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Artifact Friday: Handkerchief Holder

Valentine’s week continues for this Artifact Friday! This featured artifact has never been on display here, and in fact, I had to dig deep to find out more about it.

Our museum is home to a collection of keepsakes that were sent home from soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines overseas.

One of the items they would often send home was handkerchiefs. In the

mid-20th century, handkerchiefs were carried by almost everyone for practicality and style. Most often, women carried them. Women would build a collection of handkerchiefs and wear them for every occasion like their hats.

During this era of handkerchiefs, women would also have handkerchief holders. Some of these looked like a soft pocketbook, which would open and have a pocket on the inside to hold the handkerchiefs keeping them clean and fresh.

When World War Two started, PX stations at the different bases would sell trinkets for their soldiers to send home such as sweetheart jewelry, pillowcases, handkerchiefs, and yes, handkerchief holders.

Like the sweetheart jewelry, these handkerchief holders were made from special materials due to rationing, and they often represented the branch of the G.I. who sent it. These holders were also patriotic in theme with sweet poems or notes and some even had the base at which the service member was stationed.

The handkerchief holder featured here was sent from Norman, Oklahoma by Cleon Gentry. (There was a Navy base in Norman, Oklahoma during World War Two. It was deactivated in 1959). It has the USMC emblem on it as well as a painted rose and “Sweetheart” poem. The other side features a pair of American flags with the Pledge of Allegiance.

This handkerchief holder was sent by Cleon Gentry to his wife-to-be, Fleeta Brown.

They had both grown up in Arkansas and when Cleon joined the Marine Corps, they maintained their relationship long-distance.

On one of his military leaves, they got married.

Cleon was a mechanic on Marine Corps aircraft. He was stationed in several places during his career including Norman, Oklahoma; Cherry Point, North, Carolina; and Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas.

Their story is a very sweet one that we at the Arkansas Air and Military Museum will keep on telling for years to come!


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