Tuesday, May the 15th, we drove back down to Montrose to visit the old air station museum, only to discover, yet again, that it was also closed on Tuesdays! Geez!
We happened to notice a couple of guys inside the yard working on an accessible ramp for wheelchairs and decided to ask them when the museum would be open. We explained to them that we had been there the day before, and had come back to visit, but we couldn’t find an open gate.
“Did you come far?” one of them asked.
“Aberdeen.” Lindsay replied.
“Ah well, we’re not open until tomorrow but since you’ve come all this way, come on in. Our curator happens to be here today. Why don’t you drive around to the main road and come past the garage to the back gate and he can give you a guided tour!” he kindly suggested.
We gladly did as he suggested and in no time we were greeted by our friendly host, Dan Paton, Curator. He warmly welcomed us and began our tour straightway. Talk about the royal treatment. Gee, we felt special!
That was really nice of them. We talked for a bit out in the yard and we talked about the planes sitting in the yard, the “Red Lichtie” Spitfire, and the Gloster Meteor T.7
We looked around the yard a bit and then inside what we thought was the extent of the museum. Dan took us to the ‘back room’ which they had set up like a ‘typical’ living room from the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was so cool and was filled with all sorts of interesting things.
One of the first things he pointed out to us in the room was the handmade oak table in the center of the room all set for dinner. Evidently, the young man in the photograph served at this air base and made this table, and later donated it to the museum.
Dan explained that often they have groups of school children visit the museum and this room fascinates them. One boy told him one day during the school tour, “The people who lived here must have been really rich!”
“Why did you say that?” he asked.
The boy replied, “Just look how fancy their table is with all the fine china, and a tablecloth and everything. Only rich people have nice table settings like that.”
Dan told him, “Well, son, maybe that’s how it is now, but back then, this is how everybody set the table and put out their ‘best’ for everyday meals.”
Then the boy asked, “Where’s the TV and the telephone?” Of course, Dan also had to explain that TV hadn’t been invented yet, and if you wanted to make a phone call, you went to the red telephone box in town, if you were lucky enough to have one! For entertainment, they listened to this – the radio – for all their news and musical radio broadcasts.”
The kid was amazed as you might imagine and stated he felt really sorry for those folks!
I spied this old treadle sewing machine and accompanying sewing box sitting on the floor next to it. I have one of them at home that I still use on a daily basis and I absolutely love it!
The kitchen hutch sat in the corner, also filled to the brim with old bottles, clothespins, ration coupon books, cookbooks, various cooking utensils and a wide variety of dry goods as one would expect to see in the cupboard in those days. So authentic!
They even had some vintage clothing for ‘dress up’ and Dan had Lindsay and I try on some outfits! What do you think?
In another room, they had a big display about marriages that occurred between young men from America (Yankees) that came over for training and met local girls and which led to marriage. Quite a big display. In fact, in the near future they are planning on putting on a special exhibition they’ve been preparing for all about those marriages, their stories, what happened to each couple after the war, etc. It was quite touching! What a bunch of romantic guys these guys are! I found it rather endearing.
Of course, during this time, movies were quite the new rage and there were many displays and cases full of the memorabilia from that era and the high stylin’ jewelry, perfumes, and make-up the girls used to emulate the silver screen iconic beauties of the time…
They also had displays of actual clothing that men and women wore in the field… and some bygone apparatus pieces Lindsay couldn’t resist giving a try… a rotary dial telephone!
There were old posters and photographs of the air station on the wall. I didn’t realize until I saw these pictures on the wall that the buildings we were walking through, are the actual buildings the airmen used. In fact, all of the buildings down the street and the whole area still has the hangars (and all the buildings) that was the actual RAF Air Station!
On display in cases along the wall the museum had other paraphernalia like old lighters, and packs of cigarettes. Amazing!
They also had these two unusual gas masks; one for little kids and one designed for an infant! Never seen either of these before!
There were actual uniforms from officers and stories about some very special chaps that served here.
They even had a very large and very detailed model of the entire grounds of the station complete with little tiny men, airplanes, trucks, every building, every hangar – the whole nine yards! Incredible detail!
Another thing I was quite impressed with was the numerous interpretive boards all over the place. Not only were they very professional and very well done, but they each provided a very unique story about people, places, & events and were filled with personal stories of the bravery and fortitude of the men and women that served. They have put an extensive amount of work into this place! I’ve included a few examples of just a small amount of the numerous boards they have on display. Really! I did not take a picture of every single one they had!
Their displays were so interesting and so full of interesting artifacts…and so clean and tidy!
