Retired Marines mark museum anniversary

Asking Stan Solarczyk or any other Marine the meaning of Nov. 10, 1775, is like asking any other American why the country celebrates Independence Day.

Everyone knows the United States of America was founded on July 4, 1776.

The Marines were up and running before that.

Nov. 10, 1775, is one of the first things a Marine learns, said retired gunnery Sgt. Stan “Gunny” Solarczyk, 56, of Old Forge.

On that fateful day, the Marines were founded at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.

The tavern is long gone, but its memory lives on in miniature on East Mountain. There, the colonial watering hole can be seen in a diorama built by the late Gerald Maus Sr., of Dunmore, displayed at a little-known local museum on Alder Street in Scranton.

The basement museum is operated by the Northeastern Detachment of the Marine Corps League, a service organization for former Marines. They marked its 25th anniversary Sunday with a ceremony in the Leatherneck Lounge upstairs.

In the crowd of about 40 were many former Marines in bright red blazers and hats, their pride and square-jawed toughness apparent despite youth’s passing.

When they spoke, “sir” seemed to end every sentence.

“I’m sure that many of you are modest about what you’ve done as Marines or ... as a member of the Marine Corps League,” said Lt. Col. Steven Anderson, who spoke for the 1st Marine District, which covers the Northeastern United States. “But by having served as a Marine and now by belonging to the Marine Corps League, and building a museum like this, you show ... that heroes are ordinary Americans who put aside personal well-being for a portion of their lives and commit themselves to selfless service to their country.”

The museum screams modesty.

Only about 300 people a year visit plus some Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, said museum curator retired Sgt. George Kopestonsky, 75, a Korean War veteran from Blakely, who would love to host more.

The museum started in 1982 — exact date unknown — with a cartridge belt and a helmet, Mr. Kopestonsky said. An entirely volunteer effort, it relies solely on donations of money and memorabilia and the proceeds of parties hosted in the lounge.

Some was bought at flea markets by league members with their own money. You’ll find the usual guns, knives, helmets, mess kits, medals, pictures and other gear — staples of any military museum.

But its best displays sprouted from the dedication of Mr. Maus, a Scranton policeman who died in 1999. The Tun diorama was one of seven Mr. Maus built to reflect the Marines’ military history.

He was an Army veteran, but the league long ago adopted him. The ex-Marines spent most of their time showing off his dioramas Sunday.

In painstaking detail — even breaking the legs of tiny toy soliders when he had to and gluing them together again in the positions he wanted — Mr. Maus reflected battles from the nation’s major wars during the 20th century — Guadalcanal, Chosin Reservoir, Iwo Jima and others. Coffee grounds for dirt, liquid plastic for a river, baking soda for snow.

“I wouldn’t have had the patience to do this,” Mr. Solarczyk said.

Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com

The Marine Corps League Museum

n Where: 1340 Alder St., off Wintermantle Avenue, East Mountain section.

- Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Individual tours may be arranged by calling the museum at 347-USMC (8762) or curator George Kopestonsky at 383-2150.

- Admission: Free

- Highlights: Gerald Maus Sr.’s dioramas depicting key battles in U.S. military history.