BANGOR – What could possibly be new at a museum that already has filled every nook and cranny with historical memorabilia? An honor roll here, a World War II vehicle there and a very special quilt.
“The Fifth Armored Division Honor Roll has been added,” said Galen Cole, pointing to the names spanning the top portion of a wall in the military room at Cole Land Transportation Museum at 405 Perry Road.
The honor roll, listing more than 900 names of those who sacrificed their lives in World War II, represents one of 16 armored divisions that served in the war in Europe, said the museum founder.
“There’s Bill Golladay,” Cole said, pointing to the name of one of five servicemen killed on April 2, 1945, while riding in the same truck as Cole, who was wounded in the mortar attack in Germany. The other four were Claude Newton, George Blackard, Simon Brewer and Alfred Southard.
Transportation is what the museum specializes in, Cole having spent his working life in the trucking business begun by his father, A.J. Cole.
Sometimes vehicles come and go at the museum.
A presidential-style limousine featured in the Clint Eastwood movie “Line of Fire” was on loan from Ford, but has since been taken back and sold.
In its spot, “we are placing a World War II International 4-by-4 truck identical to those that were used at Dow Field in Bangor in World War II,” Cole said. All branches of the armed forces used this kind of truck to haul supplies. Many were made into snowplows, ambulances and firetrucks as well.
After the war, those that were “surplus” were available to towns and cities for a small cost. This firetruck, Cole said, probably came from Brunswick Naval Air Base. The Oakland Lions Club purchased it in 1950, refurbished it and painted it for the Oakland Fire Department.
Engine No. 3, known as “The Lion,” was used for 35 years. In 1990 the town gave it back to the Lions Club, which gave it to the museum.
To fit in with its military exhibit, the museum took off the red paint, painted it “olive drab” and lettered it with “Army Air Force, Dow Field, Bangor, Maine.”
Not far from the fire truck is a red, white and blue quilt in the Tennessee Waltz pattern – all 10 feet by 13 feet of it on a wall by the military exhibit.
The quilt contains the 709 names of those who served at Dow Air Force Base and was a raffle project planned during the 2005 Dow Reunion in Bangor.
Nancy Gruman, wife of Air Force veteran Dave Gruman, volunteered to make the quilt, which prompted reunion commander Roger Holmes, now deceased, to ask if “everyone’s names” could be embroidered on the piece.
Squadron patches and WWII aviator John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight” – “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” poem, are embroidered onto it, as well.
The pattern of the quilt combines a star block with a snowball block to give the illusion of movement, Nancy Gruman explained. Each name block took 45 minutes to embroider, while special blocks took a few hours.
The pattern also is called “54-40 or Fight,” representing the slogan James Polk used during his presidential campaign in 1844. The numbers stand for “54 degrees, 40 minutes north latitude. This was the Oregon Territory border that was subject to dispute with Great Britain,” Gruman said.
She called the quilt a labor of love. Once it was done, Mary Swanson of Florida did the actual quilting. Cliff Sanderson, Dick Chipman, Ed Reynolds and Roy Martin were among other reunion members involved with the project.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this project,” Nancy Gruman said. “I hope that when others see this quilt, they will understand and appreciate the pride and love I felt when I made it. This quilt is dedicated to the men who served, and to those who now serve our country.”
Proceeds from the raffle were used to put the quilt’s names on a plaque at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio during the 2006 reunion.
But the quilt itself is in Bangor, with the inscription: “This quilt was made by Nancy and Dave Gruman of Florida. The quilt commemorates the flying crew members of the 71st and 341st Air Refueling squadrons and the 4060th Air Refueling Wing stationed at Dow Air Force Base 1955-1968. The quilt was purchased at auction by Mrs. Virginia Massucci of Connecticut. It was Mrs. Massucci’s deepest wish that the quilt be displayed at the Cole Museum.”
The museum opens for the year Friday, May 1, and will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day through Nov. 11. Those age 18 and under are admitted free.
The museum already has been busy during April with classes of school children from around the state coming in to take part in the Ambassadors for Freedom Program. Youngsters in small groups interview military veterans about their time in the service and view a short film on patriotism. Appointments for classes may be made by calling 990-3600.