Snow Hill Area Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 176
Snow Hill, MD 21863
Member Blog 7/12/2014 - by Dr. Cindy Byrd of
The Julia A. Purnell Museum

The Julia A. Purnell Museum offers a complimentary reception with refreshments on July 18, 5-7 pm to celebrate its summer exhibition, Women of War: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, which opened to the public on May 20. At the height of World War II, more than a thousand women left homes and jobs for the opportunity of a lifetime - to become the first women in history to fly for the United States military, volunteering as civilian pilots in an experimental program to relieve men for overseas duty. They were the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, better known as the WASP. 

The female pilots of the WASP numbered 1074, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties. They flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft. Thirty-eight died in the line of duty. The WASP was considered civil service and did not receive military benefits, unlike their male counterparts; on the other hand, WASP could resign at any time after completion of their training, although none did so.


All records of the WASP were classified and sealed for 35 years, so their contributions to the war effort were little known and inaccessible to historians. In 1975, the WASP began to organize and demand that Congress recognize them as veterans of World War II. Finally in 1977, the records were unsealed after an Air Force press release erroneously stated that the Air Force was training the first women to fly military aircraft for the United States. The WASP was granted veteran status in 1977 and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.


As part of this landmark exhibit, the Purnell Museum gallery also features some of the museum's permanent collection of artifacts and memorabilia that reflect the service of local veterans and civilians, both male and female, including the Red Cross and the Aircraft Warning Service - the World War II “plane spotters” that many Eastern Shore residents remember.

The Purnell Museum hosts this memorable exhibition in partnership with the International Women's Air & Space Museum; the project is financed in part through the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council (LESHC), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization whose purpose is to preserve, protect, and promote the historical, cultural, and natural heritage of Maryland's Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.

Friday's reception will feature a presentation of exhibit highlights by the museum's director and an opportunity to hear and share stories of the time period with members of the local community. The exhibition will be on display until August 15. For more information, contact the Julia A. Purnell Museum at (410) 632-0515.


Dr. Cynthia Byrd

Executive Director

Julia A. Purnell Museum

Snow Hill, MD 21863

(410) 632-0515


Member Blog 4/28/2014 - by Ron Pilling of The Pocomoke River Canoe Co.

It was late in the day when Gregor and his family arrived at the canoe shop on the Pocomoke River.  “We would like one canoe,” he said in halting English.  I stood on my toes to look over his shoulder.  Something over 6 feet tall, Gregor looked as if he hadn’t missed a meal or a snack in 3 or 4 decades.  His wife, Natasha, in a heavy wool skirt and a scarf, was of equal height and girth.  Behind her were their two teenaged sons.

I tried to explain that they would be more comfortable in 2 canoes, showing them our 17’ canoes and describing how cramped they would be.  But he was firm.  Just one canoe, please.  I thought “This is not going to end well.”

We completed the paperwork, and as I gathered vests and paddles, he said that they wanted to go to the grocery store first.  I directed him to the local grocery, prepared their canoe, and gassed up one of the motorboats for what I was certain was going to be a late day rescue.  I could envision the canoe with only an inch or two above the water, slowly and crookedly making its way up the Pocomoke.

They returned and began unloading bags of groceries, 3 in all, carrying them to the floating dock.  There were various canned goods, and a gallon of milk. I suggested I put the groceries in the shop, the perishables in the refrigerator, but Gregor was firm on this, too.  They would take them on board.

Slowly they climbed on board, the two boys first, their knees tucked up under their chins, groceries between their legs.  Gregor got in the bow seat (men almost always sit aft and do the steering).  Finally, Natasha got comfortable in the blue life vest and climbed onto the aft seat.  There was, as I predicted, only the thinnest slice of boat showing above the water.  I handed paddles all around, and gently nudged the boat away from the dock, expecting the worst within a few strokes.

Natasha reached far to her right with the paddle and executed a flawless draw stroke.  Then she switched the paddle to the other side and handily did a broad sweep through the dark water and the boat moved gracefully upstream.  The other 3 paddlers worked in perfect unison, as if conducted by a concert master.

They were out for over two hours, and returned with most of the groceries gone, the trash

stored neatly in the plastic bags.  Gregor told me about every bird they saw – ospreys, an eagle, cormorants, geese – the boys nodding enthusiastically.  The cypresses were just beginning to turn, the needles a bronze gold, and he commented not only on the color but also about the utility of cypress as lumber.  Through his father, one of the boys asked about the two turtle species they saw basking on logs.  Natasha held the boat against the floating dock with just the occasional dip of her paddle while the men prattled on.  They thanked me profusely for helping them get on the water.

            It isn’t unusual for us to host foreign visitors at the Pocomoke River Canoe Company, and though Gregor’s family was especially memorable, their appreciation for the Pocomoke’s natural beauty and Snow Hill hospitality was not uncommon.  When I took the job, I thought the only lesson I might learn was how to improve my own stroke.  I was wrong.  Seeing my river through the eyes of others, especially through those who had come so far, is a special treat.  Understanding that just because someone looks or acts differently they are probably as capable as me – even doing something as American as canoeing – is an awakening.



Ron Pilling