Drifting back in time to the 1940s

MCC exhibit offers glimpse into past

By: Maria Allard | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 28, 2016

 “The 1940s: Through the War and Beyond” exhibit at the Lorenzo Cultural Center at Macomb Community College includes an M20 armored utility car, on loan from the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum in St. Clair Shores.

“The 1940s: Through the War and Beyond” exhibit at the Lorenzo Cultural Center at Macomb Community College includes an M20 armored utility car, on loan from the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum in St. Clair Shores.

Photo by Deb Jacques


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In 1947, before she was born, Lois Jackman’s parents were one of the first families in East Detroit, now Eastpointe, to own a television set.

Her father worked for Detroit Edison, and for $1 per week he was able to purchase the company’s new appliances for home. Although the new TV only offered a few hours of programming per day, it was a hit with the neighbors.

A similar set is one of many relics on display for “The 1940s: Through the War and Beyond” exhibit March 2 through May 7 at the Lorenzo Cultural Center, 44575 Garfield Road. The center is located next to the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Macomb Community College’s Center Campus.

Through guest speakers, photos, posters, performances and artifacts, visitors can view what shaped the 1940s, including World War II and the years that followed. On Feb. 23, Jackman, manager of education, enrichment and grants for the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts and the Lorenzo Cultural Center, was among the organizers setting up for the exhibit.

Meghan Mott, program coordinator of cultural affairs at MCC, said that while World War II was the defining event of the decade, during “the four-and-a-half to five years after, life was very different for people as they came back from the war.” Several exhibit programs will bring to view the latter part of the decade, as well as wartime from 1941-1945.

“The 1940s: Through the War and Beyond” looks at gender roles, the baby boom, technology and economics. Themes include southeast Michigan’s emergence as the Arsenal of Democracy, race relations, and the changing role of women as they joined the workforce while the men went off to war.

Several guest speakers will present on various topics,  including Willow Run, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Detroit’s race riot of 1943, the Holocaust and the Nuremberg trials, and science fiction.

“We try to use as many local presenters as we can with our universities and our faculty,” Mott said. “Many of the people we ask have put in a lot of work into their research, and they’re happy to speak about it.”

“Tin Can Army” is set for 11 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. March 10, and is designed to depict how children became involved in the war effort, such as participating in scrap metal drives. Local author Dan Heaton will present “The Michigan National Guard at D-Day and Beyond” at 11 a.m. March 11.

Knitters might want to check out “Knit Your Bit” with the Crafty Lady Trio at 10 a.m. March 19 and 1 p.m. March 31. The presentation will highlight how knitting supported the war efforts. The Crafty Lady Trio instructors also will teach knitters and crocheters how to make a scarf to be donated to a veteran through the National World War II Museum’s Knit Your Bit project. Bring three skeins of worsted-weight yarn in two colors and size 8US knitting needles or a size 1 (5.5) crochet hook. Prior knitting or crocheting experience is not required. 

“Plant a Victory Garden” is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 6 and will explore how Americans grew their own food to ease shortages. For those who want to cut a rug, the Rhythm Society Orchestra will recreate a WWII-era USO dance, complete with period costumes, April 16. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a dance lesson at 6:30 p.m. and open dancing at 7 p.m. Individual tickets cost $15 and are available by calling (586) 286-2222 or online at www.MacombCenter.com.

At 7 p.m. May 5, frequent History Channel commentator and historian H.W. Brands will explain how the victory in WWII established the power of the U.S., influencing American life and world relations for the next 50 years in “Victory and Its Echoes: From FDR to Reagan.” 

The exhibit also will share the stories of four local WWII veterans: Frank Torre, of Shelby Township; Sam Petitto, of Warren; Doug Harvey, of Sterling Heights; and Jackman’s dad, the late Richard Jackman, formerly of Romeo. The wedding suit that Jackman’s mom wore when she married Richard Jackman in 1944 will be  on display. Jackman said that during the war, Richard Jackman was sent overseas to Europe as a member of the United States Army Signal Corps.

Along with listening to the speakers, there are plenty of pieces of history to look at inside the 8,500-square-foot Discovery Hall, including a 1944 M20 armored vehicle, a 1940s movie theater vignette and a 1940 Lincoln Continental.

One exhibit room has been deemed the “homefront” to provide a picture of what home looked like in the 1940s. Attendees can check out a vintage kitchen and living room, along with dishes and other necessities of the era.

At 1 p.m. May 7, a panel of WWII veterans yet to be named will share their experiences of war and homecoming, facilitated by Brian Louwers, staff writer at C & G Newspapers, and John Lind, director of the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum.

Except for the April 16 dance, admission to “The 1940s: Through the War and Beyond” is free. Pre-registration is required for all presentations and performances by calling (586) 445-7348 or visiting www.LorenzoCulturalCenter.com.

The Lorenzo Cultural Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays. School and group tours are available. For a complete program series schedule, visit www.lorenzoculturalcenter.com/programming.