Camp Roberts 2002 In memorium --Al Davis and Brian Duke

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Wednesday, October 30, 2002
                                                                                     C amp R ober ts 2002                                                                                                                    Paso Robles Press

In memorium -- Al Davis and Brian Duke
    All he really had was a Japanese                                                open by appointment only, and keep
flag that he found in an Okinawa                                                    going until you see a Russian T-34
cave after the island was captured                                                  tank on cut in a bank, the museum is
during World War II.                                                                below it and to the right.
    But that flag, which is now on                                                       “This was actually the Red
display at the Camp Roberts                                                         Cross building during World War II
Museum, prompted Al Davis to                                                        and Korea. The Red Cross came in
begin a historical repository at the                                                an built it, the military did not build
now dormant World War II recruit                                                    it,” Hussey explained. “After that it
training camp. Through his efforts                                                  was used for different generals and
the history of the camp that saw in                                                 visitors to the post.
excess of 400,000 men pass through                                                       In addition to having World War
during the war, and even more dur-                                                  II and Korean war displays, they
ing the Korean war, has been pre-                                                   also have some items from World
served and is now safely in the                                                     War I including a shrine to Private
hands of enthusiastic docents.                                                      Harold Roberts who was killed in
    Al Davis died earlier this year,                                                the Great War to End All Wars.
but his touch lingers on.                                                                “We do have a little bit of his
    “He started this museum, I                                                      stuff (his Medal of Honor as well as
believe, in 1985,” said docent Joan                                                 other awards he received plus a oil
Hussey. “He worked here on the                                                      painting of him), but most of it is
post and he was always a historian.                                                 World War II stuff,” said Hussey. “A
He decided he wanted to start a                                                     lot of it is just of Camp Roberts.
museum here. So he started out with                                                 That’s why Mr. Davis started this
very little, probably just a few pho-                                               (museum) just for Camp Roberts.”
tographs.”                                                                               Hussey said the museum is con-       Brian Duke, who assisted Al
    Davis started his project in a                                                  tinuing to look for items it can dis-     Davis in building up the museum,
smaller building. For the first five or   Al Davis was instrumental in the          play and they never turn down dona-       passed away a month after Davis
six years Davis worked on the proj-       creation of the Camp Roberts              tions. “We try not too,” she              died. Within a short period, two
ect by himself. Then the base’s envi-     Museum. His passing has left a            remarked. “We have tons and tons of       of the key individuals in building
ronmentalist, Brian Duke, joined up       large gap in the growth of the            uniforms which we would rather not        up the history of the camp, were
followed by Frenchie Amundson             museum but volunteers are com-            have more off.
who died in 1997, At the same time,                                                                                           gone.
                                          ing forward to pick up where he                “Mr. Davis’ philosophy was take
Hussey came on board and joined           left off.                                 anything and everything but its got-      advertisements going to get more
the team.                                                                           ten to the point where we have so         volunteers but at this time we’re
    Actually there are two museums        equipment are on display including        much stuff we kind of have to look it     open just two days a week. We’d         If you have ever seen “Guadalcanal Diary” you
at Camp Roberts, the main one in          items belonging to a German army          over and check it out.”                   like to get it so that we’re open a     will recall seeing the Marines loading machine gun
the old Red Cross Building which          reenactment group.                             Hussey said the museum would         couple more (days).”                    ammunition into cloth belts using a strange look-
houses photographs, uniforms,                 The annex is located just down        like to expand, if it could, but “it’s        The museum and its gift shop
books, rifles, and individual gear,       from the main gate. When the road         very difficult right now because we       are open on Thursday and Saturdays      ing machine. The scene was real as was the hand-
and then there is the annex which is      splits left and right, turn right and     don’t have that many volunteers, but      from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours of the      cranked loader, one of which is on display at the
where the tanks and other heavy           you will pass the annex, which is         we keep trying. We’ve got a lot of        annex are by appointment only.          Camp Roberts Museum.

