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» Saturday, April 19, 2008Report from Unicoi, Part 5
We just got back from Toccoa, Georgia, former home to Camp Toccoa during World War II. Airborne infantry trained here, and it's best known for being the home of "Easy Company," the subject of Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers and the subsequent miniseries on HBO. This is the home of the Currahee Heritage Museum.
It is only a 38 mile drive from here in Helen to Toccoa; we started out just before lunch. It had rained last night and it was actually still "misting" when we left, with the clouds very low, but as we drove away from the lodge and toward the town of Helen, we emerged from the fog. It was still misty and nicely cool as we turned left past the Indian mound and the hills in the distance were a lovely study with emerging sun on the tree branches but surrounded by clouds. Cows were grazing out in tremendously green fields and we also saw wild turkeys feeding in one empty pasture.
The route was easy, although the GPS unit tried to steer us down a gravel road initially. We went through Clarkesville (but there was no last train there...LOL) and reached the museum, housed in the old train depot, easily, although the GPS told us we were there about three blocks ahead of time.
The exhibit is cool. The first small hall is a history of Stephens County. Like the Marietta Museum experience we had back in December, these are just bits and pieces of different things donated by various people. 19th century furnishings in a typical home occupied one wall, there was some train memorabilia, doctors' equipment, various musical instruments and a very odd piece: a ticket to a radio show in New York City, and an exhibit for a gentleman named George Hitt, who was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis but who supported his family by his creation of beautiful, detailed silhouettes, cut with a plain old set of long scissors.
There was also a tribute to a local manufacturer and a switchboard and dictaphone from the old Coats & Clark thread factory, plus an exhibit for a local young man who was a weightlifter in the 1956 Olympics.
The main part of the museum, however, is for Camp Toccoa, and about a fourth of the building is taken up by one unit of the stables that the men bunked in when based in England. At that time, any place that could house troops was used, and the men of "Easy Company" lived in a sturdy stable that had been converted, with four bunks to a horse box. Each of the six boxes contains a different exhibit (one is of general war memorabilia, the rest of World War II items except for the last which is set up as if the men were still living in it, with a letter from one of the men's mother, that was found in the wall when they dismantled the stable in England to ship to the US, displayed prominently.
The rest of the exhibit is a display of the deceased men's medals as well as display cases full of all sorts of WWII memorabilia. Two cases had displays of German items with swastikas on them and there was a disclaimer that this items were being displayed for historical purposes only and that the museum did not support any distasteful ideology. Is this really necessary in a museum? Are we going to have to start posting notes next to guillotines or medieval torture implements saying the museum doesn't support torture or executions??? Geez...
When we finished with the museum we drove out to the actual camp site. There is one concrete building left, and a concrete platform shaped like a parachute with monuments for the four different airborne divisions that trained there and what campaigns they were in, with a stone monument at the foot of the parachute. The place was now an industrial park, but there is a map and markers on the road that show you where various things were located and you can drive up to the top of the mountain that the men used to have to climb as part of their training ("three miles up and three miles back"). We figured we wouldn't do it with the car. They're having an open house next October 1 with one of the "Band of Brothers," so maybe we'll come back with the truck.
Anyway, we let the GPS plot the route back and when we neared Helen it told us to turn left on Bear Creek Drive.
You can see this coming, can't you? Bear Creek Drive turned into a narrow gravel road and we came out on the same gravel road James wouldn't take this morning. LOL.