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Pennsylvania Military Museum offers visitors chance to try on vintage gear

Deb Baier, a museum volunteer and retired Marine, helps Sebastian Tapia, 12, try on an army jacket during Kids Day at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg on Saturday.
Deb Baier, a museum volunteer and retired Marine, helps Sebastian Tapia, 12, try on an army jacket during Kids Day at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg on Saturday. CDT photo

Visitors of all ages savored a taste of history Saturday while donning vintage uniforms and equipment at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.

Dress uniforms, fatigues and hats, plus protective gear like helmets, flak jackets and a World War II-era gas mask, were available for visitors to wear. Big band and swing music from the likes of Glenn Miller played, adding to the vintage flair of the display.

“The kids just love it,” said Joseph Horvath, education director at the museum. “The adults love it too.”

The items are duplicates or other pieces that did not make it into the collection at the museum, Horvath said. Both locals and out-of-towners visited to sample the apparel.

Amber Smith, of York, home-schools her children and said the museum and events like the one Saturday provide an opportunity to learn about both Pennsylvania history and the military. Her son Andrew, 11, said trying on the uniforms was fun.

Mike Cali, of Kempton, was in town visiting one of his sons, a student at Penn State, and decided to come out with his wife and four other children. Like Smith, he home-schools his children, he said.

“It gives the chance to learn about our military and history,” Cali said.

Another reason factored into visiting the museum, he said: a sixth son already enlisted in the Marines and ships out for boot camp in February.

Katelyn Weaver, 16, of Belleville, first tried on a white Navy enlisted uniform before dressing in combat equipment and a chemical protective hood. Wearing a flak and helmet all day would be hard, she said. She was especially wary of the chemical equipment and took it off after wearing it briefly.

“I couldn’t breathe in that at all,” she said. “I would’ve sweat to death.”

Katelyn’s father, Tim, brought her and her brothers to the museum. He deftly helped them put on the equipment, and for good reason. He was in the Army for nine and a half years, he said, and had used some of the gear himself. His children have an interest in military history, he said, and the visit helped him answer questions.

“They’re always asking if I wore this or that,” he said. “This gives them a chance to see it.”

The event was staffed by volunteers, all of which had military experience.

Deb Baier, a retired Marine, has volunteered at the museum for 10 years. She wore the camouflage fatigues she wore on active duty. She described her time in uniform as the best years of her life and said volunteering allows her to maintain a link to that time.

“It keeps me connected,” she said.

Besides time, staff and volunteers also contributed some of their own uniforms for visitors to try on. Clothing worn by Horvath, a former Navy corpsman, and Baier hung on racks and were available to wear.

The museum has hosted events like this twice a year for three years, one in the spring and one in the fall.

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