WWII Exhibit 2020

This Exhibit started February 1, 2020
(last updated 06/14/20)

The Heinz History Center’s travelling WWII Exhibit is still on display at the Donora Public Library. While this exhibit was supposed to leave in April, it’s still in a state of limbo in Donora since the Heinz History Center is also closed and not expected to open until July. You are welcome to visit the exhibit, but should call the Library at 724-379-7940 to schedule your visit. Their hours are limited to Mon-Fri 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. with no weekend hours. They are following and enforcing strict CDC guidelines.




The Donora Historical Society and Donora Public Library, in partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh, will once again be hosting a traveling exhibit -- We Can Do It!  WWII.  Starting on Saturday, February 1, 2020 and running for nine and a half weeks thru Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the exhibit will be available to the general public, school groups, and social clubs.  This 500 square foot traveling exhibit started its journey in Pittsburgh during a preview at the Heinz History Center in April 2017, will travel throughout Western Pennsylvania including a stop in the West Virginia panhandle, and will finish with us in April 2020. 

As a Heinz History Center Affiliate, the Donora Historical Society was one of only fifteen organizations selected to host the exhibit over a three year period out of 125 possible affiliates.  Donora was selected as the only Washington County representative, and is one of only two historical societies.  All other sites are either county-wide historical societies or regional libraries.  To view the full schedule of other stops on the tour, look at the end of this page for a complete list.

Due to its size and just like we did with the travelling Civil War exhibit in 2015, the exhibit will be on display in the lower level Community Room at the Donora Public Library.  To give it some Mid-Mon Valley flavor, the exhibit will be supplemented with Donora-related artifacts and presentations, as well as presentations from other historical societies from neighboring towns.  During this time, special events, presentations, and living history demonstrations will be scheduled.  An overflow exhibit of Donora-related military artifacts will also be on display on the first floor of the Donora Public Library and at the Smog Museum.



Numerous men from Donora enlisted out of high school, college and the steel mill to fight in WWII, so many that women were employed to help fill their positions in the mill. A lot of these men returned after the war to resume their schooling or jobs in the mill, raise a family and spend the rest of their lives in Donora, while others did not. An example is Walter Glod who was born in Donora in 1919 and graduated from Donora High School in 1937.

In December 2018, as part of a California University of Pennsylvania English Honors class titled Digital Storytelling taught by Dr. Christina Fisanick that is also sponsored by the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, three students (Maria Dovshek, Destiny Ortiz and Emily Sloan) created this video about Walter Glod as remembered by his younger sister Charlotte Glod Simmons. Click on their YouTube video titled "A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod" to view and to get a sense of the sacrifices these men and their families from Donora made during WWII.

A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod




 
We Can Do It!  WWII
 
The We Can Do It!  WWII traveling exhibit explores Western Pennsylvania's incredible impact on the home, industrial, and battle fronts during World War II.

Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the development of the jeep, a uniquely American invention produced by the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pa., and hear stories behind Rosie the Riveter and the local Tuskegee Airmen whose contributions helped to turn the tide of the war.

In 1942, Westinghouse artist J. Howard Miller created a poster depicting a Westinghouse Electric worker rolling up her sleeve to lend muscle to the Allied war effort during World War II.  This image has come to symbolize the hard work and resolve of all Western Pennsylvanians, women and men, who contributed to our national defense both at home and on the battlefield.

She was not originally called "Rosie the Riveter."  Real Westinghouse women were more likely to be welders or munitions inspectors.  But over time, Miller's figure captured Rosie's "can do" appeal.  His poster (see above) and the name became linked in public imagination.  Today for most people, they are the same thing.

We Can Do It!  WWII is dedicated to all who answered their country's call and devoted their time, their money, and their lives to the cause of freedom.


THE EXHIBIT

The one thing that makes the We Can Do It!  WWII exhibit different than the Civil War exhibit is the addition of audio and video recordings that run as part of the exhibit. 
 
The exhibit will showcase four lifelike museum figures of local WW II heroes:

GENERAL GEORGE C. MARSHALL

The U.S. military expanded greatly in preparation for World War II. Pennsylvanians willingly stepped up to serve.  From 1941 to 1945, more than 1.25 million state residents marched off to war, including 22,000 women. Most were drafted, but many volunteered, especially after Pearl Harbor. Uniontown's General George C. Marshall engineered the military's most dramatic transformation. Marshall became U.S. Army Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939 -- the day Hitler invaded Poland. He inherited an army of about 200,000 men that was far from battle-ready.  Marshall modernized and expanded the U.S. Army into a global fighting force of 9 million by 1945. General Marshall held the position of Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army under both Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. In 1944, he became the first American Army general promoted to the five-star rank. Today Marshall is also remembered for his statesmanship in connection with the post-war Marshall Plan, an economic initiative to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.

