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World War II veteran Robert Thomas and his wife, Margaret, view vintage copies of the Watertown Daily Times from the 1940s.  The newspapers are part of an exhibit at the Colton Museum. Photo: Todd Moe
World War II veteran Robert Thomas and his wife, Margaret, view vintage copies of the Watertown Daily Times from the 1940s. The newspapers are part of an exhibit at the Colton Museum. Photo: Todd Moe

Colton remembers World War II with stories, music

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The Colton Museum will remember World War II history tonight with an evening of music and stories from the 1940's. Local historians collected remembrances from Colton veterans, and a group of actors from the Grasse River Players will offer period tunes and readings at the opening of a new Colton Museum exhibit about the 1940s.

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Reported by

Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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arts · music · history · colton · stlv · war · peace

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Robert Thomas is believed to be the last living World War II vet listed on the war memorial near the Colton library. He enlisted in the navy at 17, and served in the South Pacific during the last few months of the war. Roberts said that his father want him to co to college, not the Navy. “I finally said well, they are going to take me anyway; the minute I become 18 they will draft me,” says Thomas. Thomas was assigned to the USS Yorktown. He worked in the disbursing office, where they paid the other soldiers.

Thomas was not able to keep in touch with his family very frequently. “I went probably a month or two at a time not getting a letter from my mother. One time, she made a blackberry pie. She got it to me in time and it was still good. I took one of my best pals, so we went out, hid and ate the pie.”

Robert’s wife Margaret says that when the war in the Pacific ended the Yorktown became a personnel transport, bringing troops back to the west coast. “He [Robert] would go from one end to the other looking for northern New York buddies,” she says.  Robert says, “I actually found Emerson Forbes, who lived in Canton, out in the South Pacific, and I got him some blackberry pie to eat.

After serving on the Yorktown, Thomas was stationed in Seattle before being honorably discharged. There were only three discharge openings and twelve men eligible. In order to determine who got to go, they cut cards. “I was number two and I got the King of Spades and boy was I happy. That’s the thing that got me out of the Navy,” says Thomas.

Ruth McWilliams helped organize tonight’s stories and music honoring World War II veterans at the Colton Museum on Main Street. The event is a collaboration between three groups, the Colton Historical Society, the Grasse River Players, and Colton-Pierrepont High School. The event tonight is free and will start at 7:00 pm.

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