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franklin county times

Local resident finds photo of himself at World War II exhibit

By Staff
WORLD WAR II EXHIBIT – Harold Catlett of Meridian looks at a photo he found of himself from 1942 or 1943. The photo is among the local memorabilia supplementing a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit of World War II posters. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
July 8, 2002
Harold Catlett found something he didn't expect when he visited a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit displaying World War II posters rallying American support.
Among the memorabilia Meridian residents have placed on display to supplement the exhibit is a photo of Catlett and other children collecting scrap metal at Stevenson School now an apartment building on 25th Avenue.
Catlett, 70, is retired from the Air National Guard and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. But during World War II, he helped out on the home front.
Catlett said he couldn't remember how aware he and his classmates were of the contribution they made to the war effort,
But he said he vividly remembers finding tin foil on the ground that had been discarded from cigarette packs and hunting for other treasures that would be collected in large containers set up at his school.
The photograph of Catlett is part of the exhibit "Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Home Front, 1941-1945," which is open daily through Aug. 31 at the Railroad Express Agency building next to Union Station.
Besides the vintage posters, other displays feature items from local residents.
There are uniforms and medals from the war, contributed by former Meridian Mayor Alfred Rosenbaum and his wife, Lucille. And photos contributed by Betsy Weems of Meridian document local USO shows.
Weems worked as assistant secretary for First Baptist Church, writing letters from the church to members serving in the armed services during World War II. She also helped with dances and entertainment at the local USO and eventually was hired as the secretary for the USO Board in Meridian.
Other local memorabilia is on display from the American Red Cross, Rush Foundation Hospital, Mrs. N.D. Brookshire, Fred Edmiston, Greg Hatcher and Fonda Rush, project coordinator for The Memory Tree Foundation.
Hatcher, local exhibit coordinator with the Memory Tree Foundation, said he began his search for local items to display with the exhibit in January by turning to eBay on the Internet.
Hatcher said the dairy was in business in Meridian during the war. He checked with local Vance family members to see if they had memorabilia before purchasing it on eBay, but they didn't.
Hatcher said the item should be on display within the week.
Hatcher also visited families who let him go through their attics and collections. Many items Hatcher contributed, including ration books, belonged to his grandmother, the late Edna Clayton of Lauderdale.
Hatcher said he also found items at local flea markets and antique stores.
Hatcher said the photograph of Harold Catlett as a young boy came from a Stevenson School book that was part of a collection belonging to H.M. Ivy, longtime superintendent of Meridian schools.
Catlett remembers V-E Day and V-J Day and letters his mother received from his older brother, Charles, who safely returned home from the fighting in Europe. He still was surprised by the photo.
What: "Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Home Front, 1941-1945," hosted by The Memory Tree Foundation.
Where: The Railroad Express Agency building, next to Union Station, through Aug. 31.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free.
Greg Hatcher and Fonda Rush, two of the local organizers of the exhibit, are looking for
volunteers to help staff the exhibit. Anyone interested in helping can call Rush at 692-5881 or 485-4992.