TUSKEGEE AIRMAN LT. CARL WOODS

Lieutenant Carl Woods of Mars and Homewood, made history as one of nearly 100 men and woman from Western Pennsylvania who served with the U.S. Army Air Corps' legendary all-Black Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  Along with the other pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, Carl Woods flew a P-51 Mustang with a distinctively painted red tail assembly.  This marking gave the Tuskegee pilots another name: "the Redtails."  B-24 bomber pilots learned to watch for these guardians of the sky.  Woods graduated from flight training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama in April 1944 and headed to Italy.  There he piloted a P-51 Mustang over the Adriatic Sea with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group.  Woods flew dangerous missions escorting bombers and paid the ultimate price.  He was shot down over the Adriatic in October 1944 while on a run to Austria.  Only 19 years old, Woods became one of three Tuskegee Airmen from Western Pennsylvania to die overseas during the war.

IWO JIMO HERO SGT. MICHAEL STRANK

No image symbolized Americans in combat more than the photograph of flag raisers during the battle of Iwo Jima.  Sergeant Michael Strank, Company E, 28th Division, 5th Marines, who grew up near Johnstown, is in the famous photograph although barely visible.  But as the squad leader of Company E, he held his men together until he was killed just six days after the image was taken.  Strank's presence in this iconic photograph represents the sacrifices of many men who gave their lives to secure victory in World War II.

ROSIE THE RIVETER

The character of "Rosie the Riveter" originated in early 1943 in a popular American song by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb.  In May 1943, Norman Rockwell depicted his version of Rosie on her lunch break for a cover of the Saturday Evening Post.  Thousands of real-life "Rosies" filled a critical role in Pittsburgh during World War II.  As the war progressed, Pittsburgh industries desperately needed workers.  Carnegie-Illinois Steel alone lost 32,000 employees to the military in May 1943.  Women answered the call.  They inspected shell casings, welded ship hulls, operated machines, conducted scientific tests, and worked as airplane mechanics.  By September 1943, more than 30,000 women worked in U. S. Steel's mills.  Thousands more did crucial war work at companies such as Dravo, Westinghouse, and Curtiss-Wright.


THE EXHIBIT

The exhibit's modular displays will cover a variety of topics, all told from the Western Pennsylvania perspective, including:

World in Turmoil
  World War II ignited out of a tinderbox of rising tensions in the 1930s.  Around the globe, nations seemed to be coming apart.  In Europe, anger smoldered in the aftermath of World War I.  In the United States, the stock market crash of 1929 triggered the Great Depression.  As the economic crisis spread to other countries, social unrest and ethnic violence worsened.  Nations such as Germany, Italy, and Japan sought to expand their territory.  Politicians saw opportunity in fear and chaos.  The world felt like a bomb waiting to explode.  Then Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  World War II had officially begun.  (Newsreel video footage from the 1930s is included.)

Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941  This is a floor model radio with an audio recording of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's message to Congress requesting a declaration of war on the December 8, 1941.  Two days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Arsenal of America  (see photo to the right.)  From Somerset to Erie, Western Pennsylvania communities watched as war dawned in Europe and Asia.  Local industries started making war materials by 1940, at lease a year before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.  For five year, Pennsylvania factories worked nearly non-stop.  Dravo in Pittsburgh engineered an assembly line for building ships.  Curtiss-Wright built a huge new airplane propeller factory in Beaver County.  Westinghouse made everything from helmet liners to electric torpedoes.  General Electric in Erie made howitzers.  Butler's American Bantam Car Company created the iconic Jeep.  U. S. Steel, operating plants from McKeesport to Oil City, smashed production records while the region's mills poured 95 million tons of steel into the war effort.  By 1945, Pennsylvania produced as much steel as all the Axis powers combined. 
(Promotional video footage from the 1940s is included.)

LST 750 Model  (see LST Model in photo above right) Made in Dravo shipyards, Neville Island in 1944.  Also called the "Pride of Pittsburgh," LST 750 was funded with war bonds raised by the citizens of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Fighting On Two Fronts  The "Double V" Campaign played off the "V for Victory" symbol to call for two victories:  one over the Axis powers overseas and another prejudice and discrimination at home.  Even as African American military personnel battled for freedom around the world, they still faced inequality when they came home.  But wartime service raised expectations for equal treatment that helped fuel the Civil Rights movement.

Home Front - Everyone's War  (see exhibit photo to the right.)  Even after the school bell rang or the factory whistle blew, war work was never done.  Children collected scrap metal and rubber.  Mothers saved fat and grease.  Fathers volunteered as Air Raid Wardens.  Everyone mastered the use of ration books and tokens.  Victory gardens sprang up in every available space across Western Pennsylvania.  Schools sold defense stamps while stores, businesses, and civic groups organized war bond drives. (see poster below right.)
 The Jewish Dilemma  As Hitler rose to power, many Jews tried to leave Germany.  Others waited, unwilling to abandon their homes.  The Nazis boycotted Jewish children's school attendance, and made Jewish citizens wear badges.  Hitler established concentration camps by March 1933. 
World at War  More than an previous war, World War II scattered young men and women around the globe.  Families tracked war news on the radio or in newspapers.  The wondered where their loved ones were serving.  Many studied maps provided by newspapers or local businesses.

