Keystone Pinups visit local vets

DUNCANSVILLE – Walking into Marzoni’s Brick Oven & Brewing Co. on Sunday afternoon was like taking a step back in time, to the World War II era of canteen girls who comforted the soldiers going to and from war.

The ladies of the 1940s, stylish, beautiful and polite, would sing and dance with lonely soldiers. They would feed them. They would listen to them discuss their problems in the darkest of times.

In Duncansville, the present-day images of those original canteen girls, Betty Grable and Dorothy Lamour, introduced themselves to the public as the Keystone Pinups, and their purpose remains as that of their predecessors.

In an era in which veterans from 12 years of war are coming home, and in which many veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, are entering their seniors years, young women of today, like Tabitha Carrico, a former Marine herself, and Renee Kauruter, whose father served two tours in Vietnam, have a similar mission – to help the men and women who are veterans and the first responders, such as police, firefighters and ambulance volunteers, as well.

“It’s for the oldest veteran and the youngest veteran and our first responders,” Kauruter said.

They want to raise funds. Carrico said one of the first fundraisers will include a bowling contest between the Pinups and the Patriots, a group of Marines.

“There is no excuse for a veteran to be hungry or homeless,” she said in explaining what the money may be used for.

“If there’s someone on your block who is hungry, and he put his life on the line for you, he needs to be taken care of,” she said.

Carrico, who as a Keystone Pinup is known as Lana L’Amour, said the style, the smile, the pretty face, that people may see when they come in contract with the girls, is not the essence of what they group is or will be.

Her group of ladies intend to go into nursing homes and meet with the veterans, and let them talk, if they want to.

“The aging veterans are close to our heart,” she said.

And, she said, “None of our girls are above serving a meal.”

The Pinups are all volunteers, and they come to their new task with a great deal of emotion.

Carrico’s father is Lt. Col. Palmer Brown, always a Marine, who served 35 years.

Some of the ladies on Sunday shed tears as they discussed their fathers and other relatives who served but who are no longer with them.

Angela McKendree, who as a Pinup will be known as Kitty Van Rouge, said of the veterans and first responders, “They have done for us; we should be doing for them.”

Many of the people in the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home don’t have someone to talk to, she explained.

“Maybe a pretty girl with a smile will brighten their day,” McKendree said.

Brown, who has been a township supervisor in Blair County, tried to explain what was happening from the veterans’ standpoint.

“Most of us volunteered for duty [he was speaking of first responders as well]. We didn’t say it is easy. … The past 12 years we’ve been at war, and we have been demanding [a great deal] physically and mentally from our men and women.”

The Keystone Pinups, he said, are concerned about the veterans and their families, as well.

He went on to talk about the first canteen girls. They appeared just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The first canteen, in which families of veterans provided food and comfort for soldiers going to war, came to fruition on Dec. 17, 1941, in North Dakota. Between 1941 and 1946, that canteen served 6 million soldiers.

Don Edleblute , director of operations and a paramedic for the Hollidaysburg American Legion Ambulance Company, threw his support behind the effort by the young women as he explained how important volunteerism is in America.

Without volunteers, “It would be a pretty scary scenario,” he said.

There was a certain reality to Sunday’s get-together. Not only were the women dressed in World War II period clothing, but Hunter Ake of Duncansville was there in a World War II Army uniform, as were others.

Carrico explained that the group is rapidly expanding throughout Pennsylvania, and may soon be in Maryland.

One of the visitors who attended the Keystone Pinups event was Ed Drzewiecki, whose son, Ed, was dressed in Vietnam era Army fatigues.

Himself a veteran, Drzewiecki, asked what he thought, replied, “An interesting concept … something different.”