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.