Did you know that Naval Training Station Great Lakes was once home to competitive football and baseball teams? Most famously, the Great Lakes Bluejackets played, and won, the 1919 Rose Bowl game. Later, during World War II, many well-known college and professional athletes played on the baseball and football teams at Great Lakes.
This football jersey, featuring #72, was owned and worn by Emil J. Drvaric, who played on the 1943 Bluejackets. After being drafted into the Navy, Drvaric was sent to Great Lakes in March 1943. He had already played for and served as captain of the University of Wisconsin’s freshman football team in 1942. Following his service at Great Lakes, Drvaric played on the Navy All Star team in Pearl Harbor in 1944 and 1945. After the war, he played for Harvard University from 1946-1948. Due to the style of the jersey, it was likely worn by William Crawford, another Great Lakes football player, during the 1942 season and re-issued to Drvaric in 1943.
This football was used by the Bluejackets during the 1943 season. After the season ended, Drvaric wrote all of the game scores onto the football. Great Lakes finished that season nationally ranked #6 in the Associated Press college football poll, making it one of the most successful seasons of Bluejackets football. In fact, in the final game of the season, the Bluejackets beat the previously undefeated and top-ranked team from University of Notre Dame.
Artifacts like these makes the stories behind them come alive. For example, the extensive repairs found on the jersey tell us that it really was worn on the field. It took a beating and needed to be repaired before it could be used again.
The National Museum of the American Sailor owes much to the sailors who carried a camera or a pen and paper and recorded what they saw while they served. Materials such as diaries, letters, photograph albums, or even a simple handful of snapshots help inform us about the past experiences of the American Sailor and comprise part of the Museum’s archival collection.
None of the Sailors whose material exists in the museum’s collections knew that their written words, photographs, or scrapbooks would perhaps one day become part of a museum archives. At most, they wanted to document their days in the Navy or perhaps show friends and family their adventures around the world. But at the time each Sailor wrote a detailed letter, or inserted photos into an album, or pasted movie tickets and dance cards inside a scrapbook, he or she captured a moment.
One sailor, Alvin Williams, told a story with seven photographs. Williams was an eighteen -year-old African-American man from Chicago who joined the Navy in December 1943. While first in boot camp and then overseas, Williams saved a handful of snapshots and his boot camp company photograph. One of his photos shows Williams and his shipmates in the Ping Ming Bar in Hong Kong, October 29, 1945. Williams annotated the photo on the reverse to indicate his exuberance about the visit to the bar.
But when we look at his photo, we see something more. In late 1945, two Caucasian Sailors and three African-American Sailors went on liberty together and sat at a table together, only three years after the Navy resumed enlisting African-American Sailors. A grinning Chinese child only adds to the questions we can ask of the photo.
Upcoming articles will tell more about the ways that Sailors’ personal papers come to the museum, the varied uses of historical materials, and interesting finds we come across.
One challenge facing museums is how to engage visitors of all ages. At the National Museum of the American Sailor, we are expanding our appeal beyond those who have served and their families. We are particularly interested in one specific demographic – those who haven’t served because they are ineligible due to age. The politically correct term for this group is “kids.”
Younger visitors to the National Museum of the American Sailor will soon have a new, kid-friendly way to experience the museum. The new Junior Sailor Discovery Book is replacing the existing Children’s Activity Book. It will feature activities and games that will help kids learn as it brings them throughout the museum. Kids who complete a certain number of these activities will receive a certificate signed by a museum staff member or volunteer.
The new book will have full color, hand-painted illustrations. Many pages will feature our newest fictional Sailor. Who is she? Well, here’s what we know so far. She’s new to the Navy and she hasn’t quite figured things out yet. She’s eager to learn though. She looks cool in her dress blues. And she rides dragons, of course. Oh, and those long, flowing locks may be fine for the Discovery Book, but if she enlisted, she would be first in line for a haircut.
There’s one piece of information missing though. We don’t know her name. Perhaps she’s a young woman of mystery and intrigue, making her way anonymously through the pages of the Discovery Book. Or, maybe, no one has thought of a good name for her yet. Do you have any ideas?