San Miguel -- a sleepy community until there’s a war
     Anyone driving through San           were thousands of soldiers out                                                      1953 and, of course, that was after     “I’m sure there was. How could you       weekend or a couple weeks at a
Miguel today would probably think         here,” she recalled, “who came to                                                   Korea. I wasn’t doing too well with     have that many soldiers and not          time.
it just a sleepy, rural farming town.     town to do what they liked to do. We                                                my family here in San Miguel so I       (have fights). The one jail that I           And there is community spirit.
Not much going on and people lik-         did have the two theaters at that                                                   had a room at her place, which was      know of is now the town library. I       Whether it’s a parade or festival or
ing it that way.                          time. There was one on the corner of                                                very nice at the time. I don’t know     think that was built in World War II     the elementary school needing sup-
     Yet San Miguel, admittedly a         11th Street and they built a much                                                   what it was like during the war.”       and they used that during Korea          port, Camp Roberts is there offering
cow town before and slightly after        larger theater, the Graybill, on the                                                    Asked if the site was busy dur-     also. Now it’s the library.”             use of the gymnasium, ball fields or
the turn of the 19th Century, was         same block, I’m not exactly sure                                                    ing the war, Hussey said “I’m sure it        How is San Miguel affected by       roadways for school athletic func-
also a boom town. Not once, but           when but it was during Korea.”                                                      was but not after the war. “I think     it’s huge neighbor today?                tions or marathons. Camo netting is
twice.                                        She said that the Graybill                                                      she rented out to people who stayed          The economic benefit from not       often requested to provide shade at
     During World War II, San             Theater is still in existence but you                                               month after month (probably to sol-     only the soldiers who work on the        parades and festivals. The museum
Miguel became the recreation site         can no longer see it as the front has                                               dier’s wives).”                         installation and live with their fami-   is also a popular educational tool
for men processing through the            been turned into a restaurant. “What                                                    Apparently brawls weren’t           lies in nearby San Miguel, but from      and field trip location (military his-
newly built Camp Roberts.                 is in the theater I don’t know but I                                                unusual since the Sheriff’s Office      money spent in the community by          tory, local history as well as natural
Although the property for the camp        understand there is a lot of junk in                                                had a deputy stationed in the town.     the transient soldiers training for a    history).
had been acquired years earlier,          there.”
nothing was done with it until it was
needed to send men to fight in the
                                              Bars? “Of course. Liquor stores,
                                          clothing stores, whatever a soldier
                                          needed they had it, You could have
                                                                                                                              New emergency response plans
     And here was the sleepy little       patches sewed on. Many restaurants,
community just down the road.             many of them still sitting there that
Quickly the town filled up with bars,     are all closed up. A little Greek gen-
cafes, movie theaters and, yep, it        tleman and his family had a soda
even had one of those places.             fountain and a barber shop there. It
     After the war San Miguel went        was just very bustling,” said Hussey.
back to sleep, sort of. Camp                  “The (Greyhound) busses would
Roberts, as huge as it is, became a       stop there all the time to pick up the
backwater military camp — there           soldiers and take them to Paso or to
but mostly forgotten.                     bring them back to Camp Roberts. I
     Until North Korea invaded            assume the Army had busses too.”          Joan Hussey, docent.
South Korea.                                  With the distance to the camp
     Joan Hussey, a docent at the         well within walking distance, and         Club that was just for black sol-
Camp Roberts museum, doesn’t              who better to walk long distances in      diers.”
remember much of what San Miguel          short order than a soldier, there was         Asked if the old hotel or motel
was like during World War II, but as      a lot of foot traffic to the town and     on the other side the tracks, long
a teenager in the 50’s, the view of       back before reveille in the morning.      closed up and now overgrown by
the community was up close and                And San Miguel even had its           vines, was one of the red light hous-
personnel.                                own “Red Light” area for the boys         es, Hussey said she thought it was
     A native of San Miguel, and a        in olive drab.                            but she wasn’t sure. “I understand
returned resident of 31 years, she            “Definitely,” said Hussey on the      that was a red light spot but that’s
worked in the movie theater while         ladies of the evening. “I couldn’t tell   just what I’ve heard.
Camp Roberts bustled with activity,       you exactly where. As a teenager I            “When I graduated from high            A new Pierce Hawk Wildland fire engine has been delivered to the base. It is designed to
recycling reservists called up to         didn’t know that but, I don’t know if     school it was open (for boarders),”        be a “first-strike” rapid response vehicle to fires at the base and the surrounding area
fight in Korea.                           it was during World War II or Korea,      she said on what was rumored to be         including San Miguel.
     “It was very, very big. There        they had what they called the Cotton      a house of ill repute. “That was in                By Lisa Cooksey                    Emergency Services responded         emergency response to areas that are
                                                                                                                                    Photo by Staff Sgt. Tom           to 434 calls last year, including 209    difficult or impossible to reach with
                                                                                                                               Murotake, Camp Roberts Public          calls in the surrounding communi-        conventional fire trucks.
                                                                                                                                         Affairs Office               ties under “automatic-aid” agree-            The truck carries up to 500-gal-
                                                                                                                                  Camp Roberts Emergency              ments      with     the    California    lons of water and can pump up to
                                                                                                                              Services Department is a well           Department of Forestry and Fire          1,000 gallons per minute. With
                                                                                                                              trained, year-round organization        Protection (CDF)/San Luis Obispo         additional rescue equipment added
                                                                                                                              that supports military units and        County Fire Department and the           to some of the special roll-up door
                                                                                                                              civilian organizations training on      Monterey County Fire Department.         compartments, the truck is able to
                                                                                                                              post as well as the surrounding com-        Camp Roberts has taken deliv-        respond to a wide-variety of emer-
                                                                                                                              munity.                                 ery of a new Pierce Hawk Wildland        gencies.
                                                                                                                                  In addition to handling the         fire engine, the first new fire engine       After a recent response to a fire
                                                                                                                              unique fire-fighting challenges of a    for the post in more than a decade.      in San Bernardino, the San
                                                                                                                              multi-use military installation,        Specifically designed for “first-        Bernardino County Fire Department
                                                                                                                              Camp Roberts Emergency Services         strike” rapid responses for both         contacted the engine’s manufacturer
                                                                                                                              also respond to emergencies in the      range fires and fires in newly devel-    with plans to order twenty trucks
                                                                                                                              surrounding communities and high-       oping areas, this four-wheel-drive,      based on the Camp Roberts engine’s
                                                                                                                              ways.                                   rough-terrain fire truck can provide     pattern.