by Mary Gadberry
December 28, 2023 – On Wednesday, December 27, the Clovis Veterans Memorial District hosted a Family Day at their Community Heritage Center located on Veterans Parkway here in Clovis.
In addition to the current exhibit, craft tables and hot chocolate were available. We were also treated to the reading of an interesting picture book.
The Heritage Center’s exhibit has its current focus on the early days of Clovis, from its founding up to World War I. The recorded re-enactment of Charles Shaver, Marcus Pollasky, and Clovis Cole having a conversation is interesting, as is the display on the telegraph.
It’s really strange to think that the telegraph was considered an instant form of communication only one hundred years ago, using Morse code, which then needed to be translated, rewritten, and delivered by hand, when we carry with us a small computer that can provide true instant communication. A Morse Code poster and an interactive display allows you to practice sending messages.
Another section of the exhibit described how Clovis as a whole was affected by World War I. John “Cecil” Cox was the first Clovis resident killed during World War I, at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France.
There are uniforms, displays of World War I era firearms, both handguns and long guns, as well as a display of knives from the era.
The museum employees have created a bunker to demonstrate what it might have felt like to be fighting during that time. “Above ground” has black and white footage of fighting, and as you peer over the top, you see the ground with the roll of barbed wire across it.
You can hear the sounds of fighting, and imagine yourself standing in the rain in France, slogging through the cold, wet mud at the bottom of the bunker, with your feet freezing in your boots.
The bunker display also has the communications office tucked in with sandbags, keeping the communications officer and the commander of the unit as safe as possible.
A picture book titled Shooting at the Stars, written and illustrated by John Hendrix, was read to the twenty or so visitors. The book tells of the great Christmas Truce of 1914, when German and British troops stopped fighting to meet in No Man’s Land where they sang carols, exchanged souvenirs, and celebrated Christmas as best they could under the horrible circumstance of war. Once the holiday was over, however, the soldiers returned to their bunkers and waited for the orders to resume the fight.
The craft tables gave visitors the opportunity to create a Christmas cracker and a snowman ornament.
Christmas crackers are a British tradition that dates back to the 1850’s, and were created by a candymaker who started tucking in love poems with his sugared almonds when he noticed these candies were bought by young men for their sweethearts.
Further modifications brought the “bang” to the cracker and the love notes and romantic ideas soon turned to jokes and funny rhymes. The snowman ornament was fashioned from painted wooden beads, and the finished result was as cute as it was creative.
The Community Heritage Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am – 5pm, and admission is free. The center is located at 320 Veterans Parkway, between Third and Fifth Streets, in Clovis.