BARSTOW, Calif. - Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow may appear to be a smaller, less essential base compared to others; however, there is more to it than meets the eye and its history runs deep.
Miriam Hemme, a volunteer curator on base, can tell you better than anyone. For several months, she has dedicated her time to sorting myriad photos and artifacts to be displayed in MCLB Barstow’s Historical Display, tentatively slated to open Feb. 5, in Building 204 on base.
Hemme’s artistic skill set led her to be interested in volunteering to set up the historical gallery. At first, the room was nothing more than piles of scattered items and numerous photos placed in dilapidated albums, she explained.
“My main focus at first was sorting through everything,” she said. “I love looking through the photos and items while putting them on display and turning them into photo collages to hang up.”
After months of organizing, the display is finally coming together, she added. Her goal is to have every section on base represented in the historical display. This way, base personnel can see what their job here was like in the past.
“(Artifacts and photos) from most sections are already here,” explained the Waynesville, N.C., native. “However, we still have a lot of things coming in from different (parts) of the base.”
Hemme encourages everyone on base to visit the display once it’s completed.
“They (base personnel) will be surprised to see where Barstow has come from and what it used to be like in the past,” she further explained.
Hemme added that the display contains silver used in a previous base officer’s club, bayonets, past Marine Corps uniform items, a copy of a base paper written in 1943, a photo of what the base looked like when it was first bought in 1942, photos of celebrities who have visited the base, along with numerous other items and photos.
“The most interesting thing I have seen so far is a fireman’s mask we have on display, she explained. “It’s from the early 40s and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Hemme further explained that people often stop by and look through some of the items; they are generally fascinated and excited for the display’s finished product. Also, although the display has not been finalized, there have been a few tours given to show its progress.
Julie Wilbanks, the family readiness officer on MCLB Barstow, is among these first-time visitors.
“I was very impressed with the display,” said Wilbanks. “The photos were fantastic and Miriam (Hemme) explained everything in detail.”
Wilbanks added that her favorite part of the visit was looking through the photo albums and being able to see what base facilities looked like decades ago.
“The (gallery) has come a long way and I’m excited to see the finished product,” explained Wilbanks.
Wilbanks further explained that the display is important because it re-emphasizes MCLB Barstow’s mission. Marines can be seen doing the same essential mission back then that they are doing today: keeping equipment combat ready at all times and supporting the warfighter.