By Sandi Latimer
Many members of Bob Traphagan’s family had served in various branches of the military. Down through the years, he collected a bit of memorabilia here, a bit there, until it filled his basement.
Now a portion of what he has collected over the last quarter century is at the Welcome Center in downtown Grove City. And will be until the middle of December. What center visitors see today, however, won’t be what they see next month.
“We will have rotating exhibits,” said Don Ivers of the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum.
“We’re hoping that by changing the exhibit often, we’ll draw more people,” said Traphagan, curator of the Central Ohio Military Museum.
The exhibit – known as the World of Wonders — covers the military from the Civil War to the present, with emphasis on central Ohio and especially local people. Two victims of recent conflict – Joey Riley and Shawn Hannon – are featured in separate displays.
Nearly every inch of display space in two rooms holds something of military significance. With some of the items dating back to World War I and World War II, it’s a ‘hands-off’ approach.
Upon entering the Welcome Center one of the first items seen is a World War II foot locker. While these may have taken up space in Grandma and Grandpa’s attic, this one draws immediate attention because it is open to reveal its contents. The foot locker has two levels where items are neatly displayed. Personal grooming items as razor, shaving cream, comb, shoe brush, plus cigarettes, matches, flashlight, notebook, belt, handkerchief, foldable hat and other necessities of military life.
Another exhibit is the collection of headgear from each of the five branches — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. These 98 pieces are displayed on wig heads on shelves of bookcases, each one dedicated to a specific branch. Some of the more delicate items are behind glass, like ribbons. But the wearable items are openly displayed.
A small room off to the left upon entering the building holds uniforms dating from the doughboys to today. Traphagan is quick to point out the change in construction of clothing.
“These are wool,” he said, carefully fingering uniforms up through World War II. “Now here are some of polyester,” he said of the more recent clothing.
Not all the items are from his family. Some of it has been gathered from throughout Ohio, from as far away as West Milton in west central Ohio and Gallipolis along the Ohio River.
Many of the Civil War items belong to Ivers, who also shows off a listing of 438 men and boys from the Grove City, Jackson, Pleasant and Prairie townships who served in that conflict.
Although many of his relatives had military service, Traphagan did not. He attended Ohio Dominican College where he majored in business and minored in history. He worked for Kroger in a managerial capacity throughout his career.
The display is open to the public without charge Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays until 8 p.m. Donations are always welcome, and they go toward upkeep and cleaning, Ivers said.