War's End  World War II ended in phases.  Germany's unconditional surrender in May 1945 prompted global celebrations for "Victory in Europe" or "V-E Day."  Reality tempered elation:  the war was not over.  But the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima an then Nagasaki prompted Japan to surrender.  The war was now over.

In Their Own Words  Oral History audio recordings from seven Western Pennsylvania military veterans.

Mitchell Paige  Many other Western Pennsylvania men also distinguished themselves on the battlefield.  U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mitchell Paige of Charleroi became a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions holding off an entire Japanese regiment with machine guns at Guadalcanal.  In addition to receiving the Medal of Honor, he also had a G.I. Joe action figure designed in his likeness.


To see what the actual We Can Do It! WWII exhibit looked like at the Heinz History Center, consider taking the full Virtual Exhibit Tour with Heinz History Center President, CEO and host Andy Masich. 


DONORA EXHIBIT

SATURDAYS only 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Donora Historical Society has an extensive military artifact collection from Donora residents who participated in all wars, but its richest group is from WWII. Unfortunately not all of it will be on display at the Donora Public Library as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit due to lack of display cases and exhibition space. (To the left is a photo of Donora native and baseball great Stan "The Man" Musial during his service with the U.S. Navy during WWII.)

However, the overflow of Donora-related WWII artifacts will be on display at the Smog Museum during the duration for all to see. The Smog Museum is located just a block away from the library at 595 McKean Avenue - corner of Sixth Street and McKean Avenue. It would be worth the stop to see more WWII memorabilia as well as other unrelated items that make the Smog Museum a popular spot for visitors from around the world. (Above is the Smog Museum decorated for the last Veterans Day Parade held in Donora in 2016. The Veterans Day Parade rotates among five municipalities and will arrive again in Donora in 2021.)



LOGISTICS:

DATES:               Saturday, February 1, 2020 thru Tuesday, April 7, 2020
TIME:                   Sunday        - CLOSED - except during special presentations
                             Monday       - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Tuesday       - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Wednesday Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Thursday     - Library hours - Library 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Friday           - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
                             Saturday      - Library hours - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
                                  plus additional evening hours for special events - see the schedule below.
                             Or by appointment for groups - please schedule ahead
                             NOTE:  The Library's hours are also listed.  If you check with them at their front desk,
                                           they could let you in as well.
                              NOTE:  School groups will be given priority over the general public during the morning or
                                            early afternoon.  Please consult the Black Out Days and Times in the table below
                                            for those days the we are expecting school groups.
VENUE:                Donora Public Library - Community Room - lower level
                             510 Meldon Avenue
                             Donora, PA 15033
ADMISSION:       Suggested donation -
                                Adults over 16 years old - $3.00
                                Children and Teens from 6 to 16 years old - $2.00
                                Children 5 years old and under - FREE
                                School groups and Teachers - FREE
                                Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops - FREE
                             All donations benefit the Donora Historical Society to defray the expenses incurred.
                             NOTE:  Specific events and presentations carry a different suggested donation of $5.00
SPONSORSHIP: All sponsorship proceeds will be used to defray the expenses incurred for special presentations,                               used as donations or to pay stipends.
PARKING:           Parking is free on Meldon and McKean Avenue - handicapped parking is available in the
                             library parking lot.
RESTAURANTS: Anthony's Italiano - 557 McKean Avenue - 1.5 blocks away - lunch and dinner
                             Early Bird Diner - 522 McKean Avenue - 1 block away - breakfast and lunch
                             Union Pharmacy Deli - 601 McKean Avenue - 1.5 blocks away - lunch
                             The Station - 750 Meldon Avenue - 2 blocks away - breakfast and lunch
                             Duke's Cafe - 506 McKean Avenue - 1 block away - dinner - opens at 4:00 Thursday - Sunday
                             Cindy's Deli - 744 McKean Avenue - CLOSED due to retirement - Good Luck Cindy!
                             Anna Lee's - 501 Allen Avenue - 5-6 blocks away up on the hill - must drive - lunch
                             Marty's Pizza - 642 Second Street - 9 blocks away up on the hill - must drive - lunch
QUESTIONS:      Please email or call with any additional questions or to schedule your group.
CONTACTS:       Email: donorahistoricalsociety@gmail.com
                             Phone and Message Center: 724 - 823 - 0364 - Donora Historical Society

                             Email: donorapubliclibrary@comcast.net
                             Phone and Message Center: 724 - 379 - 7940 - Donora Public Library
 


SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
 
 DAY DATE TIME EVENT

Saturday

 
February 1
 
1:00 p.m.

