Reliving the 1940s

12 Jun

Planes, cars, fashion, music, dancing … these are some of the sights and sounds which create a surreal connection to the 1940s.

FDR, played by Delmas Wood, Jr., who in a rare moment was not surrounded by Secret Service posed for a quick Sunday afternoon photo with Robin Wallace. (Photo by Den Small/Studio 530)

{Reliving the 1940s}

This is connection is never more real than at a living history event, especially the WWII Commemorative Weekend hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pa.

Courtesy of

Being at a reenactment creates a little wrinkle in time where a setting and the characters match history’s own pages — often giving reenactors and veterans little chill bumps of colliding past and present realities.

Whatever chills I experience, pale in comparison to the thrill of having people who lived through WWII and the 1940s speak to me as if I had been there with them.

These conversations, sometimes as brief as a minute creates an unexplainable bond where their experience and my appreciation of their experience creates a full circle.

I walked away from the weekend absolutely filled with the most graciously beautiful memories — including meeting some of my biggest heroes. Here is your window into the weekend of June 3, 4, & 5, 2011:

Reagan Playing Baseball

On late Friday afternoon, a French boy plays baseball in a German-occupied village with an American baseball player … hmm.

Boy Plays Catch with Vintage Baseball Player

How to Find & Wear 1940s Fashion

Robin Wallace, Laurie Watson and Heather Schnieder (left to right) outside Cafe Napoleon right before filming the YouTube video on “How to Find & Wear 1940s Fashion”. Click photo to watch.


Some of the lovely lady patrons of the Cafe Napoleon on Friday night.


German soldier, GI, American civilian and French partisan are all welcome at the Cafe Napoleon. Robin Wallace with the Brothers Ernst: Mike, left, and Dave — two of the kindest people on Earth who reenact across three centuries of history.

Robin, Melody & sons

Robin and Reagan Wallace with Melody and Aidan Richter. Aidan is wearing an original 1940s boys’ romper.

Fire for the Camp Kitchen

Known in the French village as “Andre”, my son Reagan helps himself in breaking up the discarded furniture to fuel the German field kitchen.

Cafe Naploleon

Inside the lovely Cafe Napoleon — lovely thanks to these dames!

Robin, Reagan & Dapper American Civilians

Robin and Reagan Wallace with two dapper American civilians.

Reagan & Veteran

Reagan with a hero. Alex was a ball terret gunner in a B17. The crews of these planes had one of the toughest jobs in all of the Army Air Corps by flying daylight precision bombings into Europe. Casualties were heavy but the Americans were committed to minimizing collateral damage. As a ball terret gunner, Alex had one of the most exposed positions on the entire aircraft. The B17 is my favorite aircraft and its crew members are on the top of my all-time hero list.

Pacific Vacationer 1940s Look

A rare example of Pacific-vacationer 1940s look done accurately.

Robin, Reagan & WASP Pilots

Robin and Reagan Wallace with three incredible women: the United States’ first military female pilots, the WASPs. I did countless reports on the Women Airforce Service Pilots and if I had been an 20-something American woman during WWII, I would have been a WASP. It was a true joy to meet these heroic and pioneering women: (left to right) Elaine Harmon, Bee Haydu and Florence Shutsy-Reynolds.  {PS: These ladies adored Reagan & his outfit and loved my whole look — the biggest compliment of the whole weekend! Afterall, this is what they would have worn or dressed their boys in!}

Robin, Heidi & Joe @ Dance

At the Saturday hanger swing dance with Joe McGlynn and Heidi Rosenau, the best authentically vintage couple I’ve ever met — and the best dancers, too!

A sidecar for a sidekick! (Photo by Dave Ernst)

Look at these beauties & all wearing original vintage! So impressive! (Photo by Dave Ernst)

A wall tent showing the living style for GIs. (Photo by Dave Ernst)

Looking across at the US Navy Seabees unit. (Photo by Dave Ernst)

The US Army’s messenger pigeons. (Photo by Dave Ernst)

The French village before being liberated by the Americans. (Photo by Dave Ernst)

As the war zig-zagged across Europe, the front lines shifted and both the Germans and Americans would play with the road signs as a means of confusing their foes or as an opportunity to demoralize the other troops. This is a fun display making this historical reference. (Photo by Dave Ernst)

What’s the Take-Away?

Fashion & history go hand-in-hand.

Understanding the history of an era, enhances the appreciation of that era’s aesthetics. It may not need to be decade marked by an epic world war, but every decade and every generation has a story to tell.

As time goes by the desire to tell that story becomes stronger … I believe it is the human need to be heard in a final self-actualizing process that has so many veterans of World War II now talking. I think they want to make sure that their side of history gets told and recorded correctly.

Knowing the personal stories creates the opportunity to carry that spirit forward which was once originally responsible for inspiring the vintage look — or modern piece with vintage influence — that you are wearing today.

Whether it’s from your parents. grandparents or aging neighbor, don’t take one second for granted in asking them about their life experiences and why they did the things they did and why they wore what they wore while doing so.

You might be very surprised at what you learn.

As for me and this glorious past weekend, I had the esteemed privilege of being asked to come a to monthly meeting for Battle of the Bulge veterans. This happened because I sat and I listened to a veterans story, I not only listened, but I asked questions and I showed knowledge of appreciation and respect.

At an event which attracts a crowd of 300,000 and involves nearly 2,000 reenactors, there are a lot of people demanding the attention of these first-hand accounts from the speaking veterans.

While many people asked questions, and were respectful, not everyone got such an honored invitation. This came from the fact that this veteran could tell those who are just interlopers in the nature of history, versus those who care deeply for the accuracy of the story truly being remembered.

I don’t care about vintage just because it is cool today, I am passionate about vintage because it was cool back then … and understanding why and how is where the true magic of discovery happens.

If there is an era that calls to your spirit, start digging into it, be authentically engaged and never stop learning.


3 Responses to “Reliving the 1940s”

  1. kris June 14, 2011 at 2:33 PM #

    Amazing photographs, clothing and stories. I adore your passion for vintage.


    • Thrifty Vintage Chic June 23, 2011 at 5:41 PM #

      Kris … thank you so much!! I am happy to share my passion for vintage and how it is my lifestyle!! The photos are only one-tenth reflective of the experience of being there!! It’s just incredible!



  1. What I’m Digging – Living in a Fixer Upper - May 26, 2017

    […] introduced myself.  She was very sweet, and I couldn’t help but admire the whole time how well she wears the 40’s hairdo and clothing – it’s like she really was meant for that […]


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