San Saba’s Museum (www.sansabamuseum.org) recently received a priceless gift. Bonnie Page, a native of Richland Springs and a member of the U. S. Navy Waves during the Korean War, donated two of her uniforms together with the government-issued dress gloves and handbag. Curators Paula Barrier and Vickie Stevenson were delighted with the donations which have been added to the museum’s impressive exhibit of military memorabilia.
The uniforms and accessories are not unique as Bonnie discovered when she considered donating them to a large museum. That museum, with its multi-million dollar budget and modern display space, suggested that Bonnie offer the items to her local museum—-a place like San Saba’s Museum that honors its hometown heroes and gratefully acknowledges the sacrifices they made.
Although Bonnie’s artifacts may not be unique, her personal story is and it is that story, along with the donation, that creates the priceless gift.
Bonnie was a young woman in 1950 when she started thinking about joining the military. World War II had just ended and she admired the men and women whose patriotic sacrifices preserved our nation. Bonnie didn’t have any ties to anyone in the military and, unlike today, it wasn’t easy for a young woman to learn about enlisting. So, Bonnie traveled to San Angelo, visited a Navy Recruiting Office, took the required tests and signed up. Soon, she was on her way to Boot Camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.
Bonnie says her eight years of military service were among the happiest of her life. She believes military service helped make her strong and prepared her for the long and successful civilian career she had with Texas Instruments and Northern Telecom. She’s 82 now and when you meet her, you can literally feel her inner strength as she firmly shakes hands and looks you squarely in the eye. She has a direct and purposeful manner that lets you know you’re in the company of someone who cares about life and who’s capable of delivering desired results—skills she learned from the military and perfected in the private sector. Bonnie believes that every young person should spend at least four years in the military or in alternative community service.
Bonnie served as a Weather Observer while in the Navy. During her years of service, women weren’t allowed in combat or on Navy ships. She believes her role was particularly important because she was able to do this job thus freeing up young men to take on combat responsibilities.
Bonnie, who now lives in Garland, Texas, presented her donations during a trip to Richland Springs to visit her sister, Billie McKinnerney. Billie said she thought it was "fine and dandy" when Bonnie enlisted and that her entire family was always proud of her accomplishments.
The donations were accepted by museum representatives Lynn Blankenship, Vickie Stevenson and C. K. Stevenson. Fred Hardy, San Saba County Veterans Service Officer, was also on hand. Fred is retired from the U. S. Coast Guard and the U. S. Postal Service. He’s available to help San Saba veterans with any need related to their military service. Fred was born and raised in San Saba County and noted that contributions like Bonnie’s help us appreciate the sacrifices made by our local veterans. He encouraged everyone to visit the museum’s military section which includes exhibits about Tid Watkins who was featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1941, Andrew Roy Cheek, Charles McDowell, James Carrigan and Jack Miller, among others. He also encouraged veterans to donate their military memorabilia to San Saba’s museum.
The museum offers free tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm. The museum is interested in receiving additional priceless gifts including the personal stories of other San Sabans.