First Day of Exhibit - normal hours

Friday


GRAND OPENING

February 7


Doors open at 6:30 p.m.


COMPLETE

11:00 a.m.


7:00 p.m.




normal exhibit hours 11:00 am to 5:00 pm


GRAND OPENING reception:

MUSIC: a few live WWII-era songs by Kylie Santoro Horrell - Owner and Artistic Director of STRIVE Performing Arts Center in Belle Vernon, followed by recorded Big Band and WWII-era music.

FOOD and REFRESHMENTS: a "Taste of Donora" featuring heavy hors d'oeuvres by Donora restaurants, as well as punch and cookies.

PLEASE RSVP

free but donations accepted

Saturday

February 8

COMPLETE

1:00 p.m.

"The Home Front" - Dr. David Lonich - Donora Historical Society


Saturday

February 15

COMPLETE

1:00 p.m.

"The German Soldier in WWII - Truth or Myth" - Stuart Boyd - Rostraver Historical Society


Saturday

February 22

COMPLETE


12:30 p.m.



2:00 p.m.

"Behind the Scenes - Putting Together the WWII Exhibit"- Leslie Przybylek - curator Heinz History Center

                                  --------------

"The Steel City in WWII" - Leslie Przybylek - curator Heinz History Center

Saturday

February 29

COMPLETE

1:00 p.m.

"WWII Light Infantry Weapons" - Ron Maxson - USMC Retired and WWII collector - Greensburg

                                --------------

"WWII Trivia", "Medal of Honor Recipients" and "Young Marines" - Ron Maxson

FridayMarch 6

COMPLETE
12:30 p.m.Ringgold Middle School Assembly (500)

Judah Samet - an afternoon with a Holocaust Survivor 
- will discuss his life experiences, some of which include being taken to the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany with his family at the age of six

Saturday

March 7

COMPLETE

 11:00 a.m.



-------

1:00 p.m.

"The General, the Major and the Sargent" - about the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day - Glenn Flickinger - WWII Historian - Upper St. Clair

 --------------

"A Pearl Harbor Nurse's Aide" - Glenn Flickinger - WWII Historian

Saturday

March 14

COMPLETE

1:00 p.m.


"WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines" - Debbie Popp Gilbert - Elizabeth Township Historical Society

Tea Social - joint effort by Donora and Elizabeth Historical Societies - admission $10

PLEASE RSVP

Saturday

March 28

POSTPONED



POSTPONED


9:00 a.m.

allow 2-3 hours

    -------

12:00 p.m.

Veterans Breakfast Club - Todd DePastino - breakfast for veterans and collecting oral histories - RSVPs - free for veterans and their guests

VENUE: Donora American Legion - Post 212 - directly across the street from the Donora Library

 --------------

"A Donora Mill Machinist Family's WWII Experience" - Dorothy Frye Walker - Starkweather Circle Ladies G.A.R. - Monongahela


Sunday

April 5

POSTPONED

2:00 p.m.

Judah Samet - an afternoon with a Holocaust Survivor - will discuss his life experiences, some of which include being taken to the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany with his family at the age of six


Tuesday

GRAND FINALE
 
April 7

POSTPONED
 
7:00 p.m.

Last Day of Exhibit
 - normal hours

"Portraits for the Home Front: The Story of Elizabeth Black" - David Solomon - WQED Executive Producer

 
NOTE:  In general, Saturday presentations will occur from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, and then again from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The noon hour will be available to get lunch.  Four merchants are within walking distance: See RESTAURANTS above.
 

 
LARGE GROUP BLACK OUT DAYS and TIMES:
 
Below is a schedule of when larger groups have reserved the exhibit for their own special events, meaning these times will be unavailable (BLACKED OUT) to the general public:
 
DAY DATE TIME EVENT
MondayFeb 249:00 to 10:30 amLARGE GROUP (60)
rms8 SP
TuesdayFeb 259:00 to 10:30 amLARGE GROUP (60)
rms8 SP
WednesdayFeb 269:00 to 10:30 am


2:00 to 3:30 pm
LARGE GROUP (60) rms8 NC

SMALL GROUP (15) roh DL
ThursdayFeb 279:00 to 10:30 am
LARGE GROUP (60)
rms8  NC

 Tuesday March 17
CANCELED due to virus
9:30 to 11:30 a.m. LARGE GROUP (60) 
res4
 Wednesday March 18
CANCELED due to virus
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.LARGE GROUP (60)    
res4
 Monday March 30
CANCELED due to virus
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.LARGE GROUP (60) 
rhs  DL
 
NOTE:  If you would like to hold your own special event or tour for a larger group, please RSVP your date and time ASAP.


