UMATILLA — Korean War veteran Gene Packwood of Dona Vista presented Combat Café owners Bruce and Beth Chambers with a piece of vintage Marine Corps art during an informal presentation earlier this month- this.
Packwood, featured on the Daily Commercial’s SALUTE page in the July 6, 2019 edition, previously worked for the artist – WWII Marine Colonel Donald L. Dickson – whose rendering he graciously forwarded.
Dickson became the publisher of Marines’ Leatherneck magazine in the early 1950s and hired Packwood as art director when Gene returned from duty as a combat artist “over there”.
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Those crafty marines! They were very keen on documenting their exploits under fire – and still are, keeping artists’ sketchbooks in their inventory along with the sharpest cameras and video equipment money can buy.
Truth be told, the Corps has no problem going to war with state-of-the-art equipment on loan from top Hollywood studios, an industrial relationship that began shortly after Pearl Harbor and continues quietly to this day.
“We never let anything go to waste in the Corps,” former Tech. sergeant. Packwood told us, “and that extends to corporate friendships, used but usable field equipment, jeeps that may still be running or restored and made ideal for museum display…you name it .
“At Leatherneck,” Gene said, “we stored our original ‘apartments’ in large, wallet-sized drawers which were the main design feature of those beautiful battleship gray metal cabinets we used.
“The artwork itself had served its purpose, helping us to produce a clean and colorful magazine. So at the end of each year we would empty those drawers, arrange the pre-print pages on a large table Anything in the pile was ‘fair game’ for staff members,” he explained.
“Just throw away an original Dickson?” He asked. “No way! I don’t care if he drew the image on a cocktail napkin or on a piece of cardboard torn from a box of C-rats!”
“That’s the story, man,” said Packwood, who, 94, recently passed his periodic driving test, passing with flying colors as usual. “And now Bruce and Beth have one more piece for their restaurant’s eclectic military decor.
“The Combat Café is looking more and more like a museum, anyway,” Gene said. “And the best part, I think, is how the place serves classic American dishes through so many generations.”
“Veterans of all eras,” he said with a smile, “and those who love them.”
– Next month, a group of fellow storytellers from Gene Packwood – the US Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association – will meet at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center at 1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando from August 22-27 for their national conference, a conference annual event that includes Corpswide awards presented to photographers, writers, film scholars and, yes, combat artists, among a dozen other categories.
Former Marines who have served in media-related fields are invited to register electronically for membership and conference attendance through www.usmcccaonline.com.
They can also contact the Florida Hotel to take advantage of a special $117 rate that expires July 21.
This year’s guest of honor is retired Marine General Pete Pace, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
– The most prestigious award among the members bears the name of the former boss of Packwood. The Donald L. Dickson Memorial Award is given to an active member of the USMCCCA for “immeasurable contributions to the organization.”
Since the Association’s congressional founding in 1947, scores of Floridians have received “The Dickson”, including Jack Paxton (Wildwood), Tom Kerr (Niceville), Kate Stark (Gainesville), Gene Smith (Ocoee), Bob McEwen (Indian Shores), Red Carpenter (Spring Hill) and Bob Jordan (Longwood).
– “Airman Bob” Peters of Leesburg of YouTube Central Florida Salute and famous WQBQ, was unanimously elected by the Marines as an affiliate member of the “CC” at their conclave in Atlanta two years ago.
– BRAVO ZULU to Bob, by the way (and his lovely wife, Deb, who keeps up with his frenetic pace!) for the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him two weeks ago by Commander Les Moreland on behalf of AMVETS Post 2006 (head office on Canal Street in Leesburg).
Peters was praised for his “sustained and energetic support of the veteran population and the community at large”.