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Santa Clara Valley Lives: Moffett museum showcases sweetheart jewelry


Robin Chapman/Special to the Town Crier
Some items in Diana Parsons’ collection of military sweetheart jewelry date back to World War I, including the silver bracelet at the bottom of the photo, which lists the names of that war’s battlefields. The first pin she acquired – a tiny spoon with the “USN” emblem – is at far left.

 

Diana Parsons, secretary of the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum, can remember exactly when she saw her first piece of military sweetheart jewelry.

She was 5 years old and traveling by bus with her mother to their new home in California. A kind lady took the squirmy child on her lap, and Parsons found herself transfixed by a pin the woman was wearing. It was in the shape of a tiny spoon and had a U.S. Navy emblem on its handle.

Before the journey ended, the stranger had given the pin to the child, and Parsons – without quite realizing it – had begun her own collection of military sweetheart jewelry, now on display at the Moffett museum.

“The tradition of sending jewelry mementoes home to loved ones began during World War I,” said Parsons, whose husband, Harold “Herb” Parsons, is president of the Moffett museum. “But it intensified during World War II, when more than 16 million Americans served. It was a reminder of family members far from home and a public way to express patriotism.”

On display are “V for Victory” pins covered in red, white and blue stones, and earrings in the shape of B-24 bombers, along with bracelets, lockets, cufflinks, sweater pins, compacts and charms all featuring the insignia of different branches of the U.S. military.

Some pieces represent U.S. allies, including a World War II bracelet sporting the flags of France, China, Britain and the Soviet Union. Another is engraved with the haunting names of World War I battlefields, the panels linked with tiny Crosses of Lorraine. One pin is made from the tunic button of a Canadian Royal Air Force uniform – encircled with a silver wreath of remembrance.

Each piece has a story. The ones engraved with “Mother” and “Beloved Wife” are easily deciphered. But what to make of the silver bracelet with the U.S. Navy insignia that is engraved with the names of nine different girls? Big family? Many ports?

The jewelry is always on display at the Moffett museum, but it becomes especially popular around Valentine’s Day. Although few of the pieces are made of valuable materials or studded with expensive stones, each had immeasurable value to a loved one. Each is now a tiny piece of history that once linked battlefront to home front.

The Moffett Field Historical Society Museum is located on Severyns Avenue, Building 126, at Moffett Field in Mountain View, in the shadow of Hangar One. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Visitors can enter through any Moffett Field gate and ask for directions. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for youth ages 13-17 and free for active military members and children ages 12 and under.

For more information, visit moffettfieldmuseum.org.

 

Robin Chapman is a local writer.

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