 
OUR EXHIBIT:

For us to simply host the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit - We Can Do It! WWII wouldn't be enough in our eyes to call it a success. We wanted to also make sure we did other things to help our town of Donora and surrounding area. Our goals were extensive, but we felt we were up to the task. To call the WWII Exhibit a success, we could only do that if we:
  • partnered with other organizations in Donora like the Donora Public Library and Donora American Legion - Post 212
  • exposed student groups to history and living history, in this case WWII
  • helped veteran's groups with fellowship and fundraising
  • helped senior groups
  • involved our Donora merchants like our food service providers
  • held artistic and cultural events that involve music, food, guest speakers and history
  • involved the local community from the Mid-Mon Valley and beyond
  • raised money for veteran donations, for our general expenses to host our various events and for presenter stipends
To see if we were successful in our efforts, please read
below and view the images from our 2020 WWII exhibit:
 

As you entered the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library, you were greeted by a table set up by the DONORA HISTORICAL SOCIETY to promote upcoming events related to the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit, as well as non-WWII Exhibit events. A guestbook was also on hand to log visitors.








The ROSIE THE RIVETER display greeted you next as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library.  

The WWII exhibit had a distinctive clockwise flow that took the visitor through all major phases of the war from start to finish.







The Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941 display (floor model radio with an audio recording) signifying the start of WWII and the World in Turmoil display placard (includes Newsreel video footage from the 1930s) as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 








The Jewish Dilemma display (end table, lamp and storybook on the left) and the LST 750 Model (display case on the right) as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 










The Arsenal of America display kiosk (includes promotional video footage from the 1940s) as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 










The Home Front - Everyone's War display kiosk as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 











The TUSKEGEE AIRMAN LT. CARL WOODS display as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 











The IWO JIMO HERO SGT. MICHAEL STRANK display kiosk as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 











The GENERAL GEORGE C. MARSHALL display kiosk as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 











The War's End display placard as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 














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OUR LOCALLY COLLECTED ARTIFACTS:

One of the largest collections at the Donora Historical Society is our military collection for most wars dating back to the Civil War and up until the Vietnam War. While this was primarily the Heinz History Center's traveling WWII Exhibit, we were able to supplement the exhibit with WWII artifacts from Donora veterans in three locations within two venues in Donora.

The Local Artifact display as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit allowed us to make a local contribution from Donora. In the tall glass display case on the left sat the uniform of Donora High School Class of 1929 graduate Raymond "Lefty" Lytle. The Heinz History Center allowed us to also add an additional side table to display Lytle's medals that included a Purple Heart.

This display  was part of the WWII Exhibit in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. 



Continuing upstairs on the main floor of the Donora Public Library were additional Donora WWII artifacts describing the The Home Front, Donora, Pa. that showcased the men and women of Donora that went off to war or contributed to the Arsenal of Democracy.




And continuing still a block away at the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum was our more comprehensive WWII artifact collection from Donora veterans. This display sat in our rotating exhibit space and
 gave WWII history buffs a reason to visit the Smog Museum and to see those WWII items that couldn't fit at the Donora Public Library.


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OPENING NIGHT RECEPTION:

While the first day of the Heinz History Center travelling WWII Exhibit was actually on Saturday, February 1, 2020, the Opening Night Reception didn't occur until Friday, February 7, 2020. For the reception, representatives from the Heinz History Center were expected to attend, a unique opportunity for us and Donora. 

After the arrival of WWII-era truck went on display on the front lawn of the Donora Public Library on Thursday, February 6, 2020 to greet visitors for the opening weekend, a snowstorm dumped five inches the next day on Friday morning. 
But we knew, We Could Do It! and the Opening Night Reception went on as planned.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Acai - Raleigh, NC


Starting at 7:00 p.m., opening remarks were made by representatives of the Donora Historical Society and Donora Public History. Donora Mayor Jim McDonough then welcomed all to the exhibit and our town of Donora. 

All of our generous sponsors were thanked. You can see our sponsors near the end of this page along with their company logos. Their donations enabled us to cover general expenses, pay stipends to our presenters, entertainers and food service providers, and give donations to the Donora Public Library and veterans groups.

We were able to do something different that hadn't been done before and that was our Taste of Donora as a way to not only have nice food for our reception, but to showcase our fine  food service providers from Donora. All eight food service providers listed in the LOGISTICS section above under RESTAURANTS participated and they all went above and beyond the call and they did Donora proud. The food was outstanding!

Kylie Horrell
, owner and director of the STRIVE Performing Arts Studio in Belle Vernon was our musical entertainer for the Opening Night Reception where she sang three WWII-era songs: Over the Rainbow, At Last and On the Sunny Side of the Street.

Kylie Horrell is shown in the photo to the left.

