When Bob Cromwell wanted to display a World War I-era tent at Pearson Air Museum, he wanted it to be as authentic as possible.Since WWI military surplus gear can be hard to come by, he called the company that made 800 tents for troops at Vancouver Barracks a century ago.Cromwell recalled that telephone conversation with Armbruster Manufacturing Co., which has been making tents since 1875.“We gave them the specification number” of the style of tent that housed spruce-mill soldiers at Vancouver Barracks, the museum manager said.The person on the other end of the phone told Cromwell: “We might have that.”There was a pause in the conversation, Cromwell said. He eventually heard the drawer of a file cabinet slam shut. Armbruster still had the original plans for that tent in its office. The company made a new 1916 eight-man pyramid tent for Pearson Air Museum.“We probably were the first group to assemble one in 80 years,” said Cromwell, chief of interpretation at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.The tent now is helping Pearson Air Museum reflect a Vancouver chapter in WWI history, the Spruce Production Division that turned Northwest timber into wood for Allied aircraft.The inquiry from Pearson Air Museum was not unique, said Hellar Armbruster.“We’ve done a lot of one-off historical tents for museums all over country. We will make them to the exact specifications,” Armbruster said, thanks to an old file cabinet in the company archives.
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