The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 11, 2013

Pixley loans World War II memorabilia

Three machine guns and a rifle from the World War II era are now on display at Edgecombe County Veterans Military Museum.

The Daily Southerner
Calvin Adkins

ROCKY MOUNT — Three machine guns and a rifle from the World War II era are now part of the display at Edgecombe County Veterans Military Museum.

The items were loan to the museum by retired Edgecombe County deputy, Donald Pixley, an avid collector of World War II memorabilia.

"They were sitting at home under things and in storage and no one was seeing them," he said. "When the museum opened, I never really thought about bringing anything. Then, someone (recently) asked me consider bringing that stuff down to the museum. I thought about it. Then I said, rather being behind boxes and behind things in storage, this is an opportunity to let people come out and see history, touch history and be able to enjoy them like I do."

Pixley said his admiration for collecting World War II memorabilia began when he was in high school. He admitted that he didn't have a lot of money, but he bought whatever he could afford.

By the time Pixley graduated, he was still fond of World War II's past. However he was involved in a present day conflict – Vietnam. Pixley was drafted in the Air Force in 1971 and served two tours in the Philippines. That put his collection efforts temporally on hold.

He said there was one particular item that could have been a part of his collection while in the Philippines that he regrets not buying.  

"While I was over there, some little kid came up and ask me if I wanted to buy a Japanese grenade for five bucks", he said. They were deactivated. I said no. I had ship that stuff from the Philippines to home and I thought customs would be an issue.

"If you find one today it will be worth about 300 bucks. So, if you are asking me today, do I wish I would have bought them and put in my duffle bag and sent it home, the answer would be yes."

Pixley never had an opportunity to buy another Japanese grenade. After he was honorably discharged in 1977, he resumed his collection. By then, he had the income to buy some of the larger scale memorabilia, including the M60, 1919 A4, and the British Vicker, all of which he loaned to the Veteran Museum.

Another piece that he wishes was in his collection is a machine that he said his father, Charles Pixley, helped design. The younger Pixley said his father got out of the military shortly before World War II started. He said his father attempted to rejoin, but they refused him, citing his had bad feet.  

The older Pixley was given a job with assisting in designing a machine gun. By the time it was completed, the military decided that there was no longer a need for it.

"They asked my dad if he wanted it," Pixley said. He said, 'What in hell am I going to do with this.'

"I wish he would have got one. It would be worth some serious money today. I do have three shells that was made for it and a belt."

Today, Pixley find items from off the internet. He admits that some are very costly.

Other items in Pixley's World War II collection include uniforms and patches. Since World War II the United States has been involved in at least four wars. For Pixley, there was none like World War II.

"That period of history is unique to me because this country came together like it never did before," he said. "Everybody worked together to get the job done.  Everybody sacrificed a little and put forth an effort. I don't think we will ever see that again. That's why it is a unique time of history and it has an attraction to me."

Edgecombe County Veterans Military Museum was established in July 2004 to honor Edgecombe County men and women who served, are serving and will serve the Untied States in the Armed Forces. Memorabilia from American Revolutionary War to the present Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, are on display. Also on display are more than 800 pictures of Edgecombe County military personnel who have served or are still serving.

"If people would come here and look, maybe they will be motivated like I was and say, I got an old uniform in the closet," Pixley said. "I got an old rifle in the closet and bring it down here and let people see this stuff. This is history, he said while looking around the museum. "You can read about it all you want to, but until you can see it touch it and hold it, it doesn't mean anything."

The museum is located at 106 West Church St. in historic downtown Tarboro. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and noon until 2 p.m. on the first Monday of each month following the monthly flag raising ceremony. Admission is free.  For more information, call 823-0891.