Footlocker Display In Depth
by Jeff Reed
Click on item in photo to view detailed description
In the course of reenacting we all get something different out of it. I hope all of us get enjoyment out of it. In addition to pleasure, I reenact is to educate the public about the role, the duty, the service and sacrifice of the soldier past and present. I do this as a profession as well as hobby for my own enjoyment.
Even though it is my profession, I am still learning and welcome any constructive criticisms, comments or remarks. However, if you just want to show how much smarter you are than me, that you have read more books than I or point out that I have violated a Star Fleet regulation, please keep it to yourself.
My topic is the footlocker display. Seen here is an example I use for living history and educational programs. It is a balance of regulation layout and Sefton’s (William Holden) from the movie Stalag 17. I need to balance what is a GI regulation layout and what the public is interested in seeing and hearing about. Not that I misled the public but living history is equal parts education and recreation.
There are several reenacting events that we get the chance to use foot lockers for barracks impressions. Some units go all out issue lay out SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures) and conduct an inspection. A pure GI inspection should only include uniform articles, field equipment and personal hygiene articles to insure the soldier has the item and it is serviceable. Many of the objects illustrated here do not fit in those categories and are unauthorized, that is hidden until after the inspection.
- Handkerchiefs, top is an original OD, the middle is modern white cotton and the bottom reproduction OG. The OG needs to go until I see an original in this shade.
- Shaving brush, period original. Good modern brushes can be found at Walmart. That’s right, it does not have to come from some high priced reenactor supply house. There are some things technology just can not improve on.
- Button polishing kit. This is a cool period tin, but no contents. Easy to guess what would go in it, but I prefer to hide trail mix or other modern pougie bait. A good friend of mine has a awesome button board sold by N.S. Meyer, which I am quite envious of. Another good option to either reproduce or locate an original.
- Shoe brush, original from an unknown veteran’s kit. Again modern brushes can be procured. Be mindful of copyright dates, manufacturer’s marks and zip codes. I have found good unmarked horse hair brushes in military PXs.
- Applicator brush, this is a period original, but the same applies to this as I mentioned above.
- Toilet kit, came from a unknown veterans estate, not proper for a footlocker display, but a good personal effect. I have not found any modern bag that matches the cheap quality and materials of this one.
- FM. That is Field Manual in army talk. Every GI would have a FM 21-100 soldiers manual. I have yet to find a period copy of this manual, so I stuck map reading or some other toilet reading in there to hold its place.
- New Testament, this is a WWI dated testament. World War II dated copies are easy enough to find, but how many of these do I need?
- Cushion sole socks. These are semi-modern socks that were issued to me and I have worn holes in them. For display purposes they work fine, I have compared them to several originals and these are just like originals in the fact that no two look just alike. For you purist, I have originals, I do not care to lay them out for someone’s nasty funnel cake crusted hands to go pawing all over.
- Spare leggings laces, original and unissued. I would like to replace with reproductions.
- Spare service shoe laces, again original and unissued.
- Invisible ink, I know you don’t see it, it is invisible.
- Insignia card. Basic insignia displayed when not being worn includes DUIs for the 11th Inf. Regt., collar insignia, rifle qualification badge and expert infantryman’s badge. The EIB although authorized during World War II, is still a rather uncommon award. I display it as I am familiar with its background and it is a good talking point. I do not wear it because I have yet seen a WWII era soldier in a photograph with one. Yes, I earned it and no I am not authorized to the wear a CIB and will not dishonor the soldiers who have earned them.
- Shoe dubbing, original tin.
- Shinola commercial shoe polish. A common maker during WWII and would represent a PX purchase. Tin is of the period.
- Shave cream box. This is a reproduction box with no contents. This is my preferred route for living history and reenacting. It is expendable, replaceable and looks like it is brand new and not some item that has sat in a warehouse with a slow water leak on it for the past half century.
- Toothbrush and case. Both original and found in a thrift store. Both have been boiled to kill any 60 year old mouth funk. I am a little selective of what I put in my foot locker. This one is marked Dr. Weiss, which I have seen this brand and style marked US Army.
- Comb, modern bought out of the CVS drug store. Now brace your “stitch Nazi” self. It is hard rubber, it is of an identical pattern to period combs I have seen. I have also found drug store combs that would pass for Civil War except for their glossy appearance and markings. I am sure there are some variations in chemical make up from WWII, I don’t care, so call Gil Grissom at CSI.
