate the real Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, buried with vigilant honor by his enemy combatants, and to learn about the history and art of the “Ace” aerial dogfight, in what Rolla describes as “a time of one-on-one shooting, when air warfare had different, more gentlemanly rules.”

“Fans of the PBS series ‘Downton Abbey’ will find connections in the exhibit, too.” Marge said. “This is the period.”

The 1907 Stevens-Crawford Heritage House is open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. The last guided tour begins at 3:30 p.m.

Admission to CCHS museums is free in March and April thanks to the sponsorship of Cherie and Bill Kennemer, Bob’s Red Mill, The Varitz Foundation and Carl George.

More information about the house can be found at clackamashistory.org, or by calling 503-655-2866