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MARTINSBURG, W.VA. >> How did Americans live during World Wars I and II?

Since neither of these conflicts was fought on U.S. soil (except for Hawaii), did they still take a toll on daily life?

Two Shepherd University history students — Susan Crowell of Hagerstown, Md., and Alex Shanholzer of Martinsburg — have put together an exhibit that helps visitors understand what was happening on the home front while conflict raged overseas.

Their exhibit is mounted in the upstairs bedroom of the childhood home of Belle Boyd, the infamous Civil War spy, in Martinsburg, where it will remain until the end of the year.

The building at 126 E. Race St., owned by the Berkeley County Historical Society, also houses the Martinsburg-Berkeley Convention and Visitors Bureau. It is open year-round. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 4 Saturdays and Sundays.

In a corner of the bedroom, a home scene is set up with a mannequin clothed as a Boy Scout and the other representing a vigilant mother in period clothing. The image is meant to recreate what life would seem like to those left behind after the father has gone to war.

Among the objects on display are a 1920s camera and a Victrola Credenza with 78-speed records. The record player was repaired by Shanholzer, who contributed his technical skills so visitors could hear period music.

Crowell described the challenges of life then, and the ways people managed to deal with them and contribute to the war effort.

"People can learn what food you could buy under the rationing system, and how they encouraged victory gardens," said Crowell. Plus, there is "a recycling center with a game where visitors can match what everyday items like paper bags, paper clips, stockings, and rubber bands would have been used for in wartime, such as gas masks, weapons, and parachutes."

The visit to a prior era includes the time when Martinsburg had four movie theaters, and nurses of Kings Daughters Hospital were trained for domestic and war duties.

Many of the exhibit's items came from Berkeley County History Society archives. As Curator Carol Appenzellar said, "We're interested in reaching out to the younger generation because they are the ones who are going to carry on history in the future.."

There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.

To learn more, call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 304-264-8801 or the Berkeley County Historical Society at 304-267-4713.

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