The BOSE sound system used by Kylie was generously donated by the Acai Family of Raleigh, NC. Their father and grandfather was Stephen Acai, a 1933 Donora High School graduate whose WWII uniform was on display at the Smog Museum.

As a way to recognize all the men from Donora that went off to serve in WWII, we decided to do that by recognizing just one who did not return: 1937 Donora High School graduate Walter Glod. We were able to honor Walter through his sister Charlotte Glod Simmons who now lives in Mt. Lebanon and said a few words about her family and brother. Robert Stakeley of the Heinz History Center, sponsor of California University of Pennsylvania's Digital Storytelling class, and our Affiliate Director also said a few words. We then showed the video mentioned above titled "A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod." Simmons and Stakeley are shown in the photo to the right.

Heinz History Center President and CEO Andy Masich was our keynote speaker during the Opening Night Reception. Masich gave us insight into the WWII Exhibit and the role it played at the Heinz History Center. Masich was gracious enough to attend our event on his 65th birthday and also sing us his rendition of Rosie the Riveter.

You can see what the actual We Can Do It! WWII exhibit looked like at the Heinz History Center, by taking the Virtual Exhibit Tour with host Andy Masich. 

Andy Masich is shown in the photo to the left.


In the photo to the right, some reception attendees got into the spirit and flexed their muscles by showing They Count Do it too with Rosie the Riveter

Stephen Acai (far right) attended from Raleigh, NC. 

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HISTORICAL PRESENTATIONS:

The one thing that we did with the traveling Civil War Exhibit back in 2015 that was extremely successful was to supplement the exhibit with additional events, namely historical presentations. We repeated that same idea with the traveling WWII Exhibit and were able to attract visitors to hear unique WWII topics about Donora, the Mon Valley, Western Pennsylvania and WWII battlefronts like Normandy and Pearl Harbor. Here was our lineup of historical presentations that started the day after the Opening Night Reception on Saturday, February 8, 2020: 

On Saturday, February 8, 2020 our first presentation on The Home Front was given by Dr. David Lonich of the Donora Historical Society. Lonich described in detail how the Home Front contributed toward the war effort in Donora, the Mon Valley and across the United States.

Dr. David Lonich is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.







On Saturday, February 15, 2020 our second presentation on The German Soldier in WWII - Truth or Myth was given by Stuart Boyd of the Rostraver Historical Society. Boyd was able to describe in detail WWII from the German's soldiers perspective. A very engaged crowd participated in a thorough Q&A.

Stuart Boyd is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.






On Saturday, February 22, 2020 our third presentation on Behind the Scenes - Putting Together the WWII Exhibit was given by Leslie Przybylek, the chief curator of the WWII Exhibit at the Heinz History Center. Przybylek described how they acquired various WWII artifacts and collections from around Western Pennsylvania and how they narrowed the focus for the We Can Do It! WWII! display at the Heinz History Center in 2015. Przybylek then followed up that discussion with The Steel City in WWII and the role that Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania played in the war effort during WWII. Leslie Przybylek is shown giving her presentation in the photo to the left.


On Saturday, February 29, 2020 our fourth presentation on WWII Light Infantry Weapons was given by Ron Maxson, USMC Retired and WWII collector from Greensburg. Maxson also presented WWII Trivia, Medal of Honor Recipients and discussed the Young Marines program for youth with future military aspirations. Ron Maxson is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.

On Saturday, March 7, 2020 our fifth presentation on The General, the Major and the Sargent about the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day was given by Glenn Flickinger, WWII Historian from Upper St. Clair. Flickinger then followed up that discussion with A Pearl Harbor Nurse's Aide, a presentation about his mother who is a Hawaiian native of Pearl Harbor.

Glenn Flickinger is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.




On Saturday, March 14, 2020 our sixth presentation on WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines was given by Monongahela native Debbie Popp Gilbert of the Elizabeth Township Historical Society.

Debbie Popp Gilbert is shown giving her presentation in the photo to the left.

More photos and descriptions can be found below in the Women's Fashion Tea section.




Due to social distancing, the remaining historical presentations on our WWII Schedule of Events were suspended after the March 14th event. We hope to continue where we left off on dates yet to be determined to finish what we started.

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LIVING HISTORY DEMONSTRATIONS:

There weren't as many opportunities for WWII Living History Demonstrations as there were for the Civil War, primarily due to the fact that there weren't many WWII veterans who could share their time for audiences due to their age. WWII reenactors also didn't seem to exist as readily as they did for the Civil War. With that said, we did have a few ways to share living history. Ron Maxson also shared authentic WWII weaponry in his presentation on February 29th - see above.

