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WWII in the Modern Age: Helping Kids Relate

By: Allison Pittman

Hello readers! My name is Allison Pittman and I am the intern at the Edmond Historical Society and Museum. This semester I have the great pleasure of learning about exhibit planning from Amy Stephens and I couldn’t be more excited!

Over the summer I watched as Amy brought the Edmond WWII: Housewives on the Homefront exhibit to life and I was in awe! Amy has a true passion for storytelling that is evident in her attention to detail. That’s why, when she asked me if I would be interested in doing a small exhibit on a modern tie-in with WWII II, I was very hesitant. I had never done anything like that before, but Amy was so reassuring that I couldn’t say no!

As I was thinking of modern tie-ins for the exhibit, my mind instantly went to multiple books, such as The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak, Magic Tree House: Danger in the Darkest Hour by Mary Pope Osborn, and of course, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. These are books that I read when I was a young girl, and I knew that they were still being read by teens today. I mentioned these to Amy. She added a few titles of her own such as The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.

Another tie in I thought of was an episode of a television show I had watched (and still do) when I was younger: Boy Meets World, “No Guts, No Cory.” This episode featured the cast being sent back in time to December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The men enlist in the Army while the women stay at home and do their part for the war effort, such as working in factories and growing victory gardens. While this show is a little older, it holds many wonderful memories, not just for me, but for many other young adults my age.

After thinking of those two things, I knew I wanted to add a toy of some kind. When I was a young girl, I used to play with dolls all the time. My favorite ones were my American Girl dolls, now if you don’t know anything about American Girl dolls, here is a brief rundown, these dolls are girls from different decades in history, from 1774 to 1964 and while fun to play with, they do teach boys and girls the history of the time period. One doll I wanted to display was Molly McIntire. Molly made her debut with the American Girl Company in 1986 as one of the original three dolls released. Her story takes place during WWII. Her dad is off at war and she stays at home with her mother and siblings. The war only seems to be a small inconvenience in her life, but when she befriends a girl from England who has seen the horrors of war, she begins to understand the impact of the war on people overseas. Although Molly is no longer offered by the company, a doll named Nanea Mitchell is, and she is a native of Hawaii during 1941.

At this point I had thought of toys, television, and books, but I wanted one more element. As I was driving around one day, I was listening to my 1989 album by Taylor Swift, and the song “I Know Places” was playing. I was singing along, like I always do, and in the song, the line “loose lips sink ships” was sung, and I knew I had my last component. This line is a reference to a popular slogan during WWII that reminded U.S. citizens to keep quiet about war secrets and troop locations so that the enemy would not know where to attack soldiers.

As I started the construction of this exhibit, I was lucky to be able to provide most of the objects in the case. Amy provided a few books and Amber Duren, who works at the museum as well, had the Molly doll and generously loaned it to the exhibit. I really enjoyed showing how ideas, themes, and phrases from WWII are still current in modern popular culture.