Sgt. Joseph Alton Barnes, Engineer Gunner in WWII


Sgt. Barnes is 4th from the left with a B-17 behind them.

Joseph Alton Barnes was recently featured in the Wilson Times for receiving his high school diploma at the spry age of 92 through a program called Operation Recognition.  Not long after the article appeared, Alton’s daughter, a staff member at WCPL, brought me his WWII photos to be digitized.  They will soon be on his page at Wilson County’s Greatest Generation: The Memories of the World War II Veterans of Wilson County, N.C. at DigitalNC.  But here are a few to hold you over.


Mission Record


Sgt. Barnes on a downed German plane (maybe a Junkers Ju-88 night fighter) in France.


One of the B-17s Sgt. Barnes flew in combat.


Another B-17 that Sgt. Barnes might have used.



Part of the British, Chain Home coastal radar system?


I’m not going to tell you what this is.


Alton in training in Louisiana?

Perry Como and Guy Cox in Wilson, 1948

Cox_Como_1948Found this way cool photo of Perry Como and local photographer extraordinaire, Guy Cox, from 1948.  They were both at Fleming Stadium during the annual tobacco festival.  I assume that Mr. Como was just about to croon the heck out of the place, (or had just finished and everyone was in a daze).

Local History Reference Collections for Public Libraries (featuring the Wilson County Public Library)

Local history reference collections

Local history library book

                                          My flier is included in the chapter on Virtual Solutions.

Hot off the American Library Association Editions press is the newest in the ALA Guides for the Busy Librarian series titled, Local History Reference Collections for Public Libraries by Kathy Marquis and Leslie Waggener.  Not only is it a great resource for a local history reference librarian, it also features the Wilson County Local History and Genealogy Room!  Thanks to this blog the authors from Wyoming were able to see a flyer that I made for the WCLH&G Room and wanted it in their book because they thought it was a “… great example for our chapter on “virtual solutions” for outreach and access, particularly your clever re-use of Office of War Information propaganda posters.”  I am very happy that they chose my flier to be in their great resource.

Whirligig Park

IMG_20140422_160325 IMG_20140422_160305 IMG_20140422_160436 IMG_20140422_160450 IMG_20140422_160527Recently I had a meeting with the Whirligig Park Project Repair & Conservation Headquarters.  This is where they are refurbishing Vollis Simpson’s whiligigs for their inclusion in the future Whirligig Park.

Jenny Moore, the project manager, and other full-time employees spoke and gave us an insightful history of Vollis Simpson and his whirligigs.  One thing that I found interesting was that the first whirligig Vollis made was a wind powered washing machine that he created while stationed as a fighter plane mechanic on the island of Saipan during World War II.  But the present incarnation of the whirligigs first began in 1988 at his home in Lucama not long after he retired from his house-moving business.  When I was an undergrad at UNC Wilmington in 1996 I remember students talking about visiting what they called Acid Park, a name that many people in Eastern North Carolina used when referring to the installations in Vollis’ yard.  It was a popular attraction for the past 25 years,  some fans even got married there.

The lead technician showed us the painstaking process involved in  repairing and sometimes recreating Vollis’ gigantic (some of the largest, 55′, were anchored 8 feet into the ground with concrete at his Lucama home), articulated art pieces, while also keeping them consistent with his vision.

There are twenty large pieces and fifty smaller pieces that are being refurbished for possible installation.  The first phase of the park went into effect in November 2013

From the website:

Designed by award-winning landscape architecture firm Lappas+Havener, PA, the two-acre park will feature 30 of Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs—including some of the largest in his life’s work.

Visitors will never be at a loss for something to do at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. A central lawn amphitheater faces a performance stage, where everything from music to poetry slams will engage audiences. The park shelter will host a Farmer’s Market, craft markets, educational programs, and family fun activities. The interactive water feature in the entrance plaza will keep the kids cool on sunny days. Benches will invite picnicking, reading, or just enjoying art and nature. Use a phone app or the printed brochure to tour the whirligigs, sustainable storm water structure, and native plant gardens. Practice Tai Chi, have a wedding or family reunion, play flashlight tag among the reflective whirligigs—the possibilities are endless!

World War II Fighter Plane Mechanic Cpl. Sidney P. Forbes

Cpl. Sidney Forbes hand drawn hydraulics schematics for a P-51 Mustang.

Cpl. Sidney Forbes hand drawn hydraulics schematics for a P-51 Mustang.

More P-51 schematics

More P-51 schematics

Sidney with his gift for der Fuhrer.

Sidney with his gift for der Fuhrer.

P-51 named Whacow

P-51 named Whacow

We recently received a box of  Wilson native Corporal Sidney Forbes’ WWII materials.  Sidney was a fighter plane mechanic in England during the war.  From the pictures it looks like he mostly serviced P51s and something that looks like a F6F Hellcat (although that was usually a carrier based plane in the Pacific theater).  After the war he opened his own service station called Forbes on Nash Street downtown.  All of his materials will be added to the Wilson County’s Greatest Generation Digital Project.

Who do you think you are


Chelsea Handler learning about her Grandfather’s time as a POW in Montana during WWII.

The Learning Channel, not what it used to be.  I think I used to watch great shows like Connections, Ancient Civilization Tuesdays and Desmond Morris documentaries on TLC.  Now it is Toddlers and Tiaras, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Obese and Pregnant,  which is fine if you want to enjoy something ironically.   But there is one show that’s good if you are into genealogy and that is Who do you Think You are?  I really haven’t watched this show before I watched the Chelsea Handler episode, but I had seen the Henry Louise Gates similar show on PBS called Finding your Roots.  The Gates show is a bit better but both are sensationalistic.  However that is what makes great television!

The Handler episode is interesting because she was raised Jewish but her maternal grandfather served in the German Army during the war but also awkward because she makes some bad jokes.  Being in the German Army during the war certainly doesn’t make someone a Nazi but it doesn’t make them an objector either,  so as is most things  in life the answers she finds are neither good nor bad.  He was just a man who lived in Germany during WWII and did what millions of other German men had to do to survive.

I was interested in watching the show because I visited the Dachau concentration camp and my mother’s maiden name of Baer was on the list of SS prison guards.  Seeing that made me uneasy, even though there would be no recent connection to my family.  Also there was a patron here last week looking for more information on Dachau because his mother was held in the camp during the war.  He said that she was a prisoner due to her mother being French.

Watch the episode here.

Digital Yearbooks


Yesterday I had the good fortune of touring UNC Chapel Hill’s Digital Heritage Center.  They have a great setup in a beautiful building.  I was really impressed with their Scribe system that they got from the Internet Archive.  It is the fastest way that I have seen to digitize a book.  It sure beats a flatbed scanner.  I was also there to deliver 33 high school yearbooks for their digital yearbook project and 329 pages of material for the ongoing Wilson County’s Greatest Generation digital project.

Also if anyone in Wilson County who is reading this has any yearbook, especially from any small schools and African American high schools, that they want to donate to the library or let us digitize, please let me know.

Sgt. John Gray Lamm, 36th Armored Infantry


Just created a splash page for an interview that I did with WWII veteran Sgt. John Gray Lamm.  This will be a part of the Digital NC Wilson County’s Greatest Generation project.