The John and Annie Glenn Historic Site and Exploration Center in New Concord, Ohio, offers so much more than just a serving of artifacts, pictures and sound bites documenting the achievements of the first American to orbit the Earth.
It captures the reality of life in Glenn’s boyhood home during the Great Depression and America’s home front during World War II.
Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Glenn married his high school sweetheart, Annie, then kissed her goodbye and headed off to a call of duty.
He became a decorated U.S. Marine pilot who flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific during World War II and 63 missions during the Korean War.
The war and one of its ace pilots were thousands of miles from New Concord but very close to the hearts and minds of the Glenn family on Main Street.
Visitors to the historic site are welcomed into this 1944 setting when they are greeted at the door by costumed actors who portray one of five different characters.
It may be Clara or Herschell, Glenn’s parents, a male or female college student who is renting a room from the Glenns or a teenage neighbor boy.
While John is off to war, life on the home front is revealed as are sacrifices being made in the war effort.
As an example, Clara begins her tour in a sewing room where she is busy fashioning clothing from make-shift patterns.
She talks about her son, John, as the tour continues through the kitchen, dining room and living room.
Along the way Clara checks a side-porch door to see if the milk man and ice man made their daily deliveries.
In the kitchen, she talks about concocting meals out of homemade noodles and backyard vegetables and whatever little meat those cherished ration stamps could buy.
Even with stamps, sugar is a rare and expensive treasure so Clara uses less expensive Hershey Bars in desserts to satisfy Herschell’s occasional sweet tooth.
Clara points to a tin can on the stove where excess cooking grease is stored until the can is filled and can be taken to the local butcher shop to be sold and, ultimately, recycled into glycerin for military use.
A flag adorned with a blue star hangs in the dining room window facing Main Street, serving as a daily reminder of her son.
She says blue stars in other New Concord windows reveal John is not the only local man serving his country.
A console radio and family pictures are the main living room attractions.
“We only listen for two hours each day,” Clara says. “If a tube should go bad, we would have a hard time replacing it. The radio is our only news link to the war.”
Once Clara brings visitors up to date on life on the home front, she turns them over to other volunteers who guide a tour through a second floor museum.
Included are the astronaut/senator’s childhood bedroom where one will find his tricycle, train and other toys.
Other museum displays include a one-third scale model of the Friendship Seven space craft in which Glenn took his historic flight, the jumpsuit he wore after he got out of the capsule and some of his military uniforms.
Another interesting part of the tour is a 20-minute, award-winning movie narrated by Hugh Downs.
It recaps Glenn’s Feb. 20, 1962, flight around the Earth, gives a history of New Concord and Muskingum College and of the relocation of the Glenn home from its original site to Main Street.
The movie also highlights Glenn’s political career with unsuccessful, and then, successful campaigns for the U.S. Senate where he served from 1975 through 1998 and his return to space on Oct. 29, 1998 aboard the Discovery Shuttle.
Hours for the museum are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sundays.
Debbie Allender, site director, said the facility is available by appointment to groups year round. She said groups of 10 to 30 people can visit the site and enjoy a catered meal.
More information is available by calling (740) 826-3305. The facility is located at 72 W. Main St., New Concord. New Concord is between Zanesville and Cambridge, just north of Interstate 70 at Exit 169.
Restored to its original condition and moved back on to Main Street in New Concord is the childhood home of astronaut/senator John Glenn. The home has been converted into a historic site and museum. It is located at 72 West Main St. in New Concord.