Even some of the animals that served, such as the infamous dog, Bamse! I remember a couple of years ago, Lindsay and I were down in the harbor of Montrose and we came upon Bamse’s gravesite in our explorations. I included it in one of my blog posts at the time in my old blog, Globetrekkergrandma. It was nice to see additional information about that special dog once again.
Near the end of the building of the station headquarters, we entered a room that was set up to represent what a woman’s quarter would have looked like and filled with. Women pilots were not allowed to fly in combat, however, they did ferry planes back and forth between bases. Dan showed us some of the various ‘standard issue’ kits they were provided which included things such as a small sewing kit for darning one’s socks when holes developed, a brass button polishing guard the keep those buttons bright and shiny without getting the polishing goop on the uniform material. Clever, I thought!
After touring that building we exited out the back door and immediately came upon a “Pill Box.” I’ve seen these types of brick buildings scattered all over Scotland here and there and remember asking Lindsay one day what they were. He explained to me that the soldiers used them during the war to remain hidden and safe while defending the countryside from invading troops. We could actually go inside one of them here at the station to see what it was like inside. That was interesting; I had wondered what they were like inside. Now I know!
They also had another display next to the Pill Box; an “Anderson Shelter” complete with all the accouterments of supplies needed inside!
There were tractors and old cars too. I was thinking that the tour had come to its end…
…and was about to thank Dan for the lovely tour when he started directing us to this next building with something odd sticking out of it…
When we got closer, I could see this odd thing was actually an old airplane which a few guys were currently restoring. Wow! Dan introduced us to these fellas and I began admiring the work they do, and all the work they still needed to do to this junk heap! Such dedicated and highly skilled volunteers! Obvious sticklers for detail!
Afterward, Dan took us into the next hangar and there I found interpretive boards all about those highly skilled volunteers! Wow! I’m impressed!
Inside the hangar were some mighty fine examples of full-sized fully restored planes they have already completed as well as some very fine models hanging overhead from the rafters above!
This is also the hangar where they plan to put up their exhibition about the wartime marriages so there were more stacks of interpretive boards to place on display for the exhibition coming soon. It was fun to get a sneak peek!
I recognized this one right away, a Fokker! My kids’ dad, Phil, used to like building models of this particular airplane.
They even had a special hand-embroidered scarf one of the pilots wore for good luck and a display of actual postcards a pilot had sent home to his wife and kids while on active duty. How touching!
Finally, in the last corner of the hangar just before we were about to exit, there was a remarkable display of the hand-made poppies with names and information on tags attached to them for the brave young men who never made it back home but who will long be remembered and never forgotten…
After that moving display of the hand-made poppies, we left the hangar and I again thought that was the end of the tour…
Not! We passed by this building which has model airplane kits for sale (we didn’t go in because, remember, the air station is “closed” today!)
Instead, we were headed for yet another ‘quanset’ hut style hangar dead ahead! The Butler Building. From this angle, you can’t really tell how big this quanset hut is nor how long it is until you step through the door…
It’s massive and has full-sized restored airplanes in it as far as you can see! Geesh! Let’s just stroll through here to see what it holds!
As you can see along the length of the building on either side are more and more of those really professional and well-written and graphic interpretive panels, for starters, let alone the models, planes, jeeps, etc! I am totally amazed and everything in this museum is impeccably clean, dusted, swept, and well-cared for. Everything is literally shipshape and authentic no matter where you go!
There is even a replica of the plane the Red Baron flew for the Germans during the war…
In the very back of the hangar, there were numerous hands-on equipment school children can touch and learn how to use, such as this morse code signaling lamp (above) and a cockpit the young at heart can climb into, play with the controls and dials and pretend to be a pilot!
And that, my friends, was the end of the tour! At this point, Dan, our tour guide, went on about his way, allowing us to browse and continue to look in detail at anything we had seen so far.
We finally worked our way back to the entrance, thanked one and all for the outstanding and informative tour and for going out of their way to allow us to come in for a special, one-on-one two-hour guided tour – on a day they weren’t even open!
We still had a couple of stops that day to tell you about, but I’m going to save that for another post.
Let this one soak in and consider going back through this post to take the time to read some of those interpretive storyboards about the brave young men and women who loved and fought so valiantly for the freedoms we enjoy to this day!
Attitude of Gratitude – One of the fundamental things I am grateful for is freedom. I highly value the sacrifices others before have made for my ability to enjoy the fruits of their labor and hard work and even the ultimate – sacrificing their lives.
In today’s world, I fear too many people take the freedom they casually enjoy on a daily basis for granted and perhaps have become lackadaisical about what lengths our ancestors went to in order for us to enjoy its rewards.
I am grateful for Freedom and am also grateful for the sacrifices others have made. I’m also grateful for the volunteers at the RAF Montrose Air Station for the dedicated work they continue onward with to remind us of how that freedom was won.