Fifth-graders tour Price of Freedom Museum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
The entire fifth-grade class at Landis Elementary arrived in their big yellow buses last week at the Price of Freedom Museum on Weaver Road.
The museum is in the old Patterson School building. Volunteers of all ages waited to show them around. Veteran Frank Albright led them onto the museum property.
Some went to the museum area in what used to be the school cafeteria. Others went to a restored classroom for a presentation on World War ll. Still more gathered around a Vietnam-era Jeep or went on a scavenger hunt.
Bob Mault watched it all happen, quietly smiling with the realization that his dream has come true. A commitment from the Rowan County School System and funding for field trips by the Robertson Foundation have made it possible for 1,500 fifth-graders to visit the museum.
Mault and Albright and a host of others envisioned a way to honor those who fought for the freedom that we all enjoy, and to preserve it by displaying artifacts from the various wars and conflicts in America’s 20th Century. Mault relies on 30 volunteers to help visitors tour the museum. About 10 are on hand on this day.
Terry Ogelthorpe, a Vietnam veteran, and 90-year-old World War Two veteran Neill Morrow tell of living conditions and personal experiences during the Battle of the Bulge.
Morrow’s accounts of bitter cold and battling ticks, lice and bedbugs hold the kids spellbound. Morrow also told of Hershey chocolate bars that were made to not melt in temperatures below 140 degrees. His group laid the bars on Jeep engines to soften them up.
Nora Patterson is in charge of the scavenger hunts. She has five different sheets that she uses to keep the children circulating through the displays.
One student was looking for a bracelet made from a Japanese airplane, while another was looking for a “field shower.” Also on the lists are the military veterans who volunteer at the museum.
This allows the children to meet a few of the men who are meant to be honored by the museum. Neighbors Pat Vaughn, Ollie McKnight and Bobby Harrison help out at the museum on a regular basis, along with many others.
One of the first things that the students see when coming off the buses is the fully restored 1967 Vietnam-era jeep that Harrison owns.
He had a lifelong interest in the military, though he spent his entire career as a policeman. He saw a picture of the jeep, holding a 150 million candle power searchlight, in 2008 at a gun show.
The jeep was extremely rare, with only about five known to exist in the US. Most were left in Vietnam when American soldiers returned home. Harrison bought the jeep and proudly displays it for all the classes who attend the museum.
“Students often don’t want to leave,” said volunteer Suzette Flowers. They usually spend about 2[0xbd] hours at the museum.
Student Matthew Donahue had been anxiously awaiting the visit. His grandpa’s articles were at the museum. Donahue is a war buff and history enthusiast, and had addressed his class about the importance of museum.
Lots of major projects are under way. The main building houses many classrooms in various states of repair.
Mault wants to have a separate room for the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and more. He encourages corporate or individual sponsors who may want to facilitate the completion of rooms to contact him.
Volunteer Ollie McKnight was a teacher at Patterson School and identifies other teachers in the pictures.
Other plans would keep a large group of volunteers busy. The floor is being repaired in one classroom.
There is a huge auditorium that will eventually be used for large displays and movies. Mault wants to use two rooms for displays of antiques from war times. Another room will be used for a library. Still another will be used for a “Do You Remember?” room. Many items have already been donated for these rooms.
On June 4, the museum will celebrate a D-Day Remembrance. Military vehicles and weapons will be on display, with demonstrations throughout the day.
The event is a joint effort between the Price of Freedom Museum and the Carolina Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
Cheerwine, who first employed Mault’s dad in 1913, has been a partner all along. He hopes these and more new relationships will help continue the work.
Throughout the Landis Elementary visit, Mault’s eyes clouded with emotion. He had four brothers who served, though he did not serve himself.
He points toward a sign in the restored classroom that commemorates a saying from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank an American Soldier.”
The museum is open from 3-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.
Anyone wishing to donate military memorabilia or volunteer can stop by the museum, or they can call Mault at 704-857-7474.