- Blitz cloth, this is an original and looks like it. See my comments under the shaving cream box. I would like to replace this with a reproduction and I am working on this. Again soldiers kept new stuff in their footlockers, not 60 year old relics.
- Waist belt and buckle. Bring on the farb demerit book. The modern roller buckle is not so much the problem as is the modern USMC belt. Modern frame buckles vary in design from most originals, the roller buckle is identical with exception of marks. Waist belts did vary in shades, but one this light would have been very uncommon.
- Razor blade box. Reproduction from the Hardscrabble Farm web site. As good as the quality of materials you use. My printer was of poor quality at the time, but a good printer and patience will produce a fine product.
- Tooth powder, this is an original tin form the warehouse supply that I made the bad comments about before. One day this stuff will run out and there will be no more. Might sock back a tin or two.
- Safety razor, original of the period. Reproductions or new ones are available, but originals are very serviceable (better than new) and I think by using them they have better chances of surviving, other wise they will likely become landfill, and yes, I use mine.
- Sewing kit, original PX type kit that looks 60 plus years old. Need to find a better specimen or reproduction. Again soldiers did not use antiques.
- Soap and soup dish. My soap dish is a period commercial bakelite example. There are any number of original types to be found at reasonable prices. I have not seen any reproductions or modern examples that would be reasonably acceptable. The soap is a reproduction GI general purpose soap. This is NOT a likely item in the footlocker display. This was issued in the field and a soldier more often preferred softer commercial, PX purchased, soap to the harsh GI stuff just like today.
- Cigarette carton, reproduction, with no contents. Starting with this article the following items represent common items the soldiers would use for personal enjoyment, but would not be part of a footlocker lay out. I include them here because everyone wants to show off their “bling bling”. Foot locker layouts only contained required items, others would have to be hidden until after inspection.
- Condoms, these are scans of an original in my collection. Because my original is old the scans look old. I have since acquired examples that have been cleaned up using “Photoshop” computer software. The idea again is these items are brand new, just bought at the PX.
- Zippo lighter, this is a current production crinkle finish Zippo. It is very close to the original, but the purest may want something a little closer. The difference with mine is the number of barrels on the hinge and the shape of the corners. For the price, this does well and further more originals are too costly to be lost in the field.
- Cigarettes, modern Lucky Strikes inserted in a reproduction label. Yes they have a modern tax stamp and the quality of my label fair to good. Using a high quality printer for cigarettes consumed in the field may be too costly. Folks may want to save their best label for living history or just showing off and lesser scanned prints for the battlefield. You maybe made of money and have endless printer cartridges but I am not.
- Paperback book, Ernie Pyle’s “This is Your War”. Plenty of period books to be found at second had book stores. Problem with my book is it is a very late war printing date, I think February 1945.
- Notebook, period original, for a Georgia Drug Store. I think this is typical of simple items soldiers purchase for them selves. This example is good for stateside training, but would have been rapidly used up once overseas. An official issue or English, French or even a German example would be more suited for frontline impression.
- Lifesavers candy, reproduction. This is good for stateside and England, but not so much for frontline doggies. There were commercial candies issued and found in rations, but this is a PX looking item.
- Throat drops and aspirin tins. These are period originals in excellent condition and pass the look new test. Good PX items and like today the soldier may have a secondary use for the tin after the item was consumed. Again once in Europe access to new purchases of these items would be limited and substitutes would be issue items.
- Pictures of someone else’s girl friend. You can use originals, but I again prefer scans. A good photograph shop can print you JPEG scan on photo quality paper and some shops offer the antique jagged edge and/or white boarder style. Also your computer savvy friends can usually do this too.
- Angle head flash light. This is a “What Price of Glory” reproduction. An excellent original should not be used, but rather sold to a friend that can really appreciate it. Dogged out, 60 year old originals don’t cut it either. If someone only has an original, I will trade my reproduction for it.
- Picture of good looking WASP pilot. Enlisted soldiers likely would not socialize with WASPs as they were in Officer’s social circles. The reason I have this image in my footlocker is that I met her, she is a great American and at 70 plus years old can still kick the average WWII reenactor’s butt in a “Hoo’ah” contest.
- Varga Girl, if one of these is not in your footlocker then get out of the hobby, go Civil War or something. Common as hell, originals don’t hold up too well, so again scan, print good quality and laminate if you plan to take it into the latrine.