Before formally handing over to the Lompoc Museum an historic World War I artifact that had been in his family for multiple generations, Lawrence Vazquez acknowledged that the piece wasn’t exactly in mint condition.
Speaking to an audience of a few dozen Lompoc community members Monday at Stone Pine Hall, Vazquez held up the flask that had been given to his grandfather, World War I veteran Lawrence Tiblier, exactly 101 years prior by a German officer on Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. Vazquez said the flask originally bore an illustration of the last German emperor, but that “I played with it so much that I rubbed it off.”
“Not something that 'Antiques Road Show' would recommend,” Lompoc Museum Director Lisa Renken quickly interjected, drawing laughter from the audience.
Regardless of that imperfection, the century-old flask was the centerpiece of the Lompoc Museum’s Veterans Day activities, and will soon be added to the museum’s permanent World War I exhibit.
The donation ceremony, and the screening of the World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” that followed it, marked the finale of two years of programming by the Lompoc Museum that included the unveiling of the museum’s remodeled World War I Monument in September.
“It’s been a wonderful two years, and a very busy two years,” Renken said, before thanking Vazquez and the Rancho Purisima chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which aided in the renovation of the monument.
Vazquez, who initially arrived in Lompoc as a child in the 1960s when his father took a job as an engineer at Vandenberg Air Force Base, noted that military service has been a tradition for his family.
His grandfather, whose parents immigrated to Texas from France, lost his leg in a construction accident in World War I before accepting the German flask on Armistice Day, and his father fought in World War II. Vazquez went on to serve as a foreman at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
Although the flask was the only donation he made to the museum, Vazquez brought other military artifacts from his family to share at Monday’s gathering. He displayed a doughboy helmet that was issued to his grandfather with the name of his Texas regiment, as well as a pocket watch that was passed down from his grandfather and that Vazquez said is still ticking.
Vazquez, who no longer lives in Lompoc, said he still feels a connection to the city that was a key part of his childhood. He noted that he attended Hapgood Elementary School and can still recall the fun he had while visiting the old Carnegie Library and the children’s library that was located in the basement.
That former library structure, which in 1990 was added to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, later became the Lompoc Museum.
“So I have a very fond memory of growing up here,” he said. “I think it’s only fitting that [my family and I] donate this [flask] … to the museum for other people to enjoy.”