Bobby Mault plans fundraiser for military museum
By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó The unassuming brick building beside the old Patterson School has a simple sign on it, in red lettering: Miliary museum.
“Walk into my dream,” Bobby Mault says.
If you’ve spent any time at Mault’s Texaco in the last decade or so, you know Mault has a collection of military uniforms and other memorabilia that belongs in a museum.
Now, finally, he has it.
Mault has been collecting military memorabilia since the ’70s. About 15 years ago, he began accepting uniforms. Now he estimates that he has more than 200 of them, from every branch of service, from World War I until today.
Over the years, while his collection accumulated and took over nearly every corner of the service station, he’s worked tirelessly to find a suitable home for it all.
About three years ago, he leased Patterson School from the school board.
During the past several weeks, he and Frank Albright have finally gotten the museum open.
The next step is to expand to the eight-room school.
Mault has no doubt he can fill that as well.
“I’ve got about this much at the station,” he says, gesturing around the museum that was once the school cafeteria. “We can fill that school up. We’ve got to put everything in here. If anyone has given anything at any time, they’ll look for it.”
But in order to prepare the school, he’s got to raise some money.
So on Saturday, Dec. 6, he’ll have a fundraiser for the Price of Freedom Museum. The event begins at 9 a.m. Chicken plates will be available until they run out. Donations will be accepted.
Thankfully, the old school is still in good shape structurally, Mault says. It just needs some cosmetic attention.
“The building’s been sitting there 30 years and you can’t find much wrong with it,” Mault says. “It was built well.”
Mault and Albright work well together.
“He’s the only partner I’ve ever taken on with my projects,” Mault says.
“It’s just something I’ve thought we needed for veterans,” Albright says. “They’re getting away from us fast.”
Albright served as Fort Gordon, Ga., as an Army MP from 1959 to 1961.
“Everybody who’s come in has been real interested,” he says. “I think we’ve had a good response.”
“It was a good idea, definitely because it does show respect to people who have served in the military,” says Jerry Karriker, who has visited the museum at Mault’s invitation. “It’s especially good for young people. I was impressed with it. Bobby’s done a good job with it.”
Doug Patterson went to elementary school at Patterson.
“It just brought back a lot of memories for me being in the cafeteria,” Patterson says. It was a lot smaller than he remembered, he adds.
“We’ve known Bobby Mault for a long time. He’s just a wonderful person and you can’t tell him no. We’re trying to support him because we think it’s a good cause.”
Mault has never bought anything for the museum; he just accepts donations.
“You know when I get the most donations?” he asks. “Christmastime. People go up to the attic and find stuff.”
The uniforms are on display in clear plastic bags. Mault says that some have been hanging at the station for 15 years or longer ó they’re no worse for the wear.
Mault and Albright have opened the museum on Sunday afternoons for the last several weeks, inviting friends to stop by.
Mault got display cases donated from Wal-Mart after its recent fire in Kannapolis. The cases are just fine for displaying all sorts of memorabilia ó letters, magazines, photographs, even rations.
Mault is working on labeling every single thing.
The names are what give each uniform its story, its personality, he says.
Mault, 74, would like to work at the museum full-time. He’d sell the gas station today if he could, he says. He’s owned it for 55 years.
Mault has long been interested in the military ó all four of his older brothers served at the same time.
“It just touches me how Mom and Dad suffered,” Mault says. “When that telephone would ring, it would just shock them. I lived with that. I just couldn’t get it off my mind. I cherish the price of freedom. I know what it costs.”
The museum has a brand-new sign out front, completed by the masonry class at South Rowan High School. The FFA will plant flowers in its circular base.
The school sits of 6 acres of land. There’s a field out back where the schoolchildren used to play, and the trees bordering the field are ablaze with autumn color.
Mault stands out front, admiring the sign on a recent fall afternoon with the sun setting behind the trees.
“I can visualize every room in that school,” he says.
Standing with Mault out in the yard, as the sun goes down and the crickets begin to chirp, you can almost see it, too.
If you have items you’d like to donate to The Price of Freedom museum, call Bobby Mault at 704-857-7474. Mault and Albright work at the museum on Sunday afternoons from 3 to 5. If you’d like to stop by, they’d love to have you.
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