The Armory Through the Years
Events at the Armory
The Armory deals with local events and the community, while also participating in national and international events. The military unit stationed at the Armory can be summoned for local, state, and federal matters. After the capture of Bataan during War World II, the brutal Bataan Death March ensued in which captured American and Filipino soldiers were forced by the Japanese to march 85 miles. The 38th Infantry Division, of which the Marion Armory was a part, was sent to liberate Bataan (Brady, Interview). As for local and state matters, they are often called to help with emergencies. After the 1997 flood, the military was ordered to help those hit hard by the disaster. Another aspect of the Armory that deals with local events is entertainment. The basketball court on the main floor of the Armory is used for community basketball games. Another community service held at the Armory is a dog obedience class held by the Mississinewa Valley Obedience Training Club (Renken). In addition, community concerts and events are held there (Brady, Interview). One such event, held in 1939, was a kind of talent show hosted by an entertainer from Marion, Polk McClain. The primary purpose of this broadcast was to test the latest broadcast technology. Over three hundred local people performed while being watched either on stage or from the several televisions set up on the south side of the Armory (Munn).
Form and Function
The structure of the Marion Armory has both form and function. The mostly brick building, with its large windows actually faces away from the road, with the front of the building facing away from the road. Prominent in the front yard of the Armory is a 52-ton M60 tank, placed there in 1991 to help people identify the Armory. After the new M60-A3 tanks made the tank obsolete, it was given to the Armory. Although the tank’s gun no longer functions, the tank is used for training by the guardsmen (Renken). When the Armory was built, the basement was used as a motor pool, defined as a group of motor vehicles kept at a military installation for use by the personnel (Brady, Interview). However, in the 1950’s the motor pool was moved to a new location and the main basement area has been reconstructed into a storage area. In one corner of the basement is a barred room known as the vault. It is used for the storage of sensitive military items such as weapons.
Another interesting structural quality of the basement is the ceiling, which has ridges, built into it. These allow the basketball court above to spring with the motions of the players above. Holes along the floor of the above above court allow air to escape and return as the floor moves up and down.
The main floor of the Armory has two functions. One is entertainment, the other is teaching. The basketball court, which is used by the community, is the main source of entertainment here. However, this main floor is also used to house the concerts that are periodically held there. One room, originally used as a concession stand, was remodeled into a recruitment office. A room on the opposing side of the main floor that was initially used as a ticket both for the various concerts and basketball games has been remodeled into offices for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company or HHC. This company handles logistics, a branch of military science having to do with obtaining, maintaining, and transporting materials, personnel, and facilities.
In the mid 1950’s a section was added onto the original structure to be used for offices. However, in 1999 remodeling began, turning these offices into classrooms and libraries used to instruct the men at the Armory. Another remodeling that took place had to do with the women’s locker room. Due to the lack of women employees, the locker room was converted into a small storage room and part of the HHC office. A door once part of the storage room has been periodically opened and resealed for convenience throughout the time the room has been in existence. The large windows which adorn the walls of the first floor are the original walls installed in 1938 and are in need of repair due to constant leakage. The second floor, overlooking the basketball court, is primarily used for the offices of the Armory employees. During the 1997 flood, the second floor was heavily damaged and required a total remodeling. The new architecture cut off the ladder leading to the roof making access to the tower difficult (Brady, Interview).
Over the course of its life, the Armory’s structure has changed dramatically, but the essence of the building has not changed. Through its residing military unit and community activities, the Armory has had and continues to have an impact on both local and national events. The history of the Armory began with the first military units to come to Marion. While participating in federal affairs such as the liberation of Bataan, the Armory also has a place in the local community.
This article was written by Jason Stone and was submitted on January 16, 2001.