Old Scrapbooks Inspire New Museum Exhibit

The Bedford Hills Historical Museum seeks stories from locals about life during the first and second World Wars—first-hand, or as related by relatives and neighbors.

About a year ago, the Robert F. Crandall American Legion Post #129, established after World War I, lost its tax-exempt status and ceased to exist as a space within the .

The post, built as an honor to WWI soldiers, was down to 10 active members who elected to participate in veteran's activities at the neighboring Mt. Kisco American Legion.

When volunteers helped to clean out their old space, they discovered a stack of World War I-era scrapbooks filled with clippings from the war years. Dick Schmitt was one of the first to see them.

"We found pages and pages of newspaper clippings going back to 1913 glued into 20 volumes," said Schmitt, who serves as the vice president of the "It gave us the idea for a new museum exhibit, one that will remind people about those who gave their time and their lives in service."

The committee working on mounting the new exhibit, titled "Bedford Hills at War: Commitment and Sacrifice World War I and II," includes Schmitt, Elin Sullivan, Stephanie David, Crysta Jones, Stanley Telega and Ellen Cohen.

In addition to featuring the scrapbooks, which include news from New York papers throughout the war years, organizers are seeking artifacts, memorabilia and oral histories from residents who have either experienced the war first-hand, or have memories from relatives or friends.

"We going to look at what life was like then, what people were experiencing, like rationing," said Cohen. "We want to tell the stories of who fought the Japanese in World War II—these are our neighbors and relatives. There weren't that many people living in Bedford Hills at the time, but a good number of them were serving and we want to honor them."

One of the committee's research strategies was to look at the war memorial located in Bedford Hills and track down the individuals who are listed there. 

The memorial was originally made of wood and constructed shortly after World War II, Schmitt said. In 1959, a more permanent monument was dedicated on the same site, which included both World War II and Korean Conflict veterans.  In 1986, a list of Vietnam veterans was added, as well as a cast of the Honor Roll of World War I veterans located at the Community House.

The committee is cross-referencing the names against a variety of sources, including local cemeteries, ancestry.com, local church records and people in the community.

"I think the community will get a lot out of the exhibit," said Schmitt, whose own family has been in the area since 1750. "It's especially good for young people who may not know very much about those wars."

The exhibit will open sometime this fall.

Do you know someone from Bedford Hills who was involved in WWI or WWII? Let us know in the comments.

Flora Rosefsky March 03, 2012 at 05:12 AM
What a wonderful effort to document a very important time of American history, and that of the Bedford Hills community.Kudos to all those who contribute theri time and effort, along with all those who give meaningful items, articles or artifacts to the exhibition. In visits to family in the area, I am continually impressed with the dedication of Bedford Hills community members who want to make a difference. The Centennial Celebration was another great achievement - all the best to the Bedford Hills Historical Society and the museum, May you go from strength to strength! F,Rosefsky
Lisa Buchman (Editor) March 03, 2012 at 11:50 AM
What a nice thing to say, and we couldn't agree more!


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