There’s one vehicle in the Pennsylvania Military Museum parking lot that even the most careless drivers don’t have to worry about scratching.
It would take more than the average Honda Accord to put a dent in a retired M42A1 Duster, a anti-aircraft gun that is one of several armored machines lining the property’s perimeter in Boalsburg.
“Sometimes people come here just to park their car alongside this and get a picture of it,” Joe Horvath, museum curator and educator, said.
On Sunday afternoon, visitors could do a lot more than take a photo. Horvath and Master Sgt. Branden Syverson led a group tour of the museum’s armored vehicles.
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It was great to be able to use the pieces that sort of sit out here like lawn furniture and interpret them.
An even helping of kids and adults took turns climbing in and out of the different tanks and carriers on display, getting a feel for what it might be like to serve in the belly of a beast.
“It was great to be able to use the pieces that sort of sit out here like lawn furniture and interpret them,” Horvath said.
The tour took visitors inside tanks of the General Sherman and M60A3 variety and an M59 armored personnel carrier.
Syverson provided a little backstory to complement the obvious visual appeal. A 25-year career spent in six kinds of tanks was all the preparation he needed.
“This is my hobby. I love tanks. I’m a tanker,” he said.
Judging from the response of the crowd, which spent the better part of an hour scaling the treacherous metal exterior of each hulk, his enthusiasm was contagious.
You could fit five people in it. I thought that was pretty cool.
Still, when it comes to the close confines of a tank, there’s a significant difference between a quarter of a century and a measly 60 minutes.
“My back will never be the same, all of the positions I’ve had to contort myself into,” Syverson told one of the guests.
Miles Houtakker is still young enough — and short enough — that he doesn’t have to worry about his back.
His aunt, Julia Kregenow, thought time spent behind the controls of a General Sherman tank might make for a memorable afternoon worth the trek from Wisconsin to Boalsburg.
“You could fit five people in it. I thought that was pretty cool,” Houtakker said.
All Kregenow could see when she looked inside the General Sherman was echoes of the past.
“I kept imagining real people sitting inside there. ... It was very moving,” Kregenow said.