A day before the Opening Night Reception on February 7, 2020 this WWII-era truck was delivered for loan by the Lipchey Family from nearby Webster to greet visitors at the Donora Public Library for the Grand Opening weekend. 
This truck will return for the Veterans Breakfast Club breakfast.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Acai - Raleigh, NC

The Donora Historical Society is always looking for ways to attract younger historians. While making connections in 2019 in preparation for the WWII Exhibit in 2020, we stumbled on Aiden Ramsdell from nearby Charleroi. While only 12 years old, Aiden is an old soul with an appreciation for all things military. He is a collector of military memorabilia from all eras, but would often show up at our events dressed in his authentic WWII uniform. As part of Ron Maxson's presentations on February 29th, we afforded Aiden the opportunity to show off and explain his WWII collection hopefully giving him confidence to do it again for other audiences in the future.

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SCHOOL GROUPS:

When the Donora Historical Society was awarded the opportunity to host the travelling WWII Exhibit back in 2017, the primary consideration for selecting a date slot were students. Having the exhibit in the summer meant we would not be able to host school field trips. Having the exhibit too early in the school year would mean that the teachers would not have ample time to plan their lessons and schedule buses accordingly. So we chose the late winter/early spring date slot. The results were that buses were easily scheduled and the teachers could plan their WWII lessons around their scheduled field trips.

As with the Civil War Exhibit in 2015, we invited a number of school districts to visit our WWII Exhibit in Donora. For students who don't have the opportunity to visit museums, we are bringing a museum directly to their backyard. When school districts do visit, we assume their teachers plan accordingly to give them the necessary background lessons to reinforce what they are about to see with our WWII Exhibit, a two-pronged educational approach.

For this exhibit, we had the opportunity to do something totally different. After Ringgold Middle School scheduled their field trips to bring their students to Donora, we were able to coordinate with History teacher Grace Denson and the Middle School administrators to add a third prong - a student assembly at their school to teach them about another facet of WWII, the Holocaust. Our plan was to hold a student assembly with a Holocaust survivor so the students could bear witness first-hand, a unique opportunity for all involved.

Ringgold Middle School teachers and students tour the Donora Historical Society's The Home Front, Donora, Pa. display on the first floor of the Donora Public library. 

These students were some of over 250 students and teachers who would visit the exhibit during the fourth week of the exhibit. 



Ringgold Middle School students tour the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. The students were completing a scavenger hunt as part of their activities.











Ringgold Middle School students tour the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. The students were completing a scavenger hunt as part of their activities.










Ringgold Middle School students tour the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower level Community Room of the Donora Public library. The students were completing a scavenger hunt as part of their activities.











So after their classroom work and visiting the WWII Exhibit in Donora, the Ringgold Middle School students were now ready to reinforce their instruction even further with a student assembly at their school to teach them first-hand about WWII and the HolocaustThe Donora Historical Society sponsored the student assembly by chaperoning Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet from nearby Pittsburgh on Friday, March 6, 2020.

Five hundred Ringgold Middle School Students and teachers packed the school auditorium to hear Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet. Samet is sitting on the stage. One of just a few photos that he had is displayed on the screen and is of him shortly after being liberated from the i
nfamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet discussed his life experiences for the students, most of which included being taken to the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany with his family at the age of six.

One of just a few photos that he had is displayed on the screen and is of him shortly after being liberated from the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Samet is shown in the photo to the right talking to Robert Stakeley of the Heinz History Center prior to the start of the student assembly.

Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet discussed his life experiences for the students, most of which included being taken to the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany with his family at the age of six.

One of the other photos that he had is of his mother who he credited with helping him survive in the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Ringgold Middle School History teacher Grace Denson summarized their experience:

"WWII and the Holocaust are part of the curriculum at Ringgold Middle School, both in Social Studies and English Language Arts. This year, the 8th grade students received an enhanced learning experience through the Heinz History Center, the Donora Historical Society, and the Donora Public Library. The traveling exhibit “We Can Do It! WWII” gave students a look into the role Pennsylvania played in WWII, as well as made local connections to people, places, and businesses. It really brought the broader concepts to a much more personal level that the students could connect with. The students then received what was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of them, when we had the privilege of hosting an assembly with Holocaust survivor, Mr. Judah Samet. The students were looking forward to his visit for weeks, and were truly engaged in hearing his story. The students and staff of Ringgold Middle School are grateful for the opportunities provided by the Donora Historical Society and the Donora Public Library, and look forward to more collaboration in the future.  

I can’t thank you enough for everything! I know it is something I will never forget!" 

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SENIOR GROUPS:

Sometimes the best audiences to give historical presentations to are the ones that lived it. The Donora Historical Society has had an ongoing relationship with The Residence At Hilltop Living Care Facility for the past five years or so. We've given various presentations at their location and they've brought van loads down to Donora for others. The WWII Exhibit was no exception.

Three van loads of residents and their chaperones from The Residence At Hilltop visited the WWII Exhibit in February. There were three WWII veterans and two Rosies (women that worked in the steel mill) in attendance.

