What began as an effort to restore one of the Lompoc Valley’s oldest war monuments quickly evolved over the past few months into one of the more ambitious endeavors ever undertaken by the Lompoc Museum.
The administrators of the museum will kick off a 12-part program Saturday, Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day, that will explore several facets of World War I in a variety of different ways. The monthly events of the yearlong program will feature a range of presentations that are planned to culminate with a special ceremony to commemorate what organizers hope is a newly restored World War I monument on Nov. 11, 2018, which will be the 100th anniversary of the final day of the war, also known as Armistice Day, the precursor to Veterans Day.
Lisa Renken, the director of the Lompoc Museum, has spent many hours leading up to Saturday’s first program working with members of the Lompoc Valley Historical Society to uncover as many Lompoc connections to World War I as possible.
“It’s turned into a much bigger project than we thought, but we thought it really has to be done,” she said. “It’s been 100 years, and somebody made a point which I hadn’t thought about: One of the reasons World War I hasn’t gotten as much notice is that before its 50th anniversary, or even 25th, there was already World War II. But now at 100 years, people are focusing on it.”
The 12-part series will kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., with a presentation led by Joe White, the emeritus chair of the philosophy department at Santa Barbara City College.
White is slated to open the program with a brief discussion of the significance of World War I to 20th-century politics. That will be followed by a screening of “On the Idle Hill of Summer,” the first episode in a 26-part series on the war produced in 1964 by the BBC.
After the screening — the episode is about 50 minutes long — White will lead a question-and-answer session among attendees. Drinks and refreshments will be provided.
In next month’s program, slated for Dec. 11, the organizers plan to show the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” a fictionalized account of the real-life World War I Christmas truce of December 1914.
The schedule for the ensuing 10 months hasn’t yet been finalized, but there are plans for guest speakers, poetry readings and musical performances. The museum is also working with the Lompoc Civic Theatre to have actors read letters that were sent from local servicemen to their families and published during the war in the Lompoc Record.
“It’s a big learning experience for a lot of us that didn’t live through it,” said Don Adams, a member of the Lompoc Museum’s board of directors.
The program came about as a way to not only educate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day but, also, to generate interest and raise funds for the restoration of Lompoc’s World War I monument, which is located just to the right of the main entrance of the Lompoc Museum at 200 South H St.
The monument was originally erected in the middle of the intersection of Ocean Avenue and H Street in 1925 in honor of the local World War I servicemen. It was later moved to the museum property in 1941, in part because its location in the intersection was problematic for big trucks and other vehicles that were navigating the area during the lead-up to World War II.
The monument initially had a flagpole inserted into it, but that was removed about 10 years ago after it was discovered that the base was cracked — likely from the constant movement of the waving flag — and could no longer support the pole. A small metal eagle sculpture now rests where the flagpole once was.
The Lompoc Museum has explored ways to beautify the monument, according to museum leaders, who said they are still researching the possibility of it being the only surviving World War I monument in Santa Barbara County.
That effort was jump-started recently when the Rancho Purisima Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a service group that also recently helped refurbish Lompoc’s oft-vandalized Vietnam War Memorial, decided to take on the restoration as a service project.
Members of the DAR are still working with engineers to determine how much funding will be needed to fix the cracking within the monument.
There are also plans to spruce it up, possibly by adding names of local servicemen, which could turn it into a memorial, and, if the base can be made strong enough, the return of a flagpole.
While the DAR works to fund the rehabilitation of the actual structure, the Lompoc Museum is attempting to raise about $15,000 to clean up the landscaping around the monument and to purchase and install benches and planters to create a reflective plaza area.
“We want to dress up the area a little bit, so it’s not just plain concrete or stonework or whatever,” Adams said.
The museum will have a tip jar at each of the upcoming World War I events to raise funds, and the leaders are also soliciting donations from organizations and community members. Anyone who would like to donate can do so by visiting the Lompoc Museum or finding more information by calling 736-3888 or visiting www.lompocmuseum.org.
Those involved at the Lompoc Museum say they’re looking forward to the 12-part program, which will be the first of its kind put on by the museum.
“It’s really fun and it’s exciting because it’s all around one theme,” Renken said of the upcoming series. “We’re trying to see just how many different things we can do around this one theme of World War I.”
Likewise, Adams said he’s enjoying this “deep dive” into local history.
“It’s getting deeper,” he said with a laugh. “The research is making it deeper. At first it was just, ‘Let’s get this structure restored and put some nice surroundings that go along with a garden plan,’ but now with all this research and building up the interest in the community, there’s an awful lot that we didn’t even know existed. It’s a fun discovery kind of thing.”