Dr. David Lonich of the Donora Historical Society repeated his The Home Front presentation that he did previously on February 8th for the residents.

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WOMEN'S WII FASHION TEA:

Hosting a war-related exhibit such as the WWII Exhibit or Civil War Exhibit (2015) tends to draw more men than women. With that in mind, we were looking for an opportunity to cater to women with an event they would find interesting and would enjoy. We think we accomplished that with our hosting of a Women's WWII Fashion Tea on Saturday, March 14, 2020 that was attended by 38 women. Admission was charged and gift baskets were raffled to offset our donation to the Elizabeth Township Historical Society. Monongahela native Debbie Popp Gilbert of the Elizabeth Township Historical Society would be our WWII Fashion presenter.

The afternoon started off with a tea where women sat six to a table adorned with antique tea cups, saucers, plates, tea pots and linens. Finger sandwiches, cookies and tea were served and relaxing conversation was had. The tea was organized and food prepared by Donora Historical Society volunteers.


Debbie Popp Gilbert arrived the day before to start the preparation for her presentation
WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines. Various WWII-era outfits were expertly arranged in a display in the presentation area of the lower level of the Donora Public Library that would be used to reinforce Gilbert's talking points.



The WWII-era outfit display continued and included both women's and men's fashions for 
Debbie Popp Gilbert's presentation WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines.







Debbie Popp Gilbert is shown above in the HISTORICAL PRESENTATIONS section. Gilbert's WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines was given to all those in attendance that included those from the general public that did not attend the tea.

The tea and presentation proved to be perfect compliments.

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HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR:

MORE TO COME

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VETERANS GROUPS:

One of the goals of hosting the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit was raising money in support of veterans groups.

With the help of two Donora natives who are employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers: Mark Gorscak - Scout and Blayre Holmes Davis - Director of Community Relations, we were able to acquire a donation of an authentic Pittsburgh Steelers autographed football signed by #78 Offensive Lineman Alejandro Villanueva who played in two Pro Bowls, is a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate, West Point Black Knights football player and team captain, United States Army Ranger, who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. The football was raffled during the duration of the WWII Exhibit to help raise money to support the Veterans Breakfast Club breakfast.



MORE TO COME




SPONSORS:
 
The following businesses and individuals helped fund the exhibit, additional presentations and events:
 
  

  FirstEnergy - West Penn Power (Platinum level donor - business) - Washington, PA


  equitrans Midstream Foundation (Platinum level donor - business) - Canonsburg, PA


  PNC Charitable Trust - PNC Foundation (Platinum level donor - business) - Pittsburgh


  Acai Family - Stephen and Avera (Platinum level donor - family) - Raleigh, NC


  Elliott Group (Gold level donor - business) - Donora, PA


  Mon Valley Alliance (Silver level donor - business) - Charleroi, PA


  Pittsburgh Steelers (Silver level donor - business) - Pittsburgh, PA


  Victoria House (Silver level donor - business) - Monessen, PA
  

  Model Cleaners (Bronze level donor - business) - Charleroi, PA


  El Grande Industries Inc. (Bronze level donor - business) - Donora, PA


  Giant Eagle - Belle Vernon (Steel level donor - business) - Belle Vernon, PA
 

  Gordon Food Service (Steel level donor - business) - Grand Rapids, MI

    NOTE:  All sponsorship proceeds benefit the Donora Historical Society for expenses 
                  and stipends incurred while hosting this exhibit.



SCHEDULE OF THE TRAVELING EXHIBIT - We Can Do It!  WW II

This is where the Heinz History Center traveling exhibit has been:
  • Beaver Area Heritage Museum, - April 22 - June 11, 2017
  • Butler County Historical Society - June 17 - August 8, 2017
  • Erie County Historical Society - August 12 - November 28, 2017
  • Heinz History Center (idle) - December 1 - January 23, 2018 
  • McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center - January 27 - March 20, 2018
  • Fayette County Historical Society - March 24 - May 2, 2018
  • Heinz History Center (idle) - May 6 - May 22, 2018 
  • Ohio County Public Library (Wheeling, WV) - May 26 - July 24, 2018
  • Jefferson County Historical Center - July 28 - October 2, 2018
  • Bedford County Historical Society - October 6 - November 27, 2018
  • The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon - December 1 - January 29, 2019
  • West Overton Village - February 2 - March 26, 2019
  • Lawrence County Historical Society - March 30 - May 21, 2019
  • Blair County Historical Society - May 25 - July 16, 2019
  • Somerset Historical Center - July 20 - September 17, 2019
  • Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls - September 21 - November 19, 2019
  • Heinz History Center (idle) - November 23 - January 27, 2019 
  • Donora Historical Society & Smog Museum - February 1 - April 7, 2020
  • WW II traveling exhibit closes and returns to the Heinz History Center